It may come as a surprise to many to know that George Washington was twice baptized. According to his mother’s Bible, he was baptized (Christened by Sprinkling) when he was not quite two years old… This baptism was in the orthodox Episcopal manner, and when he reached the age of thirty-three he took an oath to conform to the doctrine of the Church of England.
During Washington’s life a strong wave of evangelicalism swept the Methodist and Baptist faiths, and it was during this period that he remarked to John Gano, Chaplain in the Continental Army, “I have been investigating the Scripture and I believe immersion to be the baptism taught in the Word of God, and I demand it at your hands. I do not wish any parade made or the Army called out, but simply a quiet demonstration of the ordinance.”
Accordingly, George Washington was immersed in the Potomac in the presence of forty-two witnesses.
This historic episode was perpetuated in 1908 when E. T. Sanford of Manhattan’s North Church commissioned an artist to portray the scene, showing Washington standing with Chaplain Gano, waist-deep in the Potomac River. For a number of years this painting hung upon the wall of the Baptist church of Asbury Park, New Jersey, but in 1926 it was presented by the great-granddaughter of chaplain Gano to the William Jewel College in Liberty, MO, at the dedication of the William Gano Memorial Chapel.
John Gano was, at the time, a Baptist Minister and remains so all his life. His son, also named John, became a preacher in the Church of Christ in the early days of the Restoration Movement, and his son R.M. Gano, became a highly successful and popular preacher. He was an early leader in the church in Dallas and is said to have baptized 1000’s of converts in his long ministry.