Timeline of Events

  1. Born, May 14, 1754, son of James and Lucy Leland in Grafton, Massachusetts.
  2. 1772, Placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior
  3. Baptized, June 1, 1774, “Elder Noah Alden, of Bellingham, came to Northbridge, and baptized seven others and myself.”
  4. First Sermon Preached, June 20, 1774, preached from Malachi 3:16-17
  5. Travels to Virginia, “In October, 1775, I took a journey to Virginia, and was gone eight months.  One person in New Jersey, one in Connecticut, and two in Virginia, professed to receive some impression, under my improvement, which turned them to the Lord.”
  6. Married September 30, 1776, “I was married to Sally Devine, of Hopkinton; and immediately started with her to Virginia.”
  7. First Church to be Pastor, Mt. Poney Baptist Church in Culpepper, VA.
  8. First Baptism as Pastor – “The first person that I baptized, was Betsey Tillery.  I saw her in 1814.  She had then supported a Christian character for thirty-eight years.”
  9. 1778, Leaves Mt. Poney Baptist Church, “My stay in Culpepper was not a blessing to the people.  I was too young and roving to be looked up to as a pastor.  Difficulties arose, the church split, and I just obtained a dismission and recommendation.  God had another man for Mount Poney church. William Mason became their pastor, and he has done wonders in the name of Jesus.”
  10. 1778, Moves to Orange County, “Having moved to Orange, I commenced my labors with ardor.  Twelve and fourteen times a week I frequently preached.”
  11. October of 1779 – July 1780, “My field of preaching was from Orange down to York, about one hundred and twenty miles.  From November, 1779, to July, 1780, I baptized one hundred and thirty, the chiefest of whom professed to be the seals. of my ministry.”
  12. October 1781, “The chiefest of my success was in York, where Lord Cornwallis and the British army were made prisoners, in October, 1781.  Matthew Wood, Robert Stacy and Thomas Cheesman, (all preachers afterwards), were the children of this revival.”
  13. 1781-1785, “From this time to the year 1785, by the siege of Lord Cornwallis, the refunding of paper money, and removals to Kentucky, religion ran low in Virginia.”
  14. 1785 Revival begins, “In the spring of 1785, I went to the same district, (Dismal Swamp), and ranged and preached much more than I did in my first visit.  I now come to a period when religious appearance began to assume a more pleasing face than it had done for many years.  In Powhattan county the work first broke out, and many became the subjects of victorious grace.  Some old professors, on the other side of James River, about Chickahominy, went to see what was going on, who caught the spirit, and returning home, were instrumental of a similar work in their neighborhood, and round about in Goochland.”
  15. 1787, June, Ordination of Elder John Leland,  “In June, 1787, I was ordained by laying on of hands.  The ministers that officiated, were Nathaniel Saunders, John Waller and John Price.  By this, not only a union took place between myself and others, but it was a small link in the chain of events, which produced a union among all the Baptists in Virginia, not long afterwards.”
  16. October 1787 – March 1789,  “When the work seemed to languish in one neighborhood, it would break out in another, and consequently, there was a continual fall of heavenly rain from October, 1787, until March, 1789, during which time I baptized about 400.  Precisely 300 of them were baptized in 1788 — more than I have ever baptized in any other year.”
  17. 1790 – “In 1790, I travelled into New England, to see my father and relations.  I preached on the way, going and coming.  The term of my absence from home was four months.  The number baptized thirty-two.”
  18. 1791 – The Leland family returns to New England, “The winter following, I made my arrangements to move into New England.  Having baptized precisely seven hundred while I lived there, and leaving two churches, one in Orange, and the other in Louisa; the first containing three hundred and the other two hundred members. On the last of March, I started, with my family of a wife and eight children, and a small quantum of effects, and travelled by land to Fredericksburg, where I took ship for New England.”
  19. February 1792, move to Cheshire, Massachusetts, “The last day of February, 1792, I moved into Cheshire, which has been my home the chiefest of the time since.”
  20. 1800, Preaching Journey,  “In 1800, I made a tour of four months, travelling southward as far as Bedford, N. Y. Then eastward through Connecticut to New London.  Then pursued my course through Rhode Island, (visiting Providence and Newport), into Bristol county.  Then returning through Worcester and Hampshire counties, reached home the last of October . . .  In this journey, I saw eight old preachers, whose ages in average, exceeded eighty years.  The venerable Backus was one of them.  There was a revival in his congregation, and on his request I baptized a few in the place.” 
  21. November, 1801, “The Mammoth Cheese” – I journeyed to the south, as far as Washington, in charge of a cheese, sent to President Jefferson.  Notwithstanding my trust, I preached all the way there and on my return.  I had large congregations; led in part by curiosity to hear the Mammoth Priest, as I was called.
  22. 1804, Move to New York State, “In March, 1804, I removed into Dutchess County, N. Y., where I continued two years, which, (as it respects my ministry), was a gap of lost time.”
  23. 1806, Move back to Massachusetts, “In 1806, I removed back to Cheshire.”
  24. A time of refreshing, 1811, “In the year 1811, while I was in the General Court at Boston, a time of refreshing came in Cheshire.  After my return I baptized forty.”
  25. 1813-1814 Preaching tour to Virginia, “In December, 1813, I started again for Virginia; and preaching on the way to Washington, I crossed the Potomac into Virginia the last day of January, 1814.  I was in the state eighty days, in which time I travelled seven hundred miles, and preached more than seventy times.  I never had before — I never have since — nor do I ever expect to preach to as many I never have since people in so short a time.  The kindness of the people to their old friend, whom they had not seen for sixteen years, was unbounded.  I arrived at home in June, after an absence of six months; having travelled in that time eighteen hundred miles, and preached about one hundred and fifty times.”
  26. Recounting God’s work and many blessings in his life, about 1820:  “Since I began to preach in 1774, I have travelled distances, which, together, would form a girdle nearly sufficient to go round the terraqueous globe three times.  The number of sermons which I have preached, is not far from eight thousand.  The number of persons that I have baptised is one thousand two hundred and seventy-eight.  The number of Baptist ministers whom I have personally known is nine hundred and sixty-two.  Those of them whom I have heard preach, in number, make three hundred and three.  Those who have died, (whose deaths I have heard of), amount to three hundred.  The number that have visited me at my house is two hundred and seven.  The pamphlets which I have written, that have been published, are about thirty.   My only hope of acceptance with God, is in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.  And when I come to Christ for pardon, I come as an old grey-headed sinner; in the language of the publican, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.'”
  27. June 15, 1824.  “It is now more than four years since I closed the foregoing narrative of events.  My life and health have been preserved until the present time. In several places within the district of my ministration, there have been times of refreshing, so that I have baptized seventy-four persons in the four year’s.”
  28. December 12, 1826.— “Faint yet pursuing.  The summer past I have  spent chiefly in travelling and preaching.  I have attended three Associations — the jubilee and funeral of three Presidents — as also a general meeting which lasted four days — preached eighty-one times, and seen eighty-six Baptist preachers since the first of June.  Two remarkable events have taken place the present year.  Two old patriots, both of them Ex-Presidents, died on the 4th of July just fifty years after they signed the Declaration of Independence — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  The first aged ninety-one, the other eighty-three.  Mr. Jefferson drew the Declaration of Independence; and by his writings and administration, he has justly acquired the title of the Apostle of Liberty.  In the state of Vermont, the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor are both Baptist preachers — Ezra Butler and Aaron Leland.  This is a new thing in the world.”
  29. March 25, 1827 — “Baptized ten candidates, which makes my baptismal number one thousand three hundred and sixty-two.  It is not probable that I ever shall baptize many (if any) more.  From pretty correct information, I find I have now living eighty-two descendants, including children, grand-children, and great-grand-children.  A few of my posterity have died at their respective homes; but I have never had a coffin or a death at my house.  If a conscious sinner may apply words to himself which were spoken of Abraham, they are as follows: “For I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.”
  30. May 6, 1827 — “Beyond my expectation, this day I baptized fifteen, making up the number 1,377” — “Wondering still:  preached this day to a large concourse, and baptized eleven, making 1,388”
  31. July 4 — “Preached to nearly 1,000 people, and baptized six, two of whom were my grand-children, making 1,398″
  32. July 15 — “Baptized another of my grand-children and four others, 5             Baptized (between the 15th and 29th) – 3”
  33. July 29 — “Baptized 6”
  34. August 12 — “Baptized five in Cheshire and three in Lanesborough, 8 ~ Making 1,420                                                                                                                                           I have a great-grand-child, (Helen Maria Brown,) who has now living ten direct, and great grand-fathers and grand-mothers.”
  35. August 26. – “Baptized  5, and 1 on another day”
  36. September 9 – “Baptized 5”
  37. October 7 – “Baptized 10”
  38. October 21 – “Baptized 4″
  39. November 4 – “Baptized 2”
  40. November 5 – “Baptized 2  ~ One of these last was Eunice Baxter, whose grand and great grand-mothers I baptized more than thirty years past.”
  41. November 11 – “Baptized 2 ~ One of these was seventy-seven years old, which added to the age of theadministrator, (seventy-three,) would make one hundred and fifty years.”
  42. November 30 –  “Baptized 1”
  43. December 9 –   “Baptized  2”
  44. December 17 –  “Baptized 1”
  45. December 30 –   “Baptized  2”
  46. February 1, 1828 –  “Baptized 1”  “The father and mother of this candidate have fourteen children now living; ELEVEN of whom I have baptized.  Baptized five more, making 1,465.”
  47. May 14, 1828  –  “I am this day seventy-four years old, able to travel and — preach as doors open; and labor with my hands as duty calls.  The sins of childhood—the vices of youth—the improprieties, pride and arrogance of riper years; with the presumptuous and blasphemous suggestions of my mind, up till the present time, lie heavy on my mind, and sink my spirits very low.  It is true, I have had a hope for more than fifty years, that my sins were attoned for by the blood of Christ, and forgiven for his name’s sake; but still I find them attached to my character, and must forever, for truth cannot decease.”
  48. December 7, 1828.— “During my stay in Albany, which was four days, I was introduced to three governors.  My rusticity of manners, and the humble rank I fill, make such interviews more painful than flattering.”
  49. May 14, 1829 – “This day I am seventy-five years old.  Nothing singular with respect to myself has occurred in the course of the last year.  My greatest afflictions in life have been of that character that I have had to bear them all alone; a communication of them to others, (if indeed I could have done it), would only, have added to their weight.”
  50. May 14, 1830 – “Another year of my unprofitable life is gone.  Nothing worth recording has taken place with me in the year.”
  51. May 14, 1831 — “I am yet living and enjoying good health.  The year past I have had a large epistolary correspondence with distant friends; and have been advertised in the newspapers, through the states, as an infidel and an outcast.  May the Lord increase my faith and make me more holy, which will be the best refutation of the libel.  From the uttermost parts of the earth have we heard songs; even glory to the righteous: but I said, my leanness, my leanness.  It is now said that there is a great ingathering into fold of Christ in all the country around; but according to appearances, I am left behind.  Well, let me, like John the Baptist, be full of joy, that others increase while I decrease.  I have had my day, and must now give way to the young.  The unchangeable God has one class of servants after another to work in his vineyard.”
  52. July 17, 1831 — “Baptized 4”
  53. July 24 — “Baptized  2”
  54. July 31 — “Baptized 4”
  55. August 22  “Baptized 1”
  56. September 4  “Baptized 1”
  57. September 22  “Baptized 2”
  58. October 2  “Baptized 4”
  59. October 16  “Baptized 3”
  60. October 23  “Baptized 7”
  61. October 30  “Baptized 3  ~ Making 1,515”
  62. November 10  “After living in New-Ashford more than sixteen years, this day I removed into Cheshire again.  My age and decays admonish me that the time of my departure is not far distant.  When I die, I neither deserve nor desire any funeral pomp.  If my friends think best to rear a little monument over my body, “Here lies the body of JOHN LELAND, who labored  —  to promote piety, and vindicate the civil and religious rights of all men,” is the sentence which I wish to be engraved upon it.”
  63. May 14, 1834 — “I am this day fourscore years old; have just returned from Chatham, (30 miles off), where I preached three times, at the opening of a new meeting-house, and this day at Cheshire, to 600 people by estimation.  I have now several little preaching tours appointed; but my Maker only knows whether life and strength will be given me to fill them.  It is now sixty years since I began to preach.  But ah!  How little I have done!  And how imperfect that little!”
  64. August 17, 1834 — “This day I baptized five, which are the first that I have baptized since I was eighty years old.  My baptismal list is now fifteen hundred and twenty-four.”
  65. January 28, 1835 — “I have been preaching sixty years to convince men that human powers were too degenerate to effect a change of heart by self-exertion; and all the revivals of religion that I have seen have substantially accorded with that sentiment.  But now a host of preachers and people have risen up, who ground salvation on the foundation that I have sought to demolish.  The world is gone after them, and their converts increase abundantly.  How much error there has been in the doctrine and measures that I have advocated, I cannot say; no doubt some, for I claim not infallible inspiration.  But I have not yet been convinced of any mistake so radical as to justify a renunciation of what I have believed, and adopt the new measures.  I am waiting to see what the event will be; praying for light; open to conviction; willing to retract, and ready to confess when convicted.”
  66. July 4, 1835 — “It is now fifty-nine years since the independence of the United States was declared.  In this length of time the inhabitants have increased from three to fourteen millions.  The changes that have taken place are innumerable.  Sixty -five years ago I was old enough to observe the face of things, and see what was going on:  had I been in a dead sleep the sixty-five years, and were now to awake, such a change has taken place in the face of the earth, in architecture, in all the arts, in costume and regimen, and in the forms of religion, that I should doubt whether I had awakened in the same world.  The love of money, sexual correspondence, diseases and death, however, remain stationary.”
  67. October 5th, 1837 —  Sally Leland goes home to be with the Lord.  The following is written by Miss L.F. Greene concerning Mrs. Leland, “Mrs. Leland, who had been emphatically a ” helpmate” for him through many years, attended, alone, to the management of his domestic affairs, and gave considerable attention to the cultivation of a small garden.  Here they exercised that cordial hospitality for which they were always remarkable, in the entertainment of the many friends who visited them from time to time, setting examples of piety and of the Christian virtues which will not soon be forgotten by those whose good fortune it was to be their neighbors.”
  68. January 8, 1841 —  North Adams, Massachusetts, Elder John Leland preached, for the last time, to the people of that village.
  69. January 14, 1841 —  Elder John Leland goes home to be with the Lord.  The following is written by Miss L.F. Greene in her book, ‘The Writings of the late Elder John Leland.’  “Thus died John Leland — a man eminent above many for piety and usefulness, whose name is connected with all that is pure in patriotism, lovely in the social and domestic virtues, philanthropic in feeling and action, arduous, disinterested, and self-denying in the labors of the ministerial calling; one whose place in society, in the church, and in the ranks in the hearts of those who knew him — never.  He died, as he had lived, a witness for the truth, testifying, with his last breath, the value of that religion, and that only, which has its seat in the heart.  His life had been unostentatious; his aspirations after worldly honors, ever low and feeble; his humility and sense of dependence on God, deep-felt and abiding — and thus he died.  “Being with him in his last illness,” (Mr. Alden remarks in his funeral sermon), ” more or less every day, I think I may say, I never saw a Christian feel more deeply his own unworthiness.  ‘Bury me,’ said he, ‘in an humble manner.’  I want no encomiums; I deserve none.  I feel myself a poor, miserable sinner, and Christ is my only hope.’  Being asked, very near his end, what were his views of the future, he exclaimed, with both hands extended upward, and a smile I can never forget, ‘My prospects of heaven are clear.’  He seemed already to feel the everlasting rest laying its sweet influences over his soul, and bearing it up, taking away the sting of death.”