George Washington's Immersion
The reference to Washington's baptism sent in by Brother Albert C. Blevins, and appearing in the issue of May 13, 1954, caused me to search my personal files for certain information relative to the first President's immersion, filed away about ten years ago. The information given herein came to me under the name of my old schoolfellow of Nashville Bible School days, Brother James E. Chessor, who died the morning of July 24, 1953 at his home in Centerville, Tennessee.
In an article appearing in the Apostolic Times, issue of February 1945, Brother Chessor quoted from a magazine titled, "News From Home," Kenneth H. Dunshee, Editor, and at that time was published by Home Fleet Insurance Companies, 39 Maiden Lane, New York. The issue quoted from by Brother Chessor was Volume V, No. 1, February 1944. Brother Chessor stated, "A unique feature of this magazine is that it seeks out the "unknown" or hitherto "unpublished" historical facts, usually pertaining to some great American patriot or statesman." But here is the quotation in part:
"In spite of the vast amount written and published about George Washington, with much of which we have been familiar since our school days, students are every now and again unearthing some new bit of lore concerning our great first President that has escaped general notice.
"For instance, it may come as a surprise to many to know that Washington was twice baptized. According to his mother's Bible, he was baptized when he was not quite two years old.... The baptism was in the orthodox Episcopal manner, and when he reached the age of thirty-three he took an oath to conform to the doctrine of the Church of England. During Washington's life as a soldier a strong wave of evangelism swept the Methodist and Baptist faiths, and it was during this period he remarked to Reverend John Gano, chaplain of the Continental army, 'I have been investigating the scripture and I believe immersion to be baptism taught in the Word of God, and I demand it at your hands. I do not wish any parade or the army called out, but simply a quiet demonstration of the ordinance.'
"Accordingly, General Washington was immersed in the Potomac in the presence of forty-two witnesses, but did not become a member of the Baptist Church as he gave no personal testimony.
"This historical episode was perpetuated in 1908 when the Reverend E. T. Sanford of Manhattan's North Church commissioned an artist to portray the scene; showing General Washington standing with Chaplain Gano, waist deep in the Potomac. For a number of years this painting hung upon the wall of the Baptist Church at Asbury Park, New Jersey, but in 1926 it was presented by the great-granddaughter of Chaplain Gano to the William Jewell College (Baptist) in Liberty, Missouri, at the dedication of the John Gano Memorial Chapel."
The article from magazine, "News From Home" concludes with this statement, "Such fragments of information serve to illuminate and enhance our estimate of Washington."