This small fraternity was constituted at Dry Creek meeting- house, in what is now Kenton county, on Friday, July 29, 1803. The following 9 churches, which aggregated 429 members, were in the constitution: Bullittsburg, Mouth of Licking (now Licking), Forks of Licking (now Falmouth), Flower Creek, Bank Lick, Dry Creek, Middle Creek, Twelve Mile and Brush Creek (now Persimmon Grove). Among the early ministers of the organization, were Alexander Munroe, Lewis Deweese, Josiah Herbert, William Cave, Moses Vickers and Thomas Griffin. The course of the Association was very even; and its growth was so slow, that, in seven years from its constitution, it gained only 75 members. But, in 1811, its churches enjoyed a revival, and 277 converts were baptized. Again, in 1817, a revival commenced, and continued two years, during which 728 were baptized, bringing up the membership of the Association to 16 churches, with 1,453 members. From this time till 1825, the body enjoyed a season of continual prosperity. At the last named date, it comprised 25 churches, with an aggregate membership of 1,656. This was the largest membership the body has ever attained.
There were several queries proposed and answered, during the early history of the Association. The following were from Bullittsburg, in 1804: "Whether a lay member may properly assist in constituting a church?" "Whether a church when sent to, may properly send lay members as help to judge of the gift and qualifications of a minister who is set forward for ordination?" Both questions were answered in the affirmative. In answer to query from Dry Creek, in 1808, "the Association advise all churches in future to dismiss their members in full fellowship, or not dismiss them at all." Another query is answered, at the same session, by quoting the fourth section of the constitution, as follows: "The Association thus formed, shall be an advisory, council, and not an authoritative body." In 1822: "Query from Licking: Whether that is gospel baptism which is not administered by an ordained Baptist minister, to a believer, by immersion? Answer: We believe that baptism, only, a gospel one, which is received by immersion, on profession of faith, and administered by one who has been so baptized, himself, believing that to be the only scriptural mode, and duly authorized to administer that ordinance."
This Association manifested a decided missionary spirit, from the first introduction of the subject, before it. In 1815, it opened correspondence with the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. The same year, it appointed five brethren to solicit means to send the gospel to the Indians, requiring them to report to the next Association. They reported that they had received $78.87 ½. In 1818, the Treasurer was directed to pay to the Kentucky Mission Society $130. In 1829, a resolution was adopted, recommending the organization of Bible societies throughout the State of Kentucky.
In 1827, the Association was much reduced in numbers by the dismission of the following churches to form a new association: Licking, Four-Mile, Bank Lick, Wilmington, Brush Creek, Twelve-Mile, Alexandria and Flower Creek. The new fraternity, when formed, was styled Campbell Association; but, in 1830, the word "county" was added to its name. North Bend Association was now (1828) reduced to 17 churches, with 1,194 members. In 1831, it was further reduced by the dismission of Ten-Mile, Lick Creek, Providence and Mt. Zion churches, to go into the constitution of Ten-Mile Association. This left it only 12 churches, with 985 members. The churches were in a state of great coldness, and continued to decrease in numbers, for several years. Meanwhile the Anti-mission leaven began to work in some of the churches. John Taylor, who had been active in gathering some of the oldest churches in the Association, and still had great influence in the body, had published a scathingly bitter and sarcastic pamphlet against missionary and Bible societies and theological schools. Licking Association had endorsed the production, and recommended its perusal; and her ministers advocated its teachings with great zeal, and too much in the style and spirit in which it was written, not only among the churches of their own Association, but, with equal vehemence, among those of the neighboring fraternities. Such planting and watering did not fail to produce its legitimate fruits.
In the annual letter from Forks of Gunpowder church to North Bend Association, in 1833, the following passage occurred: "Since our last, we have taken into consideration the propriety of our members uniting with, or having anything to do with the societies as follows, viz: Missionary societies, Bible societies, Tract societies; Sunday school or temperance societies, State Convention, American Bible Society. After the matter was taken up and some investigation had on the subject, the church agreed that her members should have no connection with said societies. And we wish, also, the counsel of the Association to be given on that decision, and advise the churches accordingly. We have no difference of sentiment on that subject, with the exception of two of our members, who are friendly to the Bible Society." The Association answered. — "We are willing to leave the whole subject of those societies, with the brethren who compose the churches, trusting that each one will act in the matter so as to have a conscience void of offense towards God, and that they will bear with one another in love."
This answer quieted the murmurings for awhile, but the leaven continued to ferment in the churches. In 1839, a letter was received from the First Baptist church at Covington, asking admission into North Bend Association. The church was rejected, on the ground that her constitution contained the following heretical expressions: "That man was originally created holy" and, "That all who hear the gospel are called upon to repent and believe it; and that their guilt consists principally in their unbelief and opposition to the plan of grace which the gospel reveals." Correspondence was withdrawn from Campbell County Association, on the grounds that said fraternity encouraged preaching which was contrary to the Scriptures and her own constitution; and that she permitted disorder before the close of her meetings, and after the close of the business of the Association, received and baptized persons in an unusual manner. Both of these acts were concessions to the Anti-missionary element in the Association. The grounds of objection, in both cases, appear to have been too trifling for serious consideration. The missionary element in the Association, which was still largely in the majority, reflected on the injustice of the transactions, and, the next year, received Covington church into the body, and re-established correspondence with Campbell County Association.
The Antimissionaries, seeing that they could no longer control the Association, and despairing of being able to convert the obstinate majority to their views, resolved to withdraw from the body, and organize a more orthodox fraternity. Accordingly, shortly after the adjournment of the Association, in 1840, messengers from Forks of Gunpowder, Crews Creek, Salem, Mud Lick, Bethel and Four-Mile, and perhaps, from factions of some other churches, met, and formed what they styled "Salem Association of Predestination Baptists." As North Bend Association had appointed to meet at Forks of Gunpowder, in 1841, and as that church had now left the body, it was deemed expedient to call a convention of such churches as adhered to the old fraternity. This meeting convened at Bullittsburg, in Boone county, April, 2, 1841. Only six churches were represented. It was agreed to hold the annual meeting of that year, at East Bend, where it accordingly met, on the 20th of August. Robert Kirtley preached from the text: "Then had the churches rest:" Acts 9:31. During ten years of coldness, strife and schism, the Association was much reduced, in numbers: so that, in 1842, it numbered only seven churches, aggregating 614 members. But it was now free from the spirit of contention which had so long marred its peace. The next year, the Lord granted its churches a gracious revival, during which, within a year, 364 were added to them by experience and baptism. From this period, the Association has experienced but few remarkable changes. Its increase has been slow, but it has been forward in all the leading enterprises of the denomination. In 1851, it established a home mission board, under the style of an Executive Committee, which has been very efficient in having the gospel preached among the destitute within the bounds of the Association. A number of the best preachers in the body have been employed in this work. Among the first employees of the Executive Committee were James A. Kirtley, Robert Vickers and James Vickers.
The Association sustained a loss of about 200 members, by the changes wrought during the War. In 1867, it numbered 12 churches, with 886 members. From that time to the present, it has had a regular, though not very rapid increase. In 1880, it comprised thirteen churches, aggregating 1,412 members. During 62 of the first 77 years of its existence, its churches reported 4,549 baptisms.
=============[Taken from J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. II, pp. 144-147. — jrd]
A Short History of North Bend Baptist Association
Queries from the NBBA Minutes, 1860.
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