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A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer
The Baptists have been occupying the soil of Kentucky one hundred and ten years, and, with the exception of two brief periods, have been much the most numerous denomination of Christians in the State; yet, they alone, of the leading sects, have failed to have their history written, until now. The present work is the primal history of the Kentucky Baptists. Some fragmentary accounts of churches and associations have been printed from time to time, but nothing like a connected history of the denomination has been published since Benedictís epitome of its early operations was issued from the press at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1813.
The want of a history of Kentucky Baptists has long been felt, and various efforts have been made to secure such a work. The first attempt of the kind was made by Silas M. Noel and Jeremiah Vardeman, in 1812, when these distinguished ministers proposed to publish A Comprehensive History of the Baptists of Virginia and Kentucky. The churches and associations were appealed to for aid in collecting materials for the work, and generally responded favorably. What progress was made, or whether the writing was actually commenced, is not known; but it is certain that the proposed work was never published. The next attempt of the kind was made in 1818, by one M. Smith, who proposed to publish A History of the Baptists in the Western Country. This enterprise was nipped in the bud by some of the associations, which resolved that they disapproved of the pretentions of M. Smith, believing him to be "unqualified for such service."
After this, no effort appears to have been made in this direction, till 1841, when John L. Waller, while acting as agent of the General Association, commenced gathering historical facts concerning the churches. He continued this work, incidentally, till about 1853, when he resolved to write A History of the Baptists in Kentucky. It was, at first, supposed that the work was about ready for the press; but, after his death, in
1854, nothing was found written on the subject, and it is now generally believed that he had not commenced the writing. After the death of Dr. Waller, his surviving partner and coeditor, S.H. Ford, now the well known Dr. Ford, of St. Louis, commenced gathering materials for Kentucky Baptist History. About 1856 he began to weave these materials into historical sketches, which he published in The Christian Repository. His intention was to continue the work until he had brought the history down to the present, and then put it in a mote permanent form. But the Civil War caused the suspension of his labors in Kentucky, in 1861, and the final removal of his periodical to St. Louis. However, he gathered muchhistorical material, and left in print some matter that was useful to the subsequent historian. In 1866, R.L. Thurman and the author of this work proposed to gather materials for A History of the Deceased Baptist Ministers of Kentucky. Mr. Thurman soon discovered that the proposed work interfered with his duties as agent for foreign missions, and abandoned the purpose. The author continued to pursue the work alone, in connection with his labors as an evangelist. In prosecuting this enterprise, he was brought to the conclusion that a change of his plan, so as to include the early history of the Baptist denomination in the State, would be an improvement on the original design. He was contemplating this change in the arrangement, when, in 1870, W. Pope Yeaman announced his intention to write A History of Kentucky Baptists. Dr. Yeaman pursued his purpose two or three years, when his enterprise was lost sight of, it being supposed to have been abandoned. The author, remembering the repeated failures that had attended similar attempts, continued to prosecute his researches and collect materials, while preaching from 442 to 572 times a year.
In 1876, the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky adopted the following;
"The committee to whom was referred the subject of Kentucky Baptist History have considered the same, and beg leave to report:
"By the utter and continued failures heretofore to procure facts, and any person or persons to accomplish an end so desirable as a history of Kentucky Baptists, your committee do not
feel inclined to continue the work in the hands of associational committees, but would most respectfully transfer the whole matter into the hands of Rev. J. H. Spencer, D.D., with the request that he at once proceed to prepare such a history of Kentucky Baptists as he is enabled from facts, documents, etc., now in his possession and [that he] may be able to procure, and that he report his progress at the next meeting of the General Association.
The author at once accepted the responsibility, not without feeling its great weight and some of the difficulties he would have to encounter, and gave to the work all the time he could spare from what he deemed the higher duty of preaching the gospel. The field had been gleaned of historic documents in the more easily accessible portions of the State, again and again, and the matter, so obtained, had either been destroyed, or those who had it in their possession esteemed it too highly to allow the author the use of it. He was also farther embarrassed by ascertaining that very many of his brethren had theineffaceable impression that the work, which he deemed a great sacrifice for the benefit of his denomination, was a promising pecuniary speculation. Letters and circulars, sent to all parts of the State, received very little attention. His final resort, therefore, was to get on his horse, and, at such seasons of the year as he could not be engaged in the work of an evangelist, thoroughly canvass the whole State. This required several years, and by the time it was accomplished, his health was so enfeebled that he greatly feared he could not live to finish the book, now that the materials for its composition were collected. Meanwhile he was so afflicted with rheumatism that he could handle papers only with extreme difficulty and was compelled to employ an amanuensis to do his writing. Through all these trials and afflictions, however, God has sustained him in his tedious labors, and the work finished, after nineteen years of excessive toil, is offered to the Baptists of Kentucky and the general public, without a reasonable hope of pecuniary reward.
GREEN CLAY SMITH, Chairman."
Among many kind friends who have generously aided him, the author takes pleasure in naming the following:
Rev. John James, of Adair county; Rev. M. F. Ham, Rev. Y. Witherspoon, J. H. Collins and Wm. Spencer, of Allen; Rev. T. J. Hedger and Mrs. Judge Bell, of Anderson;
Gov. P.H. Leslie, Col. Wm. Ellis, Jas. Scrivner, Rev. John H. Baker, Rev. Jas. Brooks and Rev. E. Butram, of Barren; Rev. J. A. Kirtley, D.D. and Rev. L. Johnson, of Boone; Rev. Wm. Head, Rev. S. L. Helm, D. D., Hon. R. R. Pearce and Mrs. Harriet Moorman, of Breckenridge; Hon. Aaron Harding and Jas. Slaughter, of Boyle; Rev. T. E. Richey and Rev. R.W. Moorehead, of Caldwell; Rev. J. C. Spann, of Calloway; Rev. J. M. Jolly and Mrs. Jas. Spillman, of Campbell; Walton Craig and Peter Conway, of Carroll; Prof. J. W. Rust and Kirtley Twyman, of Christian; Rev. Wm. Rupart, J. N. Conkwright and A. G. Bush, of Clark; Rev. Taylor Gilbert, of Clay; Judge P. H. Hopkins and Rev. J. C. Denton, of Clinton; Rev. J. B. Hardy, of Crittenden; Mrs. J. A. McClusky, of Cumberland; Rev. J. M. Dawson, Rev. W. H. Dawson, Rev. J. P. Ellis and Rev. J. B. Solomon, D. D., of Daviess; Rev. I. N. Brown, of Edmonson; Rev. R. T. Dillard, D. D., Rev. J. C. Freeman and J. W. Royster, of Fayette; Rev. Cad. Lewis, L. L. D., of Franklin; Rev. Wm. Cook, of Floyd; Rev. W. C. Taylor, Rev. W. F. Lowe and Rev. Wm. Howard, of Graves; Rev. T. K. Reynolds, of Greenup; W. D. Hopper and J. H. Kemper, of Garrard; Rev. J. E. Stone, of Hancock; Rev. J. H. Fullilove, Rev. G. H. Hicks, Hon. Sam. Haycraft and Abram Lewis, of Hardin; Rev. A. W. Richardson and John B. Edwards, of Hart; Rev. John Bryce and Rev. A. Hatchitt of Henderson; Rev, Willis White and Rev. Stephen Ray, of Hickman; Rev. E. G. Berry, Rev. D. N. Porter, M. D., Rev. J. M. Eaton and Mrs. Nancy Tingle, of Henry; Milton Sisk, of Hopkins; Rev. A. C. Caperton, D. D., Rev. J. L. Burrows, D. D., John Williamson and Mrs. Ann Netherton, of Jefferson; Rev. Wm. Jayne, of Johnson; Rev. J. G. Holcomb, of Jackson; Rev. Thos. Pritchard, G. B. Foley and J. H. Davis, of Knox; Rev. John Duncan, of LaRue; Rev. J. W. Moran, of Laurel; Rev. S. C. Caudill, of Letcher; Rev. Jno. S. Higgins, of Lincoln; Rev. M. H. Utley, of Livingston; Jno. W. Jackson, of Lyon; T. N. Lyne, Rev. Jas. Lamb, Rev. Sam'l Baker, D. D., Rev. Robert Woodward, A. L. Burks and Mrs. B. B. Piper, of Logan; Rev. Jno. G. Pond, of Madison; Rev. C. W. Bailey, of Magoffin; Rev. D. M. Green and Rev. T. F. Harrison, of Marshall; S. S. Minor, of Mason; Rev. G. W. Dupee (col.),
of McCracken; Rev. S. Cook and E. Burrus, of Mercer; Rev. Wm. L. Givedon, M. D., of Morgan, Rev. Jas. Williamson, of Martin; Rev. Wm. Vaughan, D. D., Abner King, J. S. Foxworthy and Wm. Taylor, of Nelson; Jno. Simpson, of Owsley; Rev. Jno. W. Waldrop, Rev. J. V. Riley and R. S. Coats, of Owen; Rev. N. C. Pettit, of Pendleton; Rev. H. B. Whiles, W. T. Hail and C. H. McKinney, of Pulaski; Rev. R. M. Dudley, D. D., President of Georgetown College, of Scott; Rev. W. E. Powers, Prof. T. J. Doolan, Daniel Shouse, J. G. Farmer, Rev. T. M. Daniel and Mrs. Jane Collins, of Shelby; Rev. O. H. Morrow, of Simpson; Rev. T. H. Coleman and Lummie Grigsby, of Spencer; Prof. H. E. Wayland, M. B. Wharton, Rev. H. Smith and Robt. Goodwin, of Trigg; Rev. A. Smith and Miss Lizzie Arnold, of Trimble; Rev. J. B. Haynes and S. M. Martin, of Union; Rev. W. W. Durham and Hon. George Wright, of Warren; Rev. Joel Gordon and Gabriel Kendrick, of Washington; Isaiah Bird and Jas. Meadows, of Whitley; Rev. W. A. Cooper, Jacob Cooper and T. J. Eads, of Wayne; Revs. Jonathan Wiseman, Robt. Norvell and A. D. Sears, of the State of Tennessee; Rev. C. J. Kelley, of Illinois, and I. N. Wyman, of Kansas. Besides these, many others, whose names must be omitted for want of space, have rendered the author valuable aid, for which he begs leave to express his gratitude. He also desires to express his thanks to the editors of the Western Recorder, the Baptist GIeaner, and a number of other papers, both religious and secular, for timely words of encouragement.
The author's aim has been to record, as nearly as might be, all that is valuable and interesting in the history of the Baptists in Kentucky, from the time that Elder Squire Boone first set his foot on the soil of the unexplored wilderness, in the spring of 1769, down to the year 1885. Great pains have been taken to ascertain the facts, and nothing has been recorded as a fact without what the author deemed good authority. His principal sources of information have been the official records of churches and associations, though he has had access tonearly all that has been published on the subject, especially during the earlier periods, as well as the manuscript diaries and correspondence of a number of prominent ministers of the past. He has also visited, and conversed with many aged ministers
and other persons, in all parts of the State, and corresponded with many of "the fathers" who have since gone to their reward. No pains have been spared in seeking every source of information, and especial
care has been taken to have dates correct. But after all possible efforts have been made to secure exact accuracy, there will, doubtless, be some mistakes found in the book. There are discrepancies and contradictions both in official records and in what have been deemed the best historical authorities. From these causes some mistakes are inevitable, but it is hoped they are few and unimportant.
The author has attempted the utmost brevity consistent with perspicuity, and an earnest effort has been made to render the book easily comprehensible to the common reader. In speaking of other denominations, the author has desired and attempted to be just and respectful. The terms Campbellism and Campbellite have been used just as have those of Calvinism, Arminianism, Calvinist and Wesleyan, not as terms of reproach, but simply as the most definite if not the only words that would clearly designate the system of doctrine to which reference is made, and the adherents of that system.
The history of the Colored Baptists is brief and unsatisfactory, on account of the difficulty of obtaining sufficient information concerning them. A few of the better informed among them seemed pleased to have their history written, and were ready to impart what information they could, but most of them appeared shy and suspicious.
No appology is deemed necessary for such repetitions as were required to make each subject treated intelligible without reference to what had gone before; as the manner of reading, in the present age, demands such arrangement.
The author is sensible of many deficiencies in the work, in matter, style and arrangement; but he begs leave to assure his readers that he has done the best he could under the circumstances, to furnish them a correct and impartial history of Kentucky Baptists, and craves their indulgence for any failure of his efforts.
J. H. SPENCER. Eminence, Kentucky, August 24, 1885.
[J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. 1984.]
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