Note: There has been no formal biography written and left for us of the life of Lewis Conner. This is not an attempt to do that; it is a collection of facts gathered "here and there" that reference him and some explanation of these facts. He impacted the Baptist churches of Boone County in many ways.
When new information is added, the date of addition will be noted: 2.28.09
Boone County (KY) Baptist Minister
By Jim Duvall
Lewis Conner was listed in the 1850 Boone County Census as being 69 years old. He was born in Virginia and owned land valued at $9,500. His wife, Ann Crisler, whom he married July, 5 1803 in Boone County, was also born in Virginia and was 70 years in 1850. She was shown as owning land valued at $4,000. The 1830 census showed them with 5 children. He was 59 years old when he led in the organization of the Salem Predestinarian Baptist Association in 1840.
He was received into the Bullittsburg Baptist Church on a profession of his faith in Christ and baptism on Sunday July 6, 1800. This was during the early months of the revival there. From the census referred to, we know he was 19 years old when he came into the church.1
An entry in the Churchbook on September 6, 1800 reads: "A Complaint against Lewis Conner for going into Capt. Brown's orchard & getting apples, when forbidden and making use of unsavory Expressions. The matter was taken up investigated and some recantation made, & he restored."
In April 1801 when the members of Bullittsburg had a serious disagreement over some matter, and many left to constitute the Woolpers Creek Baptist Church; Conner was among the 75 members who left. In June of that year the new church reunited with the original church.2
In the Bullittsburg Churchbook, 5th of May 1804: "Granted brother Lewis Conner a letter of dismission." He went to Mud Lick one month after they constituted as a church. In July, 1805 Conner was received into the Middle Creek Baptist Church by letter. He left Middle Creek on November, 1806 by letter of dismission.
Lewis Conner, like his father before him, was a Justice of the Peace for the county. He was appointed in 1815 and resigned in January, 1820.
The Sand Run Baptist Church Minutes - Sunday 16th Sept, 1821, tell about the ordination of Conner. "Received a request from the Church at Gunpowder for helps to assist in the ordination of Bro. Lewis Conner to the office of the Ministry. agreed that the request be answered and that Brethren Matthews & T[homas] Whitaker attend accordingly." The Dry Creek Baptist Church (Kenton County) recorded: "Oct. 1821 - Gunpowder requested help in ordination of Bro. Conner." He is listed in the 1822 Northbend Association Minutes as ordained.
The Sand Run Baptist Church Minutes - Nov 23, 1822:
"No business brought forward. Bro. Lewis Conner and James Dicken were in attendance and were invited to preach."
In 1822 he wrote the association's corresponding letter to the Elkhorn Association and was appointed to deliver the association's letter to the Licking Association located in central Kentucky.
The Northbend Associational Minutes indicate that Conner attended as a Messenger from Forks of Gunpowder in 1812, 1813, 1816, 1817, 1819 through 1825; and in 1825 Conner was to attend the Bank Lick church yearly meeting later that year. Also he was appointed to preach the introductory sermon for 1826, which he did from Ephesians 2:20. The meeting was held at Bullittsburg that year. In 1827 Conner was appointeed to visit the Laughery Baptist Association in Indiana, which was directly across the Ohio river from Boone County.
In 1828 Lewis Conner attended the associational meeting. He was appointed to write the corresponding letter to the new Campbell Association and was also appointed to the committee of arrangements. Previously the moderator and clerk made the arrangements for the meeting. Some of the churches of the Association had annual meetings; Conner was appointed to attend the yearly meeting at Crew's Creek Baptist Church that year.
The recently located microfilm copy of the Minutes of the Sardis Baptist Church, Union (UK Library, Special Collections, 11.10.08), indicate that Lewis Conner, along with several other ministers were "helps" at the constitution of that church in 1831.
In 1832 Lewis Conner was a messenger from the Northbend Association at the Licking Association annual meeting and was chosen to preach. The meeting was held at Elizabeth Baptist Church, Bourbon County, KY.3
Conner was pastor of Forks of Gunpowder Baptist Church in 1833 when the church wrote a letter to the association asking an opinion on "societies." The letter is recorded in the North Bend Baptist Assocation Minutes: "Since our last [meeting] we have taken into consideration the propriety of our members uniting with, or having any thing to do with the societies as follows, to wit: Missionary Society, Bible Society, Tract Society, Sunday School Union, Temperance Society, State Convention, American Society, &c. After the matter was taken up and some investigation had on the subject, the church agreed that her members should have no connection with societies; and we wish also the counsel of the association to be given upon that decision, and advise the churches accordingly. We have no division of sentiment on the subject, with the exception of two members, who are friendly to the Bible Society." In reply to this request of our brethren in the church at the Forks of Gunpowder, this associaiton would say, "we are willing to leave the whole subject of those societies with the brethren who compose our churches, trusting that each one will act in that matter so as to have a conscience void of offence towards God, and that they will all bear with one another in love." [p. 3.] So there was a contention from at least one of the churches for several years before an actual division came in the Northbend Association.
Conner, while still associated with the NBBA, was chosen by the brethren to write three Circular Letters: in 1829, 1834 and 1839. Some churches of the association had seen great revival in 1828-29. There were 186 people saved and baptized and 71 added to the churches by letter of recommendation from other Baptist churches. It is impossible to determine how many had gone from one church to another as there were 62 who were dismissed by letter from the churches of the association; but over-all there were at least 195 more members than the previous year.
In his first Circular Conner made reference to the number received by experience and baptism and went on to say, "Let us pray for the salvation of sinners; let us pray for more labourers in the Gospel; let us pray with and for one another."
Conner said in this Circular, "We believe, from the constitution of this Association until now, there never has been any discord, or unpleasant feelings excited in the Association. Here we adopt the language of David, and say: 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity.'"
Conner believed and taught the "doctrines of grace" [Calvinism]; they were taught by all the churches in the association at that time. Note his explanation of God's work in salvation:"This brings to view some thing of the strength of that love which Jesus bore to his people, which was stronger than death. And it is through this medium that the Holy Spirit of God, acts upon the mind of poor dead sinners, to give them life and adopt them into the heavenly family; and in believing in Christ they rejoice with joy, that is unspeakable and full of glory. These are the brethren, that Paul addresses, and now in possession of that love that he speaks of. Is the exhortation good? or have we considered maturely our duty, in point of obedience to God and one another. When we consider what God has done for us, in the great work of redemption, in order to raise sinners from their state of sin and death, and eternal ruin, and to be adopted into a heavenly family, to wear a crown of righteousness, and possess a kingdom of immortal glory - is it not enough, to awaken all the feeling sensations of the mind, to a proper sense of our duty, to attend to all the commands and ordinances of the Lord, with pleasure and delight? Then, let us receive the exhortation, and say, 'let brotherly love continue,' and not only say, but do all things that we are directed in the scriptures, that may tend to happify each other. . . His kingdom is increasing, and will grow, until the last subject of grace is brought in; this is the kingdom, the prophet Daniel spoke of, that should not be destroyed. . . . Let us praise the Lord and thank his name, that he has not left us without some tokens of his divine love." 4In his Circular of 1834, Conner says,"Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus." Hence we discover that our standing is in Christ, and not in ourselves, in relation to our acceptance or justification before God; and as such, are brethren, being born of the same Spirit, children of one family, under one Lord and law giver. Then let us adhere to his government, and receive his word, which is the Scriptures as the only criterion to govern our faith and practice; and in them (the Scriptures) it is said that "the man of God is perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." . . .5In his 1839 Circular Conner wrote concerning the new birth,
"concerning the two ordinances of the gospel, to wit, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Baptists of our faith and order agree in them as one people, without the smallest variation: and also in their government or discipline, but little, if any, difference. . . ."
"But in reference to our preaching. It is said of us, that our preachers differ in point of doctrine: this assertion has been made by other people, as well as among ourselves. And now, brethren, let us consider whether the charge is correct, or only imaginary. It seems to be one that involves the church, as well as the ministers. Let us, therefore, search into the cause. Our object in introducing the subject is, if possible, to remove every thing that might tend to discord, throughout our correspondence. Therefore, let us consider the great propriety of making the proper inquiry: and while you are engaged in that, we will lay before you to consider that the gospel is a fixed principle, like its Author, yesterday, to-day, and for ever the same. So if there is a difference in preaching, it is not in the gospel, but in them that attempt to use it. . . . " Again, "The true gospel minister preaches Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, and the object of our faith; in a word, the entire salvation of his people. . . . But all to the reverse, preach terms and conditions on the part of men in point of salvation, according to their various notions."". . . We therefore say, that the new birth is produced alone by the spirit of God, in the heart of a poor sinner, who is as passive in the reception of it as the reception of the natural birth. But what does this spirit of life in the heart produce? It causes the subject now to act as a live sinner, and as the Lord pleases to give light to these spiritual eyes, the judgment is informed, and the sinner now prays for mercy in language like this: I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; I have no merit of my own; I am a helpless creature justly condemned. But the language of the heart is, Lord save; or I perish: and in some unexpected moment the Lord speaks peace to the troubled mind in the gift of faith, and the soul receives that gift with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: and wherefore, because the soul is now realizing the merits of a precious Savior, and in like manner all the subjects of the Spiritual House was, and is, and will be prepared, until all the purchase possession is brought in, and all such subjects upon the profession of their faith, is entitled to baptism, and then to all the privileges of the church of God, in which capacity we are called upon to render spiritual service, which is only acceptable through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . ."6Lewis Conner was no doubt the leader of the group of churches who brought charges of doctrinal decline against churches of Campbell County in 1839 at the yearly associational meeting; the year before he and others would bring charges against the Northbend Association and their formation of the new presdestinarian association.7
Conner was pastor of the Forks of Gunpowder church in 1840 when it broke fellowship with the NBBA and he was the leader in establishing the Salem Predestinarian Baptist Association, which met at the church he pastored. He was its first moderator and was chosen each year until 1857.
He was present at the constitution of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, in the Bullittsville community, on Sept 30, 1840. He was called as the first pastor and served until the end of the year 1841. That church was composed of 22 members from three churches in the county and was a charter member of the Salem Predestinarian Association when it was organized a few months after the constitution of the church.
Conner was a slave owner, but not a large owner like many others: The Census of 1810 and 1820 show him owning no slaves. In 1830 he owned one, and by 1840 he owned six. The Slave Schedule of 1850 is interesting in that the ages and gender of his slaves are shown: slaves - one 22 year old MB [male black], one 16 year old FB [female black], one 14 FB, one 4 year old FB, and one 6 months FB.8 It was unusual for a man to own such young slaves, unless he was involved in keeping a family of children together. Lewis Conner's farm, along with one other, was partly within the town of Florence's border. 9
Lewis Conner was a religious leader who had great influence in Boone County in his day. We do not have a record of Conner's death, as there is no record of a grave marker or Bible record. His estate was inventoried in May 1858. He had probably died a few months earlier. He didn't live to see the decline and even extinction of the group of churches he led.
[The grammar and spelling of the Circulars are unchanged. Some of this information was provided by my son, James.]
1 Bullittsburg Baptist Church Minutes.
2 Ibid., June 27, 1801.
3 Licking Baptist Association Minutes, 1832.
4 NBBA Minutes, 1829.
5 NBBA Minutes, 1834, pp. 3-4.
6 NBBA Minutes, pp.7-8.
7 James Kirtley, History of Bullittsburg Baptist Church, 13.
8 Boone County Census, 1810-1850. Court House Records.
9 Paul Tanner, Florence, Kentucky - The First Century 1830-1930, Privately published, 1993, p. 5.
Information added 12.3.08
From the Minutes of the Licking Association of Particular Baptists, 1849 [Central KY]:
"From Salem Predestinarian Baptist Association, a Letter by her Messengers: J. W. Rogers, G. Foster, L. Conner. [p. 3]
Saturday's session was closed by 'Prayer by Elder Conner.' [p. 4]
Sunday morning, Lewis Conner was one of three ministers who preached at the Association. He used Titus ii, 14 as his text: 'Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.'" [p. 4]
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