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John Howard Smith

clerk, storekeeper, and millenarian prophet, was born in Louisa County, Virginia, and was the property of David Ross of Richmond until Ross emancipated him in 1792. Much of what is known of McPherson's life is chronicled in the posthumously published A Short History of the Life of Christopher McPherson, alias Pherson, Son of Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1855), written by McPherson around 1811. According to McPherson's account, while a slave of Ross he was given an elementary education and became a capable bookkeeper, gaining skills that he briefly used to clerk for one of the commissary generals in the Continental Army during the siege of Yorktown in 1781. Upon his emancipation, McPherson remained in Ross's employ until 1799 when his conversion to Christianity led him to believe that he was a divinely commissioned millenarian prophet That transformation ...