“Polecat” Baptists – a stench to some, a blessing to others
Bartholomew Choning, James Goolrich, and Edward Herndon were all Baptist laymen in the state of Virginia in the latter part of the 18th Century, and all had the gift of exhortation. They were fearless men and were accused of “jamming a Scripture verse down the throat of every man they met upon the road.” They were evidently apprehended and imprisoned to await trial July 15, 1771. After the trial, the court record “ordered that they be remanded back to the gaol.” John Burrus, a licensed minister, was hauled into court along with the three laymen. These men were all from Caroline County, Virginia. Then there was Elijah Craig who spent time in jail at Bowling Green, Virginia. Those from Caroline County were members of Polecat Baptist Church because of its proximity to “Polecat” Creek. All of them had been preaching without state church ordination or proper license. The church was later named Burrus Meeting House after the venerable preacher, and when the church was moved from near Polecat Creek to the White Oak Seats the name became Carmel. Carmel Church is still located on U.S. Highway 1, just north of Richmond, Virginia, one mile West off of Interstate 95. In the churchyard there is a memorial to these men and all who suffered incarceration for the sake of the gospel. Inside the church is a famous painting by Sidney King of Patrick Henry defending the five Baptist preachers in Fredericksburg, Va., at an earlier date. The church experienced a revival under the leadership of Andrew Broadus. The church still stands today as a testimony against those who would bring our churches back under state control.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 289-91.