Early Ministers in West Virginia

Submitted by Ethel Nielsen
REV. JOHN GERRARD (1720-1787)

       The Reverend was born about 1720 and died September 1787 in Berkeley County, Virginia. His son Justus (1774-1842) was married to Rachel Corbly the daughter of Rev. John Corbly. Rev. Gerrard is an ancestor to the Davis line through the Harbert family.

       The town Gerrardstown was established as a town in 1787 by the Virginia House of Burgesses. The town was named for Rev. John Gerrard. He was the first pastor of Mill Creek Baptist Church which was organized by early settlers around 1743.

       The December 2003 issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine says that George Washington's diary of his survey trips for Lord Fairfax in 1753 and 1754, notes that after leaving Winchester, Va. he rode past a minister's creekside home and the First Baptist church west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

       This creekside two-story home was later purchased by Rev. John. The limestone dwelling had been built by John Hayes in 1742 and is still standing in Gerrardstown! Later, it was the home of the son Rev. David Gerard who had inherited a massive tract of land from his father John. Rev. John not only had purchased land, but also had an award of 478 acres from Lord Fairfax. Rev. David died in 1821.

       Rev. John was appointed by the Philadelphia Association to the Mill Creek church in 1755 and served for 32 years until his death in 1787. Today, Gerrardstown is a part of the National Register of Historic Places. Many of Rev. John's children went on to Pennsylvania where they made history at Gerard's Fort .


       The wife of James Scarff Griffin was Martha Harbert and their daughter Sarah Jane (1832-1893) married Christian Anderson Davis. James Scarff Griffin (1799-1867) was a minister and the first moderator of Mt Pisgah Baptist Church in Gilmer County; he was elected Oct. 27, 1854. The minutes of the Virginia Baptist Association for 1850, on page 62, lists him with the ministers of the state of Virginia; his post office address was listed as Lumberport, Harrison Co. He is also listed with the ministers for the years 1851-1859.

       In 1855 there is, in addition, a list of the churches by Associates giving the names of the pastors. Rev. Griffin is listed as pastor of Ten Mile Church in Harrison County but no address is given. This church was in the Broad Run Association. For some reason the Mt. Pisgah Association is not listed, although it had been organized the previous year. Page 20 of the Griffin history by Paul E. Griffin, lists him as pastor of the Jones Run Church as well as the pastor of the Lebanon Church.

       "A Griffin and Related Families History" by Paul E. Griffin, 1987, pages 40-44, gives a history of the Jones' Run Baptist Church, Lumberport, W.Va., which was organized in 1831 as the Ten Mile Church. The name was changed to Jones' Run, December, 1855, with members coming out of the Simpson Creek, Coons Run and Hepzibah Churches. The descendants of John and James S. Griffin have contributed much to the progress of the Jones' Run Church. James Scarff Griffin was baptized by Rev. John Allen at the July, 1831 meeting. At the meeting in January 1833, he was licensed by the church to exercise his gifts of singing, prayer and preaching in the bounds of the Association. On October 8th, 1836, he was ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry. He served as pastor from Sept. 21, 1850 until July 11, 1857.

REV. JOSEPH A. HAMMOND (1851-1911)

       The Minutes of the West Virginia Conference of Methodist Espiscopal Church (65th annual session) in 1911 lists a Memoriam for Rev. J.A.Hammond. Following are the highlights of their comments: He attended West Virgina College at Flemington, and Waynesburg College at Waynesburg, Pa. His five children are listed plus one called Edna Blanche that had died in 1898.

       "He was converted Dec. 29, 1873 and was given license by his pastor, Rev. J. C. Rexroad, Feb. 25, 1877. In 1886 he was appointed to Pine Grove charge. His pastorates were: 1887, Bridgeport; 1888-89 West Milford; 1890-91, Smithton; 1892 West Union. In 1893 he was compelled to ask for a superannuated relation, due to failing health, which relation he held to the time of his death. He was a preacher of more than ordinary ability."

       D.L. Ash, his longtime friend, gave the principal address in the church at Adamston, pastor C.E. Hamrick, with internment in Greenlawn cemetery near his home. His death certificate says he died age 65 in Adamston, near Clarksburg, and the cause of death was Anemia.

       Rev. Joseph Hammond (1851-1911) was the brother of David W. Hammond. David. W. Hammond was the first treasurer of the Wilsonburg Baptist Church that was organized May 29, 1887. Charter Members were Elizabeth E. Morrison, Wilbur C. Morrison, D. W. Hammond, E.C. Smallwood, Agnes Morrison, Flavious Drummond, and Charles C. Morrison.. W.C. Morrison was the first Church Clerk. In 1888 a Sunday school was started and W.C. Morrison was the first Superintendent.

       The grandparents of Rev. Joseph were: Robert Hammond (abt 1798-abt 1830) and Nancy Fittro (1802-1823). His father, Joseph Hammond, was the only child of Robert & Nancy . Joseph had married Susanna Ash in 1844.


       John Wade served in Clarksburg as a Baptist Minister for several years. He married many couples. The following is taken from a history of Simpson Creek Baptist Church: At the January meeting in 1787 Rhoda Ward was tried for witchcraft. From a record of the minutes: "According to the appointment of the church we, John Wade Loofbourrow, William Davis and Thomas Bardley, a committee had made inquiry at the mouth of Sister Mary Anderson respecting the contradiction between Sister Stout and Sister Gwin Denham."

       The following is taken from a newspaper article by Jack Sandy Anderson. "Several churches were organized in Clarksburg from the time of its settlement in the 18th century until the end of the Civil War in 1865….Hopewell Baptist Church was organized in 1787 by a group of 13 persons who withdrew from the Simpson Creek Baptist Church….Among the ministers who preached in the church were James Sutton, Joshua Hickman, John Thomas, John Wade Loofbourrow and John Denham.

       John Wade married Mary Hoff in 1767 and their daughter Sarah married John Harbert in 1789. Their daughter Martha (1802-1889) married James Scarff Griffin and their daughter Sarah Jane (1832-1893) married Christian Anderson Davis.

REV.JOHN CORBLY (1732-1803)

       The following is taken from the monument (erected June 23, 1963 by Corbly descendants) in honor of Rev. John Corbly & Family, Garards Cemetery, Greene County, Pa:

       "In MEMORY OF REV. JOHN CORBLY AND FAMILY Patriot, Soldier, Legislature, Draftsman, Minister, born Feb 23, 1733, nr London, England d June 9, 1803 Gerards Fort, Pa. Settled in Western Pa at Garards Fort. He established Goshen Baptist Church on this site and 30 other chuches in Va., Pa, and Ky. He married Abigail Bull 1734-1768 and they had children: Margaret, Rachel, Pricilla, and John. In 1773 he married Eliz. Tyler who died in 1782: their children were: Deliah, Elizabeth, Isiah, Mary Catherine, and Nancy. He married Mary Ann Lynn in 1784; their children were Mary, Andrew, Pleasant, Cassandra, Sarah, Amelia, Nancy, and William."

       The Rev. Corbly is a Davis ancestor through his daughter Rachel and the families of Rev. John Garrard, and Samuel Morris whose daughter Rachel married John Dye.

       The following photograph is the John Corbly Memorial Church built in 1862. A Plaque set in a boulder reads: "Fort Garard built about 1774". The plaque was erected by D.A.R. in 1923. The Corbly massacre took place about 279 yards north on May 10, 1782. Rev. Corbly was a frequent visitor to the Simpson Creek Church.

SGT. WILLIAM DAVIS (abt 1746-abt 1800)

       Although it is not known for sure if William Davis was a minister, he is included here because of his close relationship to the development of early churches in Monongalia County. Also, he voted in Clarksburg for our first President George Washington. He was in Clarksburg before the arrival of several other William Davis' from New Jersey that settled in Salem around 1790.

       William Davis attended the Redstone Church Annual Meeting at Great Bethel, Monongalia County, Va on Oct. 13, 1777 as the delegate of Simpson Creek Church which was received and enrolled into the Association of Redstone Baptists. The first meeting had been in 1776. The next annual meeting where Wm Davis was a delegate was at Goshen Sept. 27, 1788 according to the minutes of the Redstone Church.

       The annual Association met at Goshen Sept. 27, 1788 and the messengers from Simpson Creek were: Isaac Edwards, Wm. Davis, and Joseph Milbourn; Owen Davis from Mount Moriah; and John W. Loofborough from Clarksburg. The Editor of the reproduction of these minutes said "these records prove that many of the first families in Western Penn, West Virginia and Ohio, were direct descendants of those Welshmen who procured 30,000 acres of land from Wm Penn and called them the Welsh Tract. Here, in 1703, they built a Baptist Church near Inn Hill. This was one of the five original churches that formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the oldest in America."

       On page 681, the Davis book by Nicholson says, "On 14 Feb. 1802 mention was made of a Rev. William Davis of the West Fork River Church. We cannot place this man and think he may have been of the Pioneer Davis family. No further mention was made of him and he may have left (or died) the church." It is possible this is our William Davis who had deeded his home to his son in 1796. Since no death record has been found, it is possible he moved to his daughter's home. His daughter Mary had married Thomas Maxon in 1791 and they were active in the West Fork River Church.

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