Volume I, Chapter 20
Good Hope, Deep Creek and other Churches Gathered in 1796
At the beginning of the year 1796, the gloom was still deepening over religious circles in the Ohio Valley. Religion was now at a lower ebb in Kentucky than at the darkest period of the Indian wars. During the preceding year only eighteen persons had been baptized within the bounds of Elkhorn Association, in which was embraced more than half the Baptists in Kentucky. Elkhorn Association made an effort this year, to reestablish union and correspondence with Tates Creek Association, which was carried into successful and permanent operation the following year. Tates Creek Association "appointed two preachers to visit the destitute brethren on [upper] Green river, with their ministerial labors," and, in their circular, lament that "Zion is still in a mournful state." South Kentucky Associasion spitefully rejected an application for union and correspondence with Tates Creek Association. Salem Association was in a troublesome state of fomentation over the slavery question, on account of which she lost two churches this year.
The little new association, Tates Creek, engaged in the only work which exhibited any especial religious interest in the State, — that of sending missionaries to look after the destitute brethren in the new settlements, and gather them into churches, where it was expedient.
The Kentucky Legislature had passed an act in 1795, by which a preemption right to two hundred acres of land was secured to each actual settler in the Green river country. This induced a large influx of immigrants from the south-east to settle in that region. Most of the early settlers along the southern border of the State were from the Carolinas. A settlement by people from these States was made on the waters of Drakes
creek, in what are now Allen and Warren counties, as early as 1795. Among these were a number of Baptists, and two or three Baptist preachers. Here the first church in that part of Kentucky lying south of Green river, was formed.
UNION church was located near the West Fork of Drakes creek, in Warren county. The preachers known to have settled early in that region were John Hightower, Alexander Devin and Joseph Logan. Some or all of these were probably the instruments in gathering this church. It was constituted sometime during the year 1796. Of what association it became a member, it does not appear. Mero District in the northern border of Tennessee and southern border of Kentucky, was most convenient to it. That Association was constituted in 1796. On account of internal discords, it was dissolved in 1803, and a new association, called Cumberland, was formed of the same churches, except four,which adhered to Elder Joseph Dorris, who was the cause of all the confusion. In 1806, Cumberland Association was, for the sake of convenience, divided into two fraternities. The one lying to the northward, and having about half of its churches in Kentucky, took the name of Red River Association.
When Gasper River Association was formed in 1812, Union church entered into its constitution. It remained in this body till 1820, when it entered into the constitution of Drakes Creek Association. In 1823, it numbered eighty-six members. When there was a division of the Baptists in Kentucky, on the subject of missions, Union church adhered to that part of the Association which held to anti-mission sentiments. After this it gradually diminished in number, till about the year 1855, when it dissolved.
JOHN HIGHTOWER was the first pastor of Union church. He was an able and successful preacher, and a man of tireless zeal in the cause of his Master. He and Alexander Devin and Joseph Logan were instrumental in raising up most of the early churches in that region.
Mr. Hightower was a native of South Carolina, and spent the early years of his ministry in preaching among the Baptist of that State. In the year 1795, he and a number of others formed a settlement on the Middle Fork of Drakes creek in what is now Allen county. Here he spent the remainder
of his days. As stated above, he and his fellow laborers gathered Union church in 1796. In 1798, he gathered Sulphur Spring church in Allen county, of which he became pastor. During the Great Revival, which began two years after this, his great zeal so carried him away that his feet were severely frost bitten. From this circumstance he was unable to walk for about a year. But as soon as he was able to sit in a chair, he made appointments for preaching at his house, and continued preaching with much fervor, sitting in his chair, till he was able to walk again. He was badly crippled in his feet the remainder of his life, but continued to preach with zeal and faithfulness, till the Lord took him to himself, about the year 1823.
Mr. Hightower was regarded a strong doctrinal preacher for his day. He held some loose notions about keeping the Sabbath that did much harm. He did not wholly discard the obligation to keep the day holy, but he held it very lightly, and broke the Sabbath himself for very trivial causes. The effect of his teaching was such, that many, otherwise pious and devout Christians, had no conscientious scruples about fishing, hunting or attending to any pressing business, on Sunday. It appears that most of the Baptists from South Carolina, at that period, held similar views to those of Mr. Hightower. The effects on the people were very pernicious, and even to the present day, the results of this false teaching are manifest in some portions of Southern Kentucky.
ALEXANDER DEVIN was a co-laborer of Mr. Hightower in building up the first churches in Allen and Warren counties. He was also a strong doctrinal preacher, a man of fine talents, and exerted a strong influence on society.
Mr. Devin was raised in South Carolina, where he spent some years in preaching the gospel. He came to Kentucky, and was one of the first settlers on the present territory of Allen county. He labored with much usefulness, in Kentucky, some ten years, and then moved to the Wabash country in Indiana about 1805. Here, again he was a pioneer. He collected the first churches of which Wabash Association was constituted. This body was formed of five churches, in 1809. Alexander Devin and the distinguished missionary to the Indians, Isaac McCoy, then a young man, were the only ministers in this fraternity, when it was formed. Mr. Devin was the moderator of the
body, for some years. The following to one of his old co-laborers in Allen county, Kentucky, can hardly fail to interest the reader:
"These lines are to inform you that my family are in common health, through the kind favor of God. I wish these lines to find you and yours in health also. . . . We have troublesome times with the Indians. There have been about fifteen white people killed by them within a few months. A great many families have fled, and are fleeing to Kentucky for safety. I have some thought of carrying my family away, if times should continue so dangerous.
"There has been a considerable revival of religion in this territory. Numbers, I trust, God has saved by the mighty power and influence of His grace.
"May the God of all grace protect and keep you and me, with all saints, until we meet to part no more. Wife joins me in love to you, etc., etc.
"To Joseph Logan."
Mr. Devin was a member of the convention that formed the first State Constitution for Indiana, in 1816. He was, at that time, of an advanced age, and, of course, has long since gone to his reward.
JOSEPH LOGAN was another of the trio of "master builders," who laid the foundation for other men to build on, among the cane-brakes of Southern Kentucky. He was intimately associated with Hightower and Devin, with either of whom he could fully labor. They were strong doctrinal preachers, and he was a warm, impressive exhorter.
Joseph Logan was a native of Virginia. In young manhood, he moved to North Carolina, and married Annie Bias. Here also he obtained hope in Christ, and was baptized. Not long after he united with the church, he moved to South Carolina, where he was put into the ministry, and was, for some years, pastor of a church on Pedee river. The exact time of his coming to Kentucky is not known, but he aided in gathering Bethlehem, the second church formed in Allen county. This large old church, located two miles north of Scottsville, the county seat of Allen, was constituted by John Hightower, Alexander Devin, and Joseph Logan, January 31, 1801, and Mr.
Logan was immediately chosen its pastor. The church was constituted of eight members-four males and as many females. It increased to 76 members the first year, and has continued to be a strong, influential church to the present time.
Mr. Logan assisted in gathering several other churches in Allen county, among which were Trammels Fork and Middle Fork. Few men of his day exercised a more powerful influence over a congregation than did he. The "jerks" and "falling exercise," were common under his preaching. "I remember," said an aged citizen, "to have been present at a meeting on Defeated Branch. Hightower preached a long sermon, Logan followed him with an exhortation of twenty minutes, during which about twenty persons fell as dead men."
When the faithful old servant of the Cross became too feeble to stand, he would sit on a chair, or table, and preach Christ to the people, with much love and tenderness. He died of a cancer on his breast, in October, 1812. Of his descendants, younger Logan is an acceptable preacher among the Antimissionary Baptists in Warren county.
ZACHARIAH MORRIS was raised up to the ministry, either in Union or Sulphur Spring, as there was no other church in that region of country, at the time he was brought into the ministry. He was born in a new settlement on Big Sandy river, in Virginia, January 1, 1773. He moved to Warren county, Kentucky, while a lad. When he grew up, he was married to Sarah, daughter of Dennis Durham, a Presbyterian preacher, in 1796. He was a gay, pleasure-loving young man, was regarded an excellent "fiddler," and was fond of dancing and other frivolous amusements. But about the time of the great revival, at the beginning of the century, the spirit of the Lord stopped him in his mad career, and brought him to the feet of Jesus. Here he found peace and great joy. He was baptized by John Hightower, and soon began to proclaim publicly what the Lord had done for him, and exhort sinners to repent and come to the Savior. He was soon set apart to the ministry. In his early ministry, he was very zealous in warning and exhorting sinners to repent, and the Lord crowned his labors with abundant success. In 1808, Middle Fork church was raised up in Allen county. He was in its constitution, and, in 1811, became its pastor. He served in this capacity twenty-two years. In 1843,
the church split on the subject of missions. Mr. Morris procured a letter, and joined Lick Fork, an Anti-missionary church, in the same county. Of this church he became the pastor. He was also pastor of several other churches in the same region, at different periods. He had, in his earlier ministry, traveled and preached with much success. But after he became an Antimissionary, and adopted what was popularly known as Antinomianism, his usefulness was measurably destroyed. His new theory was at variance, both with his feelings, and his best gifts, and, sometimes, when he warmed in his preaching, he would disregard it, and exhort the unconverted to repent and believe the gospel. He accounted for this inconsistency by saying: "It is true that I wear an iron jacket, but when I get warmed up the buttons melt off." He continued to preach to a good old age. The last time he preached, he said in his discourse: "This is the last time I shall ever preach." He rode home, and fell from his horse at the stile. He was carried to his bed, and soon became speechless. He died June 20, 1849.
Mr. Morris' preaching gift was very moderate, but he was a fair exhorter, and his social powers were excellent. He was simple and affectionate in his manners, and he kept his garments unspotted from the world. His third marriage was an incongenial one, and this marred his peace in his old age.
RICHARD OWINGS was pastor of Union church some years. He was born in Bourbon county, Kentucky, about 1787, whence he came with his parents to Simpson county, in his childhood. In early life, he united with New Salem church in Simpson county. Here he was raised up to the ministry, and became pastor of the church of which he was a member, and of Union church, about the same time. He filled these positions several years, with acceptance to the churches, when he moved to Missouri. There he continued to labor until 1858, when, coming on a visit to his friends, he died, in his native state.
Mr. Owings was a very moderate preacher, but was regarded as a man of sincere piety. In early life, he married Minnie, daughter of Jonathan Holcomb of Simpson county. He raised eight sons and four daughters. Of the former, Benjamin and Jonathan became Baptist preachers in Audrain county, Missouri.
STONE LICK church is located in Mason county. It was
gathered by William Wood, the first preacher that settled in the northern part of the state, by whom also it was constituted, March 1, 1796. It united with Elkhorn Association the same year. It reported 20 members. The following year 42 were baptized into its fellowship, increasing its membership to 70. In 1799, it united in the constitution of Bracken Association. With this body it remained a number of years, and then united with Licking Association of Particular Baptists. In 1838, it reported to that body 19 members. Like most, if not all, the churches in that fraternity, it continued to dwindle away, till, in 1876, it reported only 9 members.
Of its early pastors, except William Wood, a sketch of whose life has been given, no information is at hand.
BEECH CREEK church is located in the southeastern part of Shelby county. There is a tradition, which seems reliable, that this church was gathered by the famous Lewis Craig, by whom, with others, it was constituted, in 1796, of the following persons: Samuel Ayers, Samuel Tinsley, Warren and Susannah Cash, and one other. The following year, it united1 with Salem Association, of which it remained a member till Long Run was formed, in 1803, when it entered into the constitution of that fraternity. John Penny was the first pastor; but finding a preaching gift among themselves, in the person of Warren Cash, they soon called him into the ministry, and, in 1799, he was ordained their pastor. A revival soon commenced under his ministry, and a large number was baptized. In 1803, the church numbered 151 members, and was the largest in Long Run Association. In 1817, it took a letter from Long Run, and united in the constitution of Franklin Association. At this period it numbered about 130 members. It continued prosperous, in Franklin Association, till 1834, when it reported 40 baptisms and a total membership of 138. In 1836 it went into the constitution of Middle District Association, where it remained some years, and then joined Mt. Pleasant Association of Anti-missionary Baptists, and, of course, has since been withering away. At present, it numbers about 45 members.
WARREN CASH was the second pastor of Beech Creek
church, and, so far as is now known, was, with his wife, the first fruits to God of the wilderness of Kentucky. There is a tradition that seven persons were baptized by Benjamin Lynn, in Nolin river, in what is now LaRue county, in 1782. But of this, there is no sufficient evidence. On the contrary, after much painstaking investigation, the tradition seems highly improbable. Mr. Cash and his wife were converted to God, on Clear creek, in Woodford county, in the latter part of the winter, or early spring, of 1785, Mrs. Cash being converted first. They were baptized by John Taylor, and became members of Clear Creek church, some weeks after their conversion.
Warren Cash was born in Virginia, April 4, 1760. He grew up wholly illiterate. When the war broke out between England and her American colonies, young Cash entered the Colonial army, and served as a private soldier, four years. At the restoration of peace, he returned home, and, in November, 1783, was married to Susannah, daughter of William Baskett, a respectable Baptist preacher of Fluvana county, Va. In the fall of 1784, he moved to Kentucky. He stopped during the winter in Grubb's Fort, in Madison county, but as soon asthe weather was sufficiently open, toward spring, he moved to Woodford county, and settled on the present site of Mortonsville. Soon after his removal to this place, he and his wife were brought into Clear Creek church, as related above. At the time he was converted, he was twenty-five years old, and was so illiterate that he did not even know the alphabet. However, he had a strong mind, possessed true courage, and was exceedingly anxious to read the word of God. His wife was a fair scholar and a very superior woman. She at once became his teacher, and found him a good pupil. In a short time he was able to read the Bible, and ultimately became very familiar with its sacred pages. "A few years after [his baptism]," says John Taylor, "he moved to a new settlement, in Shelby county. There he began to hold meetings, and Beech Creek church was soon raised up." After exercising in public, several years, he was ordained to the ministry, by William Hickman and John Penny, in 1799, and immediately took charge of Beech Creek church. Early in the year 1801, a revival commenced in the church, and not less than 70 were baptized.
In the spring of 1802, Mr. Cash moved to Nelson county, and united with Simpsons Creek church. "Here he became a great traveling preacher." He visited the settlements south and west, from where he lived, till March 1806, when he moved to Hardin county. Here Bethel church was raised up, and he became its pastor. He baptized four of his children, with many others, at one time, while he was pastor of Bethel. This church became so large, that it was thought expedient to divide its membership. Accordingly, on the 17th of March, 1824, Gilead church in the same county, was constituted. Mr. Cash was in the constitution, and became pastor of the new church. He continued to serve this church, till 1840, when it split on the subject of missions. Mr. Cash adhered to the anti-missionary party, and continued to serve it as pastor, till his death, which occurred September 15, 1850.
Mr. Cash was a plain, sound, practical preacher, of medium ability. Besides the churches already named, he was pastor of Union in Hardin, and Otter Creek, in Mead county. In the former, Benjamin and Enos Keith, and in the latter, John Rush, were raised up to the ministry, under Mr. Cash's pastoral care. Of his sons, Jeremiah Cash became a respectable preacher among the Anti-missionary Baptists, in Gibson county, Indiana. He died while on a visit to LaRue county, Ky., in the Spring of 1850.
MOSES SCOTT was many years pastor of Beech Creek church. He was probably the immediate successor of Warren Cash. He was a preacher of small talent. He finally fell into disrepute and was deposed from the ministry.
JOHN HOLLAND was the most distinguished of Beech Creek church's pastors, except John Penny. His father, Joel, and his mother were pious Baptists. They were natives of Virginia, and early settlers in Shelby county, Ky. John Holland was born in Shelby county, Ky., about 1797, and received a fair English education. He united with Salem church, at an early age, and was probably baptized by John Rice. About 1814, he accompanied Henson Hobbs on a missionary tour to Missouri Territory, whither he was sent by Long Run Association. On his return, young Holland was licensed to preach, about 1815, and, three years afterwards, was ordained to the work of the ministry. He was called to the
care of Salem church, to which he ministered until his death. He was also pastor of Beech Creek, Bethel, Little Mount, and Kings churches. He published, in pamphlet form, a sermon on a "Call to the Ministry," which exhibits decided ability. He was a man of delicate constitution, and died of disease of the lungs, a little past middle life — perhaps, in 1844.
GOOD HOPE church was at first located on a tributary of Pittmans creek, called Muldraugh's Mill Creek, in what is now Taylor county. In May, 1796, Tates Creek Association sent Peter Woods and Isaac Newland "to visit the destitute brethren on Green river with their ministerial labor." The object, no doubt, was to constitute these brethren a church, "if they were ripe for constitution." During this year, according to a history of the church, published in the minutes of Lynn Association, in 1876, Good Hope church was constituted of some ten or twelve members. "It was constituted a United Baptist church, and has remained such to the present time." This is incontestible evidence that it was constituted by ministers connected with Tates Creek Association, since that was at that time, and for several years afterwards, the only association of United Baptists west of the Cumberland mountains. Two years after this, a new church, represented by Edward Turner, and described as "the church on Pitman," was received into Tates Creek Association. All the known circumstances indicate that this was the church now called Good Hope. It was probably gathered by that active pioneer, who first represented it in the Association. After Mr. Turner, David Elkin was pastor of this church, and he was succeeded, in 1811, by John Chandler. At this date, it numbered twenty-nine members. The growth of the church was so slow, that as late as 1834 Horatio Chandler, its pastor, wrote of it: "She has been struggling for existence for a number of years." It, however, exhibited the elements of progress, in that it had a Sunday-school — a thing too rare among the Baptists of that period — and approved the Baptist State Convention, with a desire that the constitution of the convention should be amended. Since that period, it has enjoyed much prosperity, and was, in 1879, the largest church in Lynn Association. At that date, it embraced two hundred and fifty members. This church most probably entered into the constitution of Green River Association, in 1800, under its original title of the church
on Pittman.2 At least it was a member of that body, in 1802. In the division of Green river, in 1804, it fell in Russells Creek Associacion. It entered into the constitution of Lynn Association, in 1856.
EDWARD TURNER was certainly a member of the church on Pittman [now Good Hope] as early as 1798, and was probably in the constitution of that body. He was quite an active preacher among the pioneers in the Green river country. His father, John Turner was among the early settlers of Madison county, Ky., and his brother John, was at one time captured by Indians, but escaped from them, after a brief captivity.
Edward Turner was born in North Carolina about the year, 1768. He came with his parents to Kentucky, in his childhood. He was probably raised up to the ministry at Good Hope. About 1811, he moved to Warren county, and united with Providence church. He served this church as pastor, about five years from the time he united with it, and then moved to Howard county, Missouri. He finally moved to Platte county, in that State, where he died about 1843. His son, Thomas Turner, became a Baptist preacher in Missouri, and is said to have been an active, useful minister. He only lived about twelve years after he commenced preaching.
DAVID THURMAN was raised up to the ministry, and began to preach in Good Hope church. Among the Baptist preachers, raised up in Kentucky during the early part of the present century, this eminent servant of Christ had few superiors either in ability or usefulness.
His parents were both Baptists in Virginia, where they were born and raised. The father, Richard Thurman, moved to Kentucky about the close of the Revolutionary War, and settled in Woodford county. He afterward moved to Washington county, where he died in 1802.
David Thurman was born in Woodford county, Kentucky, August 12, 1792. At the age of ten years, he was left an orphan and went to live with an elder brother, who put him to keeping bar in a tavern. Presently, seeing the degradation to which men were reduced by intoxication, he resolved never to drink
spiritous liquors. To this resolution he adhered through every temptation. But as to every other popular vice, he gave full scope to his inclination. He was said to be a shrewd and successful gambler at the age of seventeen. Meanwhile, he had acquired the elements of a fair English education. He was a youth of great energy, and was fond of books. He pursued his studies with the same enthusiasm that characterized him when horse racing and playing cards.
But his wild career was suddenly cut short, in his nineteenth year, by the preventing grace of God. He was overwhelmingly convicted of sin, and after abrief but agonizing struggle he found great peace and joy, in trusting in Jesus. He was baptized by David Elkin into the fellowship of Good Hope church. Soon after his baptism, he began to exhort his former companions in sin to repent and believe the gospel. Meanwhile, he studied theology under Nathan Hall, a distinguished Presbyterian preacher. In 1814 he was ordained to the ministry, probably by David Elkin and John Chandler. The same year he was ordained, he was married to Jemima B., daughter of Robert Scott, of Washington county. This noble woman was to him a helpmeet, indeed. "After they had gotten a little start in the world," said one of her sons, "she managed the temporal affairs of the family with such skill and industry that father was enabled to give his whole time to study and preaching. For many years, I never knew my mother to go to bed before midnight, except on Sunday night, unless she was too sick to attend to business. On Saturday night she would have some of the children watch the clock that she might not be at work after midnight, and thereby break the Sabbath."
Mr. Thurman was a close student, and became an able theologian. Soon after his ordination, he was called to the care of Stewards Creek and Hardins Creek churches in Washington county. At Hardins Creek, several valuable ministers were raised up under his labors, the most noted of whom was Smith Thomas.
In the spring of 1818, he moved to what is now LaRue county, and gave his membership to Nolin church, of which the venerable Alexander McDugal was pastor. Of this church Mr. Thurman at once became the virtual pastor, and, on the death of the aged incumbent, was formally called to that position.
He also accepted the care of Mill Creek in Nelson county and Rhodes Creek, in Hardin county. He probably supplied some other church.
His removal to the territory of Salem Association marked a new era in the history of that ancient fraternity. Unlike most of the Baptist preachers of his time, he gave himself wholly to the ministry of the Word. He did not limit his ministry to the stated meetings of his pastoral charges, but labored to cultivate every part of the territory of these churches; preaching in school houses, private residences, and in the woods, wherever he could make opportunity. Such labors were soon followed by a glorious revival at Nolin. The influence spread to the neighboring churches, and several hundreds of people were baptized. During the sixteen years that he labored within the bounds of Salem Association, many precious revivals occurred in that region.
In 1828, after a season of coldness in the churches, which had continued many months, this earnest man of God became greatly afflicted on account of the spiritual dirth that pervaded the churches of Salem Association. He did not, however, diminish his labors, but strove to increase them. He was laboring from house to house, night and day, when the Divine presence began to be manifest among the people on Barren Run, a branch of Nolin river, and within the bounds of Nolin church. A few persons were converted and baptized. The revival spread rapidly, and soon a large number were baptized at Nolin church. Among these were John Duncan, who was for many years a valuable preacher, and Robert L. Thurman, who has been a most energetic and efficient agent for Missions, in Kentucky, more than thirty years. From Nolin, the revival spread to South Fork of Nolin, Severns Valley, and Three Forks of Bacon Creek. About 300 persons were baptized into the fellowship of these churches. During this revival, Mr. Thurman was assisted by William M. Brown, then an active young preacher.
Mr. Graves, in his biography of A. W. LaRue, relates the following ancedote: At Nolin church, on one Saturday, Mr. Thurman appeared very despondent. There had been a long dearth, and the pastor's heart was discouraged. He told the church that his labors had not been blessed; it probably was
not the will of the Lord that he should labor among them, and advised them to procure another pastor. He sat down, and a profound and painful silence ensued. Among the members present was the aged widow of John LaRue, alter whom LaRue county was named. She was one of those noble Priscillas with whom God occasionally blesses his churches. She had sat in a leaning attitude, listening to every word the pastor said, until he sat down. After a few moments of profound silence, she straightened herself up, and pointing one finger directly at the minister, said, in a strong emphatic tone: "Brother Thurman, I'll tell you what the matter is — Stop preaching John Calvin and James Arminius, and preach Jesus Christ." After a few moments, Mr. Thurman arose, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, and repeated the text: "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." The sermon that followed was one of thrilling power and eloquence. A rerevival [sic] commenced, during which 100 persons were added to Nolin church. The revival influence spread papidly over the surrounding country, and there were over 1,000 conversions within the bounds of Salem Association.
This was perhaps the last great work God wrought by this faithful servant. He had labored about sixteen years in this association, with wonderful success,and no man in it ever enjoyed a larger share of confidence and affection than did he. The following extract from the diary of Elder John Duncan, for 1834, will show something of the estimation in which this godly man was held: "August 24th. No life expected for Bro. Thurman. That night, I dreamed that Bro. Thurman was dead, and that I helped to lay him out. While laying him out, he came to life, and talked to me. I then awoke and slept no more that night.
"August 25th. Early in the morning, I started to Bro. Thurman's, fearing every minute that I would meet some one who would tell me he was dead. When I got in sight of the house, Mr. Farris told me he was dead. Ann Judson's expression, when she arrived at the Isle of France, and heard of the death of her friend, Harriet Newel, came into my mind: 'Oh death; thou destroyer of human felicity.' I went to the house and saw many weeping. Old Sister Lucas met me at the gate, and told me that Davy was gone home."
Thus, after lingering some weeks with typhoid fever, passed away from earth this faithful servant of Christ, on the 25th of August 1834, in the 43d year of his age.
In person, Mr. Thurman was low, heavy built, and rather corpulent, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair.
In doctrine, he was an Ultra Calvinist, but was a strong advocate of home and foreign missions. He was a strong, chaste speaker, and his sermons exhibited the fruits of a richly endowed and well disciplined mind. He was Moderator of Salem Association from 1830, till his death.
DAVID ELKIN appears to have been one of the early pastors of Good Hope church, in which he was probably raised up to the ministry. He was a man of extraordinary natural intellect, but was uncultivated, being barely able to read. He was extremely poor, as to this world's goods; and what was worse, he was very indolent and slovenly in his dress. Yet it pleased the Lord to use him to good account, especially in the early days of his ministry. He labored with a good degree of success, among the churches of Russel's Creek Association, and preached the introductory sermon before that body, in 1814. Not far from 1820, he united with the Separate Baptists of Nolynn Association, and preached among them some twenty-five or thirty years. His reputation was somewhat sullied in his latter years, perhaps from too free a use of strong drink.
JOHN CHANDLER was a number of years pastor of Good Hope church. He was a member of that church at a very early period, if he did not enter intoits constitution. Though far advanced in life, he appears to have been set apart to the ministry, in this church, subsequent to 1802, at which time he was clerk of Green River Association, and was not a preacher. He was, at that time, 46 years old, and evidently a man of much prominence in the association. He was clerk of Russel’s Creek Association, from its organization, in 1804, till 1808, when (in 1809,) he was chosen Moderator of that body, one year. From 1810, he served it as clerk ten consecutive years. He probably began to preach, about 1810, and was ordained pastor of Good Hope church, in 1811. In 1816, he was a member of Stewart’s Creek in Washington county, but continued to serve Good Hope church as pastor, till 1826, when he resigned on account of old age, he being about 71 years old.
He lived at least eight years after this, and continued to preach, as he had strength and opportunity. He is still remembered with much respect and affection, by the aged.
HORATIO CHANDLER was the son John Chandler, and succeeded his father in the pastoral care of Good Hope church. He was a fair English scholar, was endowed with a good intellect, and wielded a ready pen, but possessed a very moderate speaking talent, and did not succeed very well, as a preacher. He maintained a good moral character, and was an enterprising business man, in his private affairs, in the secular affairs of his denomination, and in the business department of Christian work. He was thought to have his heart too much set on money-making, for a preacher. He succeeded his father as clerk of Russells Creek Association, and served in that capacity 18 years. He did not live to be old.
WILLIS PECK was among the ablest and best pastors Good Hope church ever had. During a long ministry, in several different sections of the state, he was a valuable minister of Jesus Christ. His father, BENJAMIN PECK, was an early, but a weak Baptist preacher. He was probably raised up to the ministry in Brush Creek in Mercer county, and lived most of his ministerial life in the neighborhood of Perryville, Boyle county, and preached at that village, and at other places in the surrounding country. He was regarded a good singer, and possessed a fair gift for exhortation. Two of his sons, George B, and Willis, were good preachers.
Willis Peck was born in what is now Boyle county, Ky., January, 1811. He received a common English education, professed conversion in early life, and was baptized by Joel Gordon. He was ordained, in early manhood, to the ministry, after which he went to Todd county, and spent some time, evangelizing. Returning to Central Kentucky, he took the care of Mt. Salem church in Lincoln county. Here he married Eliza Jones. They had one son, and the young mother died. After the death of his wife, Mr. Peck accepted the pastoral care of the churches at Danville, and New Providence, in Boyle county.
In 1853, he married Elizabeth, daughter of George Philips, of Lebanon. He continued to preach at New Providence, seven or eight years. He also preached at Sugar Grove church in
Garrard county. In 1860, he moved to Woodford county, where he took charge of Clover Bottom church, and also of Unity church in Mercer county. To these he preached about four years. In 1864, he moved to Taylor county, and took charge of the churches at Campbellsville and Pleasant Hill. At the time of his death, he was preaching at Salem, Pleasant Hill, Brush Creek and Good Hope. He preached his last sermon at Pleasant Hill, and was much exhausted, before he finished his discourse. He anticipated his departure, and directed that, of his small property, $50 should be given to missions — $10 of that to the Rome Chapel. He then told his wife to tell his brethren that he died at his post. His last words were: "I am almost over the river." He passed to his reward, July 25, 1872.
DEEP CREEK church is located in the south-western part of Mercer county, and belongs to South District Association. It was probably gathered by James Keel, who became its first pastor. It was constituted in 1796, and the same year, applied for admission into South Kentucky Association, on the records of which it is described as "the Church on Chaplin." On account of some objection to its faith, constitution, or distinguishing appellation, it was not recieved into full fellowship. The objectionable features were probably removed by the next year, and the church remained a member of the old South Kentucky fraternity, until the peaceable division of that body in 1801, when it fell into its present associational connection. Ten years after its constitution, it numbered 44 members, and the next year, was reduced to 35. In 1812, it enjoyed a revival, which increased its membership to 75. The following year, Joel Gordon was called to its pastoral care, and served it about 25 years, during which it enjoyed prosperity. B. F. Keeling succeeded Mr. Gordon, and after his death, David Bruner became its pastor. It has to the present time continued prosperous. In 1879, it numbered 223 members, and was the largest church in South District Association, except Forks of Dix river.
JAMES KEEL, who has been accredited as the founder, under God, of Deep Creek church, was a native of Virginia, and was raised up to the ministry, in that state. In 1780, he moved to East Tennessee, where he aided in raising up the first churches in that region. He assisted in organizing Holston Association,with which South Kentucky Association corresponded. Mr. Keel was the preacher in Cherokee Creek church, Washington county, Tennessee, as late as 1790. Between this period and 1796, he moved to Kentucky, and settled in Mercer county. Here he is accredited with raising up Deep Creek church, as related above. He continued to serve this church probably till as late as 1812, although he had become a member of Salt River church, as early as 1806, and possibly went into its constitution in 1798. He must have been quite an old man in 1812, after which his name appears on no accessible record.
BENJAMIN FOWLER KEELING, succeeded Joel Gordon, as pastor of Deep Creek church. He was a preacher of fine abilities, and was very popular. He was one of the leading ministers of Baptist Association before which he preached the introductory sermon, on four occasions, and of which he was moderator six years.
He was born of very poor, but pious and respectable Baptist parents, in Washington county, Kentucky, 1808. His father, John Keeling, was a native of Washington county, and, although in very lowly circumstances, was respected as a man of piety. He occasionally engaged in public exhortation. His son was brought up to labor on a rented farm, during "crop time." The remainder of the year, he "hired out," to work by the day, or month, to aid in the support of his father's family. He, however, possessed a sprightly mind, and managed to learn to read and write. In his youth, he professed conversion, and was baptized into Rockbridge church, by Elijah Summars, who had raised up this church, in the northern part of Washington county.
Young Keeling soon began to pray and exhort in public, and the church licensed him to preach. His efforts were quite acceptable, and he gave indications of usefulness. But on being appointed constable, he gave himself to secular pursuits. He soon became involved in a difficulty, about some business trifle, and was excluded, from the church. Being a very popular young
man, a considerable party of the church adhered to him. This party set up a claim to being a church, and Mr. Keeling was induced to accept an irregular ordination, and become its pastor. Of this imprudent step, however, he soon repented, and was restored to the fellowship of Rockbridge church. He now returned to the work of a licensed preacher.
About this time he was married to Rebecca, daughter of John Gordon, and niece of that eminently godly minister of Christ, Joel Gordon. She was a Baptist, and a devoted christian woman, and made him a good wife. The fruits of this marriage were seven sons and three daughters, most of whom, like the children of job, have given themselves to feasting, rather than to godliness.
In 1840, Mr. Keeling was ordained to the pastoral care of Salem church (into the recent constitution of which he had entered), by John Dean, Joel Gordon, David Bruner, and Reuben Searcy. He was soon afterwards called to the care of Deep Creek, Glens Creek, and Rockbridge churches. He was also supply for several other churches, at different periods.
After laboring several years, in this field, with a good degree of success, he moved to Illinois, where he remained one year. But being dissatisfied with the country, he returned to his old field of labor in Kentucky.
Soon after returning from Illinois, he was elected justice of the peace. But finding this office incompatible with his ministerial duties, he resigned the magistracy, at the expiration of two years, and now gave himself more earnestly and consistantly to the work of the ministry. He was a good business man, a little inclined to wordly ambition, in his youth, and not indifferent about money-making. He was a good economist, and easily acquired property; was very popular with the world, as well as the church, and the way to local fame was open before him. He had a hard struggle with the world. But finally the grace of God overcame. His fine gifts were at last consecrated to his holy calling. His success, both in building up the churches, and in leading sinners to Christ, was abundant. He rose rapidly in the estimation of his brethren, and, in a short time, was the most popular preacher in his association. "Whosoever honoreth me," said the blessed Savior, "him will my Father honor. But Mr. Keeling did not long enjoy his honor,
among the brethren, or pursue his course of usefulness. His work on earth was soon done. He died of typhoid fever, July 27, 1854.
In docrine, Mr. Keeling was moderately calvinistic, but urged all men to repent and believe the gospel. His address was tender and pathetic, and he often wept profusely, while dwelling on the love of God, or the sufferings of Christ. He addressed the hearts of the people with great power. His congregations were often bathed in tears, and the Lord added many souls to his ministry.
DAVID BRUNER was the fourth pastor of Deep Creek church, in which capacity he served twenty-two years. Mr. Bruner, it is believed, was of German extraction, and was born in Jessamine county, Kentucky, 1810. He was early left an orphan. His mother died when he was only six years old. On her death bed she called him to her side, and, placing her hand on his head, said: "My son! be a good boy and meet me in heaven." Young as he was, the impression made by his mother’s dying words was never effaced.
When about eight years old, he was brought to Mercer county by Michael Horn, who raised him up with his family, till he was eighteen years old. In his 21st year, he professed religion and was baptized by Joel Gordon. He soon feltimpressed with a sense of duty to preach the glad tidings of salvation to lost sinners, He was wholly illiterate, but his heart was stirred with a great desire to know the will of God. With the help of his wife he was soon able to read the Bible. This holy book he studied with great zeal and diligence. Meanwhile, he began to hold meetings at school houses and the private residences of the people. He was doubtless very awkward and ignorant. But the deep feeling he manifested and his great earnestness in trying to lead sinners to the Savior, brought the people together to hear him. He possessed good natural gifts, and his improvement in speaking was so satisfactory to the church that his ordination was called for. Accordingly, in 1842, he was set apart to the sacred office of the ministry, by Strother Cook, Willis Peck and Joel Gordon. He was soon called to the care of Deep Creek church, and then to that of others. He has lived and labored in the same locality during his whole ministry, and perhaps no man in the State has been better adapted to his field of labor.
He has served as pastor, at different periods, twenty churches. He has aided in constituting eight churches, most of which he has gathered by his own labors, and has baptized about two thousand people. He is now (1885) in his 75th year, and is still laboring in the cause of his beloved Master.
Mr. Bruner is regarded only a moderate preacher. He is a good exhorter and sings well. Yet no one of his gifts seems extraordinary. His greatness which his works unmistakably declare, consists in his industry, diligence and faithfulness to the Master in whom he trusts, and by whose blessing he prevails.
The distinguished John L. Waller, is reported to have said, (in substance) after hearing David Bruner preach: "I would give anything I could command to be able to preach like that man." It is related that the great and godly William Vaughan, while preaching on the subject of God's accomplishing great ends by feeble instruments, turned to David Bruner, who was sitting behind him on the stand, and said (substantially): "See what this raw Dutchman can do when upheld by the power of God."
MT. NEBO church, originally called Dreaming Creek, and popularly known as Woods' Meetinghouse, first appears on the minutes of Tates Creek Association, in 1796. It was located in Madison county, about three miles from Richmond. This church appears to have been a daughter of Otter Creek, and was probably gathered by Christopher Harris and Peter Woods and by them constituted the same year it was received into the Association; at which time it numbered ninety members. From its constitution, it was a prominent and influential member of Tates Creek Association. Peter Woods and Christopher Harris, who were in its constitution, were both active and useful preachers. In 1829, it numbered 116 members. But the next year, it was torn in factions, and a large proportion of its membership was carried away by the Campbelliteschism. In 1832, it contained only sixty-three members. After this, it gradually withered away till it dissolved.
PETER WOODS was of Scotch-Irish extraction, and came early from Virginia to Madison county, Kentucky. Here he united with Otter Creek church, in which he was ordained to the ministry in 1795, by David Thompson and Andrew Tribble. The
following year, he entered into the constitution of Mt. Nebo church, of which he appears to have been the pastor for about thirteen years. He soon rose to prominence among the ministers of Tates Creek Association, of which he was moderator, from 1805 till 1809. Not long after the latter date, he moved to the Boones Lick country in Missouri. Here he labored with other Kentucky preachers, in building up the churches of which Mount Pleasant Association was formed. One of these churches was Mt. Nebo, and was doubtless gathered by the first pastor of Mt. Nebo church in Kentucky. Mr. Woods was moderator of Concord Association, a daughter of Old Mt. Pleasant, as late as 1824 — perhaps a year or two later, when, it is supposed, the good Master called him up higher.
The work of the Kentucky Baptists during the year 1796, appears very small. Yet it was by no means unimportant. Six churches were planted. Some of them were in the midst of wide fields of destitution. Two of them are still large and flourishing churches, and even those whose original stocks have perished, have left many flourishing scions to bless the broad lands, on which they grow, with the generous fruits of faith, hope and love. _______________
1 In Clack's History of Salem Association it is improperly printed Buck Creek.
2 Pittmans Creek church, now known as the Campbellsville church, according to Horatio Chandler, was not constituted till May 21, 1803. This author has been unable to clear up the matter, satisfactorily. =================
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. CHR&A, 1984. — jrd]
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