Editor's note: The book lists this as section IV, the same as the last section; the error is corrected here. The footnotes are changed to endnotes and the numbers are changed to consecutive numbers. — jrd
Virginia Baptist History
By David Benedict
Union Association — Broad Run — Parkersburg — Teay's Valley — Pocatalico — Tygart's Valley — Indian Creek — General Association — Closing remarks — Correspondents.
This Western Division of Virginia, although of very great extent as to its geographical boundaries, yet the numerical strength in it is small compared with that on the east of the mountains.
I shall begin in what is sometimes denominated N. W. Virginia, near the Pennsylvania line; here the denomination seems first to have made their settlement, and gathered the first churches; from this point, they have branched out in different directions until they have planted their principles and institutions in almost all parts of this end of the State.
What has been said of western Pennsylvania beyond the mountains, three-fourths of a century since, as to its wild and desolate condition, the difficulties and dangers to be encountered from the savage cruelty of the aborigines of the country, and its almost entire destitution of any religious, and especially baptist institutions, will apply to the portion of this ancient coin commonwealth now under consideration. And, to the influence of John and James Sutton, John Corbly, and their associates, whose history has been given among the pioneers of western Pennsylvania, are the baptists indebted for laying the foundation of the first churches of the order in this flourishing section of the State.59
Was formed in 1804. This is the oldest and most efficient body in this region. At its organization it consisted of the ten following churches, all of which had been dismissed for the purpose, from the old Red Stone, of Pennsylvania. Their names were, Pricket's Creek, Buchanan, Little Bethel, Sandy Creek, Salem Union, Olive Branch, Wellsfork, and Gethsemane, in all of which were but a little more than one hundred members.
Their ministers, at first, were Isaac Morris, John Dunham, Joshua Hinckman, and Phineas Wells; C. Huff; J. Gawthorp, J. Currey, Wm. and J. Davidson, L. Howell, C. Wheeler, C. Keys, C. Parker, T. Swiger, J. Cather, J. Wrightman, J. Thomas, Thos. Martin, J. J. Waldo, J.M. Chapman, J. W. B. Tisdale, J. H. Goss, P. W. Holden, were their coadjutors or successors in this view field of labor. Most of these men are still alive.
Some of the churches of this community are the oldest in the country, of a few of them only can I give any historical sketches.
SIMPSON'S CREEK CHURCH is the oldest in this community, having been formed in 1774.
Rev. John Sutton was their first pastor. Since him, they have had Rev. Messrs. Isaac Edwards, Joseph Davis, John Corbly, Phineas Wells, Jesse W. Goss, A. J. Garrett, and M. Maddox.
PRICKET'S CREEK and BUCHANAN are the next in age, both having been organized in 1786.
WESTFORK was formed in 1801. J. Hinckman was one of their early its ministers.
Rev. J. L. Howell is their present pastor.
BEULAH, in Pruntytown, was formed in 1818. This is the seat, of Rector College, a young institution which arose out of an education society; it was organized a few years since, within the bounds of this Association. This church is the largest in this body.60
Rev. C. Huff, late pastor of this church, came into office in 1833, in which he continued a number of years. Before this, they had been supplied by elders Goss, Bailey, Hinckman, and Currey.
Rev. C. Wheeler, the president of the college, was its pastor in 1846.
Revival seasons have often been experienced by this body, as well as other churches in this community, and a number of ministerial sons leave been nurtured within her bounds.
A number of other ministers reside here, who officiate at the college or with the neighboring churches.
In 1809, according to Semple, this Association was in the counties of Harrison, Randolph, and Monongahela; new counties have since been formed, and considerable changes by dismissions and additions have taken place in its boundaries, and no pains is taken on the Minutes as to counties; but from what I can spell out, Preston, and probably some other counties, embrace a portion of the churches.
BROAD RUN ASSOCIATION
Is a branch of the Union, and was organized in 1835, of twelve churches, and about 700 members. The principal ministers at the time of its constitution, were three brothers by the name of Holden: Alexander C., Benjamin, and Peter W.; Anthony J. Garret, Joseph Barnet, and James S. Griffin.
Since then there has been added to their number, Matthew Maddox, Abram Haynes, Samuel Alton, Carr Bailey, Timothy Maxon, George W. Dacon, and J. Woofter.
A number of ministers of this body have been under the patronage of the General Association of Virginia, from the time of its constitution; the good effect of which has been experienced in the rise of new churches, and the enlargement of those which were already established.
BROAD RUN CHURCH, organized in 1804, is the oldest in this community.
Rev. J. J. Waldo was its first pastor, and continued in office upwards of thirty years. "Although an ordinary preacher in point of talents, he was greatly beloved by those who attended his ministry, and especially the members of the church; and his congregations were always large. He was renowned for his activity in stirring up the members to their duty, and exciting them to a healthy action in their holy vocation."61
This church has been the mother of others, and a nursery of ministers. From it have been set off, wholly or in part, Freeman's Creek, Elam, and Hacker's Creek; and she has sent out into the ministry Rev. Messrs. J. Bailey, B. Holden, A. J. Garret, and M. Maddox.
One worthy old deacon is the only member yet alive, who united in its constitution.
Was organized in 1821; the town from which it took its name is situated on the Ohio River, in the county of Wood, and probably some others. Although this body has stood so many years, yet its numerical strength is very small. The ministers are Geo. C. Sedwick, Enoch Rector, Henry Dye, Wm. C. Barren, and Isaac McDermond.
PARKERSBURG CHURCH, 1819, Geo. C. Sedwick pastor, is the largest in this body, and the only one whose membership amounts to 100. The churches generally are of recent origin.
TEAYS' VALLEY ASSOCIATION
Was formed in 1812, by a division of the Greenbrier, then very feeble and young. But the remote situation of a number of the churches, and the
great inconvenience of attending the annual sessions, furnished arguments with the distant brethren, which finally prevailed, although much against the wishes of elder Alderson, the founder of this old institution.
The whole number of churches was but twelve, seven of which went off with the new body.
This Association is still farther westward, and is in the counties of Logan, Cabell, &c.
This is another of the small bodies in this wide spread field, which split off from the Teays' Valley in 1835, on the principles of benevolence. The chief cause assigned for their separation was, that the mother body had become a member of the General Association of Virginia. It is in the counties of Kanawha, and some adjoining ones.
DAVIS' CREEK, is the largest church in this body. In 1845 it reported 152; the others are generally small.
The ministers in this body appear to be Wm. Martin, J. Canterbury, A. Wallace, and W. Atkins.
TYGART'S VALLEY ASSOCIATION
Was formed in 1838, of a few churches which withdrew from the Union and Broach Run communities, from disaffection towards their principles and measures as to benevolent operations. The churches are in the counties of Randolph, Barbour, Taylor, Harrison, Doddridge, and Ritchie. The whole amount of membership was 235 in 1845.62
INDIAN CREEK ASSOCIATION.
All I know of such an institution was communicated in a letter from Rev. Eli Ball, Oct. 1843.
"A few weeks ago, there was a new Association formed in Monroe Co., in Western Virginia. It is called Indian Creek, and consists of three churches that formerly belonged to the New River Association. It has one ordained minister, elder Johnson Keaton, and is an anti-mission body."
I have had intimations of a Zoar Association in this State, and thought it was located in the gore of Virginia, which runs up between Pa. and the Ohio river; but Mr. Maddox assures me, he knows of no such body in that region; he thinks it must be east of the Blue Ridge, if there, is such an institution in the State.
Recapitulation of the Baptist affairs in North-Western Virginia.
Rev. Matthew Maddox, one of the pastors of the Broad Run Association, and. J. Davidson, at that time clerk of the Union Association, have been my principal guide, in what I have said of these bodies, and most of the other smaller communities in this western region. They have taken much pains to supply me with historical materials. Rev. Mr. Wheeler, president of Rector College, of which the Associations here seem to have an especial care, has also shown much interest in my undertaking; these brethren, and a considerable number of the clerks here, mostly of the old Union, have given sketches of their respective churches, so that, would my limits permit, I could have detailed accounts of most all the churches in N. W. Virginia, in as particular a manner as Semple has done in his history of the Virginia baptists up to his time. Mr. Maddox has confirmed all the accounts I have given of Western Pa., and has shown that in early times the whole western territory in both States was one great missionary field, which was traversed by the same ministers, and that the Suttons, Corbley, and others were the planters of the early churches in both; his remarks on the opposers of missionary efforts are somewhat severe; this is not strange when we consider how much the whole region is indebted to ministerial services of this kind, either by the appointments of the General Association, or by the self-supported efforts of the hardy and laborious ministers on the ground.
BAPTIST GENERAL ASSOCIATION.
This great confederacy, although under another name, is similar in its nature and operations to the State Conventions in other parts of the country; its full history cannot now be given; it is of great importance to the interests of the denomination in this great State, and must in time embody their united strength, which at present is by no means the case, even of those who profess to be friendly to its principles and designs.
This body is intended to combine the energies of the churches and Associations in missionary and other benevolent plans in the western regions of the state. The Minutes of 1816, being its third session, are before me, and exhibit a good degree of vigor and enterprise among the ultra montane brethren.
CLOSING REMARKS. The history of our denomination in this great territory, scanty and imperfect as it may appear, has cost me no small amount of labor. I have made the number of Associations greater than our statistical compilers have generally done, but they are all there, and with but few exceptions, the Minutes of them are before me. This is the first Suite the have come to where that portion of our, denomination called old school, or anti--mission people, appear with any considerable force; and here they are but a feeble band, compared with those who profess to be the friends and supporters of evangelical efforts and moral reform.
This chapter on the Virginia baptists, with all my efforts at abridgment and compression, has swelled much beyond the limits I at first assigned to it, and yet it seems as it has but glanced at the history of our community in this ancient commonwealth. They are getting matters in a favorable train for future enterprises, which I should judge they hall made up their minds to pursue with redoubled vigor and activity.
LITERARY INSTITUTIONS. As I have said relative to all the other States, all historical sketches of these interests must be reserved for my next volume: I will merely say, we have two seminaries under college charters, which are working their way into being as colleges de facto, as well as in name. Their names and locations have already beat given.
Besides the great body of associated baptists, many of the other communities, who adopt essentially baptist view; as to gospel ordinances and religious freedom; exist here in great numbers. Those called Reformers, Disciples, Or Campbellites, probably outnumber all the rest. A summary account of all I can learn of them will be related under appropriate heads.
Correspondents. I may name Eli Ball, J. B. Taylor, David McGehee, C. T. Burley, L . W. Allen, J. R. Scott, Samuel Dorset, J. Henshall, H. Frazer, William Slaughter, R. Prior, Geo. Love, H. Keeling, in Eastern Virginia. Middle: L. B. Dulany, J. Remley, L. A. Alderson, J. N. Brown. Western: M. Maddox, J. Davidson, C. Wheeler, J. Bradley, A. Campbell. Also, the clerics of a number of the churches in the Union Association, as S. D. Norman, J. Martin, T. Pool, J. Hayhurst, P. Britton, T. Poulton, and Geo. Lake.
Some of these correspondents have taken no small pains to collect and supply the with historical materials.
In addition to these, Mr. Sands, publisher of the Religious Herald, Richmond, has been very punctual to publish my notices in my circulars, and spare me Minutes from his own files, which have afforded me material aid, and enabled me to be more minute in my details of all the Associations than I could otherwise have been.
59. Letter of Rev. M. Maddox, to the author, who quotes as his authority the oral testimony of William Powers, Esq., one of the first settlers of North-west Virginia, who is still alive.
60.60. In 1846, it reported 196; Union, ______, 180; Westfork, 107; Harmony, A. J. Garret, the same. All the others are under 100.
61. Letter of Rev. M. Maddox to the author.
62. Tygarts' Valley was, formerly, the name of a town in Randolph Co., which is now called Beverly — Morse's Gazetteer.
[From David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, 1848; rpt. 1977, pp. 677-680. — jrd]
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