Baptist History Homepage

A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer, 1885

Chapter 12
Forks of Elkhorn, Shawnee Run and Other Churches Constituted in 1788

At the beginning of the year 1788, there were two Regular Associations and one Separate; sixteen Regular and eleven Separate churches; twenty-five Regular and ten Separate ordained preachers, and several licensed preachers of both orders. During this year, three Regular and three Separate churches were formed. Like those which had been gathered before, some of these were permanent and valuable churches, and others of them soon perished.

FORKS OF ELKHORN church was gathered by that famous old pioneer, William Hickman. The following account of its origin, written by Hickman, shows the manner in which our fathers followed the settlers to the frontiers, and erected the standard of the cross among them. It must not be forgotten that they were still exposed to the fury of the blood-thirsty savages, who constantly prowled around the settlements and embraced every opportunity to destroy the new occupants of their favorite hunting ground. There were already eight little churches in Fayette, one in Bourbon, one in Clark, and one in Woodford, all under the protection of the forts, before there was any settlement at the Forks of Elkhorn, in what is now Franklin county.

During the year 1787, a precious revival was prevailing in most of the settlements in Fayette and the surrounding counties. Mr. Hickman gathered Marble Creek church, and, for a time, supplied it with stated preaching. The revival influence was following the settlers, as they advanced into the wilderness to form new homes, and contend with new trials and dangers. Of this period, Elder William Hickman writes as follows:
"About that time, the Forks of Elkhorn began to be settled. Mr. Nathaniel Sanders, old brother John Major, brother Daniel James, old William Hayden, old Mr. Lindsay and a few others

[p. 150]
had moved down. As there was a prospect of a large settlement, Mr. Sanders named to his neighbor, Major, that it would be right to get some minister to come down and live among them. This pleased Major, he being an old Baptist. They consulted as to whom they should get. Mr. Sanders, who had a slight acquaintance with me, mentioned my name. This seemed strange, as he was a very thoughtless man about his soul. However, they agreed between themselves to make me a present of a hundred acres of land. This was unknown to me at the time. On a very cold night, brother Major, came to my cabin about twenty miles from his residence. When he came in, upon being asked to sit down, he said: 'No, like Abrahamís servant, I will not sit down till I have told my errand.' He then told me what had brought him to see me, and gave me till the next morning to return him an answer. We passed a night of prayer. It was a night of deep thought with me for I wished to do right. I was halting between two opinions, and when I reflected that the Forks of Elkhorn was exposed to the savages, there being no settlement between there and the Indian towns, I thought it would frighten my wife and children. However, I consulted them about what I should do. They being willing to go, in the morning I answered brother Major thus: 'I have an appointment at Marble Creek. I will name the matter to the brethren there. If they will give me up, I will write to you or come and see you, and we will decide upon it.' I went to Marble Creek, and stated to the brethren the circumstance. They were for awhile very unwilling to let me off. But at length they said, if it was my wish, and for my advantage, they would submit. I then felt free and went down instead of writing. I first went to brother Majorís, and from there to Mr. Sanders. I was astonished to find that his wife was an old professor of religion. Mr. Sanders walked with me to the very spring I now live at, on his own land, and showed me where I was to settle. I said to him: 'Sir, you donít care about religion; I want to know why you wish me to come.' His reply was: 'If it never is any advantage to me, it may be to my family.' It started tears from my eyes, not knowing what Providence had in view. I, however, concluded to move as soon as possible, and my son, William, being married, came down and built a cabin, between Christmas and New Year, 1787. Between this and my moving I visited my old church (South Elkhorn),

[p. 151]
Marble Creek and other churches, and I do hope my labors were not in vain. On the night of the 17th of January, we arrived at my son Williamís cabin. I had sent down an appointment to preach on Sunday at brother Majorís. Almost the whole of the inhabitants came out. I suppose there were about thirty whites, besides a few blacks. I hope I was looking to the Lord. I took this subject: 'Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his.' It was a blessed day. I think four or five experiences came from that dayís labor, and among the rest, Mr. Sanders. The sword of the spirit pierced him to the heart. For weeks he could find no rest. But at length he found peace in the Lord. I was by when he met with his deliverance. We held meetings day and night. About this time there was a great fall of snow, and the balance of February and all of March was very cold, but did not hinder our meetings. In the course of ten months, twenty or thirty obtained hope in the Lord. Among them were some of old sister Cookís family and brother Majorís children, and several of their blacks. Scarcely any weather stopped us, and we thought but little about the Indians. When April came it brought a fine spring, and we began to talk of becoming an organized church. Several brethren moved down that spring. Brother [John] Taylor hearing of the work came down from Clear Creek to preach to us, and help us on. As well as my recollection serves me, there was a number baptized before the constitution of the church, for brother Lewis Craig was with us, at times. We sent for helps from Clear Creek, South Elkhorn, and I think Marble Creek. We got together, and after due examination were constituted a church of Christ. This took place the second Saturday in June, 1788. They were pleased to call me, to go in and out before them. The dear man I so much dreaded (Mr. Sanders I baptized, and the church chose him as one of her deacons. I think, in the course of a year, I must have baptized forty or fifty. I baptized nine of old sister Cook's children, and among them the well known Abraham, now the minister of Indian Fork in Shelby county. The same year I baptized Philemon Thomas and his brother, Richard, the latter a minister of the gospel, the former a statesman."
Forks of Elkhorn church had a regular prosperous course for many years. Eight years after its constitution it contained 123 members. During "the great revival" 216 souls were
[p. 152] baptized for its membership in one year (1801). It united with Elkhorn Association, in 1788, and remained a member of that body till about 1821, when it united with Franklin Association, of which it has remained a prominent member to the present time.

WILLIAM HICKMAN, the founder and first pastor of Forks of Elkhorn church, was among the most active, courageous and useful of that noble band of pioneer preachers that brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the great Valley of the Mississippi. He was, in the true sense of the term, a servant of Jesus Christ. He made preaching the gospel the business of his life. He conscientiously avoided that worldly speculation which involved a number of our early preachers in much trouble, and greatly marred their usefulness. Refusing to entangle himself with the affairs of this world, he looked unto the Lord, and steadily pursued his holy calling, from the time God called him into the ministry, until he finished his course with joy, at a ripe old age. He served the Lord with diligence and zeal, in his youth, and realized the fulfillment of the promise made to the righteous: "They shall bring forth fruit in their old age."

William Hickman was the son of Thomas Hickman. His mother's maiden name was Sarah Sanderson. He was born in King and Queen county, Va., February 4, 1747. His parents died young, leaving him and one sister, theironly surviving children, to the care of their grandmother. He gives the followlowing account of his youth and early manhood:

"My sister and myself were taken by a loving old grandmother, who did her best for us. She tried to impress our minds with a solemn sense of eternal happiness and the torment of hell. These things bore heavily on my mind, and more so on the death of our parents. Thinking of my father, and fearing he was miserable, deprived me of hours of sleep. I hoped my mother was in glory. With these thoughts, I determined not to be wicked, and especially to keep from evil words. My opportunity for learning was very poor, having little time to go to school. I could read but little, and barely write. My sister also had very little opportunity to learn, for we were two little orphans.

"At about fourteen years of age I was put to a trade. The family I had lived with since the death of my parents were orderly, but without any real knowledge of true godliness. They
[p. 153]
all depended upon their works to save their souls. None of us knew any better in those days. I had not lived long at my new habitation before I fell in with the evil habits of the family, for master, mistress, children, apprentices and negroes were all alike in their wickedness. I left off saying prayers, and learned to curse and swear; for sinning will make us leave off prayer, and real prayer will make us leave off sinning. I lived at this place seven years. I went often to church to hear the parson preach, when he was sober enough to go through his discourse. Towards the last of the seven years I heard of a people called Baptists, though at a great distance. I was told that they would take the people and dip them all over in the water. I was sure they were the false prophets. I hoped I never should see one of them, nor did I for several years after that.

"In the ninth year of my apprenticeship I married my master's daughter. Both of us were poor, careless mortals about our souls. My wife was fond of mirth and dancing. In the year 1770 the Lord sent these Newlights1 near where we then lived, in Buckingham county, Virginia. Curiosity led me to go some distance to hear these babblers. The two precious men were John Waller and James Childs. When I got to the meeting the people were relating their experiences. There was such a multitude of people that I could not see the preachers till they were done. At last they broke up. The two preachers sat together. I thought they looked like angels. Both of them preached, and God's power attended the word. Numbers fell, some were convulsed and others were crying out for mercy. The day's worship ended. The next day they were to dip, as they called it in those days. I went home, heavy hearted, knowing myself to be in a wretched state. I informed mywife what I had seen and heard. She was much disgusted, fearing I would be dipped. She begged me not to go again; but I told her I mast see them dipped. I went, and an awful day it was to me. One of the ministers preached before baptism. Then they moved on to the water, near a quarter of a mile. The people moved in solemn order, singing:

'Lord, what a wretched land is this
That yields us no supply.'

Though it was a strange thing in that part of the world, I think the people behaved orderly. A great many tears dropped
[p. 154]
at the water, and not a few from my eyes. The first man brother Waller led in had been a dancing master, to whom brother Waller said he had given a gold piece to teach him to dance. I think eleven were baptized that day."

"In the fall of the next year I moved to Cumberland county. There I shook off the awful feeling I have named above, yoked in with a gang of ruffians and took to dissipation, but with a guilty conscience. The Lord sent his servants in that part, and pretty soon a number of our dear neighbors were converted to God, and among the rest, my wife."2

On the conversion of his wife, Mr. Hickman's remorse of conscience greatly increased. His wife offered herself to the church, and was approved for baptism, when he was absent. This greatly irritated him. He kept her from being baptized several months. He persuaded her to attend the Episcopal church, and strove to convince her of the validity of infant baptism. For this purpose, he studied the New Testament closely. This investigation led him to the conclusion that infant baptism was not taught in the Bible. He finally consented to his wifeís being baptized. Under the preaching of David Tinsley -- that eminent and faithful witness for Jesus, and for times a prisoner of the Lord, in Virginia jails -- Mr. Hickman became deeply overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and condemnation. He closes a relation of his experience as follows:

"I saw sin enough in my best performances to sink me to hell. When I heard the truth preached, it all condemned me. I often wished that I had never been born, or that I had been a brute that had no soul to stand before the holy God. For months I tried to pray, but thought I grew worse and worse, till all hopes of happiness were almost gone.

"One cold and gloomy afternoon, the 21st of February, 1773, I went over a hill to try to pray. When I got to the place, I put myself in every position of prayer. I must have been an hour in that dismal condition. It was so cold that I returned to the house and sat awhile before the fire. I thought hell was my portion. About the setting of daylight I got up and walked out about fifty yards. All at once the heavy burden seemed tofall off. I felt the love of God flow into my poor soul. I had sweet
[p. 155]
supping at the throne of grace. My sins were pardoned through the atoning blood of the blessed Savior. I heard no voice, and no particular Scripture was applied. I continued there sometime, and then went back to the house. I made no ado for fear of losing the sweet exercise. That was one of the happiest nights I ever experienced. The next morning when I rose and looked out, I thought everything praised God, even the trees, grass and brutes. In the month of April, I was baptized by that worthy servant of God, Reuben Ford, who had baptized my wife the fall before. We both joined the church after I was baptized." 3

The young converts composing this church, having no preacher near them, kept up meetings themselves, as was the custom of the early Baptists of Virginia. Among those who took an active part in the public exercises were William Hickman, George Smith, George Stokes Smith, John Dupuy, James Dupuy, Edward Maxey and Jeremiah Hatcher. All of these became useful preachers, and the first five were among the early preachers of Kentucky.

In 1776 Mr. Hickman came with a small company to Kentucky. Some account of this visit has been given in the first chapter of this work.

Several incidents which occurred under Mr. Hickman's ministry during the eight years that he preached in Virginia, after his first visit to Kentucky, will serve not only to exhibit the zeal of the preacher, but will also show something of the spirit of the times in which he lived.

Near where Mr. Hickman lived was the boundary line of an Episcopal parish, the minister of which was a Mr. McRoberts. The Virginia Legislature passed an act in 1776, by which the parish ministers were deprived of their salaries, which they had hitherto drawn from the public treasury. Most of them abandoned their parishes as soon as their salaries were cut off. Parson McRoberts had left his parish. The Methodists had, seized upon the opportunity to gather a large society in the vacant parish. Congress proclaimed a general fast to be held on the 23d of April, 1777. Mr. Hickman preached the fast day sermon in his neighborhood. An immense crowd of people attended.
[p. 156]
The Spirit of the Lord was present, and a number of people were deeply convicted of sin. Among these was a middle-aged man named John Goode. He was so deeply wrought upon that he thought he was going to die, and applied to Col. Haskins to write his will. He continued some days in great agony. For three days and nights he did not eat, drink or sleep. When he obtained relief he went to see Mr. Hickman, and related to him his experience. He concluded by saying: "You need not mention baptism to me. Blessed be God, I am baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, and I need nothing more." Mr. Hickman told him to search the Scriptures and they would teach him his duty. "I had an appointment the next Sunday week," says Mr. Hickman, "at Muse's schoolhouse. I asked Mr. Goode if he would go to meeting with me, if I would come by and take breakfast with him. He said he would with pleasure. When I went he was sitting on his porch with the Bible in his hand. He commenced conversation by saying: 'You need not say anything about baptism; my Holy Ghost and fire baptism will do for me.'" Mr. Hickman ad vised him, as before, to search the Scriptures. "When the meeting was dismissed that day," says Mr. Hickman, "I missed Mr. Goode till the people were nearly all gone. At last he came out of the woods. I asked him where he had been all that time. He told me that Mr. Branch, one of his neighbors, a church warden, had taken him out to give him some good advice, and that the advice was to take care of the Baptists, for they preached damnable doctrines, and that they will not rest till they dip you. Mr. Goode replied that Mr. Hickman had not persuaded him, he only advised him to read the Scriptures. 'Ah,' said Mr. Branch, 'that is their cunning.'"

At another time Mr. Hickman preached at the funeral of an old lady. After the service a friend of the deceased made him a present of the value of five dollars. It was soon reported that he charged five pounds for preaching a funeral sermon. This was used to prejudice the people against the Baptists. Mr. Hickman soon afterwards preached another funeral discourse at the parish grave-yard, but was compelled to go off the church lot, or, as it was called, "the church acre." Mr. Hickman remarks: "The Baptists in those days were much despised." This was especially the case in Chesterfield county. "A little
[p. 157]
before this date, about eight or nine ministers were imprisoned at different times. But to stop the work of the Lord was not in the power of the devil. The word was preached through iron grates, and God blessed it to the conversion of hundreds." It will be remembered that, "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."4 "They kept up their persecutions," says Semple, "after other counties had laid it aside." Mr. Hickman, though not imprisoned, came in for his share of rude persecution.

The following affecting circumstances show something of the bitter feeling that was entertained against the Baptists, only a hundred years ago. A revival was in progress in Skinquarter church. Many people were interested about their souls. Among these were the wife, son and daughter of an old man whowas a fierce opposer of the Baptists. The young lady was the first to find peace in the Savior. Despite the father's opposition. "Nothing would do but she must follow the footsteps of her dear Master. After she was baptized," continues Mr. Hickman, "She never dared to put her foot in her father's house. He cursed and swore and wished her in hell. But she had friends and homes enough. One day her poor old mother came to my house and asked me what I would do if she told me an experience that satisfied me, and demanded baptism. I told her I should have to baptize her. She said: 'I expect to put you to the test, in a short time. But my husband must not know it. If he does, I know he will kill me.' I told her I did not think so. She replied: 'I know him better than you do.' A short time after this, the old man went from home, and the old lady came to my house with her bundle under her arm. The expelled daughter was at my house at that time. The old lady related her experience. It was satisfactory. My wife, the old lady and myself went alone to the water. Her daughter would not go, for fear she would be interrogated on the subject. The old lady came up out of the water praising and glorifying God. I informed the church what
[p. 158]
I had done, and they were pleased with it. I directed the deacons to convey the elements to her when administering the supper, she being in some bye-corner covered with a large handkerchief. The old man did not find it out for four years. The worst of his rage was then over. The son, a young man grown, had been converted. But he lived with his father, and was afraid to be baptized. One night at a meeting the members became very lively under religious exercises. Abram -- for that was his name -- came forward and related his experience. Like Paul, I took him the same hour of the night and baptized him. I saw his mother next morning. She said to me: 'Brother Hickman, did you baptize Abram last night? 'Why do you ask that?' said I, for I was sure none could have told her. 'Why, I dreamed so: I thought I stood by and saw it.' I told her I had, and she appeared much rejoiced. Some one told Abram's father of his baptism on Monday morning. The old man drew his cane on him and ordered him off, but did not strike him."5

John Goode, who was at first so well satisfied with his Holy Ghost and fire baptism, after studying the Scriptures sometime, demanded water baptism, and ultimately succeeded Mr. Hickman as pastor of Skinquarter church.

Mr. Hickman relates the following incident, which occurred under his ministry, while he was pastor of Tomahawk church. There was a man living near the meeting place, "who was thought to be a christian," says Mr. Hickman, "but had not joined society. I said to him one evening going from meeting: 'Mr. Flournoy, when I come again, I intend to have meeting at your house, on Saturday night, hear your experience and baptize you the next day.' He asked me if I was in earnest. I told him I was. The same week there was preaching at the meetinghouse by a strange minister. The preacher and myself went to Mr. Flournoy's to dinner. After dinner he said to me that he could not wait till next meeting to be baptized. I told him he had waited seven years, and asked him if he could not wait another month. I told him I should do as I had promised. The next morning he came to my meeting, ten miles off, bringing his family and friends, and also his clothes to be baptized in. I told
[p. 159]
him I should do as I had first told him. The next monthly meeting, I baptized him, according to my first arrangement. When I came to Kentucky I left him the minister of Tomahawk church."

Another circumstance will illustrate the strictness of discipline among Baptists, at that period. A young lady, the daughter of Colonel Haskins, was arraigned before the church at Skinquarter, "for wearing stays, they being fashionable at that time. She was truly a meek and pious young lamb," continues Mr. Hickman. "I plead her cause and saved her. She afterwards became the wife of Edward Trabue, and died in Kentucky."

On the 16th day of August, 1784, Mr. Hickman started to move to Kentucky. He arrived at George Stokes Smithís, in what is now Garrard county, on the 9th day of November. "The next day," says he, "which was Sunday, there was meeting at brother Smithís, and unprepared as I was, I had to try to preach, though there were three other preachers present. I spoke from the fourth psalm: 'The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.'" This was his second attempt to preach in Kentucky. It was now more than eight years since he began his ministry at the head of the spring at Harrodtown. Thomas Tinsley was present when he made his first effort. Speaking of the second, he says: "Old brother William Marshall was there, and invited me to go where he lived, at a place called the Knobs. He appeared to set some store by me, but thought I was tinctured with Arminianism. I thought he was strenuous on eternal justification. There was a church at Gilbert's creek, but I had no inclination to join so soon after I moved there. Brother John Taylor came from the north side of Kentucky river, and preached at brother Robertson's. William Bledsoe was there. Brother Taylor's text was: 'Christ is all in all.' I fed on the food. It was like the good old Virginia doctrine." Thus, in a few days, Mr. Hickman was brought in contact with nearly all the preachers in "Upper Kentucky." There were at that time, only two Regular and two Separate Baptist churches in that part of the State; and the first revival did not occur till the following winter.

The 5th of the following April, Mr. Hickman moved to the north side of Kentucky river, and settled near Lexington. The fourth Saturday in the same month, he and his wife handed in
[p. 160]
their letters, and were received into the fellowship of South Elkhorn church. Here he and Lewis Craig became yokefellows in the ministry, and John Taylor was near by. Than these, a nobler trio of gospel ministers has seldom blessed any one community on our planet. They, with a few others perhaps equally pious, but less active and zealous, raised up, in a few years, churches enough to form a large and influential association, and their names were familiarly known over this continent, and in Europe.

Mr. Hickman's labors at Boones Creek, Marble Creek, Forks of Elkhorn and Brashears Creek, in Shelby county, have already been spoken of. He became pastor of Forks of Elkhorn, at its constitution, and sustained that relation till it was severed by death. He supplied Brashears Creek near the present town of Shelbyville, about a year, when he had to be attended by a band of soldiers between Frankfort and that point, to guard him against the hostile Indians. He then induced Joshua Morris to move to Brashears creek, and take charge of the little church. In 1791, he paid a short visit to his old churches in Virginia. On his return to Kentucky, he commenced preaching in Mr. Ficklinís barn, on McConnells Run, in Scott county. Here he raised up a church, at first called McConnells Run, but now known as Stamping Ground. To this church he ministered about fourteen years. A few brief quotations from his Life and Travels will give, in a narrow compass, some idea of his abundant labors and great success in Kentucky. Speaking of the great revival of 1800-3, he says: "I suppose I baptized more than five hundred in the course of two years, though in different places. Our church (Forks of Elkhorn) increased to three or four hundred in number. About this time the churches began to branch off. We dismissed members to constitute Glen's Creek, South Benson, North Fork and Mouth of Elkhorn (Zion) churches. I attended all those young churches at that time, they being destitute of ministers, and baptized a number of members in each, till they were supplied. In those days I went down and visited my friends on Eagle creek, and baptized a number there. Soon after that a large and respectable church arose there. Brother John Scott moved among them, and has long been their pastor." "I am now in my eighty-first year, and have a greater charge on me than ever I had. I am called upon to attend three other
[p. 161]
churches, besides our own. This takes up all my time. But I want to spend my latter moments to God's glory. I enjoy common health through the goodness of God."

"I have, after my poor manner, to serve Mt. Pleasant, North Fork and Zion churches. Our regular meetings at the Forks of Elkhorn, have been on the second Saturday and Sunday in each month for nearly forty years. This church I hope to serve till I am laid in the dust, for they have ever manifested their love and esteem to me. They lie near my heart, I wish to live and die with them; and I hope to spend a blessed eternity with them where parting is no more." Some two years after he wrote the paragraphs just quoted, this venerable servant of God, still in ordinary health visited south Benson church, of which his son William was pastor. After preaching, and then eating a hearty dinner, he complained of feeling uncomfortable. He started to go home, accompanied by his son. When he reached Frankfort he was unable to proceed further. He stopped at the house of a friend and requested a pallet to be made on the floor. On this he lay down to rest. As he lay there, talking of his trust in Christ, on a mild evening in the fall of 1830, he grew weaker and weaker, until his voice was silenced. A few moments afterwards he passed away to the eternal home. So ended a long life of active labor and prominent usefulness in the cause of Christ. Of this remarkable man of God, John Taylor wrote in the following quaint style, while Mr. Hickman was living: "This man had a great range in Kentucky, for here he has been a faithful laborer nearly forty years. He is truly a '76 man, for in '76 he paid a visit to Kentucky, and here, the same year, he first began to preach. In early times, and in the face of danger, he settled where he now lives, for a number of years, at the risk of his life, from Indian fury. He preached to the people in Shelby county, and other frontier settlements. So that he is one of the hardy, fearless sons of '76. For upwards of thirty years he has served the church at the Forks of Elkhorn, in which congregation he has, perhaps, baptized more than five hundred people. He has statedly served a number of other churches. Perhaps no man in Kentucky has baptized so many people as this venerable man. Though now about seventy-six years old, he walks and stands as erect as a palm tree, being at
[p. 162]
least six feet high, rather of a lean texture, his whole deportment solemn and grave, and like Caleb, the servant of the Lord of old, at four score years of age, was as capable of going to war as when young. This '76 veteran can yet perform a good part in the Gospel Vineyard. His preaching is in a plain, solemn style, and the sound of it like thunder in the distance; but when in his best mood his sound is like thunder at home, and operates with prodigious force on the conscience of his hearers."6

Mr. Hickman was twice married and raised many children. His oldest son, William, was long pastor of South Benson church. Captain Paschal Hickman who fell in the battle of River Rasin, and in whose honor Hickman county was named, was another of his sons. The venerable Elder Paschal Todd, of Owen county, is a grandson.

HUSTONS CREEK church was a small body of Separate Baptists, gathered in Bourbon county in 1788, by Moses Bledsoe. It contained, in 1790, fifty-six members. After this its name disappeared from the records.

MOSES BLEDSOE was a preacher of considerable prominence among the pioneers of Kentucky. But little is now known of his life and labors. He was most probably a son of Elder Joseph Bledsoe, the founder and first pastor of Gilberts Creek church of Separate Baptists, in Garrard county, and brother of Elder William Bledsoe and the brilliant but erratic, judge Jesse Bledsoe.

Moses Bledsoe was a native of Virginia. He came to Kentucky at a very early period, and was active among the Separate Baptists, in raising up the early churches of that order. He was pastor of Hustons Creek, Bethel and Lulbegrud churches, and was one of the committee which arranged the "terms of general union." He had the reputation of being a good man.

ROLLING FORK church was located in the southern part of Nelson county. It was constituted in 1788, and united with Salem Association the same year. It reported to the Association seventeen members. It was probably gathered by Joshua Carman, an enthusiastic Emancipationist. This church sent with its letter to the association, the year after it obtained admission
[p. 163]
into that body, the following query: "Is it lawful in the sight of God for a member of Christ's church to keep his fellow-creatures in perpetual slavery?" "The association judge[d] it improper to enter into so important and critical a matter at present." This answer was unsatisfactory. The church continued to agitate the subject of slavery till, in 1796, it withdrew from the Association. It returned to the Association in 1802, but was disturbed by a factious spirit, and a disorderly preacher of the name of William Downs, and continued to wither till 1825, when it dissolved.7

JOSHUA CARMAN, who appears to have been the founder and first pastor of Rolling Fork, was probably a native of Western Pennsylvania. He was among the early settlers of Nelson county, Kentucky. For a number of years he was an active minister in the bounds of Salem Association, and was several times appointed to preach the introductory sermon before that body. He was regarded a man of good ability, and was much beloved by the brethren. But, becoming fanatical on the subject of slavery, he induced Rolling Fork church to withdraw from the Association, in 1796, and declare non-fellowship with all slave-holders. He attempted to draw off Cedar Creek church, of which, according to tradition, he was pastor at that time. But, failing in this attempt, he collected the disaffected members from that church, Cox's Creek and Lick Creek, and, with the assistance of Josiah Dodge, constituted an Emancipation church, about six miles north-west of Bardstown. This church soon withered away, and Rolling Fork church returned to Salem Association. The exact date of constituting this Emancipation church, or the name it bore, is not now known, but it is supposed to have been the first organization of the kind in Kentucky. Mr. Carman, finding himself unable to bring any considerable number of Baptists to his views, moved to eastern Ohio, where it is said he raised up a respectable church, and preached to it till the Lord took him away.

WILLIAM DOWNS was the next preacher in Rolling Fork church. He possessed extraordinary natural gifts, and was one of the most brilliant and fascinating orators in the Kentucky pulpit in his day. But he was indolent, slovenly and self-indulgent.
[p. 164]
This rendered him almost useless to society, and perhaps worse than useless to the cause of Christ.

William Downs was a son of Thomas Downs, an early settler in what is now Ohio county, Kentucky. He was probably born in a fort where the county seat of Ohio is now located, about the year 1782. His father, having moved to Vienna Fort, on Green river, where Calhoun is now located, was killed by a party of Indians, about the year 1790. He left two sons, Thomas and William, both of whom became Baptist preachers -- the former, a man of great usefulness. William was brought to Nelson county, and placed under the care of Mr. Evan Williams, by whom he was brought up. He received a fair English education, for that time, and adopted the profession of school teaching. In early life he professed religion, and united with Rolling Fork church. He commenced exercising in public soon after he was baptized, and gave evidence of such extraordinary gifts that the church too hastily had him ordained to the ministry. He had preached but a short time before he was summoned before the church to answer the charge of being intoxicated. To avoid the trial he sought membership in a Separate Baptist church, and was received. Rolling Fork church, however, publicly excluded him, and requested Salem Association to advertise him. This was done in the minutes of that body, in 1805.

Mr. Downs, however, continued to preach among the Separate Baptists till he raised up a large church of that order, called Little Mount. It was located about three miles north-east of Hodgenville, and contained a number of highly respectable citizens. Mr. Downs was fond of controversy, and engaged in several debates. His exceeding familiarity with the Sacred Scriptures, his ready wit, keen sarcasm, and brilliant oratory attracted the attention and won the admiration of the most intelligent and refined people within the limits of his acquaintance. Hon. Benjamin Hardin, one of the leading lawyers and statesmen of Kentucky, greatly admired his oratory, and embraced every opportunity to hear him preach. During an informal discussion with a Catholic priest, Mr. Downsí wit and sarcasm so irritated the "reverend father" that he struck his troublesome adversary in the face with his fist. This afforded Mr. Hardin an opportunity to arrange the terms of a public debate between the
[p. 165]
priest and Mr. Downs. Mr. Hardin presented his friend Downs with a handsome suit of clothes to wear during the debate. The priest opened the debate with an hour's speech. Not knowing Mr. Downs' church relationship, he attempted to confound him by proving conclusively that all the Protestant sects had received their baptism from the Roman Catholic church. Mr. Downs admitted his proposition, but denied being a Protestant. The priest exhibited his disappointment and confusion by saying to Mr. Hardin: "You have brought me an Anabaptist to contend against: had I known this, I would not have debated with him." Greatly to the gratification of his honorable friend, Mr. Downs gained a complete victory.

About the year 1830 Mr. Downs moved to Ohio county, and again joined the United Baptists. Here an opportunity was soon afforded for the display of his controversial powers.

A Universalist preacher, of the name of Mann, had been for some months preaching at Hawesville, in Hancock county, occasionally. At the close of each discourse he challenged his audience to furnish an orthodox preacher to debate with him. Finally a gentleman present accepted the challenge. The terms of debate were agreed on, and the time appointed for it to commence. Punctual to the time Mr. Mann, who was a very handsome man, and dressed very elegantly, made his appearance. Mr. Downs had worn out the suit of clothes which Mr. Hardin had given him, and was now clad extremely shabbily. He had on a pair of coarse, short, tow-linen pantaloons, an old wool hat, with a piece of leather sewed in the crown and a pair of coarse cow-skin shoes, without socks. He and Mr. Mann were formally introduced. The latter expressed his astonishment and disgust by asking the question: "Is this the man you have brought here to debate with me?" Mr. Downs replied promptly: "Never mind, Mr. Mann, I am only fit to do the dirty work of the church." The debate proceeded. The Universalist fop, in debate with the old experienced controversialist, was as a pigmy in the hands of a giant. Mr. Downs played with him as a cat plays with a wounded mouse. At the close of each argument, presented with irresistible force, he quoted from Paul, leaving out the word "every." "Let God be true and man (Mann) a liar." At the close of the debate
[p. 166]
the crest-fallen Universalist beat a hasty retreat, and was never afterwards seen in Hawesville.

In the split among the Baptists of the Green River country, on the subject of missions, about the year 1835, Mr. Downs went off with the anti-mission faction. After this he had a controversy with a Campbellite preacher. But while he always displayed splendid abilities in the pulpit, his moral character was so defective that he exerted little influence for good. He died in poverty and obscurity, about the year 1860.

HEAD OF SALT RIVER church was a small body of Separate Baptists, constituted in Mercer county, in 1787 or 1788. In 1790 it reported to South Kentucky Association 57 members. After this we hear no more of it; it either dissolved or changed its name.

BUCK RUN church was gathered by John and James Dupuy. It was constituted October 1, 1788, and was located in Woodford county. It united with Elkhorn Association the same month in which it was constituted, and the following year reported 14 baptisms and a total membership of 34. This church, like many others at an early period in Kentucky, probably had no stated pastor, but was supplied with preaching by the ministers who were among its members. In 1793 it attained to a membership of 70. After this it was rent by factions, and rapidly declined, till 1799, when it dissolved.

JOHN DUPUY was of French extraction. The history of his ancestors is one of thrilling interest.

In spite of Papal vigilance, the Lutheran Reformation spread from Germany over France, till the French Protestants numbered hundreds of thousands. The contest between them and the Catholics led to the Bartholomew massacre in 1572, in which it was supposed thirty thousand Protestants were slain within thirty days. This persecution continued till Henry IV published a decree, in 1598, granting the Protestants certain civil rights. This decree is commonly known as the Edict of Nantes. After this the Protestants, who were called Huguenots, enjoyed some degree of peace, till Louis XIV again deprived them of their civil rights, in 1681, when another fearful persecution broke out, and the sufferings of the Huguenots became intolerable. Notwithstanding the borders of the Empire were
[p. 167]
guarded by armed soldiers, more than a half million of the Protestants escaped to Switzerland, Germany, Holland and England. In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked, and the Protestants were left wholly at the mercy of the Catholics. Such as could get away fled from the Empire, while the remainder were forced to recant or perish by martyrdom. Among the former was a young man of large estate, of the name of Dupuy. He had served fourteen years in the French army, and had been engaged in as many pitched battles. On retiring from the army he was married to Susannah Sevillian, a young countess, and settled on his estate. Six months after this the Edict of Nantes was revoked. Dupuy secured a suit of male attire, dressed his wife in the garb of a page, and, taking all the gold he had by him, they mounted a pair of fleet horses and fled towards Germany. They left the doors and windows of their house open, to prevent suspicion. But the wily zealots were soon aware of their flight, and pursued them. Coming in sight of the refugees, they fired on them, but with no other injury than the mutilating of a small Bible,8 which the countess carried on her person. As soon as the refugees found themselves safe on the territory of Germany, they alighted from their horses and worshiped God in solemn prayer and a hymn of thanksgiving. After remaining in Germany about fourteen years, the Dupuys, with many other French Huguenots, emigrated to Virginia, about the year 1700, and settled at Manakin, an old Indian town on James river.

Here John Dupuy, a son of Bartholomew Dupuy, and a descendant of the bold Huguenot, was born in Powhatan county, Virginia, March 17, 1738. He received a good education for that time, and began in early life to devote himself much to religious exercise. He belonged to the Church of England, and possessed a good estate. Being a good reader, and having a pious disposition, he began to collect his neighbors, and read to them from the church service the sacred scriptures, or printed sermons. He was invited to hold meetings at the houses of his neighbors. In a short time be had established three weekly appointments
[p. 168]
at the houses of three poor but pious old widows. These people being too poor to furnish candles, he read by the light of fires made of pine knots. He gradually fell into the habit of exhorting the people, after reading the Scriptures.

Much interest began to be manifested at young Dupuy's meetings. Under his warm exhortations the people would groan and weep, and give other indications of strong religious feeling. At one of these meetings, while Mr. Dupuy was exhorting, and the people were exhibiting much tenderness of feeling, a son of the widow at whose house the meeting was held, rose up and cried out angrily: "John Dupuy, you must stick to the rules of the Church of England. You shall not preach here." Mr. Dupuy now began to study the Bible, and soon became convinced of the duty of believer's immersion. At this time he had probably never heard a Baptist preach. Some time after this, hearing that Samuel Harris and Jeremiah Walker had an appointment to preach, about forty miles from where he lived, he went to hear them. He was so well pleasedwith their doctrine that he related to them his Christian experience, and was baptized, June 16, 1771.

The seeds Mr. Dupuy had sown in his Bible readings and exhortations were ripening for the harvest. He induced William Webber and Joseph Anthony to visit the neighborhood. The Lord blessed their labors. A church, called Powhatan, was constituted the same year. This was the first Baptist church in Powhatan county. Mr. Dupuy built them a substantial meeting-house, a part of the wall of which is still standing; but the building has been greatly enlarged. Soon after this church was constituted the famous John Waller and the Craigs visited the neighborhood. A great revival ensued, and a large number was added to the church.

David Tinsley was induced to settle among these brethren, and became their pastor. The church prospered under his misistry, till 1774, when he was thrust into Chesterfield jail for preaching the gospel. During this year Mr. Dupuy was married to Elizabeth Minter, and was soon after ordained pastor of Powhatan church. This position he occupied till he moved to the West. This church was a very prosperous one. Previous to the year 1827, it had raised up fourteen preachers. Among
[p. 169]
these were John and James Dupuy, George and George S. Smith and William Hickman, all of whom settled in Kentucky.

In the fall of 1784 John Dupuy moved to Kentucky, and settled in what is now Woodford county. In the following spring he went into the constitution of Clear Creek church. After remaining about three years a member of this church, he and his brother James Dupuy, who had recently moved from Virginia, constituted a church, on Buck Run, not far from where Griers Creek meeting-house now stands. This church, as stated above, was dissolved in 1799.

In 1801 Mr. Dupuy moved to what is now Oldham county, and united with the church on Pattons creek. Here he remained on his farm till about one year before his death, when he moved to Shelbyville. The church on Pattons creek with which he had labored about thirty-five years, wrote him a long and affectionate letter after he moved to Shelbyville, begging him not to move his membership from among them. This he consented to, and died a member of that church, October, 1837, in the hundreth year of his age.9

Mr. Dupuy possessed very moderate preaching gifts. But he was a good man, and in his younger days was active and useful as an exhorter. He was much beloved for his ardent piety and his munificent charity to the poor.

JAMES DUPUY was a brother of John Dupuy, but nearly twenty years younger than he. He was probably converted under the preaching of David Tinsley. He commenced exercising in exhortation in the little night meetingsheld by William Hickman and others, about the year 1773, when he was only a youth. There were seven of the young men, none of whom were recognized as preachers then, but who were zealous in holding meetings in that neighborhood till Skinquarter church was raised up and Hickman was ordained its pastor. The seven all became preachers, ultimately.

James Dupuy moved to Woodford county, Kentucky, about the year 1788, and united with Clear Creek church. In
[p. 170]
October of that year he went into the constitution of Buck Run church After this body dissolved he moved to Shelby county, not far from the year 1800. Here he united with Tick Creek church, afterwards called Bethel. Of this church he remained a member till at least as late as 1815. Whether he was its pastor or not during this period does not appear. He was Moderator of Long Run Association at the time of it constitution, in 1803.

STARK DUPUY was a son of Elder James Dupuy. He appears to have been raised up in the ministry, in Bethel church. He was a young preacher of ardent zeal and excellent promise. But his health failed soon after he began to preach. He traveled in the Southern States for his health, and finally settled in Memphis, Tennessee. After his health became so feeble that he was compelled to desist from preaching, he compiled a hymnbook that attained great popularity in the Southern States, and especially in Kentucky and Tennessee.

SHAWNEE RUN church is located near a small stream from which it derived its name, in the northern part of Mercer county. It was gathered by John Rice, and constituted "the Separate Baptist church of Jesus Christ, on Shawnee Run," NOV. 21, 1788. It united with South Kentucky Association, and reported to that body in 1790 a membership of sixty. After the general union of the Regular and Separate Baptists it became a member of South District Association, where its membership still remains. In 1807 it contained a membership of 155, and at that time, and for many years afterwards, was the largest church in the Association of which it is a member. It numbered at one period over 500 members, but it excluded, in 1830, about seventy for embracing Campbellism. Harrodsburg, Unity and Mt. Moriah churches have been constituted of its members, so that in 1876, it embraced a membership of only ninety-seven. More recently it has been much enlarged.

JOHN RICE, the founder and first pastor of Shawnee Run church, is believed to have been a native of North Carolina and was born in 1760. He was among the earliest settlers of Lincoln county, Kentucky. He was a member of Gilberts Creek church of Separate Baptists, where he was ordained to the gospel
[p. 171]
ministry in 1785, and was probably the first preacher ordained in Kentucky. Soon after his ordination he settled on Shawnee Run, in Mercer county. Here he preached to the few settlers that occupied the beautiful valley of Shawnee Run, till he gathered Baptists enough to constitute the first church which had any permanence in Mercer county. He was immediately installed its pastor, and continued to minister to it more than fifty-four years. Besides Shawnee Run, Mr. Rice preached statedly to Stony Point, Salt River (after the death of John Penny), and several other churches, at different periods. Besides his pastoral labors he traveled and preached much among the destitute, and was abundantly blessed in leading souls to Christ. He was often heard to say, in his old age: "I have baptized hundreds, yea thousands of fine men and women, and, I doubt not, many a sleek Simon Magus has passed through my hands."

Mr. Rice was six feet and two inches high, very erect and symmetrical in form, and had small hands and feet. His hair was black and glossy, his eyes were dark and shaded by thick black eyebrows. His nose was large, with high cheek bones. His countenance was remarkably cheerful and winning. His voice was clear, strong and very musical, and he was an excellent singer. His social gifts were extraordinary. He introduced himself to strangers in a manner that made them friends at once, and it has been said that "he never lost a friend, except by death." "I remember the first time I ever saw John Rice," said an aged minister to the author, some years ago: "It was at a meeting of Green River Association, at old Mt. Tabor church, in Barren county, about the year 1812. There was a great crowd of people around the stand in the woods. It was on Sunday. Two sermons had been preached, and the people were becoming restless. Mr. Rice rose up in the stand and darted a rapid glance over the congregation. Then pointing his finger steadily, as if at a single individual on the outskirts of the assembly, he said, with a voice and manner almost inimitably persuasive: 'Methinks that gentleman is saying to his neighbor, 'who is that?'

"If he and the rest of the congregation will draw a little nearer, I will tell them who I am, where I came from, and where I am going." The congregation began to draw up around the
[p. 172]
stand. The speaker continued: "My name is John, a Baptist. I came from the city of Destruction, and am bound for Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, an innumerable company of angels, the spirits of just men made perfect, and to the general assembly and church of the first born." Before he closed a great crown gathered around him, and extending their hands to him, expressed their desire to go with him.

Mr. Rice was not only beloved by the people among whom he preached the word, but he was esteemed and honored by his brethren in the ministry. On one occasion, after settling a difficulty among some brethren at David's Fork church, in Fayette county, a number of the ablest preachers in the State being present, the question was sprung as to who should preach. Jacob Creath, sen., immediately nominated Mr. Rice, saying "Brother Rice has more skill in casting out devils than any of us."

John Rice was the pioneer preacher of Mercer county; for, although Tinsley, Hickman and perhaps several others had preached in the county before he was ordained to the ministry, none of them are known to have been residents. Mr. Rice was a resident of this county previous to 1786, and, two years after that date, a resident pastor on Shawnee Run. Few men were more worthy of, or better fitted for, the responsible position of a pioneer preacher. He enjoyed the smiles of God, and the unqualified approbation of his brethren. After preaching the Gospel of Christ nearly sixty years, he left the thorny walks of mortal men, and went to join the General Assembly and church of the first born, on the 19th of March, 1843. The church he so long served erected a monument over his remains in old Shawnee Run church-yard, at a cost of $300. Mr. Rice was married but once. He raised six daughters and four sons, all of whom he baptized with his own hands.

JAMES T. HEDGER is a grandson of Elder John Rice. He has for many years been a valuable minister of Christ. He is a sound, substantial preacher, well versed in the doctrines of the gospel, and is a writer of no mean ability. He is probably about sixty yea, s of age, and is still actively engaged in the ministry. His home is in Anderson county, in which, and all
[p. 173]
the surrounding counties, he has preached much and with good success. He has contributed many articles to our periodical literature, and, above all, has kept his garments unspotted from the world.
____________________

Notes

1 Baptists were so-called then.
2 Hickman's Life and Travels, pp. 1-3 -- Slightly Revised.
3 Life and Travels, pp. 5-6 -- Slightly Revised.
4 His. Va. Baptists, p. 207.
5 Life and Travels, pp. 15-16; revised.
6 His. Ten Churches, pp. 48-49.
7 Minutes of Salem Association.
8 This Bible and a short sword, carried at that time by M. Dupuy, are said to be still kept in the Dupuy family, in America. Miss Eliza Dupuy has published a historical romance, entitled, "The Short Sword of the Huguenots."
9 Many of the facts in this sketch were obtained from Mr. Dupuy's daughter.
===============

[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. CHR&A, 1984.]



Chapter 13
Kentucky Baptist Church Histories
Baptist History Homepage 1