June 18: Blackleach Burritt

A Most Pestiferous Rebel Priest and Preacher of Sedition
by Rev. David T Myers

What parents would give the first name of “Blackleach” to their son? The answer is that when it was the last name of the mother, namely, Elizabeth Blackleach, and her husband, Peleg Buritt, Jr., then it was considered as right and proper. Blackleach Buritt was born circa 1744, with no birth records of month and day found in Ripton Parish (now Huntington), Connecticut. His Buritt ancestors, of Covenanter and Huguenot faith, had sailed from Wales in 1640 and were among the first settlers of Stratford, Connecticut.

In 1751, Blackleach Buritt was made the heir of his grandfather’s large estate. With it, he furthered his education by enrolling at Yale University, and graduated in 1765. He married his first wife, who bore him twelve children. And one of them was given the name of Blackleach Buritt, Jr! Two children, after the death of his first wife, were born to his second wife, Deborah Wells, in 1788.

Theological education came from his pastor at Yale, the Rev. Jedidiah Mills in 1722, upon which he was licensed to preach by the Congregational Church on February 24, 1768. He must have changed his view of church government however, as a move to New York brought him ordination in the Presbyterian Church. Installed at Pound Ridge Presbyterian Church as pastor, he found himself in the midst of the events leading up to the American Revolution. It was not an easy pastorate as his people did not approve of his casting in his favor for independence. But like most Presbyterians, he became an active participant and partisan on the side of the colonists, earning the title of our post by the British as “a most pestiferous Rebel priest and preacher of sedition.” He even carried his rifle into the pulpit in case there was an immediately demand for his services from the Tories in the cause of American liberty.

It was on this day, June 18, 1779, that he was captured by British troops and imprisoned in the notorious Sugar House Prison, a virtual concentration camp in New York City, where he was to spend the next fourteen months. Allowed to preach to his fellow prisoners of war, he frequently opened up the Word of God to them on the Sabbath. However, due to the harshness of the captivity, Rev. Buritt was sick almost to death during that captivity. It is interesting that William Irving, father of Washington Irving, kindly ministered to him during these times.

After his release and the subsequent victory by the Americans, he returned to various Presbyterian churches, continuing to preach to the people of God. He had been influenced by the evangelical side of the Great Awakening, having heard George Whitefield preach in the colonies. Jonathan Edward’s books further aided his understanding of the Reformed faith. It was said that often, in the many Presbyterian churches in which he was called, one of his members would hand him a text as he walked to the pulpit. He would preach on that text for the sermon that day.

Whether from the effects of his incarceration, or simply from the rigors of church life, he died of a prevailing fever on August 27, 1794.

Words to Live By: It is somewhat easy to be committed to the Lord when all is going right. But let hardship, such as our character today suffered, then it can be very difficult. Let us resolve that in good times or bad, we will be wholly committed to the Lord and live for Christ. Let us take advantage of every opportunity to redeem the time for Christ’s cause, whether in the pulpit or in the pew.

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