Posted by: Marty | December 7, 2011

A Day of Infamy in Old Virginia

December 07, 1770 – William Webber and Joseph Anthony were arrested in Chesterfield, County, Virginia and they were held in prison until on Jan. 04, 1771, they were brought before the magistrates on charges of “misbehavior by itinerant preaching in this County being of that sect of dissenters from the Church of England commonly called anabaptists, and on hearing they acknowledged that they had preached in the upper end of this county at a meeting of sundry people there.” The court refused their offer to take the oath as prescribed by the so called Toleration Act, and thus for conscience sake they remained in jail until March 7, 1771. Jail increased their opportunities to preach through the grates. Their preaching was so powerful that the jailer was inclined to leave the door of their cell ajar so they could escape. Their reply was the same as Paul the Apostle, “They have taken us openly, uncondemned, and have cast us into prison; and now, do they cast us out privily? Nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out.” Chesterfield, County was notorious for its persecution of Baptist preachers. In fact there is a monument to religious liberty on the courthouse square in Chesterfield, Virginia, in memory of those who courageously suffered in its behalf. Semple, in his history (1810), mentions, that the Baptist cause has most flourished where it has met the most opposition in its offset. In the history of Chesterfield jail, seven preachers were confined for preaching without a license. They were William Webber, Joseph Anthony, Augustine Easton, John Weatherford, John Tanner, Jeremiah Walker and David Tinsley. Some were whipped by individuals, several fined. They kept up their persecution even after other counties had laid it aside.

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