John Koontz died on this day in 1832. He was buried in a small family graveyard on a hill overlooking the Shenandoah river. Bro. Koontz was perhaps the first Baptist preacher to proclaim the gospel in what was then known as Shenandoah County, Virginia. His ministry was such a success that he nearly died years before 1832. His preaching roused the violent hatred of many native Virginians.
On one occasion, near Smith’s Creek, he was met by a gang who forbade his preaching. When a highly respected local man, Captain Learhorn, insisted that he preach, he proceeded, but after the meeting the gang threatened the preacher with death if he ever came back. Undeterred he eventually returned. When he was discovered and beaten with the butt end of a large cane. Again refusing to promise never to return, the beating continued until Bro. Koontz was nearly disabled with broken bones and internal injuries.
Sometime later, he and a close friend, Martin Kaufman were in a house awaiting the announced preaching hour. Koontz was in separate room when a man burst in and began beating Kaufman with a stick, thinking he was the preacher. Many blows fell before the man became aware that he was mistaken. Shame made him slink away, but Kaufman had been severely wounded.
On another occasion a group of men had arrested Bro. Koontz and were transporting him to jail. When a man, who had earlier heard the preacher, tried to rescue him, he was beaten off. A few miles further up the road, the evangelist warned the mob to be careful, because if he was indeed a man of God, they would be in fact fighting the Lord. Immediately one of the men became alarmed and relented. Later that man and two of the others became Baptists.
West of Luray Virginia is the “White House Landing Bridge” over the South fork of the Shenandoah River. It was given that name because a few hundred yards down river was the white-washed building of the Mill Creek Baptist Church, which John Koontz planted in 1772. In the graveyard beside it lies the body of Martin Kaufman, Koontz’ friend and companion in the ministry.