Great Political Agitation -- Mount Tabor, Beaver Dam, and other Churches Gathered in 1798
The year 1798 was an exceedingly unpropitious time for the propagation of religious teaching, or the exercising of religious influence, among the people of Kentucky. Perhaps political excitement never run higher than during that year. There were three principal causes, which produced this almost wild agitation in the popular mind.
First: The people had become disgusted with their State Constitution, and desired a new one. The proposition to call a convention, for the purpose of forming a new constitution, had been submitted to the legislature, and had passed the lower house, but was defeated in the senate. This enraged the people the more, because the senate, under the constitution, then in force, was not elected by the people, but by a college of electors. The excitement on this subject continued to increase, until the fall election decided in favor of the convention.
But discussion of the subject of forming a new constitution, and the emphatic decision of the people in its favor, brought the subject of emancipation before the people again. The question, as to whether the new constitution should require, and provide for, the gradual emancipation of slaves, in the commonwealth, was propounded and warmly discussed. The brilliant and influential Henry Clay boldly advocated the affirmative. Much of the perishable property of the people of the state consisted in slaves, and the owners were necessarily restless and agitated, until the question was finally settled, by the adoption of the new constitution.
But a third, and apparently more powerful cause of agitation, was the recent passage of two laws, by congress, known as the Alien and Sedition Laws. The cause of the passage of
these laws, and their purport, may be briefly stated. The western people were enthusiastic admirers of France, on account of her people having aided the American colonies in their struggle for Independence, and were as strongly embittered against the Administration of the United States Government. Meanwhile, there were grave misunderstandings between the governments of France and the United States, and war between the two powers seemed imminent. Under these circumstances, French agents were sent to Kentucky to kindle the enthusiasm of the people in favor of "the French Republic," and fan the flame of their hatred against Mr. Adams' Administration. The temper of the Kentuckians was such that state laws couldnot be enforced against the French agents. Under these circumstances, congress passed one law by which aliens should be arrested and placed under the control of the President of the United States, and another, to use the powers of the General Government to punish and suppress slanders against the members of congress and the Adminstration. These laws were regarded as alarming encroachments on the rights of the states. When the Kentucky legislature convened, it passed the famous "Resolutions of 1798." These resolutions, drawn up by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, were offered by John Breckenridge and seconded by Colonel Robert Johnson. They passed the lower house unanimously, and had but one vote against them in the senate. The resolutions set forth the Democratic, or Jeffersonian theory of government, and virtually declared the Alien and Sedition Laws void.
While the people were so wildly excited on the subject of politics, the revival wave that had given such cheering hope to the friends of Zion the preceding year, had passed away, and the churches again settled down into their former apathy. The revival, however, seems to have had a more lasting effect on those preachers and churches more remote from political centers. There was much religious activity on the frontiers, and:.n unusually large number of churches were constituted during the year.
LESS CREEK church, printed "Lewis Creek" and "Louis Creek," in Manly's Annals of Elkhorn Association, was a small body, located a few miles from Washington, in Mason county. It was admitted a member of Elkhorn Association in 1798. It
then numbered sixteen members. The next year, it entered into the constitution of Bracken Association. In 1809, it embraced a membership of thirty-six, and had Charles Anderson for its preacher. In 1815 William Vaughan took the pastoral care of it, and preached for it a number of years. On Mr. Vaughan's resignation, in 1827, Blackstone L. Abernathy was called to succeed him. He adopted the views of A. Campbell, and carried most of the church with him. It is probable that the remnant of Lees Creek soon afterward dissolved.
FLOWER CREEK church was located in Pendleton county. It united with Elkhorn Association, in 1798. It then numbered fifteen members. In 1802, it had increased to thirty-one members. The following year it went into the constitution of North Bend Association. It remained in this fraternity till 1827, when it went into the constitution of Campbell County Association. It Was dissolved in 1833.
MT. STERLING church was located in the county seat of Montgomery. It was constituted in 1798, and the same year, united with Elkhorn Association, to which it reported a membership of thirty-nine. That great and good man, David Barrow, came to Kentucky, in June, 1798, and took charge of thischurch the same year. Under his ministry it had a steady growth, for several years. In 1804 it took a letter from Elkhorn and joined North District Association. But the next year, it withdrew from that body, and joined a fraternity of emancipationists. In this connection it continued till the death of Mr. Barrows, November 14, 1819, when the emancipation society fell to pieces. In 1823, the church returned to North District Association, and called John Smith to its pastoral care. Mr. Smith soon became a convert to Campbellism, and carried the church with him into the Campbellite schism.
The present Baptist church in Mt. Sterling was gathered by J. Pike Powers in 1870, and in 1878 numbered eighty-seven members.
RIDGE church was a small body, located within the original bounds of Long Run Association. It united with Salem Association, in 1798. In 1803, it went into the constitution of Long Run Association. It was probably dissolved soon after this. It numbered only five members in 1803.
SALT RIVER church is located on the north side of the
stream from which it derives its name, in Anderson county. It was gathered by that famous “father of Salem Association,” William Taylor, and John Penny, and was constituted by the former, February 3, 1798. The following persons were in the constitution: John Penny, Rawleigh Stott, Ann Tracy, Lucy Stott, Albert Plough, Benjamin Ellison and Stott's Nancy. The Philadelphia confession of faith was adopted with the exceptions made to it by Elkhorn Association. It was resolved that believing in "redemption from hell," members permitting their children to attend dancing schools, and joining the Free Masons, were sufficient grounds of exclusion. At the April meeting, following, John Penny was chosen pastor, and continued to serve the church in that capacity until he was removed by death, in 1833. This church first joined Salem Association, the same year it was constituted, and, in 1803, went into the constitution of Long Run Association, with a membership of 138. The year after the church was constituted, it excluded a brother and sister for "taking up the occupation of tavern keeper." This is probably the first case of exclusion from a Baptist church in Kentucky, for keeping a grog-shop. Had all the churches, of that, and subsequent periods, followed the example, it would have saved the cause of Christ from much shame and confusion, society from much poverty, degradation and suffering, and the State from large expenditures of treasure. In 1801, ninety-five were added to the church, mostly by baptism.
In December, 1811, twenty-nine members were dismissed to form Goshen church, which was constituted January 4, 1812. In 1815, the church was dismissed from Long Run, and entered into the constitution of Franklin Association. At this time, it numbered 115 members.In September, 1818, twelve members were dismissed to go into the constitution of Fox Creek church. In 1826, the church entered into the constitution of Baptist Association. In 1828, a refreshing from the Lord added to the church fifty-eight by baptism. The next year, she sent out a colony of nine members, to form Little Flock church.
On the death of John Penny, in 1833, the church called to ordination Jordan H. Walker, and invited him to take the pastoral care of her. He accepted the call. This was, unfortunate
for the church. Mr. Walker was a speculator in "eternal decrees," and soon led the church into the same misty labyrinths. Opposition to missions was a natural consequence. In April, 1838, the church appointed a committee of six brethren, of which Jordan H. Walker was one, "to draft resolutions against benevolent societies, falsely so-called, etc." The committee reported at the next meeting, and their report, condeming theological schools and benevolent societies was adopted. The following year the church sent messengers to Baptist Association, of which she was a member, requesting that body to dissolve, and, in case it did not dissolve, to grant her a letter of dismission. The Association refused to do either. The letter of dismission was withheld because the church failed to put the request for it in her letter. Feeling aggreived at the Association she resolved to withdraw from that body. In 1840 she was admitted into Licking Association of Particular Baptists. At this time she numbered about ninety-six members. From this period, like all the churches in Licking Association, she began to wither. In 1876, Salt River church numbered only forty-eight members, but was the largest in Licking Association.
JOHN PENNY, one of the founders, and the first pastor of Old Salt River church, was among the most active and useful of the pioneer preachers. He was not only very diligent in spreading the gospel over a large area of country, but he was a man of excellent ability and practical wisdom. That he was ten years moderator of Long Run Association, while John Taylor, William Kellar and George Waller were members of that body, shows in what estimation he was held among his brethren.
Mr. Penny was born in Hanover county, Va., about 1764, where he received a fair English education, for the times. He was converted under the preaching of Reuben Ford and William Webber, and was baptized into the fellowship of Chickahominy church, in his native county, with about 60 others, in 1785. The first pastor of this old church was John Clay, the father of the distinguished orator and statesman, Henry Clay of Kentucky. He died young, about 1780. The church was then supplied by the joint labors of Ford and Webber. Under their ministry, Mr. Penny was brought into the ministry.
Soon after his marriage to Frances White, he moved to Kentucky, and settled on Salt river, in what is now Anderson
county, about the year 1790. There was, at that time, no church within many miles of him. He at once commenced cultivating the large, thinly peopled field around him, for his Master. Many Christians were comforted, many sinners were led to Christ, and a number of churches rose up under the ministry of this active and zealous young man.
About 1795, John Tanner, a man of good preaching talent, but of a restless, aspiring temper, succeeded in persuading James Rucker, a good pious old preacher, whose daughter he had married, that the Baptists in Kentucky had become very corrupt. He and Rucker, therefore, determined to form "a new, pure and separate church." They induced a few members of Old Clear Creek church in Woodford county, of which they were members at the time, to join with them. They also prevailed on John Penny to join with them, in the new organization. They constituted a church on Salt river, not far from Mr. Penny’s residence, under the appellation of the "Reformed Baptist church." It held no correspondence with other Baptist churches, and received members only by "experience and good character." Mr. Penny was induced to take the pastoral care of this immaculate church. This was probably his first pastorate. It was not long before the church was rent with internal dissensions, and was dissolved, in 1798. During the same year, Salt River church was constituted, and Mr. Penny was immediately chosen its pastor. In this position he served with much satisfaction to the church, and with excellent success, about 35 years.
In 1799, he took charge of a little church called Mill Creek, five miles east of the present site of Bardstown. He found that John Bailey’s “hell redemption” theory had been adopted by one or more of its members, and openly refused to commune with the church. This brought about a proper discipline, and the church has since occupied a respectable position, in the denomination. In 1802, Mr. Penny was instrumental in gathering Goshen church, in Anderson county. Of this church, he was chosen pastor, and served it till his son William was ordained to the ministry. In 1801, he aided William Hickman, Senr., and Warren Cash in raising up South Benson church, in Franklin county. This church raised up a pastor, William Hickman, Junr., who preached to it more than forty years. Besides
those already named, Mr. Penny aided in gathering a number of other churches, to which he ministered till they could be supplied. As he advanced in years, and churches and preachers greatly increased in numbers, he narrowed the field of his labors. At his death, he was preaching to Salt River, Little Flock, and Fox Creek churches, all in Anderson county.
last sermon he preached was at Salt River, in the Spring of 1833. When he closed his discourse, he addressed an exhortation to the people, to whom he had preached now about 35 years, after this manner: “My dear brethren and sisters, the dreadful scourge of cholera is now raging in the land, sweeping away its thousands to their long home. Before another church meeting shall come around, many of us may be in the great Eternity. Perhaps this is the last time you will ever hear my voice on Earth.” Then stretching forth his hand to the unconverted, he said, with great tenderness: "How oft would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not." Coming down on the floor, he invited all who desired to be prayed for to come forward. Quite a number came, and he knelt and prayed with them for the last time.
A few days after this he was attacked by cholera, with great violence, and it became apparent that his time was short. He bore his sufferings with calmess and patience, talking to those around him, of the glorious lord and the heavenly Jerusalem that he was about to enter. A few moments before he breathed his last, he looked around on his friends, and said: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me, which the Lord, the Righteous judge himself, shall give to me." A few moments more, and his spirit was with that Savior whom he had so faithfully preached. This was on the 15th of June, 1833.
In doctrine, Mr. Penny held the views of Andrew Fuller. His manner of speaking was clear, brief and pointed, and thoroughly Biblical. It is said that he seldom preached longer than thirty-five minutes. He exhorted sinners to repent, and invited them forward for prayer.
His grand-daughter thus describes his personal appearance: "He was small in statue, fair complexion, had keen blue eyes
and a Roman nose. He was very straight in his carriage, and rather prided himself on being old-fashioned. He always dressed in snuff colored cloth. His coat was rather of a military cut, with straight breast and collar, and ornamented with plain silver buttons, each of which bore his initials. He was a neat, plain looking, plain spoken old gentleman." He raised seven sons and two daughters, all of whom became Baptists. Two of his sons, William and Eli, became preachers. Eli embraced the Two-seeds theory, and was preaching in Missouri as late as 1867.
WILLIAM WHITE PENNY, son of Elder John Penny, was born in Anderson county, Kentucky, July 12, 1790. He was baptized by his father into the fellowship of Salt River church, in his 20 year. He studied medicine under an "Indian doctor" of the name of Richard Carter, of Shelbyville, and acquired a considerable reputation as a "Root and herb doctor." While under Carter's treatment for scrofula, and, at the same time, under his tuition, Mr. Penny wrote the Auto-biography and medical practice of this local celebrity, in prose and verse, which the unlettered doctor fathered and sent forth to the world, in an octavo volume of 500 pages. The book has very little merit of any kind except as a curiosity in the world of letters.
Mr. Penny was ordained to the ministry, at Goshen church in Anderson county, by William Hickman, Sr., William Hickman, Jun., and John Penny, and became pastor of that church, in 1822. This position he filled till his death. He also had the care of Unity and Shawnee Run churches, in Mercer county, a short time, but gave up his charge of them, on account of his medical practice. Mr. Penny's principal gift was that of exhortation. He was tender and affectionate in his address, and usually wept freely while exhorting sinners to repent. He was a man of great benevolence, and was much loved and honored by the poor around him, to whom his hand was always open. He often held meetings at his own house, and a considerable number of people, as converted, under his ministry. He died of cholera, in great triumph, in 1833.
EDMUND WALLER began his ministry at Salt River church. He was born in Spottsylvania county, Va., January 1, 1775, and was the son of William E. Waller, a pioneer preacher who moved, probably with Lewis Craig’s traveling church, to what
is now Garrard county, Ky., in the fall of 1781. After remaining here about five years, he moved to Fayette county, and settled near Bryants Station. Here his son Edmund was reared to manhood, with a very scant education. He learned the trade of a house carpenter, and, when he arrived at the age of manhood, entered upon the labors of his calling, with energy and industry. He was married early to Ann Durrett, who lived but a few months after her marriage. He afterwards married Betsy Lightfoot, about the year 1800.
Tradition has it, that Edmund Waller sought and obtained hope in Christ, at about the age of 13 years. But on account of the popular prejudice against children’s joining the church, he did not make a public profession of religion, until the third Saturday in March, 1798, when he was baptized into the fellowship of Bryants church in Fayette county, by Ambrose Dudley. In October, 1800, he was excluded from the fellowship of the church, for attending a dancing school. In the following March, he was restored to the fellowship of the church, and granted a letter of dismission. Meanwhile, he had moved within the present limits of Anderson county. Here he and his wife, Betsy, united with Salt River church, then under the pastoral care of John Penny, in April, 1801. This was in the midst of the great revival. Mr. Waller’szeal in prayer and exhortation induced the church to grant him liberty to exercise his gift, in April, 1802. In consequence of some misunderstanding between him and his pastor, the church ordered that he should be publicly rebuked, “which was done by Bro. Hickman,” in February, 1804. This difficulty was probably the cause of delaying his ordination. In January, 1805, a small church of 27 members, located somewhere near the southern line of Shelby county, and known as Bluestone petitioned Salt River church to grant Mr. Waller a letter of dismission, to join it. The request was granted, and Mr. Waller united with that body. The design, no doubt, was to have him ordained, and to secure his services as pastor. Bluestone, church was admitted into Long Run Association, in 1804, and probably maintained an existence, only about five years. Mr. Waller was a member, and, no doubt, the pastor of this church, from 1805, till 1808. During the latter date, he was called to Hillsboro' church in Woodford county. He at once moved to
the territory of this fraternity, and entered on his pastoral labors. Two years after this, he moved to Jessamine county and took the care of Mt. Pleasant church, still retaining the care of Hillsboro.' Besides these, he was, during his ministry, pastor of several other churches, at different periods. Among these were Shawnee Run, Danville, Clover Bottom, Nicholasville, and Glens Creek. To the last named and Mt. Pleasant, he devoted the pastoral labors of his latter years. He died at his home in Jessamine county, in the Autumn of 1842.
Edmund Waller was reckoned among the able ministers of his day. He probably had no superior, as a pastor, in the state. His success in bringing sinners to Christ was extraordinary. He is supposed to have baptized about 1,500 persons. He was a diligent reader, and a close student of the Bible. He opposed the methods of current missionary operations, in the earlier years of his ministry, but became warmly in favor of missions and higher education, especially for ministers of the gospel, in later years. Two of his sons, the distinguished John L. Waller, and the brilliant young N.B. Waller, occupied the Baptist pulpit.
JORDAN H. WALKER was baptized into the fellowship of Salt River church, in 18 to. He was a prominent and active member of the church, especially in its business affairs, till 1838, when, on the death of John Penny, he was ordained to the ministry, and called to the pastoral care of the church. He was a man of fair ability, but does not appear to have been profitable in the ministry. He was strongly opposed to missions, and soon led his charge into an anti-missionary association. He was probably pastor of some other anti-missionary churches. He was highly esteemed by his brethren in Licking Association. He died at his home in [or near] Lawrenceburg, December 25, 1862.
Mr. Walker was a man of eminent respectability, and purity of character. He was, it is believed, a number of years clerk of one of the courts at Lawrenceburg, and was a valuable and respected citizen.
MT. SALEM church was originally called Hurricane. It is located in the southern part of Lincoln county. It was constituted a United Baptist church, of nine members by Joel Noel and John Mason, September 15, 1798. Some of its early members
were Evan Jones, Samuel Jones, Joseph Baker and Warren Clark.
Joel Noel was probably the first pastor of this church, the growth of which was, for many years, very slow. It united with Tates Creek Association, to which it reported in, 1800, fourteen members. The great revival, the year following, brought its membership up to thirty-four. In 1810, it united with Cumberland River Association, which had been constituted the year before, to which it reported, in 1812, forty-seven members. It remained in this Association till about 1843, when South Kentucky Association of United Baptists was formed, and it became a member of that body. At this period it numbered 136 members. Moses Foley was many years the beloved pastor of this church. The church continued a course of great prosperity from 1843, till 1875. At the latter date, it numbered 231 members. But soon after this it became much distracted by internal discord, and, in 1879, was reduced to sixty-nine members. Since that time, it is said, better prospects have opened up before it, and it is hoped that it will soon return to its ancient prosperity. This body has on its record, a resolution worthy of notice. It reads as follows:
"Resolved, That we believe it to be wrong for a brother to engage in preaching, or having public religious gatherings, unless the church be satisfied that he can do no more good than harm.” The church is now located at McKinney, and J. M. Coleman is its pastor.
STEPHEN COLLIER, one of the early pastors of Mt. Salom church, was born in East Tennessee, in 1772. He united with a church in his native country, 1802, and was shortly afterward put into the ministry. He moved to Kentucky an ordained preacher, not far from the year 1810, and settled in Rockcastle county. He united with Flat Lick church, in Pulaski county. Of this church, Mt. Salem and others, he became pastor. He labored in the ministry, in this field, about thirty-three years, with much approbation and success. He died of a cancer on his lip, which confined him to his house, about a year, May 12, 1844.
Of this good man, John S. Higgins, who was long his colaborer in the ministry, writes: "Stephen Collier was a large portly man of good common sense, strong voice, and a good gift of exhortation. With a burning zeal, he proclaimed the
gospel of God with great success in his own, and several of the surrounding counties. He was poor in the things of this world, but rich in faith, warning men and women everywhere he went, to repent and believe the gospel."
HENRY F. BUCKNER, son of Daniel Buckner, succeeded his father in the pastoral care of Mt. Salem church, in July, 1847. He was born in Cooke county, Tenn., December 18, 1818. He exhibited, in early childhood, a great love of books, and through the willing sacrifices of his parents, acquired an academic education, in his native state, after which he finished his education at the State University of Alabama. In 1832 he professed religion and was baptized by his father into the fellowship of Madisonville church, Monroe county, Tennessee. He was ordained to the ministry, in Alabama, in 1840. In 1842 he married in Pulaski county, Kentucky, and was afterward employed by the General Association of Kentucky Baptists as missionary among the mountains of that State. He labored in this capacity about three years, when about 1849, he settled on a small farm in Pulaski county. On July 3, of that year, he was called to the care of Mt. Salem church, and, perhaps some others. In 1849, he went as a missionary to the Creek Indians, and, with but two short interruptions, labored with the red men of the forest more than forty years. He was a strong, active man, and seemed to enjoy almost perfect health, till the fall of 1882, when he died of pneumonia.
MILL CREEK church is located on a small stream from which it derived its name, one and one-half miles south of Tompkinsville, in Monroe county. It is, by several years, the oldest church on the southern border of Kentucky, east of Big Barren river. The first settlers of that region seem to have been North Carolinians, but emigrated directly from the Holston Valley in East Tennessee. The church appears to have been gathered by John Mulky, sometime during the year 1798. The earliest record now existing, states that on the 11th of September of that year, John Mulky and John Wood were chosen to the (Mero District) Association, on Cumberland river. In October, the minutes of the association were read, and Philip Mulky was appointed a deacon. In the following April, the church decides that it is wrong to hunt horses or cattle on Sunday. John Mulky was granted a certificate that he might obtain
license to celebrate the rites of marriage. In 1800, Ben Gist was elected to an eldership. The church calls helps to install its minister, and in September, appoints John Mulky, Ben. Gist, John Wood and Thomas Sullivan to an association on Little Barren. At this time the church entered into the constitution of Green River Association.
In 1802, Mill Creek church reported to Green River Association, forty-two baptisms, and a total membership of 120. In 1805, it entered into theconstitution of Stockton Valley Association, For a number of years, this church was very large and prosperous. But John Mulky led off a large faction of the body to the Arians, or Stoneites. After a while another faction went off with the Campbellites, and, finally the remnant of the church split on the subject of missions. Now (1885) the old church, which is the mother of many daughters, some of whom are illigitimate, is feeble and ready to die, scowling at missions, theological schools, benevolent societies, and "money-hunters."
JOHN MULKY was the first preacher of which there is any tradition, that labored in southeastern Kentucky. He appears to have been very active and successful. Besides preaching in the territory of Mill Creek, which was very extensive at first, he extended his labors beyond Green River, into the interior of the State. For a time he preached monthly "on Pittman," in Green county, and in Russells settlement in Adair. He was regarded as a preacher of good ability. But he was unstable and "carried about by every wind of doctrine." First falling into Arianism, and then into Campbellism, as tradition has it, he probably did the cause of Christ more harm than good. He, however, maintained, as far as known, an unblemished moral character.
PHILIP MULKY was raised up to the ministry in this church during the great revival, at the beginning of the century. It is believed that the now venerable John Newton Mulky 1 Glasgow, Kentucky, who is highly esteemed as a preacher, among the Campbellites, is a son of Philip Mulky.
WILLIAM CHISM, a good man of small gifts, lived in Monroe county, and was a number of years the preacher in old Mill Creek church. John Garrot2 is its present pastor.
DRIPPING SPRING church was, at first, called "the Sinks of Beaver Creek." It is distinguished for its having been “the church home” of Robert Stockton and the Warders. It is located within the present limits of Metcalf county, and was constituted, in 1798. By whom it was gathered is uncertain, but most probably by Alexander Davidson. It had built an edifice, known as Beaver Creek M. H. previous to June, 1799. It united with eight other churches in the constitution of Green River Association, at Mt. Tabor, in Barren county, the third Saturday in June, 1800. In the fall of 1802, it reported to that body, a membership of 133. Previous to this time, it held in its membership three preachers -- Robert Stockton, Alexander McDougal and Robert Smith. The last two soon afterwards went to other churches, and the first became pastor of the church. The church dismissed members to form new churches around it till, in 1812, it numbered only 81. After this, it was prosperous until 1830, when it entered into the constitution of Barren River Association. Soon after this, the churches of this body began to be greatly agitated on the subject of missions. Campbellism also carried off many of their members. In 1836, Dripping Spring, with five other churches, withdrew from Barren River Association, on account of that fraternity’s favoring missionary operations, and entered into the constitution of a small fraternity of anti-missionary churches, since known as "Original Barren River Association." At this time, Dripping Spring church reported 13 members. In 1859, it had increased to 108 members. It has considerably diminished since that time, but is still a respectable church in its Association. Ephriam Butram, a respectable preacher, is its present pastor.
Robert Stockton and Alexander McDougal were both distinguished preachers in their day: They were co-laborers, for a short time, in Dripping Spring church, but which of them was its first pastor, or whether either of them was regarded as pastor of the church, during their joint labors there does not appear. But Mr. Stockton was pastor of the church for many years afterwards. He was one of the most laborious and successful ministers among the Baptists of Virginia, and is said to have been thrust into jail at one time, “for preaching the gospel contrary to law.”
ROBERT STOCKTON was born of Presbyterian parents, in
Albemarl county, Va., Dec. 12, 1743. He received a moderate English education, and was brought up to the trade of a hatter, by which he acquired a good estate.
Very early in life, his mind became impressed upon the subject of religion, and he united with the Presbyterian church. When he was of sufficient age, he entered the army as a captain in the service of the King of England. While performing duty in this capacity, he became much troubled about the salvation of his soul. He engaged much in secret prayer and meditation, till he experienced a very joyful change in his feelings. Never having been taught the nature of experimental religion, he knew not what so peaceful and happy a state of mind and heart meant. Not long afterwards, he heard a Mr. Davis preach on the subject of experimental religion, and immediately recognized the exercises of his own heart to be the work of divine grace. An investigation of the scriptures convinced him of the duty of believers' baptism. He therefore submitted to that ordinance, at the hands of Samuel Harris, in 1771, and united with a Baptist church in Henry county.
Immediately after his baptism, he rejoined his company, called them into line, and spoke to them to the following purport: "Gentlemen, I have found another King, and have enlisted in His service. I am now going to leave you. But, before we part, allow me to read from the order of my Commander." He then read a chapter from the Bible, and called on them to join with him in prayer. This done, he resigned his captaincy, and entered actively into the service of his new Master.
Few men in Virginia were ever more active and zealous in preaching the gospel, or more successful in winning souls to Christ, than Robert Stockton. He was among the most active ministers in building up the churches of Strawberry Association. In a letter to Robert B. Semple, he stated that he had been present at the constitution of eleven churches, within the bounds of that organization. J.B. Taylor says that these churches were built up mainly by Mr. Stockton's labors. He was pastor of two churches -- Snow Creek in Franklin county and Leatherwood in Henry. He was instrumental in gathering both of these churches. He was many years Moderator of Strawberry Association.
During the Revolutionary War, and just before the battle of Brandywine, Mr. Stockton, like David, visited the army to see how his brethren did, and to administer to their wants. During the battle, he fell into the hands of the British, and was kept a prisoner two years. When he was permitted to return home, he found that his faithful wife had not only supported her family, but had paid off all his debts. The maiden name of this excellent woman was Katherine Blakey. On the refusal of her parents to consent to her marrying young Stockton, the youthful lovers eloped to North Carolina, and were married, when she was only fourteen years of age.
On his return from his long imprisonment, Mr. Stockton continued to labor in the same field, with his wonted zeal and success, till near the close of the Century, when he began to think of moving to a new country. R. B. Semple says of him, at this period: "Although his usefulness was so obvious in this country, and although he was among the richest men in those parts, his mind was not at rest. From some cause, not known to the compiler, he moved to Kentucky and settled within the limits of Green River Association." This removal occurred in 1799. Mr. Stockton settled in what is now Metcalf county. Here he united with Dripping Spring church, which had been constituted the year before. In June of the following year, messengers from nine churches assembled at Mt. Tabor church in Barren county, for the purpose of organizing an association. Mr. Stockton was chosen Moderator, and Green River Association was constituted.
Mr. Stockton was called to the care of Dripping Spring church, which was prosperous under his charge as long as he was able to preach. He was also Moderator of Green River Association, till he became too old and feeble to fill the position. His arrival in Kentucky, just at the commencement of the great revival, was very propitious. In this great work, he bore an active part. Many valuable young preachers were raised up, and the churches became numerous and strong. A few years more of faithful labor, and the aged servant’s work was done. He died in great peace, in the fall of 1825. The character of his labor is well portrayed by Robert B. Semple, in the following language:
"Mr. Stockton had always an inclination to travel, and
perhaps no man ever traveled to greater advantage. For, possessing an invincible boldness, it was quite unimportant to him what kind of a house he went to, whether saint or sinner, friend or opposer. He never failed, wherever he went, to enter largely into religious conversation; and having great command of his temper, and great presence of mind, he often made religious impressions upon minds previously swallowed up by prejudice. It was also an invariable rule with him to propose, and, if permitted, to perform family worship. In doing this, he would often exhort the family a half hour or more. It is very entertaining to hear Mr. Stockton relate the various adventures of his life, respecting the things of this sort."
"His talents as a preacher, are hardly up to mediocrity; and no man thinks less of them than himself: but his talent for exhortation is very considerable. The way that he has done so much good has not been through his great or numerous talents, but by occupying such as he had in an industrious manner."
ROBERT SMITH was discharging the functions of a gospel minister in this church, as early as 1800, and may have been in its constitution. He had been excluded from some church, but what church, and for what purpose is unknown. He had been very active in preaching, in various parts of the state, and had brought some reproach on the Baptists. "When I first landed at Maysville, Kentucky," said the venerable and distinguished John Bryce, "I went to a prominent merchant in the place, and asked him if he could tell me where any Baptists were, telling him I was a Baptist preacher. He replied sneeringly: 'so was Robert Smith.' I immediately returned to the hotel, without asking him further questions." Smith became so notorious that Elkhorn Association cautions the churches against him in her minutes of 1797. Notwithstanding this, he worked his way into Dripping Spring church, which was far out on the frontier, at that time. In 1801, he went into the constitution of a church on Mud Camp.3 This church sent for helps to restore him to the ministry, but what came of it is not known. He was afterwards an active preacher in Livingston county.
ALEXANDER McDOUGAL was a member of Dripping Spring
church, as early as March, 1802, at which time he was sent by that church to aid in the ordination of Jacob Lock, at Mt. Tabor in Barren county. How long he hadbeen a member of that church does not appear. He may have been in its constitution, and the church may have been gathered by his labors. However this may be, it is known that he was active in gathering the early churches in the middle portion of the state. It may be said to the honor of Ireland, that quite a large number of the most zealous and useful preachers that sowed the gospel seed on the virgin soil of Kentucky, were either born in that island, or were descendants of Irish emigrants.
Alexander McDougal was born in Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1739. In his twenty-first year, he emigrated to North America, and settled in Wilmington, North Carolina. Here he was married to Hannah Done, and soon afterwards moved to Union District, South Carolina. He and his wife were both rigid Presbyterians, and evinced their attachment to their church by having their first children “christened” under its authority.
About the year 1770, he became convinced that he was still in his sins. His convictions were very pungent, and led him speedily to the cross of Christ. Here he found the Savior very precious to his soul. He united with the Baptist church on Lower Tiger river. He was zealous in the cause of Christ, and soon began to exhort his neighbors to flee from the wrath of God to the Savior of sinners. Having an ardent nature, and enjoying much of the love of God in his own soul, he had a great desire for the salvation of others. At what time he was licensed to preach does not appear; but it is supposed about the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Being a warm supporter of the cause of Liberty, his early labors in the ministry involved him in many dangers from the fury of the tories that infested almost every portion of his adopted state. During the war, he divided his time between cultivating his farm, exhorting sinners to repent, and fighting the tories. He continued to exercise his gift until 1791, when he was ordained to the full work of the ministry. About the close of the century, he moved to Kentucky, and settled in Barren county. Here he became a member of Dripping Spring church. After remaining here a short time, he removed to what is now LaRue county, and settled on Nolin river.
Nolin church, in LaRue county, was constituted by Robert Stockton, John Murphy, and Jonathan Paddox, April 3, 1803. Mr. McDougal was called to the care of this church immediately after its constitution. About the same time, he became pastor of Severns Valley church. To these churches he gave the benefit of his ripe experience and extensive knowledge.
God sent this faithful old servant to the territory of Salem Association just at a time when he was greatly needed. A great revival, of three years' continuance, had more than quadrupled the membership of the churches composing this fraternity. A number of new churches had been built up. The old preachers had passed away, or grown too feeble to labor, and few young ones had been raised up. A number of young men had joined the churches, who afterwards became eminent preachers. Here, then, was a great work for a faithful and experienced minister; nor did Mr. McDougal falter under the responsibility. Unambitious, and without ostentation, he entered upon his work in the new field. Here he labored faithfully and earnestly more than thirty years. Young preachers were raised up to occupy the field, very many sinners had been brought to Christ, and the old servant's work on earth was done. At ninety-five years of age, he resigned his charges; and on the 3rd of March 1841, aged 103 years, he left his home in LaRue county, and went to join the loved ones in the New Jerusalem. His oldest son and A.W. LaRue, a grand-son, became Baptist preachers. The latter was widely known in Kentucky.
MT. TABOR church is located on Beaver Creek, some two miles west of Glasgow in Barren county. It was gathered by Alexander Davidson, and was constituted of seven members, by the assistance of the famous old pioneer, William Hickman, and Carter Tarrant, November 5, 1798. Alexander Davidson was chosen pastor, John Murphy was elected clerk, and John Baugh was appointed to hold meetings, in the absence of the pastor. Several churches having been formed in the Green River country, the first conference, looking to the formation of an association was held at Sinking Creek, in June 1799. The meeting agreed on the propriety of an association, and appointed a second meeting to be held at Beaver Creek M. H. (Dripping Spring church) in October. This conference was "put off till the third Saturday in June," 1800, at which time
it was held at Mount Tabor church. At this time Green River Association was formed, of nine churches. These churches contained an aggregate membership of about 350, with eight ordained ministers. Mt. Tabor, Mill Creek, Concord, Brush Creek, Sinks of Beaver Creek (now Dripping Spring), Sinking Creek, Church on Pittman (now Good Hope?), South Fork, and Severns Valley were the churches. It is a little remarkable that all these churches are still in existence. The preachers were John Mulky, Robert Stockton, Robert Smith, Baldwin Clifton, Alexander Davidson, Carter Tarrant, John Hightower and Isaac Denton. It is not remarkable that these have all passed away.
In December, 1799, Carter Tarrant moved from the territory of Tates Creek Association, and settled within the bounds of Mount Tabor church, and immediately became a member, and the pastor of that flock, Mr. Davidson having resigned. Under his administration, the church decides "the washing of the saints' feet a duty," "calls for help" to install Bro. Tarrant as pastor, "resolves" to keep a small fund in the treasury, and to raise it by voluntary subscription,” and decides that where "dress or fashion appears sinful, the church has a right to restrict her members." Mr. Tarrant’s pastorate was short, but long enough for him to sow the seeds of discord in the church, whichafterwards produced an abundant crop of confusion. He was an enthusiastic emancipationist, and led a number of the members into his views. He resigned the care of the church, in February, 1801, and returned to the Bluegrass region. The following meeting, Jacob Lock was ordained to the oversight of Mount Tabor church, and served in that capacity over 38 years. He was succeeded by James Brooks, who served the church till 1879, when he resigned.
During the great revival, which commenced about two years after Mount Tabor was constituted, that church received 60 by baptism, which brought its membership up to 91. In 1808, two preachers of her membership, Elijah Davidson and John Murphy, declared non-fellowship for the church, on account of its tolerating slavery, and were both excluded. Mr. Davidson was afterwards restored. In 1812, the church numbered 160 members, in 1833, it reached 175, and in 1843, it numbered 252.
When, in 1840, Green River Association split on the subject of missions, Mount Tabor church entered into the constitution of Liberty Association, of which it has continued a prominent member to the present time (1885). In 1878, it numbered 153 members.
ALEXANDER DAVIDSON was the first pastor of Mount Tabor church, and probably the first preacher that settled between Green and Barren rivers. He was active in gathering the first churches in that region, before any other preacher settled there, as well as afterwards. He must have been a man of considerable prominence, as he represented Warren county in the convention that formed the second constitution of Kentucky, in 1799. He was a number of years pastor of Sinking Creek church, in Warren county, which was probably gathered by his ministry. He was a laborer among the churches of this region, as late as 1823.
JACOB LOCK succeeded Carter Tarrant, in the pastoral care of Mount Tabor church. He was a man of superior preaching talents, and was, for many years, the most distinguished preacher in- Green River Association, as he was afterwards in Liberty.
Jacob Lock was the son of Richard Lock, and was born in Berkly county, Va., about 1768. He was the youngest of eight sons, of whom William was killed by the Indians, in Kentucky. Jacob’s education was wholly neglected in his youth. At an early age he married Margaret Jett, by whom he raised one daughter and eight sons, two of whom were born in Virginia. In 1789, he moved to Mercer county, Kentucky. Here he lived about ten years. Sometime during that period he united with a Baptist church. Moving to Barren county, he united with Mount Tabor church, by letter, on the 3rd Saturday in June, 1800. At this time he could not read, and did not even know the alphabet. Thiswas at the time of the great revival. Mr. Lock's heart was so stirred within him, that he presently began to exhort sinners to repent, with great zeal and fervor. Illiterate as he was, his gifts appeared so profitable that the church licensed him to preach, on the 3rd Saturday in September, 1800.
He now began to apply himself to close study, at home, as well as to active fervent exhortation, among the people. His
success in reaching the hearts of the people was marked, and his improvement in speaking, and in a knowledge of letters, was very rapid. He labored on through this revival, during which 60 persons united with the church, by experience and baptism. Mr. Lock was probably the most efficient laborer in this great work. At the February meeting, in 1802, Mr. Tarrant resigned the care of the church, and took a letter of dismission. On the 3rd Saturday in the following month, Mr. Lock was ordained to the ministry, by Alexander Davidson and Alexander McDougal. In the following May, he was invited to administer the ordinances for the church, and in May, 1803, was regurlarly inducted into the pastoral office. He was also called to the care of Green River (now Lonoke), Sinking creek, and Salem churches. At different periods, he was pastor of Glasgow, Mount Olive, Smith’s Grove, and perhaps other churches. After Robert Stockton became too old and feeble to act as Moderator of Green River Association, Mr. Lock usually filled that position, till Liberty Association was formed, in 1840, after which he was Moderator of that body, till he became too infirm to act in that capacity. He died in great peace, January 18, 1845.
JOHN MURPHY was raised up to the ministry, in Mount Tabor church. He was born in Halifax county, Va., June, 25, 1752. In early life he moved to Tennessee, where he professed conversion, and was baptized by Isaac Barton, in 1790. He united with Bent Creek church in Green county of that territory. He settled early in Barren county, Kentucky, where, in November, 1798, he went into the constitution of Mount Tabor church. Of this organization, he was elected the first clerk, and was an actor in the organization of Green River Association. He was licensed to preach in 1801. The time of his ordination is not known. In 1808, he was excluded from Mount Tabor church, on account of his declaring non-fellowship with it, for tolerating slavery. “He was the first minister south of Green river,” says Caster Tarrant, "who publicly opposed slavery." What became of him, after his exclusion from the church, does not appear.
ROBINSON HUNT was brought into the ministry, at Mount Tabor. He united with this church by letter, in October, 1801, and was licensed to exercise a gift the same day. He was ordained
to the work of the ministry by Alexander Davidson, Alexander McDougal, and Elijah Summars, in November, 1802. He was dismissed from Mount Tabor church the same day hewas ordained. He moved to the Bluegrass region of the State. There he succeeded Ambrose Dudley in the pastoral care of David's Fork church in Fayette county. He appears to have been a young man of brilliant gifts. But he did not use them long. He died in 1808, and was succeeded in the pastoral office by the gifted Jeremiah Vardeman.
MICHAEL W. HALL, judge of one of the courts of this judicial district, a distinguished lawyer, and frequently a member of the legislature from Barren county, was long a member of Mt. Tabor church. He was a man of eminent piety, and was much esteemed by the church, and, indeed, by Green River Association, of which he was many years the efficient clerk. He died March 1, 1828.
ROBERT T. GARDNER, who was raised up in Edmonson county, it is believed, supplied Mt. Tabor church a few months, after the death of Jacob Lock. He was, at that time, a young preacher, possessed medium preaching talents, and was a good exhorter. He devoted a number of years to the work of an evangelist, in which he enjoyed a good degree of success. After this, he moved to Texas, where, for many years, he has been useful in the ministry.
JAMES BROOKS was the next pastor of this old church. He was a son of Jesse Brooks, and was born in Wythe county, Va., July 4, 1809. His parents moved, the same year, to Wayne county, Ky., where they lived ten years. In 1821, they moved to Barren county. Here James was raised up on a farm. He received only a common school education. He was married to Polly W., daughter of Ephraim Parish, December 27, 1827. This marriage was blessed with two sons and three daughters, all of whom became Baptists except one daughter who died out of the church, but trusting in Jesus.
Mr. Brooks, with his wife, obtained hope in Christ, and was baptized into the fellowship of Mt. Tabor church, by Jacob Lock, in November, 1837. He was licensed to exercise a gift on the 3d Saturday in November, 1844, and, on the 3d Saturday in April, 1845, was ordained to the ministry by Henry Emerson, Isaac N. Brown and Azariah Hatcher. He took charge of
Little Bethel church in Barren county, the following Saturday, and preached to it fourteen years. He was called to Mt. Tabor church, the 3d Saturday in April, 1846, and served it as pastor thirty-three years. He took the care of Rock Spring church in the same county, in 1847, and ministered to it twenty-eight years. He preached to New Liberty church in Metcalf county, twenty years. He has supplied several other churches for shorter periods at different times. He was called to his reward in 1884.
None of Mr. Brooks' gifts were extraordinary [except his singing], but they were all used with extraordinary diligence, and recommended by extraordinary piety. The Green river country has produced few more valuable ministers.
SINKING CREEK church is located near a stream from which it derives its name, near the south-western corner of Barren county. It is one of the first three churches gathered in the region of country lying between Green and Barren rivers. It was probably gathered by Alex. Davidson, as he was the only preacher known to have lived in that region, at so early a period. It was constituted sometime during the year 1798. The first convention that met to consider the propriety of organizing an association in this region assembled with this church, the second Saturday in June, 1799. Alex. Davidson was probably its first pastor, and had membership in it. This church was one of the nine of which Green River Association was constituted, in June, 1800. It shared largely in the great revival. Forty-two were added to its membership by experience and baptism, in 1802, and it reported that year, an aggregate membership of 142. It continued to be a strong, flourishing church till about 1840, when it split up on the question of missions. In 1845, it was reduced to fifty-five members. It declared itself opposed to benevolent societies in common with all the churches that remained in the old mother Association. In consequence of Green River Association’s having opened correspondence with Liberty Association, which approves missions, Sinking Creek church with four others, withdrew from the former, and formed "Original Green River Association." In 1876, this old church numbered only twenty-nine members.
AUGUSTINE CLAYTON was a preacher in this church, a short time, about 1820. He possessed small preaching gifts, but being a pioneer, he exercised some good influence among the settlers.
Mr. Clayton was born in South Carolina, about 1764. He learned to read and write and studied the science of vocal music. In early manhood he married Kate Smith, and soon afterward, with his wife joined the Methodists, and became an exhorter among them. Afterward some Baptist preachers came into the neighborhood where he lived, and established a church. Mr. Clayton and his wife, becoming convinced that they had not been scripturally baptized, now submitted to the ordinance of immersion, and united with the Baptist church. He moved to what is now Allen county, Kentucky, in 1806. He united first with Bethlehem church, and served it as pastor about a year, when he moved to Tennessee, where he remained about three years. He then moved back to Kentucky, where he spent the remainder of his life in Barren and Allen counties. He taught singing-schools and preached from house to house exhorting the people to repent and turn to the Savior. He was called to his reward about the year 1834.
JESSE MOON, although by no means a great man, was probably the most distinguished preacher in Sinking Creek church, after it identified itself as an anti-missionary body. He was born in South Carolina, September 4, 1795. His mother brought him to Kentucky when he was about five years old. When he grew up, he was married to Hannah Johnson. Soon after his marriage he professed faith in Christ and was baptized into the fellowship of Big Reedy church, in Butler county. In this church he was put into the ministry. He afterward moved to Barren county, and united with Sinking Creek church. He was a preacher in this church from 1849 to 1867. He served Smiths Grove church in Warren county more than thirty years. He was moderator of Green River Association eighteen years. He moved’ to Missouri about 1867, where he died in 1870. His son Joseph is a preacher among the churches of Original Green River Association.
SULPHUR SPRING church was most probably gathered by John Hightower. It is located in the southwest corner of Allen county, and was constituted in 1798. It is by three years, the oldest church in that county. John Hightower was the first pastor, and served in that capacity till his death, which occurred about 1823. At this period, the church numbered fifty-three members. In 1840, it reached a membership of seventy-five.
About this time the subject of missionary operations agitated the churches of this region, as well as in most parts of the State. Sulphur Spring church took a stand against missionary and other benevolent societies. Two years afterward its membership was reduced to 43. Since that time it has steadily declined. In 1877 it numbered only twenty-two members.
Sulphur Spring church probably united first with Mero District Association in Tennessee. It afterward became a member of Green River Association. In 1812, it entered into the constitution of Gasper River Association, and when Drakes Creek Association was formed in 1820, it entered into the constitution of that fraternity, of which it is still a member. The peculiarity of this, and other churches, composing Drakes Creek Association, is, that, within the last few years, they have discarded the doctrine of the resurrection.
JOHN HOWARD was an early pastor of Sulphur Spring church. He was probably the ablest preacher that has ever been connected with Drakes Creek Association. His devoted piety and faithful labors won the affection of his brethren and the confidence of the people. His influence was extensive, and he used it diligently in the cause of his beloved Master. Forty years after he left his field of labor in Allen and the adjoining counties, he was held in vivid remembrance and affectionate regard.
Mr. Howard was born of Episcopalian parents, in the State of Virginia, about the year 1760. At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, his father sent him and his twin brother, Thomas, to South Carolina to be out of danger. Here the spirit of the Lord overtook the young refugee, and he was overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and condemnation before God. Having been raised under Episcopalian influence, which was at that time, in Virginia, at least, a feeble expression of belief in salvation by works, young Howard set about trying to justify him self before God, by good deeds. But all he could do gave his conscience no relief. The more he examined himself in the light of God’s law, the greater was his distress, until he was almost driven to despair. At last he threw himself on the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, and was enabled to enjoy great peace. He soon afterward united with a Baptist church. At the close of the war, he went to Georgia, where he was brought into the ministry.
Soon after the beginning of the present century, he moved to Kentucky, and settled in what is now Allen county. Here he united with Trammels Fork church, and soon afterward became its pastor. Some time after, he was chosen pastor of Sulphur Spring church, in the same county. To these churches, he preached till about 1829.
Mr. Howard was a man of good cultivation, possessed excellent preaching talents, and was a faithful and skillful laborer in the cause of his Master. His preaching was a clear, strong statement of gospel truth. He was an excellent singer, and was very skillful in the use of his fine social powers. His usefulness, both in building up the churches and in leading sinners to the Savior, was very great. His themes in the pulpit, and, indeed everywhere else, were the love of God and Christ’s suffering for sinners. He believed fully in the doctrine of sovereign grace, but preached earnestly that men ought to repent and turn to God.
About the year 1829, he moved to Fulton county, Illinois. Here he lived and labored about sixteen years, and then went to that city which he had been seeking from the days of his youth. Among his last words were these: "God's portion is his people, and Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."
Mr. Howard was married four times, and raised a large and respectable family. One of his sons, Emizar Howard, was a very respectable preacher in Spoon River Association in Illinois. Tilman Howard, another of his sons, was a prominent lawyer and politician in Indiana. Mr. Howard’s fourth marriage was unfortunate. His wife opposed his preaching, and much imbittered his last years.
ISAAC STEELE was many years pastor of Sulphur Spring church.4 James Steele, his father, was, in early life a resident of North Carolina. He served seven years in the old Revolutionary War. He was in twenty-one pitched battles, and had his clothes and hair cut by several musket balls, but received no wound. He was among the early emigrants from North Carolina to what is now Allen county, Kentucky. Here he opened a farm and tilled it until his death.
Isaac Steele was born in North Carolina, in 1789, and came
with his parents to Kentucky in early childhood. He was brought up on a farm, and received a better education than was usual where he was raised. This, however, was very limited. He professed religion in his 16th year, and was baptized into the fellowship of Salem church, at her arm on Middle Fork of Drakes Creek, by John Hightower. He was in the constitution of Middle Fork church in Allen county, in 1808, and was licensed to exercise a gift, August 2, 1812. His progress was so slow that he was kept on probation five years. In January, 1818, he was ordained to the ministry by Zachariah Morris, Benjamin Jackson and Jesse L. Hickman. Soon after his marriage, he moved on the line of Tennessee. So that his house stood in Simpson and Logan counties of Kentucky, and Robertson county, Tennessee. His citizenship was in Kentucky. The churches of which he was pastor longest, were Sulphur Spring, Sulphur Fork and Head of Red River. He was zealous and industrious in his holy calling, and many sinners were led to Christ through his ministry. Among the fruits of his early ministry was the now venerable O.H. Morrow, who has been an eminently successful minister of Jesus Christ about fifty-five years. Late in life as Mr. Steele began to preach, he labored in the gospel ministry fifty years. He was called to his reward in 1862.
Mr. Steele possessed but little genius, and only a moderate intellect. The powers of his mind developed very slowly, and never rose above mediocrity. His fund of knowledge, which was not extensive, was acquired by slow and patient investigation, and was thoroughly digested. He possesed a sound discriminating judgment, and his mind was well disciplined. He was conservative in his temperament, and never bold or defiant in his address. Perhaps he was cautious and timid to a fault -- failing sometimes to declare his matured convictions, lest he should provoke controversy, to which he had a great aversion.
When Drake's Creek Association divided, in 1840, on the subject of missions, the church of which Mr. Steele was a member, and those of which he was pastor, adhered to the anti-missionary party, and he remained in that connection, the remainder of his life. "But," writes O.H. Morrow, "he was by no means anti-missionary in his feelings or preaching. He had been with his churches so long, and was now getting old, that
it required more nerve to leave them than he possessed." Mr. Morrow continues: "Bro. Steele, was a very acceptable preacher of the gospel. When in his prime, his voice was melodious, and his manner fascinating. Few men in his day could draw out as large congregations. He was deservedly very popular. He would labor freely and successfully among the Missionary Baptists, and was very far from being inefficient in revivals. He was a moderate Calvinist in sentiment. Few men held so strong and lasting a hold on the affections of his brethren and the people generally. He was a good man wherever he was found, and still lives in the affections of all who knew him." Mr. Steele was three times married, and raised a respectable family of five sons and seven daughters.
MUDDY RIVER church was the first Baptist organization of the kind within the present limits of Logan county. It was located on the head-waters of the stream from which it derived its name, a few miles north-east of Russellville. It was probably gathered by Lewis Moore, and was constituted in 1798. It probably first united with Mero District Association, then entered into the constitution of Cumberland, and finally, into that of Red River, of which it remained a member as long as it had an existence. It appears never to have become a large church. In 1812, it numbered sixty-four members, in 1830 forty-three, and, in 1832 forty members. It had some able ministers and other prominent men among its members, and was doubtless the mother of several churches which arose around it.
LEWIS MOORE, who was a number of years, (probably from its constitution), pastor of Muddy River church, was early a resident, and most likely, a native of Johnson county, N. C. There he was licensed to preach. He was ordained to the pastoral care of Reedy Creek church in Warren county of that State in 1786. To this church he preached twelve years. He was also pastor of Sandy Creek church in Franklin county fourteen years. In 1798, he moved to Kentucky, and settled on Muddy river, in Logan county. There he became a member and the pastor of Muddy River church, to which he ministered at least fourteen years. According to tradition, he was a good, plain, old preacher, and was, for a number of years after he moved to Kentucky, the only Baptist preacher in Logan county
except John Bailey, who moved to the county in 1798, and remained there only two years.
LEONARD PAGE was early a minister in Muddy River church. He was a preacher of fair ability, a man of eminent respectability, and a wise andprudent laborer. The distinguished Andrew Broadus of Virginia, speaks of him as the "Honorable Leonard Page," by which it is inferred that he had enjoyed some political distinction in the earlier part of his life.
Leonard Page was the son of John Page, a respectable farmer, and a member of Licking Hole Baptist church in Goochland county, Va., and was born September 29th, 1762. He received a common school education. At the age of sixteen years, he entered the Continental army, and continued in active service till the close of the war. Soon after his return home, he married jenny, daughter of Johnson Hodges, a farmer of Goochland county. She had been raised an Episcopalian, but, sometime after her marriage, professed conversion, and united with the Licking Hole Baptist church, then under the pastoral care of Hugh French. Her husband soon afterward followed her example. In this church Mr. Page was ordained to the ministry. Speaking of this church, Mr. Semple says: "In 1804, they enjoyed one of the most heavenly revivals that ever was seen. Four or five hundred were baptized, and among them some very respectable characters indeed. Leonard Page, who was very active and useful in the revival, has since been chosen pastor." In this revival, Mr. Page baptized two of his children. The church continued to prosper under his care, till 1811, when he resigned his charge and moved to Kentucky.
He settled on Whippoorwill creek, about seven miles west of Russellville, in Logan county. Although this region had been settled nearly twenty years, and there had been some extensive religious revivals among the people, the Baptist cause had been neglected for want of laborers.
Mr. Page united with the little church on Muddy river, which was at least ten miles from his residence. Mr. Page, though past middle life, went actively to work in this new field. With well defined purpose and much practical experience directing his efforts, he did not labor in vain. He soon raised up a church at Russellville, and became its pastor. This organization has been a very prosperous one, and is now
one of the leading churches of Bethel Association. Mr. Page continued pastor of this church till 1821, when William Warder settled among them and became their pastor. Mr. Page was instrumental in gathering several other churches, among which were Union, near his home, Mt. Gilead, at Allensville, and Pleasant Grove, in the southern part of Logan county. To these churches he ministered till he became old and feeble, and other ministers were raised up to take charge of them. Near the close of his life, he joined the Campbellites, after which he preached very little. He died from the effects of cholera, by which he had been attacked a year previous, March 28th, 1836. Of his descendants, B. F. Page, a grandson, is a respectable Baptist preacher in Liberty Association.
PHILIP WARDEN was the third pastor of Old Muddy River church. He was a preacher of good gifts, and extraordinary usefulness. He occupied a broad field, lying between Russellville and Green river, in which there was no preacher of moderately fair attainments, except himself and the Venerable Benjamin Talbot, for a long period.
Mr. Warden was born in Ireland, in 1763. His parents emigrated to America, while he was in his infancy, and were among the first settlers of Fayette county, Kentucky. Young Philip grew up to be a bold, daring youth, and was possessed of true Irish courage. The Indians did not allow him to want opportunities to display his bravery. Whenever there was a horse stolen, or a family murdered, by the savages, the enthusiastic young Irishman was "up in arms," and ready for the pursuit. He was in many Indian fights, and among other daring adventures of his, he accompanied General Wayne in his Northern campaign, in 1792.
It was probably during the great revival, at the beginning of the century, that Philip Warden was converted and baptized, into the fellowship of Forks of Elkhorn church, in Franklin county, by the famous William Hickman. The laborers in the vineyard were plenty, in that region, and it is not known that Mr. Warden engaged in any public religious exercises while he remained on Elkhorn. But, in 1813, he moved to the Green River country, and setted in the northern part of Logan county. Here he and his wife, Rachel, united with Mount Moriah church, afterwards called Stony Point, which had been constituted
in April of that year. The people were poor and illiterate, and had great need of some one to teach them the true Wisdom. On the 25th of February, 1814, two months after Mr. Warden joined the church, the following item was entered on their book of records:
"The brethren’s minds consulted respecting Brother Warden’s gift, and it is approved of; and he is licensed to preach the gospel at home and abroad, and [we] bid him God speed."
Mr. Warden was now 51 years old. But he availed himself of his license, and literally preached the gospel "at home and abroad." His gift appeared to so great a profit, that he was ordained to the ministry, by Lewis Fortner, John Martin, and William Tatum, in September, 1815. He now had a wide, uncultivated field to operate in, and he went to work in earnest. He preached the gospel from house to house, with a burning zeal. The Lord gave him great favor with the people, and a multitude received the word from his lips, and rejoiced in it.
The first church he was called to, was Ivy in Warren county. In 1820, on the resignation of Daniel Barham, he was called to the care of Stony Point, of which he was a member. Having resigned the care of Ivy, he was called to Bethany and Muddy River in Logan, and Hazel Creek in Muhlenburg. To three of these churches he ministered with abundant success. But Bethany, to which, in 1826, he, with his family, had moved his membership, was factious and turbulent. They had among them a sort of preacher of the name of Dudley Robertson. He was Antinomian in doctrine, and violently opposed to missions. Mr. Warden believed in the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ to save all men, and was warmly in favor of sending the gospel abroad, as well as of preaching it to everybody at home. The church soon became divided in sentiment between the two systems of doctrine. The Robertson party became dissatisfied with Mr. Warden, and determined to reform his doctrine, or silence him from preaching. They soon found an opportunity to test the measure of their authority. It being winter, the church held meeting at a private house. When Mr. Warden rose up to preach, something like the following dialogue took place between him and one of the Antimissionary members:
Member: "Sit down, Sir, you can't preach here to-day."
Preacher: "Why so?"
Member: "Because you are out of order."
Preacher: "There is no charge preferred against me, that I know of."
Member: "It's no odds: you are out of order, Sir, and you can't preach here to-day."
Preacher: "I will preach, the Lord being my helper."
Mr. Warden proceeded to deliver his discourse. During the delivery of the sermon the Anti-missionary party collected in one corner of the room, claimed to be Bethany church, and proceeded to the transaction of business. A few days afterwards, two of the leaders in this disgraceful affair were arraigned before a justice of the peace, by some friend of law and order. One of them was fined ten, and the other fifteen dollars.
On testing the strength of the two parties in the church, it was found that the Missionaries had a small majority. The Robertson party magnanimously proffered to give the Missionary party letters of dismission, which they accepted, and immediately joined Stony Point church. The magnanimity of the Anti-missionaries, however, turned out to be only a cunning trick; for when they came together next church meeting, they revoked the act, granting ‘letters to the Missionary party, and formally excluded them from the church. Such is the madness which religious partisanism engenders among an ignorant people, even when they are well meaning.
Soon after this, Mr. Warden went into the constitution of a new church, called Liberty. This church is located about two miles north of Auburn in Logan county, and was constituted in the summer of 1829. To this church Mr. Warden ministered, the remainder of his earthly pilgrimage. It was at the opening of a new house of worship by this church, that J.M. Pendleton preached the sermon which he afterwards expanded into the popular little book, called THREE REASONS WHY I AM A BAPTIST, The late Venerable Robert Woodward was raised up to the ministry in this church, and succeeded Mr. Warden in its pastoral care. John W. Self was also raised up to the ministry, in Liberty church. He began to preach about 1857.
Mr. Warden continued to labor faithfully, and with almost universal acceptance, till the Lord called him home. Few men
were more loved, or exerted a greater influence for good. He died in great peace and strong confidence, at his home in Logan county, on the first day of November, 1843.
Of this good man, Robert Woodward writes: "He was a successful minister, and a man of deep piety and burning zeal. Too much can not be said of his devotion and usefulness. He was no ordinary man. He read his Bible with all the helps he could obtain in his day. Whenever it was said: 'Father Warden is going to preach,' the people said: 'Let us go and hear him; for we will be certain to hear something we never heard before.'" Unlike too many old preachers, he was a student, as well as an active laborer, as long as he lived. By this means he always had some new thought in his sermons. This enabled him to interest the people, and thereby to accomplish good as long as he lived. He was among those that “hold out faithful to the end.”
ORSON HOLLAND MORROW first entered the pastoral office at Old Muddy River church, “here he was probably the immediate successor of Philip Warden. He did not occupy the position long, before antagonism of doctrine between him and the church induced him to resign.
O. H. Morrow was born in Rutherford county, North Carolina, November 10, 1800. He was brought by his parents to what is now Simpson county, Kentucky, in 1807. Here he was raised on a far m, going to school in winter, and laboring on his father’s plantation the rest of the year. He closed his educational opportunities, with one year at school. After this he studied practical surveying, and was afterward surveyor for Simpson county a number of years. He possessed fine natural capacities, and early formed good business habits, and, although he began life poor, he was never afterward embarrassed by poverty.
On the the first day of March, 1821, he was married to Sally, daughter of Colonel James Hambright. With this young woman he had gone to school. This marriage was blessed with eight daughters, most, or all of whom were married, but all of whom died young.
Mr. Morrow was a gay young man, and very thoughtless about his soul. He engaged in the fashionable amusements of the day with great zest, and was especially fond of dancing. For
a short time he was engaged in distilling whisky, of which he professed to be ashamed ever afterward. He named the place where his still-house stood, “Morrow’s Folly.” In 1827 a small Baptist church’ was constituted near Mr. Morrow’s residence, and named Sulphur Spring. Isaac Steele was chosen its pastor. Mr. Morrow was finally induced to attend public worship at this place. But it was not till 1829, that he became interested about the salvation of his soul. He was, during many weeks, deeply overwhelmed with a sense of his guilt and condemnation before God. He continued to attend meeting, read the Bible and pray. After many weeks it occurred to him that he had not prayed in the name of Christ. He at once began to beseech God for mercy in the name of Jesus Christ. He soon obtained great joy in believing in Jesus. That night he and his wife went to a little neighborhood prayer meeting. On their way he told his wife of the great and happy change he had experienced, but supposed no one else knew of it. During the meeting or rather at its close, he was called on to pray. He was much surprised, but did not hesitate to make the effort. There was much weeping, both by himself and the congregation. He soon afterward united with Sulphur Spring church, and was baptized by Isaac Steele. After this he conducted the prayer meetings, and would usually close with an exhortation. A revival ensued, and a number of persons were converted. Mr. Morrow was soon licensed to exercise his gift. In 1833, Muddy River church being without a pastor, called for his ordination. Accordingly on the 13th of September of that year, he was ordained by Benjamin Jackson, Richard Owens, Isaac Steele and Zachariah Morris, and at once took the pastoral care of Muddy River church. He entered upon the duties of his sacred office, and soon built up a good congregation. The church was encouraged, and several persons were baptized. But his pastorate was destined to be short.
In the fall of 1833, Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian minister, delivered a discourse on temperance, in Franklin, the county seat of Simpson. Mr. Morrow was present, listened to the arguments in favor of total abstinence from strong drink, and was convinced. He went home and began at once to try to convince his neighbors of the propriety of total abstinence. He also induced a temperance speaker to deliver a lecture in
the neighborhood, and he and a number of his neighbors, including several members of Sulphur Spring church, formed a temperance society, by writing their names on a piece of blank paper. The church took up the question as to whether she would tolerate her members in belonging to a temperance society. The excitement was intense, and pervaded the whole community. Immense crowds assembled to hear the discussion three successive church meetings. Finally the vote was taken and the question was decided in the negative by a small majority. A compromise was effected by which the temperance party was lettered off. Of its members a new church was constituted under the title of the Baptist church at Sulphur Spring, Aug. 2, 1834. It was composed of twenty-one members. William Warder was induced to preach to it a few months, when Mr. Morrow having of necessity, resigned the care of Muddy River church, was called to take charge of it. He was soon afterward called to Lake Spring and Franklin, in Simpson, and Friendship, in Logan county. In 1838, Sulphur Spring church finished a large brick house of worship, and on Christmas day of that year commenced a meeting which was to continue a week. Protracted meetings were just beginning to come in vogue, and many of the churches were opposed to them. When the meeting at Sulphur Spring had continued a week, the interest was very extensive. Many people were convicted of their sins, and one man had professed conversion. But the influential old members of the church said the meeting must close. If it should continue longer, it would be "a protracted meeting," and that could not be tolerated. Mr. Morrow determined that the meeting should go on. He rose up, made a speech to the multitude, in favor of its continuance, and then took the vote of the congregation. The people nearly all voted in favor of continuing the meeting. The three preachers that had been laboring in the meeting had gone home. Mr. Morrow continued the meeting without ministerial aid, and ninety persons were baptized.
The four churches to which Mr. Morrow was preaching, now employed him to devote his whole time to the ministry, for one year, or, as they expressed it, "to preach every day." His success in building up the churches of which he was pastor, and in calling sinners from "the hedges and highways," justified the hopes of his brethren. This year's work resulted in
the formation of two new churches -- Union, in Warren county, constituted of twenty-nine members, November 12th, 1839, and Shady Grove, in Simpson county, which continued an arm of Franklin church till May 15th, 1841, when it was regularly con stituted a church of thirty-four members. To Union church he preached about forty-five years, to Sulphur Spring forty, to Pleasant Grove forty years, and to several others shorter periods.
Mr. Morrow possessed a strong logical mind, and was a close student, especially of the Bible. He occasionally entered into the religious controversy of his day, both orally and with his pen, and was by no means an unworthy contestant with some of the ablest minds of the country. His style, both in writing and speaking, lacked the smoothness of classical training, but it wasalways strong and convincing. His voice was rather harsh, and he was defective in elocution, but his sermons reached the masses with wonderful power. In person he was tall, well proportioned and commanding in appearance. A judge of men would see at a glance that he was born to be a leader, in whatever occupation he might have followed. His whole character combined the elements of success in an eminent degree. But what is most to be admired in him was that all his powers were honestly consecrated to the service of his beloved Master.
During the first eight years of his ministry he kept no account of his labors. After this, he kept a diary, from which the following paragraph was composed, and was published in the Franklin Patriot in 1876:
"He has been instrumental in organizing and building up seven churches. He has served as pastor, for different periods of time, fourteen churches, preaching to several of them two days in the week once a month. He has served them alone, adding together the years he has preached to each, 112 years, viz: Pleasant Grove, Logan county, 35 years; Old Union, Warren county, 37 years, and Sulphur Spring, Simpson county, 40 years. He has preached about 3,500 sermons, delivered about 3,000 exhortations, attended about 400 funerals, married about 500 couples, baptized about 2,020 persons, 18 of whom became active ministers of the gospel, and, in doing this work, traveled about 52,200 miles -- more than twice around the globe.
Besides all this, he made scores of temperance speeches, attended well to his temporal and home interest, and has surveyed enough land to make a small State.” Nine years has passed away since the above paragraph was written, and the venerable man of God is still living and laboring for the Master.
BEAVER DAM church is located in Ohio county, about four miles south of Hartford, the country-seat. It takes its name from a small tributary of Muddy creek, near which it is situated. It is, by several years, the oldest church between the Green and Ohio rivers, west of Elizabethtown, and is the mother of a large family of similar organizations in that region of the State. There was a very early settlement at Hartford, probably not far from the year 1780. Among these early settlers was a German family, bearing the name that is now spelt Coleman. After spending some time in the fort, near the present town of Hartford, Mr. Coleman moved his family about five miles south, and located on a small stream, to which he gave the name "Beaver Dam," in consequence of the beavers having built darns across it to raise the water over the entrance to their subterranean houses. "The first religious awakening of which we haveany account," J. S. Coleman informs us, in his very interesting history of Beaver Dam church, "was produced in the mind of Mrs. Coleman through reading Luther's translation of the New Testament, a copy of which she had brought with her from Germany. After some time spent in reading, weeping and praying, this German woman found peace and great joy in trusting in Jesus for salvation. But now she saw that the same book, that had led her to the Savior, commanded her to be dipped in the name of the Holy Trinity; for such is the meaning of the word for baptism in Luther's translation. This much perplexed her, for there was no minister of the Gospel in all that region of country. Her conscience could not be at rest till she should have obeyed her beloved Lord. Finally, her course was resolved upon. She walked down to the little stream of Beaver Dam, and dipped herself beneath its waters. Coming up out of the water rejoicing, she met her little son who had followed her to the baptismal stream. He asked her why she dipped herself in the water. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, she preached Jesus to her little son. There the lad
received his first religious impressions, and was afterwards, for many years, a valuable member of old Beaver Dam church." This little boy was the grandfather of the widely known J. S. Coleman, long the efficient pastor of Beaver Dam church.
Beaver Dam church was constituted on the 5th of March, 1798, of the following five persons: John Atherton, Sr., and his wife Sally, Aaron Atherton and his wife Christina, and James Keel. The latter was a preacher, and for a short time served the young church as pastor. But, in 1803, moved back to Mercer county, from whence he had come to this region, and was succeeded in the pastoral office at Beaver Dam by the famous old pioneer Ben Talbot. Mr. Talbot served the church with great acceptance nearly thirty years. During the year 1804, the church enjoyed a precious revival, during which fiftytwo were added to her membership by baptism. During this revival, Mrs. Coleman, who had baptized herself many years before, as related above, was baptized by Mr. Talbot and received into the church. Another incident occurred just at the beginning of this revival, which J. S. Coleman relates as follows:
"The preacher arrived at the water's edge a little in advance of the Dutchman, and began preparing for the baptismal service, when, hearing a splash in the water behind him, he looked just in time to see his candidate disappear under the wave, but momentarily emerging from the water, and facing the preacher, exclaimed, in the full use of his German brogue, 'Mr. Bracher, vill dot do?' Talbot, rather abashed, hesitated to reply for a moment, when plunge went his Dutchman underagain. When coming again to a perpendicular, he exclaimed, with increasing vehemence, "Mr. Bracher, me shay vill dot do?' This time Mr. Talbot made haste to reply, and was just in time to save John Inglebright from the third plunge. Coming up out of the water, he stood shivering until Talbot sang a hymn and offered prayer, and then submitting himself into the hands of the administrator, received the ordinance in due form."
The second revival which occurred in this church, was during the period of the alarming earthquakes which prevailed in the Mississippi Valley, in 1811-12. A large number was added to the church, 51 being approved for baptism, in a single day. At the close of this revival, the church numbered 175 members.
She now began to establish "arms" at different points in her extensive territory. These "arms" were small bodies of brethren, belonging to the mother church, who met statedly for worship, and were watched over by the pastor, and a committee of brethren appointed for the purpose. They exercised some of the functions of a church, but all their transactions were subject to revision by the mother church. When one of these arms was deemed competent "to keep house," or was "ripe for constitution," it was constituted in due form, and became an independent church. If an arm did not prosper, or failed to conduct itself properly, it was dissolved. The following record shows how the church dealt with an inefficient arm:
"Bro. R. Render and Henry Coleman met our arm at Vienna Falls, and found several of the members living scandalous lives. Whereupon they turned out the bad ones and brought the good ones home with them."
By this means of church extension, Beaver Dam dotted a large expanse of country with numerous churches, several of which are now among the largest and most efficient country churches in the State. This old church probably first joined Mero District Association, then Cumberland, then Union, then Green River, then Gasper River, and, finally, Daviess County Association. It continued to be a very prosperous church, until the last few years, when it fell into the pernicious habit of frequently changing pastors. Since which it has been unhappy, and appears to be in a decline. Of James Keel and Benjamin Talbot, the first and second pastors of this old mother church, something has been said elsewhere.
ALFRED TAYLOR was a very distinguished minister of the gospel in his country, and generation. The Green river country had produced no such a man before him.
JOSEPH TAYLOR, his father, was a native of North Carolina. In early life he professed conversion and, with his wife, united with the Methodists, and, bythem, was put into the ministry. After some years, he became convinced of the scripturalness of Baptist principles, and was baptized by Nathan Arnett of Tennessee. In September, 1804, he and his wife entered into the constitution of Providence church, in Warren county, Kentucky. He remained a minister in this church, till 1804, when he moved to Butler county, and united with Monticelo. Of this
church, he became pastor, and served it in that capacity till 1837. He was a preacher of small gifts, but is believed to have served his generation faithfully, and doubtless accomplished some good.
Alfred Taylor was born in Warren county, Kentucky, July 19, 1808. At three years old, he was taken by his parents to Butler county, where he was raised up. His opportunities for learning were so poor, that, at the age of twenty, he could barely read intelligently. After he entered the ministry, he was, for a time, under the tuition of David L. Mansfield, and, at a still later period, he studied under the renowned William Warder. He possessed a strong logical mind, and was an earnest student: so that in the end he was well educated, in the best sense of the term.
Notwithstanding young Taylor was raised by pious parents, he early fell in with evil associates, and by degrees, formed habits of dissipation, and finally became profanely wicked. But at length the Holy Spirit found way to his heart. In his journal, he says: "After laboring four years to recommend myself to God's favor, I was enabled, in my 22d year, October, 1829, to trust in Him whose blood speaketh better things than that of Abel, in whom believing, I was enabled to rejoice with joy unutterable and full of glory. In November following, I was baptized in Sandy creek, Butler county, Kentucky, by Benjamin Talbot." He soon began to exercise in public, and, on the 3d Saturday in May, 1831, was licensed to preach. He was extremely awkward in his early efforts, and so slow was his progress, that it began to be said freely: "That man had better quit." But his heart was in the matter, and he persevered.
After three years' probation, he was ordained at Sandy Creek church, in May, 1834, by Joseph Taylor, David J. Kelly, and William Childress. He was called to Pond Run church the same year, and to Sandy Creek, the year following. In 1835, he was married, and the next year moved to Ohio county, and took charge of old Beaver Dam church. By this time he had gained sufficient confidence and mental discipline to be able to express his thoughts, and he grew rapidly in popularity and usefulness. From this time he had many more calls than he could accept. His success in bringing the unconverted to the Savior was wholly unprecedented, in the lower Green
River country. But his pastoral labors, which were faithful and efficient, in an eminent degree, formed but a small part of his work.
Between the time of Mr. Taylor's ordination, in 1834, and the close of the year 1836, the following eminent ministers left the harvest field, in Kentucky, and went to their home above: Walter Warder, William Warder, William C. Warfield, John S. Wilson, Benjamin Talbot, D.J. Kelley, David Thurman, and James H.L. Moorman. These were the leaders of God's hosts, in the State. All of them, except the first named, labored in the Green River country. Of all the preachers, of anything like prominence in the general work of the Denomination, in the lower Green River Valley, D.L. Mansfield was left alone, and his labors were confined to a comparatively narrow boundary. At the beginning of the great revival of 1837-40, Alfred Taylor became the leader, by common consent. And few men ever discharged the responsibility more worthily, or with greater success. The question of the propriety of "protracted meetings" was the first one he was called on to decide. Against much opposition, he determined in their favor. His first experiment was made at Walton's Creek in Ohio county. The Lord decided in his favor. Over 180 people professed conversion. He now gave himself wholly to the work of the ministry, with great activity. From this period, till his delicate frame became too much enfeebled to endure constant labor, near the close of his pilgrimage, he was the leading preacher of the lower Green River Valley. In preaching talent, he had no equal, except his intimate and steadfast friend, J. M. Pendleton, and as a successful preacher, he was without a rival. Besides the churches already named, a number of others, including the first church at Owensboro' enjoyed his pastoral ministrations, for different periods of time.
Towards the close of his life, he suffered from disease of the lungs to such a degree, that he was compelled to desist from preaching, for a time. But, after a brief rest, he again entered the field of labor. In the fall of 1865, he went to the neighborhood of Providence church in Warren county, to preach a funeral discourse, and then aid his son, J. S. Taylor, in a series of meetings, at that church. He reached Charles Asher's, in the neighborhood of the church, on Friday night, and was so
feeble that he had to be assisted to bed. He continued to sink till the 9th of October, 1865, when he went to his everlasting rest.
Mr. Taylor was three times married, and raised a large and respectable family. Three of his sons, Judson S., William C. and James P., are Baptist preachers, and, it is hoped, are worthy of so noble a father. W. C. Taylor has published a brief biography of his father, in a neat little volume of 123 pages.
DAVID EWING BURNS, one of the most distinguished pulpit orators of the Mississippi Valley, succeeded Alfred Taylor in the pastoral care of Beaver Dam church, in 1845. He was a native of Indiana, and was born of poor,illiterate parents, a few miles up the Ohio river from Evansville. He was raised up to hard, rough labor and the rude sports and frolics of an essentially backwoods life. At the age of manhood, he could read with some fluency and write a little, very crudely. At this period he crossed over the Ohio river, with the hope of getting employment as a stage driver. Falling in at a meeting, conducted by Alfred Taylor, in the region of Owensboro’, he remained some days, professed conversion, and was baptized by Mr. Taylor. Returning to his mother’s, he engaged in prayer and exhortation, and there was soon a considerable revival in the little church near his home. A few months after this, he went to Hardinsburg, Kentucky, to attend a meeting, conducted by Thomas J. Fisher. During this meeting, he preached his first sermon. The people were astonished at his wonderful oratory. He was induced to go to Georgetown College. But remained there less than a month. He returned to the Green River country, and was ordained to the ministry, about 1845, by T.J. Fisher and Thomas L. Garrott. He was called to the care of Beaver Dam, and perhaps some other country churches, to which he preached but a few months, when he accepted a call to the church in the town of Henderson. The charms of his oratory drew admiring crowds wherever he preached. He read poetry and light literature, but had no taste, and perhaps very little capacity for study. After remaining a year at Henderson, he became pastor of the church in Russellville. He was wonderfully popular with the young, but he did not please the older members of the church. He remained there but six months, when he accepted a call to Paducah. Here he remained
three years, preaching to large and admiring crowds to the last.
In 1850, Mr. Burns was called to the Beal Street church, in Memphis, Tennessee. He remained here a year, preaching to the largest congregation in the city. From Memphis he was called to Jackson, Mississippi. Here, at the age of thirty, he was married to Tallula Slaughter, an orphan, who possessed considerable property. By this means, he became proprietor of a valuable plantation near Canton, Mississippi. To this plantation he moved, and became pastor of the church at Canton. He succeeded well in business, and was popular as a preacher. But the calamities of the war fell heavily upon him, as upon thousands of others, and left him penniless. In 1866, he took charge of the Coliseum Place church in New Orleans. But the society did not suit him, and he was uncomfortable. After a short and unsuccessful pastorate, he accepted a call to the First Church in Memphis. Here he enjoyed great popularity, the brief remainder of his days on earth. After a short illness, he died at his home in Memphis, in November, 1870. His last audible words were: "I have trusted in Jesus for thirty years. I can trust him still."
Mr. Burns was an orator by nature, and, with proper training, might have exercised an immense pulpit power. But destitute of this, he fascinated the multitudes, as few men could, without either instructing them, or reaching their heart;. He had very meager fruits of his ministry, notwithstanding the great crowds that attended his preaching, from first to last. As a Christian man, his character, as far as known, was spotless. He was a man of public spirit, and gave valuable aid to the Denominational enterprises of his time. He possessed a generous spirit, and a cheerful temper, and was much loved by those with whom he associated.
JAMES SMITH COLEMAN was long the pastor of Old Beaver Dam. His parents, grand parents, and great grand parents, were members of this church, and he united with it, when he was eleven years and ten days old. At nineteen years of age, he was chosen clerk of this church of his fathers, in which capacity, he served nine years, and then, in 1854, became its pastor. At a very early period his great grand parents emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania, where they stopped only a few
months, and then descended the Ohio river in a flatboat, aiming to land at Beargrass, the present site of Louisville, Ky. But on arriving at that point, they discovered Indians on the shore. Pulling out, to avoid danger, they floated over the Falls, and continued their journey to the Yellow Banks, the present site of Owensboro'. Here the young German couple buried all their possessions, which they could not carry with them, and walked 28 miles, to a little fort, near the present location of Hartford. In this little fort, their first child was born. This child was the grandfather of J. S. Coleman. They remained in the fort, till this child was about three years old, and then moved to the spot where the village of Beaver Dam is located, on the Elizabethtown and Paducah Rail Road. An account of the self-baptism of Mrs. Coleman was given in the history of Beaver Dam church. At this place, the little boy which was born in the fort, became the father of 23 children, all born of one mother. Of these, Elisha H. Coleman, born January 5, 1805, was the oldest.
J. S. Coleman, only child of Elisha H. and Susannah Coleman, was born in Ohio county, Ky., February 5, 1827. His father was of German, and his mother of Irish and Welsh extraction. His parents were in good circumstances, and gave him what was then regarded a good opportunity to get an education, viz. he labored on the farm during the summer, and went to school during the winter. When he grew up, he taught school, and attended school, alternately, till he acquired a fair English education, and probably some knowledge of some of the dead languages.
In the eleventh year of his age, he was suddenly awakened to a vivid sense of his sinful and ruined estate, before God, by reading the following stanza of a then popular old hymn:
"That awful day will surely come;
The appointed hour makes haste,
When I must stand before my judge
And pass the solemn test."
Without any religious instruction, save that which he had previously received from his pious parents, he set about seeking the salvation of his soul. After seeking for sometime, he found peace in Jesus, and was afterwards baptized by Alfred Taylor. In his fifteenth year, he was strangely and powerfully
impressed with a sense of duty to give his life to preaching the gospel. But thinking it impossible for one so ignorant as he deemed himself, ever to be able to engage in so holy and responsible a work, he strove to stifle his impressions, and succeeded, for the time. At about the age of 20, he married Rachel Chapman, to whom, in after years, he acknowledges himself greatly indebted for what he has been enabled to accomplish in the work of the ministry.
Soon after he arrived at his majority, he was elected Sheriff of his county. After this he was elected Brigadier General of his Congressional district, which, under the then existing military laws of the state, gave him considerable prominence in the district. The way to a seat in Congress seemed opening before him. His ambition was greatly kindled. But now his religious duties, which had been much neglected, for several years, began to press upon his mind with force. Meanwhile, his early impression of duty to preach the gospel returned with great power. He again strove to thow off these impressions. To the proud, ambitious young man, with such bright worldly prospects before him, the thought of the poverty, self-denial, and reproach, attending the life of a preacher, was almost intolerable. The struggle was long and terrible, but the Spirit of God prevailed. "The strife went on," says he, "until humbled and subdued by God's grace, I at last submitted to be anything, or do anything, or, at least, to attempt anything that the Lord might require of me. This condition, and submission, was reached late one Sabbath evening -- perhaps the last in April, 1854 -- while on my knees, far out in the deep forest, where I was wrestling with God, duty, and self."
Mr. Coleman had already acquired considerable practice in public speaking, and, the following Sunday night, he commenced his ministry, at Old Beaver Dam church. This was in May, 1854. He took charge of Beaver Dam, and perhaps other churches, the same year. Within one year, he so disposed of his worldly affairs as to be able to give his whole time to the work of the ministry, which he has done to the present time (1885). He was ordained, in October, 1854, by Alfred Taylor and J. F. Austin. He was very soon pastor of four churches. From the beginning, his success was extraordinary, not only in the churches of which he was pastor, but in many
revival meetings, which he engaged in. He served Buck Creek church, McLean county, as pastor, 24 years, Beaver Dam, 18 years, Green Brier, 14 years, Sugar Grove, 12 years, West Point, 9 years, and several others, shorter periods of time. He has assisted in constituting 11 churches, and in ordaining 20 preachers. He was Moderator of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists, from 1859, till 1872. He was editor and proprietor of the Green River Baptist, for a time during the war. He was also co-editor and part owner of the Western Recorder, one year. He was State Evangelist, under appointment of the Board of the General Association two or three years.
In 1877, he accepted a call to the First Baptist church in Owensboro'. During the first year of his pastorate there, 250 were added to the church. Walnut Street church was constituted in that city the same year, and Mr. Coleman subsequently became pastor of that organization. He is at present, pastor of some country churches near his birthplace.
Between the time he was ordained, in October, 1854, and the first of January, 1879, he baptized 3,4155 persons. About 700 of these were from other denominations — mostly from the Methodists which were, next to the Baptists, most numerous in his part of the State. Among those he has baptized from the Methodists may be named W. Pope Yeaman now of St. Louis.
Mr. Coleman has acquainted himself with the outlines of theology and religious literature, and is familiar with his text book; but he has studied men rather than books. He is much better acquainted with the human heart than with systematic theology. He has dilligently studied effectiveness, and few men ever studied it to more advantage. Whatever may be said of his want of elegance of style, few men in Kentucky have ever been able to draw and hold together, from year to pear, larger congregations or more deeply interested audiences. He holds his religious convictions intensely, and is always ready to advocate and defend them. He has proved himself a skillful debater, but his best gift is that of a popular preacher. In this it would be difficult to point out his superior. But the best eulogium that can be passed on him as a preacher, is, that
extraordinary success has attended his ministrations from first to last.
JOHN M. PEAY, one of the most useful preachers in the Green River country, was for a short time pastor of Beaver Dam church. His ancestors were Baptists, two or three generations back, at least. William Keele, his maternal grandfather, was a Baptist minister, and was pastor of old Garrison church in Coffee county, Tenn., 56 years.
Mr. Peay was born in Rutherford county, Tenn., May 19th. 1832. In early life he moved to Butler county, Ky. There he was baptized into the fellowship of Sandy Creek church, by Alfred Taylor, in October, 1853. By this church he was licensed to preach, in 1854. He then spent three years in the study of J. S. Coleman, where he completed a very fair English education. He was ordained to the ministry at Beaver Dam church in September, 1857. The next year he moved to South Carrollton, on the south side of Green river, and took charge of the church in that town, to which he continued to minister till 1882, when he took charge of Bethel church, in Christian county, where he now labors. He has usually supplied four pulpits with preaching. In addition to his ministerial labors, he conducted an educational journal, in connection with his brother, R. D. Peay, for some years. He has published several small works, some of which are written with decided ability. As a preacher, Mr. Peay would hardly be regarded an orator, yet his delivery is forceable and effective. He analyzes his subject with close discrimination, and few men more thoroughly exhausts the matter in a text. He is a thorough Baptist, and, like Coleman, under whom he studied three years, and with whom he was intimately associated in the ministry twenty-four years, he is always ready to preach and defend his doctrines. He has proved himself a strong oral debater. In preaching talent, and in point of success, both as a pastor and an evangelist, he ranks close to Alfred Taylor and J. S. Coleman.
Of the thirteen churches constituted in 1798, eight still exist, but not more than three of them are exercising any considerable influence for good, the other five having fallen into the ranks of the Antimissionaries, and dwindled to almost insignificance. _______________
1 Has recently died.
2 Has recently died.
3 Now called Blue Spring.
4 I was led into a mistake here. Mr. Stelle was pastor of Sulphur Spring church in Simpson county, instead of that in Allen county.
5 To the present (1885), he has baptized over 4,000.
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. CHR&A, 1984. - jrd]
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