Having been appointed by the Association to prepare a History of the First Baptist Church, of Covington, Ky., I feel it it due the Church, the Association and myself to give you the reasons why the duty has been so unsatisfactorily performed. The records of the Church, covering many years of its early existence, have been lost. I have made every effort to find them, making inquiries of those who would be likely to know, and publicly requesting the members of the Church to aid me in the search. All efforts were unsuccesssful. It was suggested that I should obtain all the information I could from the members of the Church. This I resolved to do.
There are three or four aged persons living in the city who were present and were a part of the Church at its organization. In conversing with them I found their memory failed them, and thus their information was exceedingly indefinite and unsatisfaactory. I could not consent to write for real history what was only probable, and that which could be certainly known I have recorded. From the Church Manuel I gather the following facts. I shall give them in the same language in which they are recorded:
"On the 10th of March, 1838, messngers from the Baptists churches at Licking, Dry Creek, Four Mile and East Bend, Kentucky and Ninth Street and Enon Baptist churches, Cincinnati, Ohio, met in a school house on the north east corner of Fourth and Scott streets, in Covington, Ky. Elder S. W. Lynd preached from Acts 2:47; whereupon twenty-one brethren and sisters from various Baptist churches presented themselves and were publicly recognized by the messengers from above named churches as the First Baptist Church in Covington, Ky. Feeble and poor in this world's goods, but rich in faith, they commenced their labor of love. The blessings of God attended them. For months they received members at almost every meeting. Elder John B. Cook was settled as their pastor a few weeks after their organization, and the same year their house of worship was commenced"
It continued for several years to increase and to hold the front rank among the churches of the city, numbering among its membership the most wealthy and influential of the citizens. It took a "lively interest in all those grand and compreshensive schemes of benevolence which contemplate the universal extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the evangelization of the world. The Sunday School ever received her prayers and benefactions."
The list of pastors covering the period of the lost records is as follows: Elder J. B. Cook served them until January 1839. From January, 1839, to October of the same year they were supplied by Elders Savage and Drury; from October, 1839, to February, 1842, Elder Joseph T. Roberts; from February, 1842, to January, 1845, Elder Asa Drury; from September, 1845, to March, 1846, they were supplied by Elder R. C. Patterson; from March, 1846, to June, 1848, Elder J. M. Frost was pastor; from August, 1848 to February, 1849, they were supplied by Bro. Drury; from February, 1849, to November 1852, Elder S. W. Lynd served as pastor; from November, 1852, to March, 1854, Elder John M. Peck; from March, 1854, to 1859, Elder S. L. Helm; from Apri, 1860, to October, 1861, Wm. Price.
As to the time when this body connected itself with the North Bend Association, the minutes of the Association say it was 1840. A called meeting of the Church was held November 5th, 1861; Bro. Compton acted as moderator and Bro. Cooper as clerk. The purpose for which they were called was to license Bro. T. N. Wise to preach the gospel, which was accordingly done. At a regular church meeting held April 1st, 1862, the following paper was read and ordered to be spread upon the records:
"A meeting, inviting all the Baptists of the city to co-operate in an effort to promote the best interest of the cause, was held in the basement of the First Baptist Church, on Thursday evening, March 27th, 1862. Rev. S. L. Helm and Rev. J. M. Frost were present. Bro. Helm was called to the chair, who, with Bro. Frost, explained the object of the meeting, whereupon it was
"Resolved, That we will, as far as in us lies, forget and forgive all past causes of differences that may have arisen too near our mutual fellowship, and that with a sincere desire and honest purpose to sustain the Baptist interest in this city, we will co-operate in our best efforts for the support of the preached gospel in our midst."
This being submitted to those present it was unanimously adopted. At the request of Bro. P. S. Bush a committee of five brethren of each church was appointed to confer with the members of John's Church to secure their full and hearty cooperation in the above objects, and report to this meeting on Saturday night next. After feeling exhortations from Bro. Helm and Frost the meeting adjourned to Saturday night next. Saturday night, March 29th, 1862, the adjourned meeting was held with Bro. Helm as chairman. The committee made their report through Bro. Frost, who had been by them unanimously chosen to do so. The report is as follows:
"That John's [Baptist] Church, while retaining its own organization, will fully and heartily co-operate with the First Church in carrying out the views and feelings expressed at the previous meeting."
Mention is made of John's Church in the above account. This church was organized by members who left the First Chruch. It was finally disbanded, and many of the members took membership in the First Church again. When it was organized we are not prepared to say, as it occurred in the period of our lost records. It became merged into the First Church again about the year 1862.
At a meeting held in April, 1862, a committee was appointed to draft resolutions expressing regret at the death of Bro. Daniel G. Hatch, an honored and a useful member of the Church. At a meeting held in May, 1862, Rev. W. Pope Yeaman was unanimously called to the pastorate of the Church. Bro. Yeaman accepted the call, and entered upon his labors the 25th of August, 1862. At a meeting held in September the Church requested the call of a presbytery to ordain Bro. T. N. Wise to the gospel ministry at some future time. The records do not show when this ordination took place and who composed the presbytery.
October 28th, 1862, on motion of Bro. T. N. Wise, the following resolutions were adopted:
"Resolved, That the Financial Committee shall report to the church at the last church meeting of each quarter the anmes of all those who have paid their quarterly instalment [sic] on the pastor's salary.
"Resolved, That the deacons of the church shall report to the Financial Committee once at least in every quarter the names of all who have been added to the list of conributors to the pastor's salary, with the amount contributed by each."
The wisdom of these resolutions is apparent, and the church acted wisely in adopting them. We call special attention to them.
June 30th, 1863, a committee was appointed to ascertain the propriety of selecting a preaching place in some other portion of the city. This was an effort to colonize or build up another church, but the records do not show that anything was done in that direction. September 1st, 1863, the pastor of the German Baptist Church, of Newport, was granted permission to occupy the basement of the church on Sunday afternoons for worship. This was an effort to establish a German interest in Covingtn, but the records do not show that anything was done.
December 1st, 1863, election of officers occurred. Bro. Thos. Porter, who had served the church for several years as clerk, was elected a deacon, and Bro. Joseph P. Hunt was elected clerk.
March 29th, 1864. This year the church improved their house of worship, by re-roofing and extending the front to the sidewalk.
In February, 1868, Bro. Yeaman resigned the pastorate of the church. His ministry was greatly blessed, many accessions were made to the chruch, and the chruch otherwise built up and strengthened.
We must now pass over several years, from 1864 to 1867, because we have no records. Bro. Yeaman resigned twice, but in a short time after his first resignation he was recalled, at a meeting held April 2, 1867.
July 2, 1867, delegates were appointed to a meeting to be held at Cynthiana for the purpose of establishing a church there.
December 31st, 1867, Bro. Yeaman having signified his intention to resign the pastorate at the close of the present term, having accepted a call to a church in New York city, a motion was made, seconded and unanimously passed, to call Rev. W. H. Felix, of Lexington, as pastor, and a committee appointed to inform him of the action of the church. At the next meeting a letter was read from Rev. W. H. Felix declining the call of the church.
March 18th, 1868, Bro. M. H. Worral presented himself for membership, stating that he had been a member of the Baptist church a number of years previous to his coming to Covington. Since coming to the city he had been connected with the Presbyterian church because of his peculiar social relation. He also stated that it was his conviction that it was his duty to preach the gospel, and that he could only do so conscientiously as an ordained minister of the Baptist church. He was received heartily, and the hand of welcome extended. Bro. Worrall has since made a worthy and useful minister of the gospel.
In March Rev. G. F. Pentecost, Evansville, Ind., came and held a very successful meeting with the church. After his return home the church unanimously called him to the pastorate. Bro. Pentecost accepted the call, and entered upon his labors August, 1868. He resigned the care of the church in December, 1869, having accepted the call of a church in Brooklyn, New York. Bro. Pentecost served the church acceptably, and was instrumental in bringing into the church a great number, some of whom are efficient members now.
May 2, 1870, the call of the church to be its pastor was extended to Rev. W. H. Felix. The call was accepted, and he entered upon his labors the first Sunday in July, 1870. The church was at that time worshiping in the same building they had occupied for thirty years. It had been several tiems renovated and changed, but it now showed the effects of age, and was not by any means creditable to the wealth, generousity and refinement of the people. The pastor began immediately to agitate the subject of the people. The subject had been agitated before, but the agitation bore no tangible fruit. The people, however, were ready and anxious for the enterprise, provided it could be done. The pastor, at his request, was appointed the financial agent of the church to solicit funds for the work. Learning a lesson from previous agitation of the subject he thought it wise to stop all talk and discussion of the matter in the church, and proceed quickly to solicit funds for the pupose.
It was a great undertaking, and many of the prominent members looked upon it as impossible, not because of any indisposition to help, but because of the failure of former attempts. This, indeed, was an obstacle to be overcome. The pastor had to inspire them with courage by being himself courage, and assuring them the work could and must be done. In a short time he canvassed the church and friends of the church and secured in reliable subscriptions a sum sufficient to begin the work. He reported the amount to the church, and told them in was sufficient to put up the building and finish the basement, which wold give them a far more decent and worthy place of worship than they then had. He urged them to begin the work and tear down immediately the old church, feeling that if they would do so it would commit them them to the new enterprise beyond question, and inspire the doubting and hesitant with faith and zeal in the work.
This was a bold stroke, but it was necessary. The old building was really unsafe for occupancy and a great draw back to the prosperity of the church. They agreed to begin the work, and about the first of the year 1871 the old building was demolished to give place for the new. The church worshiped in Odd Fellows Hall and Library Hall while the building was going up. The prayer meetings were held from house to house among the members. At the close of the year 1871 a large and handsome building was erected and ready for occupancy in the basement. On the 6th of June, 1871, the pastor's wife, Mrs. Mattie Felix died. This was a severe blow in the midst of an arduous enterprise.
In January, 1872 the church occupied their new building. From this time the church began to be blessed. On the Sabbath previous to the departure of the pastor to the Holy Land, and just after the occupancy of the new building, quite an interest developed. That day the pastor baptized quite a number of young people. Having made all arrangements for his departure he was compelled to leave the interest, but the church sent for Rev. G. F. Pentecost and continued the meetings. A great number was gathered into the church duirng the meeting. After a six month's absence the pastor returned, and entered again upon his labors with renewed hope and energy.
After a few months the question of completing the house was raised, and the work determined upon. The pastor solicited funds for the purpose. In the fall of the year 1873 the whole building was completed and dedicated. The pastor preached the sermon in the morning and Dr. Hawthorne, then of Broadway Bapitst Church, Louisville, Ky., preaching in the evening. The completion of the work left the church heavily in debt. They had one of the most beautiful houses of worship inn Kentucky, but it was not paid for. Still, the brethren were not cast down or disheartened. In the year 1876 the debt, with its accumulations, amounted to over twenty thousand dallars. The brethren, by the urgent request of the pastor, endeavored to cancel the debt. The pastor's plan was for the members of the church to assume individually as much of the debt as each one felt able and disposed. It was agreed upon by the church, and he commenced to enlist the brethren in the work.
The brethren came up nobly to the work. It was to be a cash operation. Whatever amount a member assumed he was to pay the cash into the treasury of the church, and he was to carry the amount as his individual debt until he was able to liquidate it, if he did not have the ready money. Such a noble response by the members is rarely seen. Numbers of them had to go in [to the] bank and borrow the money that the church might be relieved. In the short space of one month the pastor had collected twenty thousand dollars in cash. This was a grand triumph, considering the ability of the church. It did not relieve them entirely of their indebtedness, but it greatly enocuraged the brethren.
In the summer of 1879 the pastor resigned the care of the church, but they refused to accept the resignation, and brought such a stress to bear that he was induced to withdraw the resignation and continue with them.
For two or three year back the cause had not progressed as desired. The general apathy over the whole country in religious matters has been shared in by the church. In the last ten years, under the present pastorate, there have been received one hundred and thirty by baptism and one hundred and twenty-six by letter, exclusions and death have about equaled the increase, so that we are numerically no stronger, our membership now amounting to about three hundred. In this church, under the present pastorate, the decrease has annually about equalled the increase. The population of Covington is a shifting one, which accounts for this fact.
The church at present has a lively interest in the benevolent and missionary work of the denomination, though their debt and hard times have crippled their contributions. The Sunday School, in which the church has always had more or less interest, is in a very good condition. The children are taught to be benevolent, and every year, for the last four, have contributed liberally for the support of the Theological Seminary and Baptist Orphan's Home, at Louisville. Neither has the church or Sunday School been unmindful of the Lord's instruction to pray the "Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers into the vineyard."
Rev. S. H. Burgess, a member of the Sunday School and the chruch, felt it to be his life work to preach the gospel, whereupon the church called a council of neighboring pastors and their churches, and after close and faithful examination, publicly set him apart for that work in the year 1876. He has proven himself to be a workmen that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and the church takes commendable pride in his success.
The church is also very much interested in the German Baptist interest in the city, which now holds its meetings in the basement of the church and which is fostered by the churches of North Bend Association.
[From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1880, pp. 11-18. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.].
The Minutes of the Campbell County Baptist Association inidicate that in 1841 there was no letter to that association from the Second Covington Baptist Church as they had merged with the First Baptist Church in Covington. The Minutes from CCBA of 1840 show the 2nd Baptist church as receiving 28 members by profession of faith and baptism. There were 40 members received by letter, with a total membership of 68 members. The 2nd BC is not listed in the CCBA Minutes for 1838; so this would seem to indicate that there was a division in the First Baptist Church sometime in 1839 - a period when they had no regular pastor, only two men who supply-preached for them. Unfortunately the the records are sparce.
Messengers from the 2nd BC to the CCBA in 1840 were: Mason Owens, James Tilman, Thomas Abbot, D. Beal, and Y. L. C. Abbot.
[The information concerning this issue is available at the Campbell County Historical Society Library, Alexandria, KY.]
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