Baptist History Homepage

A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer
Chapter 18 -- Licking Fox Run, Elk Creek, Bullittsbutg, and other Churches Constituted in 1794

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The year 1794, like the preceding, and several succeeding, opened gloomily as related to religious interest in Kentucky. There were preachers enough to occupy the settled portions of the State. They were men of piety, and preachers of a high order of effective talent, and were generally active and zealous laborers in the cause of the Master. There were churches enough, and, indeed, far too many. In many instances they were crowded so close together as to devour each other. There were a few new settlements where churches were wanting, but these were speedily supplied. There was some agitation among the churches, on the subject of slavery, especially within the bounds of Salem Association, and some excitement had been created in South Kentucky Association by the formation of Tates Creek Association within its bounds, and of churches which had violently rent themselves from its fellowship. There was also some restlessness among the churches of Elkhorn Association, because of a correspondence having been established between that body and Tates Creek Association of United Baptists. But the cause of this religious dearth did not lie in any of these trifling circumstances.

An immense tide of immigration was pouring into the new State. Land was rising in value, the staple products of the country commanded high prices, and the heads of the people were turned to money-making; not only people of the world, but most of the enterprising church members. Many of the ablest and most efficient preachers engaged wildly in land speculation. The minds of Christians became worldly, and they walked too much after the flesh. They naturally became watchful and suspicious of each other, and overreached each other in their secular
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dealings. Under such a state of affairs, the cause of religion continued to languish, from the close of the revival, in 1789, to the beginning of the great revival of 1800-3. Meanwhile, many of the preachers kept themselves aloof from speculation, and were diligent in the work of the Lord. These pushed out into the new settlements and gathered churches, wherever there were Baptists enough to form them.

SPENCER CREEK church was located on a small stream from which it derived its name, in Montgomery county, and was constituted, in 1794, principally of persons who had been dismissed from Providence church in Clark county, by John Rice and Moses Bledsoe. The next year it united with South Kentucky Association, and, after the general union, fell into the North District fraternity. Who its early pastors were, if it had any, has not beenascertained. Its growth was so very slow that, in 1817, it numbered only 30 members. In October of that year, John Smith moved from Wayne county to Montgomery, and took charge of Spencer Creek, Lulbegrud, Bethel, and Grassy Lick churches. Under his ministry Spencer Creek grew so rapidly that, in 1829, it numbered 313 members, and was much the largest church in North District Association. But, as a Baptist church, it was strong only in numbers. Mr. Smith had fully adopted Campbellism, and nearly all the church had received his teachings. In 1830, the Baptists were separated from the Campbellites, leaving the former only 25 members. This remnant represented itself in the Association, as Spencer Creek church, till 1840, when it formally dissolved.

JAMES EDMONSON, one of the pastors of this church, was a native of Maryland, and was born in March, 1785. His parents moved to Clark county, Kentucky, in 1790, where he was brought up to manhood, receiving only a common school education. On the 5th of May, 1808, he was married to Sarah R, daughter of Bartlett Haggard. He was very gay and fond of amusements, particularly dancing. But, in 1809, he was awakened to a sense of his guilt, under the ministry of Robert Elkin, and, on finding peace in Jesus, was baptized into the fellowship of Providence church. About 1830, he was licensed to preach, and was soon afterwards ordained to the ministry by Thomas Boone and David Chenault, having been previously called to the care of Indian Creek church in
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Clark county. He was afterwards pastor of Dry Fork, Providence (not the old mother church of that name), and Log Lick, all in the same county, and Spencer Creek and Grassy Lick in Montgomery county. He was an acceptable pastor, and an active, zealous preacher, preaching much in the private houses of the people, which was a common custom at that period. He was experimental and hortatory, rather than argumentative, and continued to labor with much zeal till near the close of his pilgrimage. As his end drew near, he expressed great desire to depart and be with Christ. His family urged him to use remedies for his recovery; but he replied: “I am thus far on the road home; I do not wish to turn back. I am anxious to go on and be with the Savior.” In full assurance of hope, he left this world for his home above, Sept. 9, 1861.

NATHAN EDMONSON, a son of the above, and also a resident of Clark county, was a preacher of fair ability, and, it is believed, was pastor of some churches. But he had some eccentricities that impaired his influence. It is probable that he never possessed an entirely sane mind. At about mid-life, he committed suicide.

LICKING church, first called Mouth of Licking, was constituted in October, 1794, at the house of Wm. Decourcey, in what is now Kenton county. It waslocated on the Ohio, about six miles above the mouth of Licking river, and its first members were Wm. Decourcey, Bethel Riggs, Closs Thompson, and Joseph Kelley and their wives. John Smith, of Columbia. Ohio, was the first pastor of this church, and was soon succeeded by Bethuel Riggs, who preached much in the settlement, during several years. John Beal was a member of the church, in 1807, and was probably its pastor. Gloss Thompson was also a licensed preacher in the church, which, at that date, numbered 38 members. Christopher Wilson, a brilliant preacher of North Bend Association, who died insane in Hancock county, preached much to this church, from 1817 to 1827, and was probably its pastor a part of that time. Since that period it has had the pastoral labors of John Stephens, Robert Ware, Wm. Montague, James Vickers, Wm. Stillwell, Furgus German, N.C. Pettit and others. This church first united with Elkhorn Association; it entered into the constitution of North Bend Association, in 1803, and finally aided in forming that of Campbell
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county, in 1827. It has never been a large church. In 1876, it numbered 87 members.

JAMES VICKERS was one of the most distinguished pastors of this old church. He was the son of Moses Vickers, a well known pioneer preacher of Northern Kentucky, and was born at Cane Ridge, Bourbon county, Ky., Oct. 7, 1794-the same year that Licking church was constituted. Soon after his birth, perhaps the next year, he was carried to what is now Kenton county where he was brought up amid the dangers and privations of the wilderness. He was an exceedingly wild, funloving youth, and devoted much of his time to rude frolicking and perpetrating ruder practical jokes. His favorite pastime consisted in procuring a bottle of whisky, collecting as many boys and young men as he could, and then preaching to them. He continued in his course of daring wickedness till he was about twenty-four years of age. At this period an arrow from the quiver of the Almighty stuck fast in him. His contrition was deep and pungent. But at last he found peace in Jesus. He united with Banklick church in Kenton county, in 1818, and was baptized by Elam Grizzle. He was licensed to exercise his gift, at Crews Creek, in 1820, and ordained to the ministry in 1824. He had, at different periods, the pastoral care of Licking, Banklick, Wilmington, Brush Creek, Four-Mile, Newport, Jamestown and Dry Creek churches. Among the masses he was probably the most popular preacher that ever labored in North Bend or Campbell County Association, and probably preached more than any other preacher of his day, in that region of the state. Late in life, he was attacked with dyspepsia, which rendered him unable to preach, for about two years. During this period he was very gloomy and deeply depressed in spirit. At length he sufficiently recovered as to be able to preach, and again entered upon his work with all the zeal of former years. He not only ministered promptly to his pastoral charges, but also, like most active preachers of his day, labored abundantly among the destitute around him. Heoften extended his labors to Cincinnati and the regions beyond it, in Ohio. As a pastor he was active, constant and successful. As a preacher he was plain, simple and unaffected. He was not a profound thinker, but most happily applied the fundamental principles of the gospel, and his gift of exhortation was almost
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marvelous. He attended the meeting of the General Association at Louisville, in 1857. Of him, on this occasion, the lamented A.W. LaRue writes: "Old Bro. Vickers, from North Bend Association, closed up, on one occasion, with one of his peculiar exhortations. Such a flood of tears, and such an oldfashioned shakehands, many people present never before witnessed. His remarks were most happy. All were impressed with the true greatness of the man. Some frozen-hearted Christians, who had not shed a tear in twenty years, wept like children. In short, it was a feast to all to hear his simple, melting eloquence."1 But bright as was the escutcheon of this loved and honored minister of Christ, it had one disgraceful stain on it. In the days of his youthful levity, he cultivated an unextinguishable thirst for strong drink. This was a poignant thorn in his flesh during the whole of his subsequent life. He struggled against the demon he had invoked in his youth, with strong crying and tears; but it occasionally overcame him, even in his old age. His repentance was so earnent and so manifestly sincere, that his brethren, and even the unconverted, cordially forgave him as often as he sinned. He wept freely and confessed his sins, even in his public ministrations, and his audiences always wept with him. He continued to labor with great zeal till within a few hours of his departure. His last work was performed at Twelve-mile church in Campbell county. While engaged in a protracted meeting at that place, he became so unwell that his friends urged him to desist from preaching. But he continued laboring a few days longer, when he was violently attacked with pneumonia. Within a few hours, and before his family could reach him, he fell asleep in Jesus, as it is fondly hoped, Feb. 29, 1860.

ELK CREEK church is the oldest in Spencer county, and the oldest in Long Run Association, except Cedar Creek, at first known as Chenowiths Run. It was gathered by Joshua Morris, then pastor of Brashears Creek church in Shelby county, and was constituted of ten members, April 27, 1794. It was at first called Buck Creek and was received into Salem Association the same year it was constituted. It soon afterwards took
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the name of Buck & Elk -- perhaps in consequence of the removal of its location, and the constituting of another church in 1799, in an adjoining neighborhood, which took the name of Buck Creek. Salem Association met with Buck & Elk church in 1798. Joshua Carman appears to have been its first pastor. In 1803, Buck & Elk, with 23 other churches, formed Long Run Association. At that time it was the largest church in the new fraternity, except Buck Creek, and contained 149 members. In 1823, it changed its name to Elk Creek. This name is derived from a small tributary of Salt river, on which the church is located.

Elk Creek church continued to prosper till 1837, when it contained 188 members. At this time it declared non-fellowship with “conventions, theological seminaries and societies that give membership for money.” The next year the church withdrew from Long Run Association, and, in 1839, for protesting against this action, 21 members were excluded. These embodied themselves, claimed the constitution and prerogatives of Elk Creek church, immediately called George Waller to minister to them, and in the fall of the same year, were recognized by Long Run Association, and reported 52 members to that body. Mr. Waller preached to them about nine years, when they reported 87 members. In 1850, the Antimissionary party split up among themselves, and a number of their members joined the Missionary church. The Antimissionary faction continued to diminish, and finally dissolved. The Missionary church continued to prosper, till 1877, when it split into two nearly equal parties, about their pastor, B. F. Hungerford. J. B. Moody was called to take charge of the party that opposed Mr. Hungerford, while the latter continued to preach to his own party. The Moody party was recognized by Long Run Association. The other party has no associational connection, at present (1885).

Of the early pastors of this church, some account has been given of Joshua Carman and Reuben Smith.

JOSIAH HARBERT was pastor of this church, in 1797, but was ejected from the pastorate for some unknown cause, after serving only four months. He was probably dismissed because of a want of ability to fill the place, as no charge was brought against him. Soon after this he moved to what is now Boone county, where he preached the introductory sermon before North
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Bend Association, in 1805. It is believed that he afterwards moved to Indiana.

FOX RUN church, located in the northern border of Shelby county, was gathered by John Whitaker and Joshua Morris, by whom it was constituted at the house of James Hogland, Jan. 26, 1794, of the following persons: Jesse Buzan, Eliza Buzan, James Hogland, Mary Hogland, Wm. Metcalf, Hester Metcalf, James Metcalf, Thomas Metcalf, Mary Teague, Milly Long, Robert and Jane Loudon, Joseph and Margaret Ervin and one other. Not long after their constitution, William Marshall became a member and preacher among them. He preached eternal justification and refused to preach the gospel to sinners. The church would not receive his doctrine. This irritated him, a difficulty ensued, and the minister who had been so wonderfully successful inVirginia, was excluded from fellowship, after which he remained out of the church till his death. This church probably joined Salem Association the same year it was constituted, where it remained till it entered into the constitution of Long Run Association, in 1803. At this time it embraced a a membership of only twenty-seven. In 1812, it reached a membership of sixty-five. During the Campbellite disturbance, it was reduced from 153, to about ninety. In 1839, it joined Sulphur Fork Association, to which it reported a membership of seventy-eight. From that time the church has had a gradual increase. In 1880 it reported 156 members. It is now located in Eminence in Henry county. Of the preachers early connected with this church, sketches of John Whitaker, William Marshall and Joshua Morris have been given.

ALAN MCGUIRE was the most distinguished preacher within the present bounds of Sulphur Fork Association, in his day. He was probably the immediate successor of William Marshall as preacher in Fox Run church. He was born in Pennsylvania, Aug. 21, 1768. His father was poor, and raised a large family of children, which he was, of course, unable to educate. Alan had the advantage of three months schooling, and was taught his father’s trade. However, by close application, he became a fair English scholar and an excellent pensman..2

In April, 1788, he emigrated west, and settled in Lexington,
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Ky. Here he became partner in the first tailor shop established in that town. He was an industrious, sober and honorable young man, and succeeded in his business. In 1795, he was married to Mary, (laughter of Robert Forbes, an early emigrant from North Carolina to Bryant’s station. This woman made him an excellent wife.

In 1798, he moved to Henry county, and settled in the woods, about two miles south of the present village of Smithfield. Soon after this he became interested about the salvation of his soul. In 1801, he professed faith in Christ, and was baptized by Isaac Malin into the fellowship of Drennons Ridge church.

On the 26th of September, 1802, Alan McGuire and ten others were constituted a church, called East Fork, by Isaac Malin and John Dupuy. This church was probably gathered principally by the labors of Mr. McGuire, who had been liberated to exercise his gift, by the church on Drennon's Ridge. He was ordained to the ministry, and called to the pastorate of East Fork church, the same day it was constituted. This position he occupied till 1826. The church prospered under his ministry, and has continued to the present time a respectable body. It is a member of Sulphur Fork Association, and was long under the pastoral care of E. G. Berry. A few years past, this church moved its location to Smithfield on the railroad. Into its fellowship, the late John A. McGuire, long a prominent preacher in Sulphur Fork Association, andafterward pastor of the Baptist church in Monroe, Louisiana, was baptized by his father, in 1810.

Alan McGuire was called to Fox Run church early in his ministry Here he baptized, among others, in 1810, Samuel Vancleave who became a valuable preacher. Mr. McGuire was also, at different times, pastor of the churches at Eighteen Mile, Pigeon Fork, New Castle, Union Spring and Sulphur Fork. To the latter he was called in 1809. In this church his success was very remarkable. Within a few years be baptized about forty, and in a revival in 1817, he baptized into the fellowship of this church 165, within a period of about six months. Among these was Peter H. Vories, who was ordained to the ministry in 1820, and died in 1825.

Mr. McGuire labored much in the fields of destitution, and among the young churches in the surrounding counties, often

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making long circuits in company with John Taylor, William Kellar, James McQuaid, sr., George Waller and others. On his return from one of these tours, he was relating to his wife what great things the Lord had wrought by him and his fellowlaborers. "I saw Brother Waller," said he, "baptize a little boy not bigger than our John." John A., their son, who was only ten years old was sitting by. "I thought," said John A. McGuire in speaking of the circumstance, after he had been preaching the gospel sixty years, "if it was necessary for that boy to have religion, it was also necessary for me to have it, and from that time, I did not cease to pray, till I found peace in Jesus Christ."

In 1826, Alan McGuire resigned all his charges in Kentucky, and moved to Boone county, Missouri. Here he was pastor of Columbia, Cedar, and other churches, and labored actively in the ministry, till 1834. At this date be was attacked with disease of the lungs of which he died, Mar. 30, 1835. Two of his sons, John A. and Levi became Baptist preachers. The former labored with much success, many years in Kentucky, and then moved to Monroe, Louisiana. The latter was a respectable preacher among the Anti-missionary Baptists of Missouri. J. M. McGuire, who preached some years among the churches of Sulphur Fork Association in Kentucky, and is now a prominent preacher in Boone county, Missouri, is a son of Levi McGuire, and a grandson of the famous old pioneer, Alan McGuire.

SAMUEL VANCLEAVE, was the first preacher raised up in Fox-Run church. Introductory to a very brief sketch of his life, it may be allowable to direct the reader's attention to the romance of Indian warfare at the period of Mr. Vancleave's settlement in Kentucky.

Daniel Boone made the first permanent settlement on the soil of Kentucky, in the summer of 1775, at Boonesborough in Madison county. In January, 1778, he and 27 others were captured by the Indians, while making salt at Bluelick, and carried to Detroit. He remained a prisoner till the following June, when he escaped, and reached Boonesboro' on the 10th of that month. When he got back to the fort, he found that his wife, supposing him to have been killed by the Indians, had taken all their plunder, on pack-horses, and returned to her father's in
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North Carolina. Col. Boone was too much occupied in defending his little colony, to go after her immediately. But when the Indian troubles were temporarily allayed, he went to North Carolina after his family, in the summer of 1780. On his return to Kentucky, in the fall of the same year, he conducted a company of emigrants. Among these were his brother, Squire Boone, and two of his (S. Boone’s) wife’s brothers, named William and Benjamin Vancleave, and their families. These three families settled at Lynn’s station on Little Beargrass, a few miles from the Falls of Ohio. The Vancleaves were Presbyterians, and were in the habit of attending preaching near the fort, on Sundays. On one of these occasions, they were surprised by a company of hostile Indians. Those who had horses mounted them with all speed. Sally, a daughter of William Vancleave, attempted to get up behind a young man to whom she was engaged to be married. Just as she had gotten her breast across the horse, an Indian warrior seized her, dragged her from the horse, and split her head open with his tomahawk. The rest of the party reached the fort in safety.

After remaining at Lynn’s station about 18 months, Benjamin Vancleave moved to what is now Shelby county, and settled on Bullskin creek, where he spent the rest of his days.

Samuel Vancleave, son of the last named, was born in N. Carolina, on the Yadkin river, about the year 1765. He came with his parents to Kentucky, in 1780. He was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Ahijah Woods, and settled near his parents. About three years after his marriage, while assisting his father in building a house, he and a young man by the name of Huron went to the woods to cut some poles for rafters. Idly knocking on a large tree with the pole of an ax, they attracted the attention of some Indians, who soon surrounded them. Huron had said he would die before he would be captured. As soon as he saw the situation, he flew to a sappling, locked his hands around it, and awaited his fate. The Indians attempted to pull him loose, but failing to do so, they killed him with their tomahawks. Vancleave attempted to escape by running, but was soon captured.

The Indians carried him to the shore of Lake Michigan. Here he met with a young man of the name of Scott, who had
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been captured in Ohio. They spent about eight months together in the Indian camp. When they had so far gained the confidence of the Indians as to be allowed to hunt, unattended, they made their escape. After traveling several days and nights, they reached the Ohio river near the present site of Cincinnati. Scott turned eastward in search of his home, and Vancleave crossed the river and traveled westward in search of his family, whom he found at his father's.

Mr. Vancleave was an industrious, energetic man, and accumulated some property. But he was excessively fond of revelry, and openly professed to be a Deist. This greatly grieved his pious parents. He continued his wild career till about the year 1809. While engaged in building a brick residence for himself, he talked much about a big ball, which he intended to have as soon as his house should be finished. One day, while talking with his workmen on his favorite subject -- the ball -- he laid a course of brick, and started to dance back to the other end of the scaffold. When he got about the middle of the scaffold, he seemed to hear a voice repeating distinctly in his ear the words: "Thou fool! this night shall thy soul be required of thee!" He came down from the scaffold and walked into his house, trembling like Belshazzar. He sent for his parents and friends, expecting to die that night. For several days he was so overwhelmed with a sense of his great wickedness, that he could not eat or drink. His friends became greatly alarmed about him. But finally he found great peace and joy in a vivid sense of pardon through Jesus Christ. In April, 1810, he was baptized into the fellowship of Fox Run church by Alan McGuire. In the following December, he was licensed to exercise his gifts.

After a short probation, he was ordained to the fall work of the ministry, and, after preaching a few years in Shelby, and the adjoining counties, moved to Putnam county, Ia. Here he spent the remainder of his days in zealous and efficient labor in the gospel.

It was probably not far from the year 1840, when, on his return from a preaching appointment, he was overtaken by a violent storm. He was riding a spirited young horse. The animal became frightened and dashed suddenly under a tree that had fallen and lodged just over the road. Mr. Vancleave
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was hurled violently to the ground. Some friends hurried to him and raised him up. But his neck was disjointed, and his spirit had already flown.3

WILLIAM FORD, a member and deacon of Fox Run church, was one of the earliest settlers of what is now Henry county. He was born in South Carolina, January 25, 1753, received a liberal English education, studied the art of surveying, and adopted it as his profession. In early life he was married to Casandria Ford of Maryland. This amiable young lady was well fitted for the wife of a pioneer. She had passed through the fiery ordeal of frontier life and savage cruelty. When she was about 12 years old, the Indians made a sudden attack on her father’s dwelling, and killed both of her parents. Shereceived a deep wound in her head from the stroke of a tomahawk, and was carried off a prisoner. After being carried about with the Indians, about ten days, and suffering much from the severity of her wound, and the cruelty of her captors, she was recognized by an old Indian who had “eaten salt” at her father’s cabin. He purchased her, and returned her to her friends.

Some years after his marriage, Mr. Ford moved to Kentucky, and remained a short time in Van Cleave’s Station on Bullskin, in Shelby county. He then moved to what is now Henry county, and settled near the present site of Eminence. He united with Fox Run church, and became one of its deacons. At the formation of Long Run Association in 1803, he was chosen its clerk, a position he filled nine years. He was an excellent citizen, and was quite prominent among the pioneer Baptists. He died in 1835.

WILLIAM W. FORD, son of the above, was born in South Carolina, May 18, 1785, and came with his parents to Kentucky, in very early times. He received only such an education as the children of the western colonists usually obtained. He could “read and write and cipher a little.” In the 21st year of his age, he won the heart of Elizabeth, daughter of Elder John Metcalf. Her parents opposing the match, the young couple “ran away” and were married; January 13, 1806. Not long after his marriage, he obtained hope in Christ, and was baptized into the fellowship of Fox Run church, by Alan McGuire.
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Soon after this, he took a letter of dismission and joined Six-mile church, in Shelby county. In 1810, he was chosen a deacon of that church, and was much impressed with a sense of its being his duty to preach the gospel. But he was of a timid disposition, and the wife who had manifested her disobedience to her parents by marrying him against their wishes, in turn used all her influence to keep him in disobedience to his Master. But the chastening of the Lord finally prevailed, and he was licensed to preach in April, 1824, and ordained the following August.

Mr. Ford was now past the fortieth year of his age. He felt that he had lost much time, and gave himself very actively to the work of the Lord. In a short time he was one of the most popular and useful preachers in Franklin Association. In 1828 he was elected moderator of that body. In this capacity he served the succeeding four years. This was during the stormy period of the Campbellite schism.

Mr. Ford was pastor of four churches, during most of his ministry. Among those he served in that capacity were Sixmile, Fox Run, Buffalo Lick, Indian Fork, and Brashears Creek. Like other active pastors of his generation he did much mission work.4 He died at his home in Christiansburg, in full assurance of hope, June 30, 1841.

Mr. Ford was, at first a Hyper-Calvinist, but afterwards adopted the views of Andrew Fuller. He was very familiar with the Bible, and though uneducated, his language was good, and he was an easy, fluent speaker. He was tender and persuasive in his address, and often wept freely when speaking of the love of God, the sufferings of Christ, or when exhorting sinners to repent.

JOHN C. FREEMAN was called to the pastorate of Fox Run church, in 1860. He baptized fifty-three the first year of his pastorate.

Mr. Freeman was born in Anderson county, Kentucky, October 14, 1832, graduated at Georgetown College, in 1857, was licensed to preach at Salem church in Shelby county, (where he had been baptized by N.C. Beckham, in Nov., 1846,) in July, 1854, and ordained in June, 1858, to the pastoral care of Old
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Clear Creek church, in Woodford county. In 1860, he was called to Fox Run church, where he served four years. He has since been pastor of several country churches around Lexington, near which he now (1885) resides on a farm, and preaches to Bryant’s church, in Fayette county.

BULLITTSBURG is not only the oldest church on the Ohio river below Cincinnati, but it has been from an early period, one of the largest and most influential country churches in the State; for it is strictly a country church, notwithstanding its name. It has been in the very front rank in advocating home and foreign missions, theological education and other benevolent enterprises, ever since the days of Absalom Graves.

About 1793, a colony of some dozen or more families crossed over an unbroken wilderness of some eighty miles in breadth, from the settlements on Elkhorn to the bank of the Ohio, in what is now Boone county and formed a small settlement. They were mostly from Clear creek, in Woodford county. Among them were seven Baptists, one of whom, Lewis Deweese, was a licensed preacher. Most of them had been members of Clear Creek church, and the faithful John Taylor, did not neglect to look after these lambs of his fold. Joseph Redding, of Great Crossing also went among them.

Bullittsburg church was constituted in June, 1794, by Joseph Redding and John Taylor. The following persons were in the constitution: Lewis Deweese, John and Elizabeth Hall, Chichester and Agnes Matthews, and Joseph and Leannah Smith.

The following April, John Taylor moved to this new settle ment, and united with the church. Soon afterwards, George Eve, a good preacher, and a number of others moved from Virginia, and united with the young church. The fraternity grew in number, but only from immigration. During the first five years of its history, only one person was baptized for its fellowship, and he was excluded two months after he was baptized.

This was a season of deepgloom in religious circles all over Kentucky. Meanwhile, the unconverted around Bullittsburg were deeply immersed in the popular amusements of the day, and especially in what they then called frolicking. John Taylor who was the principal preacher at this place, speaking of that period, says: "I had never been so thoroughly cowed down by
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discouragement through the course of my ministry, as now, though it had been in action for twenty-five years, and really thought I had better be dead than alive; for I felt as if satan had gotten the mastery where I lived. So that I could say from my soul, 'Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech, and that I dwell in the tents of Keder.'" But the morning star was about to rise and disperse the gloom. At the June meeting, in 1800, four were received for baptism. The revival spread over the settlement like fire in a dry prairie. It continued about two years, during which 152 were added to Bullittsburg church by baptism, and a large number by letter; so that while Dry Creek church had been constituted of members dismissed from it, in July, 1800, it reported to Elkhorn Association, in 1802, 197 members. It was one of nine churches which formed North Bend Association, in 1803. Of this body, it has continued a leading member to the present time. In 1811, another extensive revival occurred in the bounds of the church, during the continuance of which, 170 were added to its number, swelling its membership to 319. The next revival which occurred in this church was in 1817, when it received 165 by Baptism, increasing its membership to 395. Again, in 1824, a revival resulted in 118 additions.

Bullittsburg has enjoyed an almost uninterrupted course of prosperity. She lost only three or four members by the Campbellite schism, and about a dozen by the Antimission schism. Her records show that during the first seventy-eight years of her existence, she received by baptism 974, colonized eight churches, licensed twenty-seven of her members to preach the gospel, and ordained fourteen ministers.5 She has had connected with her, about forty ministers, brief biographical sketches of only a few of whom may be added here. Of John Taylor and Joseph Redding sketches have already been given.

WILLIAM CAVE, who with John Taylor and Joseph Redding, was instrumental in gathering Bullittsburg church, was a native of Orange county, Va. His father, Benjamin Cave, was a prominent citizen, and frequently represented Orange county in the General Assembly of Virginia.

William Cave was born about the year 1740. He was
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raised an Episcopalian, and received a better education than most boys of that period. Not far from the year 1768, he was converted to God under the ministry of Samuel Harris and James Reed, by one of whom he was baptized. When Lewis Craig moved toKentucky, in the fall of 1781, bringing Spottsylvania church with him, William Cave was one of the company and was consequently a member of the first Gilbert’s Creek church in Garrard county. Of this church Mr. Cave remained a member several years. In May, 1785, having moved to Scott county, he went into the constitution of Great Crossing church. About 1795, he moved to Boone county, and united with Bullittsburg church. The next year he was ordained an elder. This was an office distinct from that of a preacher, in some of the Baptist churches of that period. In June, 1800, Mr. Cave was encouraged to exercise his gift in preaching, and, the next year was ordained to the ministry. He was now more than sixty years old, but he entered into the labors of his holy calling with much zeal. He preached principally on the borders of the settlement, and baptized a number of persons. He had been a valuable church member for more than thirty years. He had been a justice of the peace both in Virginia and Kentucky, and so prudent was his course of life that John Taylor says: “I never saw any man, I has rather imitate than William Cave.” But his ministry was short. He died of a protracted fever and the improper use of medicine, in 1806.

GEORGE EVE was an early preacher in Bullittsburg church. He waS born in Culpeper county, Va., 1748, and was raised an Episcopalian, but under the preaching of the renowned David Thomas, he was converted, and joined the Baptists in 1772. He soon began to exhort, and, in 1778, was ordained to the ministry. He took charge of F.T. church, and, after Elijah Craig's removal to Kentucky, Blue Run in Orange county. For a number of years he preached with "astonishing success" in his native State, and large numbers were led to the Savior under his ministry.

In 1797, he moved to Kentucky and settled in Boone county. Here he joined Bullittsburg church, and was a preacher in it about three years. He then moved to what is now Franklin county, and joined Great Crossing church. About this time “the great revival” commenced. Mr. Eve was very active,
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giving almost his entire time to preaching. A great many were added to the churches under his ministry. May 2, 1801, he and William Hickman constituted North Fork church, of nineteen members, near Mr. Eve's residence. Of this church he became a member.

Up to this period, and for some years afterward, Mr. Eve’s life was most exemplary. His piety, meekness, amiability and great usefulness, rendered him popular and beloved, to a degree seldom surpassed. He had the care of several churches, and his popularity seemed to be greater than ever before. He was connected with some of the most distinguished families in the State. His wife was a sister of Col. Robert Johnson, and, consequently, an aunt of Col. R.M. Johnson, James Johnson, and John T. Johnson, the first of whom was VicePresident or the United States, and all of whom served in the United States Congress. But with all his exalted connections and great popularity, he was still the same meek, amiable and beloved minister of Jesus. But alas for the frailty of human nature. "Let no man count himself happy until he is dead," said an ancient philosopher. In his old age, and contrary to the expectation of all who knew him, this most lovely man fell by the use or strong drink, and was excluded from North Fork church. He was restored, and again went on preaching for a time. But the tempter overcame him, and he was expelled a second time, after which he returned to the church no more, but soon went the way of all the earth.

As a preacher Mr. Eve was below mediocrity. As an exhorter he greatly excelled, and his gift of song was marvelous.

LEWIS DEWEESE was a licensed preacher, and a man advanced in life, when he went into the constitution of Bullittsburg church. In September, 1797, he was ordained by John Taylor and George Eve. He entered earnestly into the work of the Lord, and made such rapid improvement that "he soon became one of the most acceptable preachers in Boone county."

In 1809, he moved to the White Water settlement in Indiana, where he was a useful preacher, and ,vas frequently Moderator of White Water Association.

JAMES LEE was "born again" at old Clear Creek, in Woodford county, and was baptized for membership in that church,
[p. 296]
by John Taylor in the summer of 1786. After two or three years, he moved to the south side of Kentucky river, where he was instrumental in raising up a small church on Silver creek in Madison county. In 1796, he moved to Campbell county, and took membership in Bullittsburg church. Herein Sep., 1797, he was ordained to the ministry by John Taylor and George Eve. "This heavenly minded man" says John Taylor, "was soon called forward to ordination. I call him a heavenly minded man because in his deportment there was a greater image of the Savior in him than was commonly seen. With his great power of self-government, he never seemed caught off his guard. He was often in tears, and his smiles seemed to have something of heaven in them." After laboring a short time about Bullittsburg, he moved to Ohio, where he preached many years with great success, and died not far from 1824, before the infirmities of old age came upon him.

CHICHESTER MATTHEWS was born and raised in Fauquier county, Virginia. In 1780, at the age of twenty-four, he was married to Agnes Walters, in his native county. In 1784, he moved to South Carolina. Here, in June, 1786,he obtained hope in the Savior of sinners, and was baptized by Joseph Redding, into the fellowship of Turkey Creek church. A few years after this, he moved to Kentucky, and settled in Scott county, where he united with Great Crossing church. After a short stay here he moved to what is now Boone county, and in June, 1794, with six others, went into the constitution of Bullittsburg church. Just a year from this time he was ordained the first deacon of this church. He "used the office of a deacon well," and in June, 1800, was licensed to preach the gospel.

For several years he made but few attempts to preach, and it was not until the great revival in Bullittsburg; church, in 1811, that he became active in the exercise of his gift. His improvement in speaking was such that, in October, 1812, he was ordained to the full work of the ministry. From the time of his ordination, till 1819, he was associated with Absalom Graves, in ministering to the church of which he was a member, and was esteemed for his practical wisdom and faithfulness.

On the 20th of March, 1819, Mr. Matthews went into the constitution of Sand Run church, in Boone county. Here he
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ministered with other preachers to the close of his earthly pilgrimage, which occurred September 7, 1828.

ABSALOM GRAVES was among the most distinguished preachers that was raised up in old Bullittsburg, or that has labored within the bounds of North District Association. He was born in what is now Madison county, Va., November 28, 1868. He received a liberal English education, for that period. He was made sensible of his lost condition under the ministry of George Eve, by whom he was baptized in August, 1788, when he became a member of the church at Rapidan meetinghouse. Some time after his conversion, he was married to Felicia White, who made him a good wife.

Early in 1797 he moved to Kentucky, and settled in Boone county, where he and his wife united with Bullittsburg church, of which he was soon afterward chosen clerk. He was also appointed clerk of the Circuit Court of Boone county. In 1803, at the formation of North Bend Association, he was chosen clerk of that body, and continued to fill the position twenty years. In March, 1801, he was ordained to the deaconship. In this office he was prompt and faithful. Meanwhile he had strong impressions of duty to preach the gospel, but his extreme timidity, for a long time kept him from assuming the solemn responsibility. But his agony of mind became so great that he at last yielded to a conviction of duty, and was licensed to preach in 1810. Of him John Taylor says, "There is no thanks due this man for preaching, for though a man of good information, he, through native modesty and timidity of mind, kept back so long that it seemed as if agony of soul would kill him, and it was preach or die."

Soon after he was licensed, an extensive revival pervaded the churches of North Bend Association, and continued about a year. During this blessed work of grace, Mr. Graves, though too timid to be a leader, was a very active and efficient laborer. His improvement in speaking was such that he was ordained in April, 1812. For the next seven years, he and Chichester Matthews, who was ordained to the ministry in October of the same year, were co-laborers in the pastoral work of Bullittsburg church. After this he was associated with James Dicken and Robert Kirtley, in the same work. In this relation, he was successful in an eminent degree. In three revivals, each of which
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continued about a year, during the period of Mr. Graves' ministry at Bullittsburg, 453 members were added to that church.

But his labors were by no means confined to the church of which he was a member. He was a man of enlarged public spirit, and fully recognized the great truth that "the field is the world." His labors were extensive throughout North Bend Association, and even beyond its bounds. He was among the first preachers in Kentucky to warmly espouse the cause of Foreign Missions. "Receiving a missionary spirit in its warmest glow," says Taylor, "from the time of his first acquaintance with Luther Rice, has given him a growth that he never would have had only for that circumstance." Among other services he rendered the cause of Christ, and among the last was the compiling and publishing of a hymn book, titled Graves' Hymns, which was held in high esteem. After a most valuable ministry of about sixteen years, he fell asleep in Jesus, August 17, 1826.

As a preacher Mr. Graves "was not above the middle grade." "Perhaps," continues Taylor, "the gospel of the Savior never came better recommended by human character." He was a preacher of intense application, both to study and labor, and was a growing man in the ministry to the last.

JAMES DICKEN was a preacher in Bullittsburg church, contemporary with Graves and Matthews. He was born in Madison county, Va., in 1785, and moved with his parents to Boone county, Ky., about the year 1800. At the age of twenty-three he married Peggy Ann Cloud, a young lady of his immediate neighborhood. He, with his wife, joined Bullittsburg church by experience and baptism during the great revival of 1811. He was licensed to preach July 3, 1818, and ordained June 3, 1820. He was now about thirty-five years of age, and a young man of excellent promise. But his ministry was destined to beshort. Six years of zealous and useful labor closed his earthly toils and sufferings. He died of a violent fever, June 10, 1826. He was a good man, a good preacher, a faithful servant of his Master, and was deserving of remembrance by the people of God.

LANDON ROBINSON was converted to God and added to Bullittsburg church in 1811. Two years afterward the church encouraged him to exercise his gift. In 1820 he was licensed to
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preach, and the same year, took a letter and united with Sand Run church. Here his gift appeared so profitable that on April 25, 1823, he was ordained to the ministry by Chichester Matthews, Christopher Wilson and James Dicken. Being unmarried, Mr. Robinson traveled and preached extensively, and, although possessing but medium ability, his purity of life, meekness and agreeable manners, enabled him to exercise a good influence. But his ministry was very short. He died in 1826.

JEREMIAH KIRTLEY deserves to be held in remembrance, not only because of his own intrinsic excellence, but because he was the ancestor of many valuable men, living and dead. May he never lack for a son to fill the pastorate of Bullittsburg church as worthily as his son Robert and his grandson James A. have filled it.

Jeremiah Kirtley was probably a native of what now is Madison county, Va. He was brought up an Episcopalian, but in 1788, under the ministry of George Eve, he was "born of the Spirit." He, and his wife, Mary, united with the Baptist church at Rapidan meeting-house. In 1796, he emigrated to Kentucky, and settled at North Bend in Boone county. Here, he, with his wife, united with Bullittsburg church, and was soon afterwards ordained an Elder in that body, a nominal officer in some Baptist churches of that day, which, as the government of those churches then, as now, was purely democratic, seems to have been an officer without an office. It was practically a mere title of respect.

William Cave shared the honor with Mr. Kirtley, at Bullittsburg. They were the only elders that church ever had. In June, 1800, Elders Kirtley and Cave were licensed to exercise their preaching gifts. Mr. Cave was afterward ordained and was esteemed a good preacher. Mr. Kirtley exercised his gift in exhortation acceptably, a few years, when he and Mr. Cave died about the same time in 1806, the former in the prime of manhood.

ROBERT KIRTLEY was a preacher of eminent usefulness, and was greatly beloved during the whole of his long and faithful ministry. He was devoted to his sacred calling, kept his garments unspotted from the world, was very practical in his ministration and was progressive in his preaching, even to old
[p. 300]
age. He was, many years, the leading preacher of North Bend Association, of which he was Moderator thirty-two years.

Robert Kirtley was born in what is now Madison county, Va., May 30, 1786. He was brought by his parents, Jeremiah and Mary Kirtley, to Boone county, Ky., in 1796. Here he grew up, having for a period of only eighteen months the advantages of some of the best schools in the country. At the age of twenty, he married Mary, daughter of Asa Thompson, who was long a deacon of Bryant’s church in Fayette county. The fruits of this marriage were nine sons and one daughter. Four of these survived their father. Mr. Kirtley was an energetic and industrious man, and prospered in the vocation of a farmer, from his youth. He ultimately acquired a considerable fortune.

From his youth he was the subject of strong religious impression, but put off seeking a personal interest in the Savior, till he was about twenty-five years of age. In January, 1811, his wife was converted, and immediately joined Bullittsburg church. This had a strong effect on the mind of her husband. For a time he struggled to conceal or stifle his convictions. But the spirit of God overcame, and he finally yielded to his (the Holy Spirit's) overpowering influence. He obtained the blessed hope of salvation, and, on the second Sunday in February, 1811, was baptized by Christopher Wilson into the fellowship of Bullittsburg church. The next year, war breaking out between the United States and Great Britain, Mr. Kirtley entered the service as Lieutenant in a Kentucky regiment, and was under General Harrison during the Northwestern campaign. His fellow soldiers testified that he maintained a Christian character while in the army. On his return home he resumed the duties of a church member, and the close study of the Bible. On the 8th of June, 1817, he was ordained a deacon of his church, and faithfully served in that capacity, about two years. During this period a glorious revival prevailed not only in Bullittsburg church, and North Bend Association, but all over the State. During the prevalency of this revival, Mr. Kirtley showed much interest in the salvation of sinners, and was greatly enlarged in his spirituality. He exercised his gift in persuading and exhorting sinners to repent and come to the Savior. On the first Saturday in July, 1819, the church licensed him to preach the gospel,
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wherever his lot might be cast. During the next three years he preached in his own and the neighboring churches, and, in company with other preachers, extended his labors to the adjoining counties. He declined ordination until the church urged it upon him, as a duty, the second time. Finally, he gave his consent and was ordained to the full work of the ministry, on the second Sunday in August, 1822, by Absalom Graves, Chichester Matthews, and James Dicken. Jointly with Graves and Dicken he served Bullittsburg as a preacher the next four years. In 1826 Graves and Dicken were both called to their reward above. Mr. Kirtley was now the only preacher in this large church.

Up to this period, although of thirty-two years standing, Bullittsburg church had never had a pastor, at least in the modern sense of that term. John Taylor was its first preacher. After a short experience in the pastoral office of Clear Creek church, in Woodford county, he resigned that position, and could never be induced to accept the pastorate of any church afterward, nor would he preach statedly to any church of which he was not a member, except in cases of extreme necessity, on the part of a destitute church. He formed Bullittsburg church in this mould. Hence, all the preachers of her membership were equal co-laborers in the pastoral work and responsibilities, and no one of them had any preeminence over another, except in so far as age, experience, or superior abilities conferred superior influence. Hence, when Graves and Dicken died, Mr. Taylor wrote as follows:

"Bullittsburg church is now in a lower condition as to the gospel ministry than any time for more than thirty years past. She has but one preacher in this very large church, Robert Kirtley, who was baptized among them; a respectable man, and respectable preaching talents … There area number of men in the church capable to go forward and assist Brother Kirtley. May the Lord stir them up."

But none of those men came forward to help, and Mr. Kirtley had to bear the burden alone for the time. He was, in reality, the first pastor of Bullittsburg church, though not formally so recognized by the church. He saw but sparse fruits of his labor, in his own church, for a period of thirteen years. In 1839, a revival pervaded Bullittsburg and the neighboring churches, and, among others, Mr. Kirtley baptized two of his
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sons. One of these sons now occupies most worthily the pulpit, made vacant by the death of his venerable father. The other is also a preacher in North Bend Association. About this time, the scheming of some anti-missionary preachers from Licking Association was culminating in widespread disaffection in North Bend Association. In the latter part of the year 1840, six churches, with their ministers, drew off from this Association, and formed "Salem Association of Predestinarian Baptists." Mr. Kirtley called an extra session of North Bend Association, and, in due time, proper means were used for refuting the vulgar misrepresentations of these fanatical schismatics. The excitement among the churches was soon measurably calmed. The severe trial through which Mr. Kirtley passed during this gloomy period, only refined and elevated him, and developed all his latent powers. The Divine blessing attended his labors, and, in 1842, a revival commenced at Bullittsburg, and spread over the Association, during the continuance of which larger numbers of members were added to the churches than had been lost by the schism.

In 1851, Mr. Kirtley lost his wife. He was now sixty-five years old, but he enjoyed extraordinary physical strength and excellent health, and his labors were not diminished. In 1853, his labors were blessed with another precious revival at Bullittsburg, and fifty members were added to the church. About this time, his son, James A. Kirtley, was associated with him in his pastoral labors. In 1858, his second wife died. The feebleness of old age was now creeping over him. He gradually withdrew from the responsibilities of the pastorate, but continued to preach according to the measure of his strength, till Christmas day of 1871, when he preached his last sermon. He spent the remainder of the winter in reading the word of God, and in speaking to his visiting brethren concerning the Kingdom of God. On the 9th of April, 1872, the good and great man went to his eternal reward.

JAMES A. KIRTLEY, son of Robert Kirtley, and present pastor of Old Bullittsburg church, was born in Boone county, Kentucky, May 26, 1822. In his boyhood, he attended the common schools of his neighborhood. He made a profession of religion, and, with his brother Robert E., was baptized by his father, the first Sunday in November, 1839, and united with
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the church of which he is now pastor. He was licensed to preach in 1842, having, for a year previous, exercised in public prayer and exhortation, and entered Georgetown College the same year. He was compelled to leave college, in the spring of 1844, on account of a temporary failure of his eyes. During his college days, he devoted his vacations to active labor in preaching the gospel.

He was ordained at Bullittsburg, the first Sunday in October, 1844, by Robert Kirtley, Asa Drury, and William Whitaker. He was associated with his father in pastoral work, about three years, at the same time preaching once a month at Warsaw, Kentucky. In 1849, he accepted a call to East Church in Louisville, where he remained two years, and baptized 60 or 70 persons. He had preached the two years previous to this, in Madison, Indiana. In 1851, having partly recovered from feebleness of health, he commenced laboring partly as a missionary in the bounds of North Bend Association, and partly as a pastoral co-laborer with his father. As his father advanced in age, the responsibility gradually fell on the son. He has now preached to Bullittsburg and Big Bone churches, more than thirty years. He has also supplied some other churches, at different times. He has written a respectable volume on "The Design of Baptism," and some smaller works of history and biography. He has served as Moderator of the State Ministers' meeting, and has been sixteen years Moderator of North Bend Association. He is filling well the place left vacant by his venerable father. He heartily co-operates in the benevolent enterprises of his denomination; and the country can boast few more valuable ministers than James A. Kirtley.

Robert E. Kirtley, another son of Robert Kirtley, is also a preacher among the churches of North Bend Association.

ALFRED C. GRAVES, a great grandson of Absalom Graves, was born in Boone county, Kentucky, January 5, 1838. He was educated at Georgetown College. At fifteen years of age he professed conversion, and united with Bullittsburg church, in September, 1853. At the age of seventeen, he was encouraged by the church to exercise a public gift, and, in 1859, was fully licensed to preach the gospel. He completed his theological studies at the Western Baptist Theological Seminary, in 1860, and, in September of the same year, was ordained
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to the ministry, at Bullittsburg, by Robert Kirtley, James A. Kirtley, Wm. Whitaker, and others. He immediately took charge of the church at Harrodsburg. After two years, he was called to Jefferson (now Chestnut) Street church, Louisville. After serving this church about one year, he took editorial charge of the Western Recorder. While in Louisville, he published a biography of A.W. LaRue, under the title of "LaRue's Ministry of Faith," and preached one year to Portland Avenue church of that city. In 1867, he was called to Stamping Ground church in Scott county, where he remained four years. There he was married to Miss Annie D. Smith, who has made him an excellent wife.

In January, 1871, Mr. Graves was called to the First Baptist Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. There he remained six years, during which the church received 171 members, 92 by baptism, and built an elegant house of worship. His health becoming enfeebled from over work in a city pastorate, he accepted a call, to the Baptist church at Lebanon, Kentucky, in 1877, where he still remains (1885).

Of the five churches constituted in Kentucky, in 1794, four still exist, and, at least, three of them are strong, influential bodies; from them, have been constituted almost a sufficient number of churches to form three respectable associations, and they have probably raised preachers enough to supply more than 200 pulpits with monthly preaching. It was a good year’s work for the pioneer fathers, all of whom have long since gone to their reward, where their works do follow them.


1 LaRue's Ministry of Faith, pp. 100, 101.
2 I am indebted to the Christian Repository for many of these facts.
3 Recollections of Daniel Harris.
4 He labored much among the destitute.
5 J. A. Kirtley has published a History of Bullittsburg Church, to which I am indebted for valuable information.

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

Chapter 19
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