County Seat - Chesterfield
John Weatherford and John Tanner were apprehended in Chesterfield County on May 15, 1773. by virtue of a warrant issued by Col. Archibald Cary.
On the day of their arrest John Tanner gave a Peace Bond, the original of which is still preserved and there follows a copy of it made by Mr. Philip V. Coghill, the present (1934) Clerk of Chesterfield County Court.
"Know all men by these presents that we John Tanner, John Clay and Richard Cheatham, are held and formally bound unto our Sovereign Lord the King in the sum of Three Hundred Pound Sterling money of Great Britain, that is to say that said John Tanner, in the sum of One Hundred pound and the said John Clay and Richard Cheatham each in the sum of Fifty Pounds, to be elevied on our goods and chattels for the use of our said Lord the King to the which payment well and truly to be made we bind ourselves our heirs &c.
"It witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this 15th day of May 1773.
"The condition of the above obligation is that whereas the above John Tanner an itinerant person calling himself an anibaptist preacher taken by my warrant and brought before, did on his examination confess that he has at divers times convened numbers of people in this County and more particular on this day did convene numbers and preach to them in this County, not being qualified by law so to do. which is contrary to law and tends to disturb the peace and good government of this colony. Now if the said John Tanner shall personally appear at the next Court to be holden for this County of Chesterfield there to answer such charge as shall be made against him for his said offence, and do not depart without leave of the Court, and shall moreover keep the peace and be of good behavior in the meanwhile then this
obligation to be void, other ways to remain in full force and virtue.
"Acknowledged before me
It is worthy of notice that Elder Clay (who was also confined at one time in a Virginia jail for preaching the Gospel), was one of Elder Tanner's bondsmen, and the careful reader may have discovered an error in this bond. "Three Hundred Pounds" is the sum first named, but when it was apportioned among the prisoner and his bondmen only "Two Hundred Pounds" were levied.
When the court convened nearly three weeks later both John Tanner and John Weatherford were present, and were tried before seven "Gentlemen Justices" on June 4, 1773.
Imprisoned in Chesterfield County
Duration of Imprisonment Unknown
The official Court record is found in Order Book Number 5, of the Chesterfield County records, pages 278 and 280, the names of the Justices and the day the Court convened being found on page 278 as follows:"At a court held for Chesterfield County, June 4, 1773. "Present, Archibald Cary, John Archer, Joseph Bass, Bernard Markham, Benja. Branch, John Archer, Junr., and Francis Goode, Gent. Justices."Then on page 280 the court's action is recorded as follows:"John Tanner & John Weatherford appearing in Court being taken up by a Warrant issued by Archibald Cary Gent, for that purpose and acknowledging themselves to be of the religious Sect called Baptists and that they had practiced preaching and assembling the people together in this and other Counties of this Colony without having any License
p. 336for so doing On Consideration of the premises the Court adjudging them on that account guilty of a Breach of the peace & good Behaviour Where upon Ordered that they give Surety for their good Behavior and keeping the peace for the space of one year each in the penalty of L50 with two Sureties in penalty of L25 each and be committed to Goal [jail] til they do so."Perhaps John Tanner did not remain in prison very long, but gave bond and returned to his own State. This is highly probable for the following reason. Three months later John Weatherford, and another preacher, who meanwhile had been incarcerated in the Chesterfield jail were denied certain privileges the jailer had granted them, but Elder Tanner's name is not mentioned. The conclusion is that he was either released previous to the September court, or did not share in the privileges which were withdrawn by the order of this court. Then, too, the following statement from Beale's Semple, footnote, page 271, leads to the same conclusion:"Elder Tanner appears to have begun his ministerial career in Halifax county, North Carolina, where, as early as 1773, he gathered a small church in Rocky Swamp. He was later pastor in Edgecombe county. He removed to Kentucky about the year 1784, and was probably the founder of Tate's Creek church in Madison county. He labored later in Fayette county, and in 1795 settled near Clear Creek church in Woodford. His next removal was to Shelby county, whence he emigrated to Missouri, where he died, near Cape Gerrardeau, in 1812."From the above it appears that it was during the same year of his imprisonment in Chesterfield that he gathered a church in North Carolina, perhaps that summer. How long he remained in prison no records as yet show, but his companion, John Weatherford, was confined for five months.
A few years after Elder Tanner's Chesterfield experience he had one of an entirely different nature, down in his native state, which shows to what length these old heroes would go for the Gospel's sake:
Shot with a Large Horse Pistol
"A certain woman by the name of Dawson, in the town of Windsor, N. C., had reason to hope her soul was con- verted, saw baptism to be a duty for a believer to comply with, and expressed a great desire to join the church at Cashie, under the care of Elder Dargan. Her husband, who was violently opposed to it, and a great persecutor, had threatened, that if any man baptized his wife he would shoot him: accordingly baptism was deferred for some consider- able time. At length Elder Tanner was present at Elder Dargan's meeting, and Mrs. Dawson applied to the church for baptism, expressing her desire to comply with her duty. She related her experience, and was received; and as Elder Dargan was an infirm man, he generally when other ministers were present, would apply to them to administer the ordinance in his stead. He therefore requested Elder Tanner to perform the duty of baptism at this time. Whether Elder Tanner was apprised of Dawson's threatening or not; or whether he thought it was his duty to obey God rather than man, we are unable to say; but so it was he baptized Sister Dawson. And in June following, which was in the year 1777, Elder Tanner was expected to preach at Sandy Run meeting-house, and Dawson, hearing of the appointment, came up from Windsor to Norfleet's ferry on Roanoke, and lay in wait near the banks of the river, and when Elder Tanner (who was in company with Elder Dargan) ascended the bank from the ferry landing, Dawson, being a few yards from him, shot him with a large horseman's pistol, and seventeen shot went into his thigh, one of which was a large buckshot, that went through his thigh, and lodged between his breeches and thigh on the other side. Elder Burket was present when the doctor (who was immediately sent for) took part of the shot out of his thigh. In this wounded condition Elder Tanner was carried to the house of Mr. Elisha Williams, in Scotland Neck, where he lay some weeks, and his life was despaired of; but through the goodness of God he recovered again. Dawson seemed somewhat affrighted, fearing he would die, and sent a doctor up to attend him. And after Elder Tanner recovered, he never
attempted to seek for any recompense, but submitted to it patiently as persecution for Christ's sake." (Middle District Association's Minutes for 1923, pp. 17 and 18.)
[From Lewis P. Little, Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia, 1938, pp. 334-338. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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