March 17, 2020
Joseph Mettam (1805-1888)
Joseph Mettam was born in 1805 in England. He was baptized in the Chesterfield Baptist Church and at the age of twenty he was married in the Episcopal Church at Derbyshire, England to Ruth Barker. (The Episcopal Church was the established church and marriage was not considered legal unless performed in this church.) He was called to the ministry before he reached his majority and preached two years in the Methodist church. When he was twenty-one years old he joined the Baptist church, preaching in several villages, frequently walking eight or ten miles on Sunday mornings and again as many more in the evenings. At one time he considered going to China as a missionary but finally decided to come to America, landing in Norfolk in 1832, with two of his sons, Samuel and William.
Not being able to find suitable work in Norfolk he came to Baltimore where he met “warm Christian friends” and soon obtained employment at his trade as gunsmith and locksmith. He preached on Sundays and week nights to the few Baptists in Baltimore. The following year his family joined him and after remaining in the city for two years, he and his wife paid a visit to Pikesville and made the acquaintance of some of the residents who induced them to make Pikesville their home.
The Mettams were located in a short time and after preaching in private homes and the village schoolhouse, he was asked to hold services in a seminary for young women, which was near the village. The students became deeply interested and there were many conversions. This school is believed to have been “Hannah More.”
The Rev. Mettam now realized there was a need for a Baptist Church in the community. In February 1835, a stone structure was built, and Rev. John Healy was present to dedicate the building. On September 8, 1835, the church was constituted.
On June 29th, 1835, Joseph Mettam was ordained to the ministry by Rev. John Healy, Joseph Jones and Stephen Hill. In 1836, when the Maryland Union Association was organized, this church was a constituent. Pastor Mettam labored faithfully and reported fourteen members at the second meeting of that body. In 1840, the Union assembled at Pikesville and began “a protracted meeting which continued under charge of the pastor until a large number of souls were converted.” Forty-two members were reported in 1842.
While the church was never numerically strong, it was nevertheless a power for good in the community. Its Sunday School was recognized for its influence on the young people of the village.
For many years he acted occasionally as a missionary of the Board, preaching at Taneytown, Hereford, Forest, Good Hope and other points. Pastor Mettam missed only 2 or 3 meetings of the Maryland Baptist Union Association during its first 50 years. He was later honored by the church as it became the Mettam Memorial Baptist Church.
The Maryland Baptist Union Association minutes of 1838 report Joseph Mettam, in a part-time capacity, had traveled a thousand miles, preached one hundred and ten sermons, distributed seven thousand pages of tracts plus Bibles and testaments, and baptized nine.
Rev. Mettam died in 1888 at the age of 84. It was not until after his death that the name “Mettam” was given to the little Baptist Church in his memory.
Materials used in this biography were taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen
Maryland Historical Trust; National Register Listings in Maryland
Historical files of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware