Dry Pastor Murdered After Calling Man A “Whiskeyite”

Leemont Cemetery, Danville, VA

John Moffett was a North Danville pastor who had no tolerance for alcohol, in this case meaning that he was a strong supporter of the Prohibition movement and used the pulpit to further his agenda. He also wrote a weekly publication called “Anti-Liquor“.2

On Election Day 1892 fraudulent tickets regarding candidate Grover Cleveland’s position on prohibition were found in North Danville. These tickets had been printed at Anti-Liquor‘s headquarters, but that was unknown at that time.1

Suspicious attorney and congregation member J.T. Clarke accused Moffett of distributing the tickets with crooked intentions, resulting in fisticuffs.4 Moffett described the polling station drama in his paper and hurled insults at Clarke, calling him a “whiskeyite,” a “one horse lawyer,” and accusing him of “doing the dirty work for the liquorties.”1

On November 11 Moffett made a statement with the editor at the Danville Register and then started on Main Street towards the First Baptist Church where the Baptist Association was meeting. He bumped into Clarke on the way and it was at that moment that both men’s lives would forever be changed.

Moffett ended up with at least one bullet in his abdomen after a skirmish on the street. Four shots total had been fired but accounts of how many wounds Moffett actually received vary. Clarke alleged that Moffett first shot him in the wrist. Moffett, whose condition was later listed as “critical”, claimed that he didn’t have a firearm and that Clarke started shooting when they first met. In this version Clarke had shot himself accidentally.

On November 13 John Moffett died and was buried in Leemont Cemetery.

J.T. Clarke was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.3

Moffett Memorial Baptist Church still operates in Danville. Most historical sketches about the church’s namesake’s death leave out the details regarding the fraudulent tickets and the name-calling, which doesn’t surprise me here in the City of Churches.

1 “A Danville Difficulty.” Richmond Dispatch, 12 November 1892.
2 Bagley, Carolyn. “Danville Pastor Slain.” The Signs of the Times, 13 January 2013.
3 “Court of Appeals Yesterday.” Alexandria Gazette, 8 December 1893.
4 “Probably Fatal Affray.” The Times, 12 November 1892.

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