CRANDALL, JOSEPH, Baptist minister and politician; b. c. 1761 in Tiverton, R.I., son of Webber Crandall and Mercy Vaughan; d. 20 Feb. 1858 in Salisbury, N.B.
Joseph Crandall immigrated with his parents to Chester, N.S., in the early 1770s. His later recollections of these pioneering days emphasized the absence of schools, the death of his mother when he was about 13, and the subsequent appearance of Henry Alline*, called by the people of the area a “New Light” and described by Crandall as a “strange man that was preaching in Windsor and adjoining places.” Crandall apparently never met Alline – although his father heard him preach – but he did listen to a succession of evangelicals, such as John Sargent and Harris Harding, without being visibly affected. His only bow to religion in these early years, one which he later regretted, was to be “sprinkled” by a Presbyterian minister.
After the death of his father, Crandall went to Liverpool to engage in the cod fishery and subsequently worked freighting lumber from Shubenacadie to Windsor. Like most of the “founding fathers” of the Baptist denomination in the Maritimes, he eventually experienced an adult crisis conversion, in his case at about 35 years of age. In July 1795 he entered a private house in Chester where Harding and Joseph Dimock* were preaching, and he later recalled: “My hard heart was at last, broken, and I had such a view of a perishing world lying in ruin as I never could express. To the great surprise of all present I began to speak and try to tell what I felt and saw. . . . I saw mercy so connected with the justice of God, that they were both one, that what God had done in the person of Christ was alone sufficient to save all that came to God for mercy through Jesus Christ.” After a summer in Newport, Crandall returned to Chester and joined Dimock’s open communion church. Although he yearned to preach publicly, he held himself back because he lacked formal schooling. Late in 1795, however, he had a dream in which he was told to wade into a raging river “and save all the people I could.” Baptized by immersion that day by Dimock, Crandall soon afterwards accompanied Harding to Liverpool, where he began his preaching career.
Crandall preached his way back and forth across Nova Scotia for a few years and eventually went to New Brunswick, which he was to make his evangelical territory for the remainder of his life. After considerable soul-searching while clearing a farm in Salisbury, Westmorland County, Crandall found that “the cloud of darkness that had for so long obscured my mind” had lifted and he decided to enter the ministry. On 8 Oct. 1799 he became the first regularly ordained Baptist minister in the province when he was set apart as a pastor at the Sackville church by Edward Manning, Theodore Seth Harding, and Dimock. A year later he organized a church at Salisbury with which he maintained a connection until his death. He had married the eldest daughter of Jaimy Sherman of Salisbury in 1797, and they had six children. After the death of his first wife Crandall married Martha Hopper of Sackville, and the couple had eight children.
Crandall was active in the Nova Scotia Baptist Association from its founding in 1800. When a separate New Brunswick association was organized in July 1822, he was appointed the first moderator and seems to have filled that position regularly until the 1840s. He served for many years as a missionary of the Nova Scotia organization in eastern New Brunswick, and throughout his long career continued to itinerate in both colonies; “steady pastoral guidance, in connection with an individual church,” commented Ingraham Ebenezer Bill*, one of his successors, “was not his forte.” He seems to have thrived on the trials and discomforts of backwoods travel, and, like many of his contemporaries, regarded both money and a regular stipend with considerable disdain. He attempted to exercise spiritual supervision over all the Baptists in Westmorland and Albert counties, and served as pastor to a number of different churches in the area at various times during his life. As the denomination grew and flourished in the 1840s, and as the province became more densely populated, Crandall’s itinerant leanings, so well suited to the church’s formative years, came into disfavour. Although in 1821 there had been only six ordained ministers serving a scattered membership of 506, by 1847 the number of communicants had increased to 4,806, served by 48 regular preachers. There came to be objections to the unintentional by-products of Crandall’s itinerancy, which were “to unsettle young pastors, and to induce in the people the love of change.”
In 1818, when the Baptist Church was attempting to achieve legal recognition and equality with the established Church of England, Crandall was elected to the New Brunswick House of Assembly for Westmorland County. He was forced to resign his seat, however, when the assembly declared all clergymen ineligible to sit in the house. Crandall always regarded this action as unfair, but he refused to confront the government over it. For many years thereafter he used his authority in the county to ensure that its representatives in the assembly supported civil and especially religious liberty. In 1836 he was elected president of the New Brunswick Baptist Education Society, serving in that post until his death.
Undoubtedly the most influential and venerated Baptist leader in New Brunswick during the first years of the 19th century, Crandall has left little written evidence of his importance. His sermons were almost all extemporaneous and thus were never published or preserved. But several generations of New Brunswickers in the scattered settlements of the back country remembered him fondly as a commanding pulpit presence, whose invariable topic – typically evangelical – was Christ and the crucifixion. He wrote but one brief and tantalizing autobiographical fragment, cast in the form of a spiritual memoir. It is impossible to calculate the number of individuals he converted, or baptized, but he was always successful. Active until the end, Crandall, supported in the pulpit by two of his deacons, preached his last sermon in Salisbury six weeks before his death at the age of 97. He died, as he had lived, “with his armour on.”
Bill, Fifty years with Baptist ministers. Levy, Baptists of Maritime prov. MacNutt, New Brunswick.