The Rev. John Alderson, Jr., founder of the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church, Alderson, was born in New Jersey on March 5, 1738.Ã‚Â His father, the Rev. John Alderson, Sr., who came New Jersey in 1719, and his grandfather, the Rev. John Alderson of Yorkshire, England, were distinguished ministers of the gospel, the latter of the Established church.Ã‚Â the former, born in England in 1699, came to America in 1719, settled in New Jersey, married Jane Curtis, became a Baptist minister, served Bethlehem Church, New Jersey, and later located in Germantown, PA.
In 1755, he moved to Rockingham County, Virginia, where he had the pastoral care of Lynville's Creek Church.Ã‚Â While there, the call came to his son, John Jr., to enter the ministry.Ã‚Â In 1775 John took charge of the Lynville Creek Baptist Church upon the removal of his father to Botetourt County.
However, in 1774 and again in 1776 Rev. John Alderson, Jr. made two missionary tours across the Alleghenies into the Valley of Greenbrier.
Impressed by the need for a constant missionary effort on behalf of the settlers there, he determined to make that region his home, and in 1774 he went with his family to live and teach the gospel of Christ west of the mountains.Ã‚Â It is said he was eighteen months making the journey across the
On reaching Jackson's River, he learned that the Indians had attacked the home of Col. James Graham in Greenbrier, killing one member of his family and taking another prisoner.Ã‚Â Consequently, he delayed there several months, reaching his destination in October.
The Indian depredations continues for a number of years.Ã‚Â The inhabitants, for their mutual protection, mostly resided in forts.Ã‚Â So, protected by an armed escort through the woods, from one fort to another, this zealous minister traveled in pursuit of his dangerous vocation.
M. Alderson organized the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church, North Alderson, on November 24, 1787, with twelve members, including himself, his wife, and his brother, Thomas, a Revolutionary soldier who had just returned from his battle of Yorktown which had occurred thirty-six days earlier.
In 1784, the congregation built a log church on a lot given by William Morris, a brother in law of Rev. John Alderson, Jr.Ã‚Â they having married the Carroll sisters, Nancy and Mary.Ã‚Â These sisters were distant relatives of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
The twelve members organized into the Greenbrier Church petitioned the Ketochton Association, from which Mr. Alderson had come, to receive them into its membership.Ã‚Â This was done.Ã‚Â But in 1796 they united with the New River Association, which had recently been formed with ten churches.Ã‚Â In 1800, Rev. John Alderson, Jr., with the aid of Rev. James Johnston and Rev.Josiah Osborne, the latter two having recently come into this section, petitioned and obtained leave to form a separate Greenbrier Association. The first meeting was held in Big Levels (Lewisburg) Church in 1801.
Mr. Alderson founded nine churches, from Greenbrier to the Kentucky line, in about forty years.Ã‚Â He closed a long life, in the full confidence of his brethren, on March 5, 1821.Ã‚Â He was buried just a few feet back of the church.
His contemporaries speak of him as "A man of much more than ordinary ability" and as "one of the leading men of his day."Ã‚Â Besides the trials incident to work upon the frontier, he had, like his father, the distinguished privilege of suffering in behalf of Christ for the promotion of religious liberty, having been imprisoned for preaching and performing marriages contrary to the laws of the Established Church of England.Ã‚Â Paul's list of perils might well be applicable to this "Apostle to the Greenbrier."
He established a numerous family.Ã‚Â A number of his descendants have been zealous heralds of the cross in this and other states.Ã‚Â One or more members have gone into nearly every state in the union from this church.
From the Greenbrier Church have come at least a score of churches, while through the instrumentality of agencies which he set in motion thousands of men and women have been led into the Kingdom of God.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The twelve original members of the Greenbrier Church have grown to 685, and the four original churches, in the Greenbrier Association, to fifty, with 6,354 members.Ã‚Â The fourth church building of handsome stone stands on the same spot where the first log building and the two successive frame buildings stood.Ã‚Â Many of his descendants are members of the church he founded even to the eighth generation.
The twelve original members of the Greenbrier Church have grown to 685, and the four original churches to fifty with over 6,354 members.Ã‚Â The fourth church building is on the same spot where the first log building and its successors stood.
In connection with the life of the Rev. John Alderson, Jr. some one has said the beautiful words inscribed upon Moody's tomb are strikingly appropriate: "The world passeth away, and the dust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."
Dale R. Hart D.D.
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