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A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer

Chapter 8
Great Crossing and Tates Creek Churches

GREAT CROSSING CHURCH was the third organization of the kind on the north side of Kentucky river. It was located in what is now Scott county, near the present site of Georgetown. Colonel Robert Johnson, who had moved from Bryan’s Station, in the Spring of 1784, was probably the chief mover in procuring the organization of a church at this point. There, were at this time, several active preachers living north of the Kentucky river, and it is probable that different ones preached in Colonel Johnson's fort, before the church was organized: so that the gathering of this body can not be attributed to any one preacher. We may be sure, however, that Lewis Craig, John Taylor and William Hickman were always at the front.

Great Crossing church was constituted, May 28, 1785, by Lewis Craig and John Taylor. The following persons went into the constitution: Wm. Cave, James Suggett, Sr., Robert Johnson, Thomas Ficklin, John Suggett, Julius Gibbs, Robert Bradley, Bartlett Collins, Jemima Johnson, Susannah Cave, Sarah Shipp, Katy Herndon, Jane Herndon, Hannah Bradley, Betsy Leeman and Betsy Collins. The next year after this church was constituted, Elijah Craig came from Virginia and settled on the ground now occupied by Georgetown. He was immediately called to the partoral care of Great Crossing church. This position he occupied for a period of about five years, when a difficulty arose in the church, which resulted in his exclusion. The church was divided in this affair, which grew out of a contention between Mr. Craig and Joseph Redding, a very popular preacher, who had recently come from South Carolina, and settled near Great Crossing. After causing much disturbance in that and the surrounding churches, the difficulty was finally adjusted. Mr. Craig was restored, and entered into the constitution
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of a new church, then called McConnel's Run, but since known as Stamping Ground.

In 1793, Joseph Redding was chosen pastor of Great Crossing church, and continued in that office till 1810 During this period the church had general prosperity, though it had some seasons of coldness. During the great Revival of 1800-3 Mr. Redding baptized, for the membership of this church, 361 converts.

In 1810 James Suggett became pastor of the church. The church continued to prosper under his ministry, about fifteen years, during which it enjoyed several precious revivals. Jacob Creath succeded James Suggett, but preached for the church only one year, when he was succeded by Silas M. Noel.

Mr. Noel took charge of the church the first Saturday in January, 1827. There were twenty-seven additions to the church by experience and baptism, that year. During the year 1828, a very remarkable revival occurred, under the preaching of the pastor, Ryland T. Dillard, and others. During the year Mr. Noel baptized for the fellowship of this church, 359 members. Among them were seventeen Indians, students in the Choctaw Academy at Blue Spring. After this revival, the church numbered 588 members. From this time to the present, it has had many pastors, and has enjoyed a good degree of prosperity. It has been served by many able ministers, among whom maybe named John L. Waller, John Bryce, Wm. F. Broadus, James D. Black, Howard Malcom, Duncan R. Campbell, and Basil Manley, Jr.

Great Crossing has been a leading church in Elkhorn Association from the constitution of that old fraternity to the present. It has, since the disturbance between Craig and Redding in its early years, had fewer troubles from factions, than most of the old mother churches. During the stormy period that gave birth to Campbellism, out of a membership of nearly 600, it only lost sixteen by that turbulent faction. Its numerous daughters now cluster around it, and it is not so strong as in the days of yore.1
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ELIJAH CRAIG was the first pastor of the "Old Crossing" church, and, while he was not as useful to the cause of Christ in Kentucky as many others of the pioneers, he deserves to be remembered for his eminent services among the early Baptists of Virginia. He labored and suffered much amid the fiery persecution that tried men’s souls in the old mother State, and few preachers in the Old Dominion were more laborious and useful than he.

Elijah Craig was the son of Toliver Craig, and a brother of the famous Lewis and the eccentric Joseph Craig. He was born in Orange county, Virginia, about the year 1743, was raised up in his native county, and like his brothers, received but a limited education. He was awakened to a knowledge of his lost condition, under the preaching of the renowned David Thomas, in the year 1764. The next year, he and others were encouraged, by Samuel Harris, to hold meetings in his neighborhood, for the encouragement of the young converts, and their mutual edification. Elijah Craig's tobacco barn was their meeting house. Here Mr, Craig began his ministry, as did several other young men, who afterwards became valuable preachers. As has been related elsewhere, Elijah Craig traveled into North Carolina to get James Read to come and baptize the young converts, himself being one of them. Mr. Read returned with him, and baptized as many as were approved for that ordinance. Elijah Craig was among those baptized: this was in the year 1766, and a year after Mr. Craig began his ministry. He now devoted himself to preaching with great zeal. He was ordained, in May, 1771, at which time he became the pastor of Blue Run church. Some time after this, the sheriff came to where he was plowing, arrested him, and carried him before a magistrate, on the charge of having preached the gospel contrary to law. He was committed to jail, where he was fed "The Baptists are like abed of camomile; the more they are trodden the more they spread." This proved true; their preaching through prison grates enkindled their own enthusiasm, and produced a greater effect on the people than if the preachers had been at liberty. After remaining in Culpeper
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jail one month, Mr. Craig was released. After this he was honored with a term in Orange county jail, for a similar breach of the law. His constant labor in the ministry, and his close application to the study of the Bible, in a few years, developed the tobacco-barn exhorter into one of the most popular and influential preachers in Virginia.

During the fierce and long continued struggle for religious liberty, Mr. Craig was frequently sent by the General Association, and General Committee of the Virginia Baptists, as their delegate to the Legislature, to aid in forwarding that object.

Another, and perhaps the greatest evidence of his popularity, was evinced in electing him to a singular and exalted office, among modern Baptists. In the year 1774, the question was sprung in the General Association of Virginia Baptists, as to whether all the offices mentioned in <490411>Ephesians 4:11; were still in use in the churches of Christ. After a long and heated debate, the question was decided in the affirmative, and the Association proceeded at once to elect and consecrate two Apostles for the north side of James river; the lot fell on John Waller and Elijah Graig. Samuel Harris was appointed an Apostle for the south side of James river. These Apostles exercised no real authority, and their office was about equivalent to that of an Evangelist, appointed by our modern General Associations. It had however a pretentious name, and found so little favor among the churches, that it was discontinued at the end of one year's experience. These three men were the only Baptist Apostles who have lived since the death of the original twelve. Elijah Craig continued a career of eminent usefulness till 1786, when he removed to Kentucky. This move was unfortunate, both for the cause of Christ and himself. He was an enterprising business man. The new country offered excellent facilities for profitable speculation. The temptation was too strong. He was soon overwhelmed in worldly business. He bought one thousand acres of land, and laid off a town on it, at first called Lebanon, but afterwards, Georgetown. The speculation succeeded. He erected a saw and grist mill, then the first fulling mill, the first rope works, and the first paper mill in Kentucky. It seems that he had nointention to abandon the ministry, but vainly imagined tnat he could serve God and mammon both. He became irritable, and indulged a spirit of fault finding.
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He wrote two pamphlets, one to prove that a settled pastor of a church is not entitled to any compensation for his services in that capacity. The other was titled "A Portrait of Jacob Creath." They were both written in a bad spirit, and the latter is said to have been exceedingly bitter. This not only involved him in much trouble, but threw the whole of Elkhorn Association into confusion, and resulted in much harm to the cause of Christ. But it would be unprofitable to follow him through his varied and annoying conflicts. He continued to preach till near the time of his departure. He was accused of no immorality except his petulant fault finding; and it is confidently believed that he was a child of God, and a sincere man; but he allowed satan to take advantage of the weakness of the flesh, and do him much harm. After saying he was considered the greatest preacher of the three brothers, John Taylor proceeds to speak of him as follows:
"In a very large association, in Virginia, Elijah Craig was among the most popular, for a number of years. His preaching was of the most solemn style, his appearance, as a man who had just come from the dead, of a delicate habit, a thin visage, large eyes and mouth, of great readiness of speech, the sweet melody of his voice, both in preaching and singing, bore all down before it; and when his voice was extended, it was like the loud sound of a sweet trumpet. The great favor of his preaching, commonly brought many tears from the hearers, and many, no doubt, were turned to the Lord by his preaching. He was several times a prisoner of the Lord for preaching. He came to Kentucky later than his brothers. His turn for speculation did harm every way. He was not as great a peacemaker in the church as his brother Lewis, and that brought trouble on him. But from all his troubles he was relieved by death, when perhaps he did not much exceed sixty years of age, after serving in the ministry, say forty years."2
JOSEPH REDDING was the second pastor of Great Crossing church. He came to Kentucky in the prime of life. An orator of no mean ability, possessing great force of character, and inspired with a zeal that never flagged, "he at once," it has been said, "became the most popular preacher in Kentucky."3
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Joseph Redding was born in Germantown, Fauquier county, Virginia, about the-year 1750. His father was of Welsh extraction, and his mother a native of Germany. His parents both died when he was young, and left seven children to be raised by their uncle, William Redding. This uncle being poor, could afford them but little opportunity to obtain an education When Joseph arrived at manhood, he could barely read a little "by spelling the words as he went." He could also write some. He was raised an Episcopalian, and was intensely bigoted. At the age of about eighteen years, he married Anna Weakly, "a prudent, sensible and very industrious woman." Although so young, he weighed about two hundred pounds, and was ready and willing to defend his religion with his fist. Not far from the time of Mr. Redding's marriage, the Baptists, then derisively called Newlights, began to preach in Fauquier. Mr. Redding held them in great contempt, and would by no means go to one of their meetings. "But God had marked the young man for his own," and found means to reach his heart, in an unexpected way. Mr. Redding lived on a public road. On a stormy night, about the time of which we speak, a young wagoner, named Joseph Baker, obtained leave to stay over night at Mr. Redding's. As the young man started out after supper to look after his team, he was heard to groan. Isaac Redding, an older brother of Joseph, remarked that the young wagoner was a Baptist, and that he intended to confute him when he came in. As Isaac was regarded the better scholar of the two, it was arranged that he should conduct the argument, and, as Joseph was much the larger man, he was to do the fighting, if this became necessary. Wholly unconscious of the arrangement, Baker came in, and Isaac began the assault. Baker meekly responded, and the argument continued to a late hour. Isaac was so much worsted in the argument, that Joseph became irritated, and, to avoid insulting his guest, went to bed. Isaac and Baker continued the argument till the former was silenced, and began to weep and tremble; for the spirit of the Lord found way to his heart. The disputants went to bed, but Isaac could not sleep, for the pungency of his conversion. Joseph's anger was so hot that he could not sleep, and he resolved to whip his brother Isaac, in the morning, for not defending his religion better. When the brothers got up in the morning, the
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wagoner was gone on his way, and Joseph only assaulted his brother with bitter words, to which the latter gave no response, but continued to weep and tremble. That day the brothers went to a log-rolling. Joseph resolved to have some fun at his brother’s expense. He soon told the workmen that a Newlight wagoner had converted Isaac last night. The men became hilarious, and presently three or four of them, of which Joseph was one, seized Isaac, carried him to a charred log, and blacked his face. Isaac made no resistance, but the tears rolled down his blackened cheeks, and he trembled in all his joints, like Belshazar. The men were struck with awe, and one of them cried out in alarm. Joseph was pierced to the heart and became alarmed about his soul.

ISAAC REDDING was soon converted, and at once began to preach. He was eminently a good man. His zeal for the salvation of men never seemed to abate. So watchful was he for the interest of his church, that he seemed to be able to anticipate any revival of religion, with almost unerring certainty. "He came the nearest to possessing the spirit of prophecy," says John Taylor, "of any man I ever was acquainted with." He was well versed in the scriptures, andwas wise in council; but his capacity for communicating was poor, and he probably never was ordained, He came very early to Kentucky, and aided in building up the first churches. He died a member of Old Clear Creek church in Woodford county, about the year 1805.

Joseph Redding, after the frolic of blacking his brother's face, became so alarmed about his soul, that he sent for William Marshall to come and preach at his house. He was soon afterward converted, and was baptized by Mr. Marshall. This was in the year 1771. He was then twenty-one years old, and had a wife and two children. He at once began to preach with flaming zeal. He and his brother Isaac labored together among their neighbors. The effect was wonderful. The surrounding country was soon ablaze with religious enthusiam. "How marvelous are the works of God's grace," says John Taylor. "A sigh or a groan from a poor illiterate wagoner produces this dispute with the Reddings, which resulted in their conversion, and, within six months time under their ministry, the
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neighborhood is alive with zealous saints."4 It was of this time that the self-righteous John Taylor said "under the preaching of the Reddings, the poor rags of my own righteousness took fire and soon burned me to death." Mr. Taylor was soon converted, and became a co-laborer with the Reddings. Of Joseph Redding, Mr. Taylor says: "His gifts at that time were small, but his soul was in the work. He had the spirit of preaching, and would be warning or persuading sinners, in his sleep. Perhaps no man exceeded him in zeal, both in making and filling appointments. He considered an appointment to preach too sacred a thing to neglect. I will give an instance or two. With myself, he had a meeting appointed, about fifteen miles from his house, I went to his house the over night for an early start. He lived in the woods, and had neither stable nor pasture. Of course we belled our horses and turned them in the woods. The night proved rainy and the next morning very wet. We searched for our horses till eight or nine o’clock, and failed to find them. We did not hesitate a moment to go on foot, a rough mountainous road, then raining. And a most heavy day of rain it proved. We had to travel in a half run to reach the place, and met not more than twenty people. At another time we had appointments for a week or ten days. I got to his house the over night. The first meeting was twenty miles distant. The weather was hot. We did not hesitate to go on foot. We set off at sunrise, and got to meeting in time. And a blessed meeting we had; for the Lord seemed to much bless the people. The next day we traveled on foot, over mountainous ground, thirty-eight miles, before and after meeting and both of us preached to thepeople. After this our stages were shorter. The whole tour was about a hundred and fifty miles, about the head waters of the Potomac river. I give these instances of zeal as a sample of Mr. Redding's whole life in the ministry, which, from beginning to end, was upwards of forty years."5

In 1772, only about nine months after he began to preach, Mr. Redding moved to South Carolina, a distance of five or six hundred miles. While there he became associated with a Tunker

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preacher of the name of David Martin, a man of considerable talent. Under Martin's influence, he became tinctured with Arminianism. Not being satisfied with the religious society of South Carolina, he returned to Virginia the following Spring. With his Arminian views, he soon encountered his pastor, William Marshall, who was an extreme predestinarian. The dispute became unpleasant, and Mr. Redding moved to Hampshire county, which was then the frontier settlement of Virginia. He was the only preacher in this county. But he strove to spread the gospel all over his vast field. While the revolutionary war was raging, and destroying some of the churches in the older settlements, he built up a number of flourishing new ones on the frontier.

Up to the time of his removal to Hampshire county, he had associated his ministry with that of any preacher he happened to fall in with, and had thought but little about the differences of doctrines. But now, perhaps for the first time, he fell in with the Methodists. Some of them were skillful in dispute. Mr. Redding, who had naturally a strong, discriminating mind, discovered in their teachings and practices, what appeared to him great inconsistency. He then thought of his own inconsistency in laboring with them, in building up these errors. He now became a close student of the Bible, studying systematic theology from its sacred pages. His progress was rapid, notwithstanding his many disadvantages. He soon became a systematic preacher, and ultimately an able theologian.

In the Fall of 1779, with a company of emigrants, principally members of the churches he had built up, he started to move to Kentucky. The company took a boat at Redstone. They had not proceeded far before they wrecked their boat. One of the company cried out; "Mr. Redding, what shall we do?" He replied, "Throw me overboard," by which he meant to intimate that he had erred in leaving his field of labor, to go to a new country. The company had to remain till Spring, when they induced Mr. Redding to continue the journey with them. They arrived at Bear Grass, in March or April, 1780, after remaining out during the hardest winter that had ever been known in the climate. The Indians were unusually troublesome at this time. The people at Bear Grass were all shut up in the forts. Mrs. Redding was probably the first preacher's wife
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that pressed the soil of Kentucky with her feet. But she did not long grace the newcountry. She buried one of her children at Bear Grass, and set out with the rest of her family to return through the great mountain wilderness, to the home they had left the Fall before. In June the broken family entered the same house they had vacated the preceding Autumn. Mr. Redding could find no opportunity to preach in Kentucky, at this time, on account of the fierceness of the Indian war. For this reason he hurried back to his former field of labor. "Hampshire county was probably a hundred miles square, and Mr. Redding the only Baptist preacher in it. There were many Methodists, against whose doctrines he was now a mighty warrior." He was pastor of four or five churches, and missionary for the whole region of destitution around him. He continued to occupy this field, with his usual zeal and diligence, about four years, when again, in the Spring of 1784, he moved to South Carolina. Having become well established in the doctrines of grace, thanks to the Arminian Methodists, he was cordially received by the South Carolina Baptists, and at once entered upon a course of great usefulness. He was one of the several preachers who supplied the pulpit of the Charleston church, till Mr. Furman became its pastor. Here his usefulness continued, till 1789, when once more he set out for the West, He arrived in Kentucky in October of that year, just in time to attend the sitting of Elkhorn Association. "He was appointed to preach on Sunday, with others," says an eyewitness, "and as a new broom sweeps clean, Redding swept all before him. Gano himself was not his equal." Whether Redding became a little puffed up by the extravagant laudations of the people, or whether the manifest preference for his preaching excited some jealousy in the other preachers, it is evident that there was not the most cordial harmony existing between him and his colaborers in the ministry, for a considerable length of time. Disregarding this, he entered the ample field of labor with the same indefatigable zeal and energy that had characterized his whole ministry, and met with the same success that had followed his labors elsewhere. He was immensely popular with the churches. The unfortunate difficulty between him and Elijah Craig has already been referred to. After this was adjusted, Redding became pastor of Great Crossing
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church, in 1793. Here he preached with abundant success, until April, 1810, when he resigned and was succeeded by James Suggett, whom he had baptized, and who had married his daughter.

On resigning the care of Great Crossing church he took charge of Dry Run, in the same county. Here he continued to labor the remainder of his earthly life. He took an active part in the formation of Licking Association, of which Dry Run church became a constituent member. He continued to labor incessantly, till a third stroke of paralysis terminated his earthly course. He passed away from earth in 1815, aged about 65 years.

"Joseph Redding," says John Taylor, "was a prodigy among men." He was self-raised, self-educated, and self-reliant. Although not unsocial, he seemednot to need the sympathy or advice of his race. He planned and executed for himself, as if he alone was responsible for every care with which he was connected. He formed and advanced his own opinions as if they were incontrovertible. From the hour of his conversion he consecrated his life to one object, and, without regard to the surrounding circumstances, steadily pursued it to the end. His work done, he went to give an account to Him, in whose service he had spent his life with a single heart.

THE JOHNSONS deserve to be remembered in connection with Great Crossing church. COLONEL ROBERT JOHNSON emigrated to Kentucky at a very early period. For a time he lived at Bryants Station, but in the spring of 1784, he moved on his farm near the Great Crossing. Here he went into the constitution of Great Crossing church, of which he remained a member till his death.

He was an active church member, and was prominent in the affairs of the State, both in its legislature and in its wars with the Indians. JAMES JOHNSON was a son of Colonel Robert Johnson, and came with his father to Kentucky in early childhood. He united with the church, September 1, 1800, and was baptized by Joseph Redding. He was clerk of the church about twenty-five years. He served as lieutenant colonel, in the British war of 1812, and was in the battle of the Thames. He was elected to Congress, in 1825, and died while serving in that body, in December, 1826.
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JOHN T. JOHNSON, another son of Colonel Robert Johnson, joined the same church, in 1825, and served as its clerk two years, when he was carried off with the faction led by Alexander Campbell. He was licensed to exercise his gift, in Great Crossing church, but was not ordained. He served a term in Congress, and became a prominent preacher among the Campbellites. He died December 17, 1856.

RICHARD M. JOHNSON, another son of Colonel Robert Johnson, was born in Kentucky, in 1781. He was one of the most distinguished citizens, not only of Kentucky, but of the United States, of his generation. He was a colonel in the war of 1812, was a member, at different times, of both houses of Congress, and was Vice-President of the United States during Martin VanBuren’s first Presidential term. He died a member of a Baptist church, in 1850.

WILLIAM JOHNSON, another son of Colonel Robert Johnson, was born in Orange county, Virginia, in 1778, and came with his parents to Kentucky, in 1781. He served as a major under General Harrison in the last British war. He died at his home in Scott county, in 1814, leaving two sons, GEORGE W. and MADISON C. The former was Governor of Kentucky under the Confederategovernment, and fell in the battle of Shiloh. The latter is a distinguished lawyer and banker.

TATES CREEK CHURCH of Regular Baptists was located in Madison county, between Boonesboro’ and the present town of Richmond. It was probably gathered by John Tanner, and was constituted in the year 1785.6 It was a small body, at the beginning, and was of so slow a growth that, in 1790, it contained only thirty-nine members, while the Separate Baptist church of the same name, and in the same neighborhood, contained a membership of two hundred and ten. It was one of the six churches that formed Elkhorn Association, the same year in which it was constituted. In 1811, it embraced a membership of only forty-seven. But small as its membership was it split in two, and the smaller faction, containing only nine members, was acknowledged by Licking Association, of which it became a member. It is probable that both of these factions were dissolved.
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JOHN TANNER was early a member of Tates Creek church of Regular Baptists, and was probably its founder and first pastor. Of the time and place of his birth, we have no certain knowledge. The earliest account we have of him is that, in 1773, he raised up a small church in Rocky Swamp, in Halifax county, North Carolina. He was soon after this pastor of a church of Separate Baptists, in Edgecomb county, of the same State. Here he was engaged in a laudable enterprise, of which a brief account may be interesting to the reader.

As early as 1695, and a number of years before we have any direct historical account of any Baptists in Virginia, there were many individual Baptists, scattered along the eastern coast of North Carolina, supposed to have been driven out of Virginia by the intolerant ecclesiastical laws of that colony. They were General Baptists, and very ignorant of the true nature of Christianity. They had something of the form of godliness, but knew little of its power. By the year 1752, sixteen churches had been gathered, which met annually in “a yearly meeting.” About this time, they were visited by John Gano, and, a year afterwards, by Benjamin Miller and Peter Vanhorn,7 from Philadelphia Association. These eminent ministers found them in a deplorable condition. They preached among them. Many of them confessed that they knew nothing about experimental religion. They “openly confessed they were baptized before they believed, and some of them said they did it in hope of getting to heaven by it. Some of their ministers confessed that they had endeavored to preach, and administer the ordinance of baptism to others, after they were baptized, before they were converted themselves; and so zealous were they for baptism (as some of them expected salvation by it) that one of their preachers confessed, if he could get any willing to be baptized, and it was in thenight, that he would baptize them by fire-light, for fear they should get out of the notion of it before the next morning."8 Many of these people, how ever, could give a good account of their conversion before their baptism; and some of their preachers were pious, evangelical men. Of these, the missionaries formed Regular Baptist churches. Such as had been converted after baptism, were required to be rebaptized.

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Some of them dissented, and were refused membership in the new churches. After this renovation, there were three or four churches, and as many preachers, that refused to submit to the reformation, and remained on their old grounds. Their doctrine and practice seem to have been substantially the same that are now held by the Campbellites. In a few years they became extinct.

The new churches, formed by the missionaries, on the doctrines of the Philadelphia Association, united with four other churches, one of which, at least, was under the pastoral care of John Tanner, and formed the present Kehukee Association of United Baptists. At the time of this union, 1777, the association contained ten churches, with an aggregate membership of 1,590.9 Mr. Tanner traveled and preached extensively, not only in the bounds of this association, but also in Virginia. He endured much persecution, and at one time came very near losing his life for his faithfulness in the gospel of Christ. Elder Lemuel Burkitt, who was present when the surgeon dressed Mr. Tanner’s wound, relates the circumstance as follows:
"A certain woman by the name of Dawson, in the town of Windsor, N.C., had reason to hope her soul was converted, saw baptism to be a duty, and expressed a great desire to join the church at Cashie, under the care of Elder Dargan. Her husband who was violently opposed to it, and a great persecutor, had threatened that, if any man baptized his wife, he would shoot him. Accordingly, the baptism was deferred for some considerable time. At length, Elder Tanner was present at Elder Dargan's meeting, and Mrs. Dawson applied to the church for baptism, expressing her desire to comply with her duty. She related her experience, and was received; and, as Elder Dargan was an infirm man, he generally, when other ministers were present, would apply to them to administer the ordinance in his stead. He therefore requested Elder Tanner to perform the duty of baptism at this time. Whether Elder Tanner was apprised of Dawson's threatening or not, or whether he thought it his duty to obey God rather than man, we are not able to say. But so it was, he baptized Sister Dawson. And, in June following, which was in the year 1777, Elder

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Tanner was expected to preach at Sandy Run meeting house, and Dawson, hearing of the appointment, came up from Windsor to Norfleet’s ferry, on Roanoke, and lay in wait near the banks of the river. When Elder Tanner, in company with ElderDargan, ascended the bank from the ferry landing, Dawson, being a few yards from him, shot him with a large horseman's pistol, and seventeen shot went into his thigh, one of which was a large buckshot that went through his thigh. In this wounded condition, Elder Tanner was carried to the house of Mr. Elisha Williams, in Scotland Neck, where he lay some weeks, and his life was despaired of. But, through the goodness of God, he recovered."10
Besides the rude persecutions Mr. Tanner endured in North Carolina he took his turn in a Virginia jail, with his co-laborers. Mr. Semple says: "In Chesterfield jail seven preachers were confined for preaching, viz: William Webber, Joseph Anthony, Augustine Eastin, John Weatherford, John Tanner, Jeremiah Walker and David Tinsley. Some were whipped by individuals, and several were fined."11 Speaking of the same circumstances, Burkitt and Read say: "The people were so desirous to hear preaching that they would attend at the prison, and the ministers would preach to them through the grates. In order to prevent their hearing, Colonel Cary had a brick wall erected ten or twelve feet high before the prison, and the top thereof fixt with glass, set in mortar to prevent the people from sitting on the top of the wall to hear the word."12

Previous to the year 1785, Mr. Tanner moved to Kentucky, and, in that year, was a member, and we have supposed, the founder and pastor, of Tates Creek church, in Madison county. Not long after this he was the preacher of Boone’s Creek church (now Athens) in Fayette county. Like William Marshall, Mr. Tanner entered deeply into the investigation of God's eternal decrees, and growing morose in his temper, he seemed to arrive at the conclusion that none were converted, unless they were "sound on the decrees," from his standpoint. About the year 1786, or the year following,
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there was a general revival among the young churches in Kentucky. Indeed, this work began as early as the winter and spring of 1785, and continued some three years. During the same period, there was a glorious work of grace spreading extensively over the land in Virginia and North Carolina. Sometime during this precious season, William Hickman was with Mr. Tanner at Boones Creek. About twenty persons were approved for baptism in one day. Such a work had not been seen before, in Kentucky. It was a time of great rejoicing. The news had just reached Kentucky, that a similar work was in progress among the churches in Virginia and North Carolina. Mr. Tanner preached, but otherwise, and perhaps in his preaching also, he endeavored to discourage the revival, saying he feared it was "the work of the devil." He refused to examine the candidates for baptismbefore the church, and when they were received, he refused to baptize them.13 However, it is probable that he would not have absolutely refused these offices if there had been no other minister present to discharge them. How far will even good men be led astray, when they turn away from the simplicity of the gospel, to weary themselves and their hearers with vain attempts to discover, and unfold, the secret mysteries of God’s eternal decrees?

About the year 1795, Mr. Tanner moved to Woodford county, and settled in the neighborhood of Clear Creek church. By this time, he had come to the conclusion that all the existing churches in Kentucky were too corrupt for a christian to live in. He soon induced his aged father-in-law, Elder James Rucker, to adopt his opinion. Elder John Penny had recently moved from Virginia, and settled on Salt river. He was induced to enter into Mr. Tanner's scheme. They found a few Baptists in Mr. Penny's neighborhood, suited to their purpose, and they constituted “the Reformed Baptist church on Salt River,” of ten members, three of whom were ordained preachers. Their plan was to receive members only by experience, and these must be of known good character. None were received by letter from other churches. Their intention was to have a very pure church. As Mr. Penny lived among
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them, he was chosen pastor. The fact soon developed itself that human nature was the same in the "Baptist Reform" church, that it was in Clear Creek church. The members of this "pure body" soon fell into contentions among themselves. Mr. Penny called helps and constituted the present Salt River church, on the old plan. Mr. Rucker returned to Clear Creek and shortly afterwards moved to the lower end of the state. The "Baptist Reform church" was dissolved in two years after it was constituted. Mr. Tanner soon moved to Shelby county,14 from whence, after a brief period, he emigrated to Missouri, and settled near New Madrid. From this settlement most of the people were frightened away by a series of violent earthquakes which occurred in 1811. Mr. Tanner moved to the neighborhood of Cape Gerrardeau, where he died, in 1812.


1 For the facts in the history of this ancient fraternity, the author is indebted to Professor J. N. Bradley's excellent "History of Great Crossing Church."
2 John Taylor, History of Ten churches.
3 History of Great Crossing Church
4 In substance.
5 John Taylor's Life of Joseph Redding, abridged.
6 Some say two years earlier.
7 Benedict, Vol. 2, p. 99.
8 Burkitt and Read's His. Kehukee Assoc., pp. 49, 47.
9 Ibid., p. 51.
10 Burkitt and Read's His. Kehukee Assoc., pp. 59, 60.
11 His. Va. Bapt., p. 207.
12 History Kehukee Assoc., p. 269.
13 Hickman's Narrative, pp. 23, 24.
14 History of Ten churches, pp. 80, 81.
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt., CHR&A 1984. — jrd]

Chapter 9
Kentucky Baptist Church Histories
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