Rev. John Allen Gano
was born on 14 July 1803 at Georgetown, Scott County, Kentucky. He was the son of Richard Montgomery Gano
and Elizabeth Ewing
. Rev. John Allen Gano married Mary Catherine Conn
, daughter of Capt. William Conn
and Frances Webb
, on 2 October 1827 at Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky. Rev. John Allen Gano died on 14 October 1887 at Centerville, Bourbon County, Kentucky, at age 84. Biographical Sketch of John Allen Gano
Text from James Challen, (editor), Ladies' Christian Annual, October, 1857 (Volume VI, No. 10), Philadelphia: James Challen, Publisher. Pages 305-310. This online edition © 1998, James L. McMillan.
Born: Georgetown, Kentucky, July 14th, 1805
Died: October 14, 1887
ACCOMPANYING the portrait of John Allen Gano, a minister of the Gospel of Christ, still living and laboring among us, we furnish this short sketch of his life and labors; to us, indeed, it is a work of love. We feel glad of the opportunity of affording so life-like a picture of him in this number of the Annual, which will serve to remind his numerous friends and admirers of that kind and benevolent face, on which amidst crowded assemblies they have so often looked, and those large eyes, so often suffused with tears when speaking of a Saviour's love, and urging with such singular pathos and power, sinners to be reconciled to God through the death of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have often been struck with the fact, that whilst the speeches in the Senate and House, at the bar and on the stump, by distinguished favorites in the world, have been applauded to the skies, that the sublime specimens of oratory, inspired by the presence of a Christian congregation, listening to the noble themes of the Gospel of the grace of God, have failed to win a single compliment. We have no hesitation in saying, that some of the extempore addresses of an exhortatory character we have heard in the house of God far excel, in all that constitutes true eloquence, the noblest efforts of human genius, either in court or camp, in the senate-chamber or the halls of justice, to which we have listened. And no wonder; men of equal abilities are engaged in pleading the Gospel, with those found in political life; and surely the themes they handle are incomparably grander and more impressive. No one can speak effectively who does not feel deeply, sincerely; and devotion to any cause will endow the soul with the requisite qualifications of success. The Christian minister, ex animo, speaks what he believes--what he knows. He deals with the souls of men, "is much impressed himself," and urges his plea with all the solemnities of death and the judgment before him.
The subject of this sketch fills a large space in the public eye, both in his native State and other States in which he has labored.
He was born in the beautiful village of Georgetown, Kentucky, on the 14th of July, 1805. His father, Richard Montgomery Gano, was born in the city of New York, July 7th, 1775, and was the son of Rev. John Gano, a distinguished Baptist minister, formerly of the city of New York, but who died a citizen of Kentucky, in 1801. His memoirs were published in New York, in 1806. He figured largely during the struggles of the Revolution; many anecdotes are told of him, characteristic both of the man and of the times.
The mother of John A. Gano, the subject of this sketch, was born in Bedford County, Virginia. Her father, Caleb Ewing, not long after, was killed by lightning, and she, with a near relative, moved to Kentucky, then quite a wilderness, where, in 1797, she was married to R. M. Gano, the father of John Allen Gano. She died of consumption in Georgetown, April 9th, 1812, leaving four daughters, Mary, Margaret, Cornelia, and Eliza,
and three sons, John Allen Gano, the subject of this sketch, Stephen F., and Richard M. His father, in his forty-first year, died near Georgetown, October 22nd, 1815, soon after his return from his last campaign in the war of 1812. Thus, in the eleventh year of his life, John A. Gano was left an orphan. He was anxious to secure an education, and although he did not pursue a collegiate course, he entered into some of the best schools which the country afforded, and, together with instruction in the Latin and Greek languages, he received the ordinary course in mathematics and other kindred branches, under such eminent teachers as Barton W. Stone, Charles O'Hara, _____ Olds, and others. His academic course he completed in 1821.
Being in bad health, he spent a portion of his time in travelling in the southern part of his native State. In the year 1822, he went to reside with his near relative in Cincinnati, Major Daniel Gano, Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Ohio, and continued in his office for one year, after which, returning to Georgetown, in March, 1823, he commenced the study of law under Judge Warren, and in 1826 was duly examined and admitted to practice. The law was his favorite study, and he was anxious to devote his life to it; but Providence had higher and more important designs to accomplish by him, which these studies, however, would materially aid in carrying out.
In the midst of his preparations for his future career as a lawyer, and while travelling south, with a view of making a location in Texas, he was suddenly and violently attacked with hemorrhage of the lungs. In his affliction, he called on the Lord, and resolved, if spared, to become a Christian and seek preparation for a better world. On his return home, he was bewildered amidst the various and conflicting parties of the day, and had he been fully taught the way of salvation, he would gladly have received it. He again entered into the world, and threw off to some extent the serious impressions made upon his mind, but was often most miserable in his rebellion. The war within, between duty and pleasure, conscience and the demands of the world, did not subside, and he often felt that the interests of the soul were paramount, and required his first and most serious attention.
Early in the summer of 1827, he heard the Gospel of Christ, as preached by Elders Barton W. Stone, Francis R. Palmer, and Thomas M. Allen. Under the immediate labors of the last-named person, he embraced the good news of salvation, and began at once to proclaim the Gospel to his fellow-men. He was immersed by Elder T. M. Allen, at Georgetown, Kentucky, July 10th, 1827.
Soon after the profession of his faith in Christ, he relinquished his once fondly cherished idea of the practice of the law, and determined, at all hazards, to plead the cause of the Saviour. His choice was a noble one, and demanded much personal sacrifice. A desire for the enjoyment of the greatest religious freedom determined him to associate with those who wore no name religiously but "Christians," to the rejection of all party and unscriptural names, and whose only authoritative creed and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice were the oracles of God. His religious belief did not lead him, however, to reject those who might differ with him in reference to many questions still mooted, growing out of his rejection of human articles of faith. He was led to love every Christian--all who bore the image of the Saviour, no matter what may have been the difference of opinion in matters purely speculative. He had early learned practically at heart to distinguish between faith and philosophy, knowing that a person may be in error in regard to the latter, but sound in reference to the former; a lesson, we think, that older scribes would do well to consider, and spare both their zeal and charity in behalf of Christ, instead of exhausting them in opposition to what they deem false philosophies. It is no little surprising what a dust may be raised by those who are riding in the same coach, otherwise in good fellowship, and annoy both themselves and others by what may be unavoidable. Please wrap your cloak around you, put down the windows, occasionally thrust your head out to catch a
little fresh air, and remember it is not so much owing to yourselves as the badness of the roads, the motion of the horses, and the heaviness of the coach. Above all things, do not fall out with each other, much less out of the vehicle that carries you, because of the dust that is raised. "I have learned," says one, "to love my brother none the less, because he differs with me in matters of speculation." This is a rare excellence, and only those who have drunk deeply of the spirit of Christ acquire it. Of all the disputes and controversies known to the world, both in ancient and modern times none have been so bitter, and none so empty and fruitless, as those which are purely metaphysical. Every new system seeks to explode the old, and each philosopher gains credit and favor by the decapitation of his predecessor-- himself a candidate for the same fatal knife
John A. Gano, encouraged by his brethren, and in harmony with his own feelings, cultivated his talent for exhortation, in order to his greater usefulness as a minister of the Word--a talent indeed of rare excellence, and one which he possesses to this day un-impaired. It has given him wonderful power over his audiences and success in his ministry. It is a gift, if not exercised, will be in a measure lost. Brother Gano has kept it intact, and knows how to use it. His labors and studies at this time were excessive and for a while quite prostrating, which made it necessary for him to seek repose and medical attention. He soon began to improve, and being identified with the Church of Christ in Georgetown, he went forth under its authority everywhere preaching the Gospel of Christ, and success attended his labors wherever he went. The writer of this article, though at that time not personally acquainted with him, lived in an adjoining county, and often heard of the abundant labors, zeal, and efficiency of the young lawyer. He associated with those eminently pious and self- denying preachers of the Word, who had suffered so much for their advocacy of the Inspired Volume in opposition to human creeds; and for the name "Christian"as the proper patronymic of the followers of Christ to the exclusion of all party names, viz., Barton W. Stone, Francis R. Palmer, Thomas Smith, Thomas M. Allen, John Rogers, L. J. Fleming, and others. They were filled with zeal, their hearts burned with love to God and the souls of men, and though much opposed, amidst poverty and scorn and the odium of being the leaders of a "new sect everywhere preached against," as announced by their enemies, the cause they plead gained many friends and progressed with astonishing rapidity. On August 24th, 1827, John A. Gano received from the Church in Georgetown a unanimous recommendation to exercise his gift as a preacher wherever Providence might lead him; and his labors and fruits were very great. About this time he commenced preaching, in company with T. M. Allen, in Paris, Kentucky, and many became obedient to the faith. In October, 1827, he was married to Mary Catherine Conn, daughter of Captain William Conn, of Bourbon County, Kentucky, and became after this event a resident of that county. He now extended his labors; he went to Union, a short distance from his home; spoke often at Georgetown, Antioch, Paris, Cynthiana, preaching not only on the Lord's Day, but often through the week; and the more he and those associated with him were persecuted, the more they prospered. In 1828, he visited Harrodsburg, Republican, Fayette County, and Kentontown, near the Blue Licks, and always with more or less success. In the following December, he was regularly ordained to the Gospel ministry, by Elders Barton W. Stone and T. M. Allen, at Union Church, in accordance with the unanimous voice of that church. Next spring he visited Harrodsburg again, preaching occasionally at Lexington, Paris, Georgetown, Bethel, Antioch, Mount Carmel, Cynthiana, and regularly at Union; his time being wholly given to the Lord, his success was accordingly very encouraging.
Although engaged in farming on a small scale, as a means of support to his little family, he was hindered but little in his labors, and, so far as his health and strength would admit, he gave himself wholly to the work. In after years, the long and protracted ill health of his wife restricted his
field of labor to the regions round about his home, though his heart panted for a wider circuit. In all the year 1830 he preached regularly at Union, Antioch, sometimes at Leesburg, Mount Carmel, Cynthiana, Cooper's Run, Lexington, Georgetown, and often in his own vicinity.
About this time, having been led to investigate the subject, he became fully convinced of the scriptural authority and importance of weekly communion, and wrote, for the Christian Messenger, several essays in its favor. The next year, 1831, his labors were more confined to the churches at Leesburg, Silas, and Union. Not long after, a union was effected between the brethren at Silas, formerly Baptists, and those at Leesburg, composing the Church of Christ, the places of meeting being near each other. During the absence of T. M. Allen on a visit to Virginia, in 1831, he labored in the churches under his care,--Paris, Antioch, and Cynthiana,--and at many places his success was very great. During all this time he was constantly increasing in that efficiency and spirituality which are so necessary to fruitfulness in the cause of Christ.
For five years he had been preaching the Word, in all seasons and at every available point, without any compensation whatever of a temporal character. His labors chiefly abounded among the poor churches, now in a helpless condition, as they were in a state of infancy; he enjoyed their confidence and love, but as he did not need their pecuniary aid, he did not ask it, being sufficiently rewarded in the testimony of his own heart, and in the happiness he diffused among the followers of Christ in building them up in their most holy faith, and in seeing so many new recruits added to their number. He felt that "it was more blessed to give than to receive;" but whilst he so acted, he encouraged and aided the churches to sustain other evangelists who needed assistance, "believing that the laborer was worthy of his hire," and that they who preached the Gospel might justly claim to live "of the Gospel," and that he who was taught in the Word should communicate to his teacher in all good things. He preferred, as his wants were few, to pursue this course for the furtherance of the Gospel, anticipating his reward in a better world.
When the memorable union movement was inaugurated in Kentucky upon the Bible and the Bible alone, he was fully prepared in mind and heart to enter into it. To the shades he and thousands of others were ready to send howling the ghosts of defunct and dying speculations, that had only served to bewilder and lead astray the minds of men, and to preach Jesus as the Lord and Christ, in all his personal and official dignity and authority, as set forth in the living oracles of God. This union, and the zeal and good-fellowship that accompanied it, will account for the unparalleled success which attended the efforts of the evangelists in that region. The Gospel of God's power was now proclaimed much in the spirit of Apostolic times, and with similar results. In all the churches of the Saints great accessions were made, and among them those at Paris, Leesburg, Mount Carmel, and other places within the field of Brother Gano's labors shared largely in them.
Soon after a tour to Southern Kentucky, in 1837, preaching in Hopkinsville, Princeton, and other places, he formed a more intimate acquaintance with the beloved John T. Johnson, and labored and travelled much with him in the cause of Christ, during which time hundreds obeyed the Gospel, as reports in the Millennial Harbinger and Christian Preacher for 1838 and 1839 will show. Never before had such a state of things been witnessed in Kentucky for the triumph of the Gospel. The reader will turn to the Harbinger, vol. 5, new series, page 209, for the account of these meetings.
The removal of many of his most intimate preaching brethren from his field of labor, and the death of others, greatly increased his responsibilities, which made him feel sad and lonely,--at times, indeed, he was overwhelmed with the work to be done, and the few left to do it.
To give some faint idea of his labors at this time, frequent efforts like the following were made by him, and we only wonder that he could have survived them, knowing the powerful draft they make upon the mind and body. He attended a meeting in a
neighboring county with the resident preacher, and delivered, in eleven days, about thirty discourses, averaging more than an hour in length, gave exhortations as often as he preached, and joined in all the songs which were sung. Over sixty persons were added to the Lord. He often rode home after the scenes of the day and night to reach his family, his wife being at this time much afflicted. Drenched with rain, benumbed with cold and sweltering with heat, he still labored on, cheered with the hope of winning souls to Christ, and the rewards which await the faithful.
Having had an attack of hemorrhage of the lungs after speaking in 1843, his labors for a short time abated, and finding his health and that of his wife so seriously impaired, he set out late in the year 1847 for Louisiana. After spending a month at Lake Providence and on Joe's Bayou, he preached the way of salvation; leaving his family early in January, 1848, he went to Baton Rouge, and finding here a few brethren,--among them G. G. McHatton and wife,--through their influence he obtained the use of a meeting-house, and organized a congregation of eleven members,--the first church of the kind planted in that city on Apostolic grounds. He then proceeded to the City of New Orleans, and introduced ten or twelve more into the ancient faith. He then returned to Baton Rouge, and remained with the infant congregation he had planted until it numbered about forty-five; returning to Lake Providence, and, late in March, home to Kentucky. In January, 1852, he again visited Baton Rouge, found John A. Dearborn preaching there, who, by his efficient labors, had greatly promoted the cause. Many additions, by their mutual efforts, were made to the congregation, and steps were taken to purchase a lot, and erect a suitable building for the brethren. With his accustomed liberality he gratuitously gave his labor free of charge.
His efforts are chiefly in the field of an evangelist. Among the more wealthy congregations he has not refused to accept compensation, but often has he requested them to bestow their favors towards benevolent objects. Whilst he does not object to others entering into some stipulation with the congregations for support, he chooses rather to leave this matter entirely in their hands. And it is well for him that his circumstances will admit of it. The fewest number of those engaged in the work meet with that encouragement and aid that their circumstances and sacrifices demand. He refuses to receive aid, in order that others, who stand more in need of it, may be cared for. But not infrequently valuable presents have been offered him; but I judge that he has given more than he has ever received. Of late his labors have been greater than for many years. The success of our great benevolent enterprises lies near his heart. Side by side with the lamented John T. Johnson he has plead in behalf of the Female Orphan Schools, the Kentucky Education Society, and the missionary enterprise, and still is determined to plead their cause; and he rejoices in the good degree of success which those institutions enjoy.
Recently he held a meeting with the church at Old Union, in Fayette County, Kentucky, commencing July 7th; he was favored with the presence and aid of Brother T. M. Allen, of Missouri, the veteran John Smith, John Rogers, Senior, John J. Rogers, and John A. Dearborn. It was exactly thirty years, the day the meeting began, since he made profession of his faith in Christ, and just thirty-four years since the church at that place was planted with six members, of which number, Elder T. M. Allen was one, and the only one now present at the meeting. Six hundred names have been enrolled on their church books; about one hundred and ten have died, and only one hundred and seventy-six remain. Death and removals to other parts have thinned their ranks.
The clerk at Leesburg says that about one thousand names have been enrolled there, first and last, and all, except about thirty, have been added since 1831. In the bounds of this congregation he has bestowed much labor.
John A. Gano has been the father of eight children; two died in infancy, and one,
Fanny C., not long after her marriage, died, in the hope of immortality, at the early age of eighteen. In reviewing the eventful history of John A. Gano, we cannot but be struck with the amount of labor he has performed, and the disinterested efforts he has made for thirty years of his public life in behalf of the cause of Christ. His energy and zeal, his courage and perseverance, know no bounds. With a fine and graceful form, a commanding and eloquent oratory,--with a face at once benignant and intelligent,--an eye large and luminous, often "given to the melting mood," from a heart deeply impressed with the importance and grandeur of the themes he handles,--with a voice of exquisite pathos and melody, whether as a speaker or a singer,--and with a thorough knowledge of his subjects, and abundant resources of reasoning and exhortation, he has achieved more within the period referred to than has often been allotted to the most favored champions of truth. "His bow still abides in strength." He is ever ready for the service in which he is engaged. May he long continue among us as a "burning and a shining light."