Elder John Weatherford
"Elder John Weatherford, Baptist Minister.
Born in Charlotte County 1740. Lay in jail in Chesterfield County in 1773 five months for preaching. Moved to Halifax in 1813; to Pittsylvania in 1823; died January 23, 1833.
"Erected in 1906 by Churches of the Roanoke Association.
"A sufferer for Conscience Sake.
"An Earnest and Faithful Minister of the Gospel."
For many years the grave of John Weatherford lay neglected and almost forgotten.
A state marker was placed on the nearest roadside in 1959. The grave itself, about a quarter of a mile west of Shockoe Church, is now maintained by the church.
Because of the depth of Baptist sentiment in Pittsylvania, it is understandable that this county became home to the beloved Baptist preacher John Weatherford during his last 10 years. Weatherford had suffered more persecution than most for his preaching, carrying scars to the grave. While imprisoned for preaching in 1773 in Chesterfield County, he had continued to preach to large crowds through the jail window, his hands extended through the bars. His extended hands proved a tempting target for knife-wielding ruffians who slashed his hands.
Eventually Patrick Henry secured Weatherford's release from jail, and paid his fines, acts for which Weatherford was ever after deeply grateful. (When Weatherford sent 5 pounds currency to Henry in payment for his services, it was returned.) Henry's admiration for the Baptists greatly affected his own personal philosophy and devotion and also his public life. (Later, in 1787-88, Henry apparently experienced a deep Christian conversion experience during a revival which spread from Hampden-Sydney College, and became an active personal evangelist during his later years.) It is through the influence of first Patrick Henry and later Thomas Jefferson that the principles of religious freedom became foundational to the U.S. Constitution.
In 1872 Chatham physician Dr. William White recalled that as a boy he had attended Weatherford's funeral 39 years earlier and seen the famous Chesterfield County scars. He said,
"I was barely tall enough to look into the coffin. The hands of the veteran minister lay ungloved upon his breast with palms downward. I saw white and rigid seams extending across the back of each hand…."
Bio by: Bev