The first Baptist preacher west of the Alleghenies was the Rev. John Alderson, in honor of whom Alderson, in the county of Monroe, was named. He was pastor of the Lynnville Baptist Church, in Rockingham county, then far out on the frontier. But no sooner did the settlements in the west assume the appearance of permanency than he carried the glad tidings to them. Between the years 1775 and 1777, Mr. Alderson made no less than three visits to Greenbrier, then a wild, uncultivated and almost uninhabited country, and while
on these visits baptized three persons, two of whom were John Griffith and Mrs. Keeney. These were the first persons ever immersed in the western waters of Virginia.
Mr. Alderson now determined to remove to the west, and accordingly, early in the year 1777, set out with his family. On reaching Jackson's river he learned that a few days before, the Indians had attacked the house of Colonel James Graham, in Greenbrier, and had killed one member of his family and carried another into captivity; in consequence of this information he halted for some months, but reached his destination in October. His first location was in Jarrett's Fort, on Wolf creek, now in Monroe, but after a short time he settled on the bank of the Greenbrier river, where Alderson now stands, and cleared a farm on which he afterwards followed the plow with his gun swung to his shoulder. In going from fort to fort to fulfill his engagements, he was often guarded by a body of armed men. In two years he succeeded in collecting twelve members, himself and wife included. They considered themselves a branch of the Lynnville church, but transacted business as a separate body. On the 24th of October they were regularly constituted into a working body known as the "Greenbrier Baptist Church," and the following year it was admitted into the Ketocton Association.
At this time the members were very much scattered over the country, some living twenty miles from the location of the church, and because of this, the regular church meetings were held in different localities. Occasionally such meetings were held at Second Creek Gap, in the big Levels near Lewisburg, and on New river.
Notwithstanding the members were dispersed over such a wide area, measures were taken to build a house of worship as early as 1783, and in May following the ground on which the Greenbrier church has since stood was fixed, upon as a suitable location. In July of the following year, the building was so nearly completed that it was used for public worship. This was the first church building erected in Southwestern Virginia.
Accessions continued to be made, and in 1785, some of the members resided at Second Creek Gap, some on New rivet, some on Indian creek, others on the Big Levels, and one named Burr on Spring creek, a distance of thirty miles from the church building, and yet the records say these members were in the habit of attending the regular church meetings. Mr. Alderson continued his labors here seven years before he met with a single Baptist minister. In 1785, Rev. James Johnson came over the mountains and was induced to settle on the Kanawha. Here he continued his ministry until 1803, when he removed to Kentucky.
[From Virgil A. Lewis, History of West Virginia, 1887, pp. 530-532. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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