John Corbly was born in Great Britain in 1733, and while a boy agreed to serve four years for his passage to Pennsylvania. When his time expired he removed to Winchester, Virginia, and ultimately to Berkeley County. Here, in a conversation with Elder John Garrard, he was awakened to a sense of his lost condition. He was baptized by Mr. Garrard, and began to preach.
Becoming conspicuous as a leader among the Baptists, the enemies of religion considered him worthy of a prison. He was accordingly put into Culpepper jail, where he stayed a considerable time. Here he was exceedingly useful. He was regularly in the habit of preaching, from the windows of his prison, the gospel of peace. Frequently was he taken from the pulpit and cruelly beaten, after having been dragged from place to place.
Corbly was instrumental in birthing over 30 churches in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. Sometime before 1771, John Corbly moved his family to the rugged Pennsylvania backcountry of Redstone, where the Indians, for many years, were exceedingly troublesome. There he planted the Goshen Baptist Church, along with at least two other infant churches. In that country, though thinly settled, his ministry was very effectual, three or four hundred having been baptized by him.
It was on a Sunday morning when Corbly, walking with his family to church, less than half a mile from his house, was attacked by Indians. He would describe what happened in a letter to William Rogers, pastor of the Baptist church in Philadelphia.
“Not suspecting any danger, I walked behind with my Bible in hand, meditating. As I was thus employed, all of a sudden, I was greatly alarmed with the frightful shrieks of my dear wife before me. I Immediately ran with all speed I could, vainly hunting a club as I ran, till I got within forty rods of them; my poor wife seeing me, cried to me to make my escape; an Indian ran up to shoot me. Seeing the odds too great against me, I fled, and by doing so outran him.”
“My wife had a sucking child in her arms; the little infant they killed and scalped. Then they struck my wife several times, but not getting her down, the Indian who aimed to shoot me ran to her.”
“My little boy, an only son, about six years old, they sank a hatchet into his brain and thus dispatched him. A daughter besides the infant they killed and scalped. My oldest daughter who is yet alive was hid in a tree about twenty yards from where the rest were killed, and saw the whole proceedings. She seeing all the Indians go off, as she thought, got up and deliberately came out from the hollow tree; but one of them spying her, ran hastily up, knocked her down and scalped her; also her only surviving sister, one on whose head they did not leave more than an inch round, either flesh or skin, besides taking a piece of her skull. She and the before-mentioned one are miraculously preserved…”
“Though as you must think, I have had and still have a good deal of trouble besides anxiety about them; insomuch as I am, as to worldly circumstances, almost ruined.”
James B. Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers
Nannie L. Fordyce, The Life and Times of Reverend John Corbly and the John Corbly Family Genealogy