Henry Sater

September 7, 2016

Henry Sater (1690-1754)

Worship by Baptists in Maryland first occurred, as far as the historical records show, in the home of Henry Sater.

In 1709, Henry Sater sailed from England, landed somewhere on the Virginia coast, and soon made his way up the Chesapeake Bay into northern parts of the province of Maryland. He bore with him the Baptist faith of his homeland, the seed of Maryland’s baptist future. He was nineteen.

Chestnut Ridge BCWhen he came over from England, he purchased a tract of land on what was then known as “Chestnut Ridge,” about nine miles northwest of “Baltimore town.” Sater cultivated tobacco and was a slave owner. His plantation profited from his slaves’ unpaid labor.

His first recorded land grant was fifty acres obtained seven years after he sailed from England, and it was transferred with a purchase price of 120 pounds of tobacco in accord with a proprietary agreement put forward in 1684. Sater acquired in excess of a thousand acres by similar means over the next twelve years, each time paying in the currency of the day, tobacco.

He erected a meeting house and graveyard, which was carved out of his tobacco plantation. Among the travelers from eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, there was found, occasionally, a Baptist minister, and Mr. Sater always invited them to his “plantation” to preach at his dwelling. In 1742 Sater deeded the meeting house, which was on his own land, for the church.

1742July 10, 1742, the Baptist way took permanent root in Maryland soil. For more than three decades Sater had cultivated tobacco and Baptist principles in and around the primeval forests of Chestnut Ridge, Maryland. In Sater’s fifty-third year, he saw the fruit of his labor ripen into Maryland’s first Baptist church as fifty-seven persons signed a “solemn league and covenant,” forming the Chestnut Ridge General Baptist congregation (later called Saters). (See covenant below.)

Mr. Sater bore an excellent character. His assistance in building the place of worship, and his gifts of land to the ministry, are mentioned as peculiar marks of his liberality. He was instrumental in constituting the earliest Baptist church in the colony.

The covenant, under which this church was organized, is a unique politico-ecclesiastical document.

“We, the humble professors of the Gospel of Christ, baptized upon a declaration of faith and repentance, believing the doctrine of general redemption (or free grace of God to all mankind), do hereby, seriously heartily and solemnly, in the presence of the Searcher of all hearts, and before the world, covenant, agree, bind, arid settle ourselves into a church, to hold, abide by, and contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, owned by the best reformed churches in England, Scotland, and elsewhere, especially as published and maintained in the forms and confessions of the Baptists in England and Scotland, except in infant baptism, modes of church government, the doctrine of absolute reprobation, and some ceremonies. We do also bind ourselves hereby to defend and live up the protestant religion, and abhor and oppose the whore of Rome, pope and popery, with all her anti-Christian ways. We do also engage, with our lives and fortunes, to defend the crown and dignity of our gracious sovereign, King George, to him and his issue for ever; and to obey all his laws, humbly submitting ourselves to all in authority under him, and giving custom to whom custom, honor to whom honor, tribute to whom tribute is due. We do further declare that we are not against taking oaths, nor using arms in defense of our king and country, when legally called thereto; and that we do approve and will obey the laws of this Province. And further, we do bind ourselves to follow the patterns of our brethren in England to maintain order, government, and discipline in our church, especially that excellent directory of Rev. Francis Stanley, entitled ‘The Gospel Honor and Church Ornament’, dedicated to the churches in the counties of Lincoln, Nottingham, and Cambridge. We also engage that all persons, upon joining our society, shall yield consent to and subscribe this our solemn league and covenant. Subscribed by us whose names are underwritten, this 10th day of July, 1742.

Sater was born in 1689 in England. Sater worked for decades before starting a family. He married in 1730, his fortieth year, and soon thereafter became a childless widower. In 1740 he married Dorcas Towson, the daughter of blacksmith and original Chestnut Ridge church trustee William Towson. They had four sons and two daughters. when Sater made his last will and testament in 1753, he had significant property to bequeath to his four sons, but could not write his own name; he called as witness to the will a member of the Quakers. Henry Sater died in May of 1754.

Henry Sater is the great-great-great grandfather of Annie Armstrong.

Material used in this biography was taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen
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