[Editor's note: This history was written and included in the Minutes of the Association in the years 1876, 1877, 1878, 1882, 1883, 1884 and 1886. The authors are Basil Manly, Jr., R. M. Dudley and J. E. Farnam. Each section includes a decade; at the beginning of each section the author of that portion will be listed. - Jim Duvall]
REPORT OF B. MANLY, Jr.[p. 17]
- on the -
HISTORY OF THE ELKHORN ASSOCIATION OF
BAPTISTS IN KENTUCKY.
At the beginning of this investigation the official copy of the minutes, which was the only file known or accessible to us, was deficient in the minutes for fifteen out of the ninety-two years of the Association's existence. All of these have been recovered except four, and hope is entertained that by diligent search some of these may yet be obtained. The missing ones are for 1816, 1828, 1829, aud 1830. I was misled last year by the MS. official copy, in supposing that the minutes for 1816 were in our possession, and those for 1814 wanting. It appears, by comparison of the printed minutes in possession of Bro. W. T. Hearne, that the minutes which were recorded as of 1815 were really those of 1814, and were originally recorded as such, but altered to 1815 by mistake, and that it is the minutes of 1816 that are lacking.
All that have been found have been carefully transcribed by our efficient secretary, Bro. B. W. D. Seeley, in a neat volume, with pages left at proper places for the insertion of those minutes still missing, if they can be found.
I have prepared a tabular statement, herewith submitted, of the names of all the churches ever connected with this Association, amounting to about 107, during the ninety two years of its organized existence, including at one time (1792-1796) churches as far north as "Columbia in the Western Territory," now Ohio, and as far south as the church in "Tennessee County, Cumberland Settlement." This tabular statement shows the total numbers, and the baptisms, in each church, every year, as reported to the Association; shows how long each church was connected with the Association; and so far as known indicates in what way the church severed its connection with this body. Twenty-six of these churches are still in the association. The greater part of the remainder have been dismissed to form other Associations; a few have broken off to unite with the Particulars, or the Reformers; some have been dissolved, being weakened by the growth of other churches of the same faith and order near them; and concerning some no information has been gathered - as yet. - (Note. Only the first ten years of this table will now be published.)
In the tabular statements heretofore published, (in 1844 and in 1874), quite a number of errors have arisen by mistakes in addition, or in transcribing. There [They], so far as they could be ascertained, have been corrected. For instance South Elkhorn in 1792 had 170 members; in 1794, 149 members; in October, 1793, 152; yet she is credited, with 265; in May, 1793, probably meant for 165. So Flat Lick 1802 is reported to have
eight members, though she had received twenty by baptism, during the year, and had eighty six in 1804. In cases where a church had continued connection with the Association, but failed, in any given year, to report its total membership, instead of omitting the church altogether, the average of its numbers, between the year before, and the year subsequent, has been inserted in the table with an asterisk, and added to form the grand total. This may not be entirely accurate, but is the nearest approximation now practicable. Without further introduction, I proceed to
A SKETCH OF THE ORIGINAL CHURCHES CONSTITUTING THE
ELKHORN BAPTIST ASSOCIATION IN KENTUCKY.
The Elkhorn Association of Baptists, organized ninety-two years ago in this beautlful Blue Grass country, deserves a fuller history than it is expedient now to present. It was the earliest organization of the kind in Kentucky, or in the region west of the Alleghanies. At times a very large body, always respectable, active, and, yet conservative, it has exerted an influence larger than its present members would indicate. It has grown weak by the strength and materials it has transferred to sister associations around, in whose vigor and success it rejoices, and will continue to rejoice.
The year 1785 witnessed the establishment in Kentucky of three Baptist Associations. These were
I. ELKHORN ASSOCIATION, September 30, 1785, at Clear Creek
SIX CHURCHES. Gilbert's Creek, established in Kentucky, December, 1781. Tate's Creek constituted in 1783. South Elkhorn " " July 31, 1784. Clear Creek " " June 18, 1785. Big Crossing " " May 28, 1785. Limestone " " July, 1785.
II. SALEM ASSOCIATION, Oct. 29, 1785, at Cox's Creek. FOUR CHURCHES. Severn's Valley constituted June 18, 1781, number in 1785, thirty-seven. Cedar Creek (now Nelson County) constituted July 4, 1782, number in 1785, forty-seven. Bear Grass (now Louisville) constituted Janunry, 1784, number in 1785 nineteen. Cox's Creek conslituted April, 1785, number in 1785, twenty-six.
III. SOUTH KENTUCKY ASSOCIATION, October, 1785, at Gilbert's Creek. FIVE CHURCHES (SEPARATE BAPTISTS), Gilbert's Creek constituted in 1785. No Lynn " " 1782. Pottinger's Creek " " 1785. Head of Boone's Creek " 1785. Rush Branch " " 1785.
Of the first of these only shall we attempt now to treat.
And as a Baptist Association is nothing but a volunutary assemblage of messengers from particular churches, with no power except to consult
and advise for the mutual welfare, it is proper in tracing the history of the Elkhorn Association to go back to the origin of its constituent members.
First in order of time comes the Gilbert's Creek Church, which was a part of the celebrated "Travelling Church," that emigrated through the wilderness from Virginia to Kentucky, in the fall and winter of 1781. In the year 1767 a church was gathered in Virginia, known as Lower Spottsvlvania, and afterwards from its eminent pastor, called Craig's Church. In the summer of 1781, the most glowing accounts of the rich soil and inviting climate of Kentucky were spread through Virginia and Lewis Craig, a man of magnetic power and influence, determined not only to emigrate thither, but to take with him his friends and brethren.
The church had been greatly scattered during the Revolution, but nearly all the remaining members agreed to accompany Brother Craig to Kentucky. By the middle of October, 1781, they were ready to set out. The brethren and ministers near by gathered to bid them farewell. John Waller was there, who had shared with Craig the discomforts of the jail in Fredericksburg. Some verses more notable for affection than for lyric elegance, which he composed on the occasion, are preserved.
A single stanza may suffice as a specimen:
"Great sorrows of late filled my poor heart,
To think that the dearest friends must depart,
A few left behind, while many will go
To settle the desert down the Ohio."
The old Spottsylvania Church continued its existence, and those leaving were by vote constituted an independent body. Yet so small was the remnant left behind, that the old church book was brought along by the clerk. The same pastor, the same deacons, and the same record book, made it in fact the old church, prepared to carry on its usual business, whenever a halt was sounded. - (Ford's Christian Repository, 1856, p, 132.)
Abandoning the wagons with which they had set out from the Rappahannock, carrying their baggage and the women and children on horseback, while the men for the most part walked, they penetrated the wilderness for near 600 miles. The company numbered about 300, of whom nearly 200 were members of the "traveling church." Assailed by tempests, by Indians, distressed by scarcity of food, discouraged by driving rains, and dreary and slippery roads, wading dangerous streams waist deep, and pressing on till night in their wet and freezing clothes, they finally reached Gilbert's Creek, in Lincoln County, and on the 2d Lord's day in December, met there as a Baptist Church. Wm. Marshall, together with their pastor, Lewis Craig, preached to them. The numerous family of the Craigs were nearly all members there, together with the ancestors of the Bowmans, the Ashers, the Singletons, the Smiths, Hunts, Shotwells, Mitchams, Cards, Caves, Hickersons, Sanders, who are scattered all over Kentucky and the West. They built a fort near Logans, which was not far from Stanford, and called it Craig's Station. There they met for worship, and thither they clustered for defense. Among the rude block houses and stockades, which protected them, the voice of preaching was weekly heard, and the song and the prayer ascended sweetly together from the unbroken forest. Let us briefly observe the surroundings and the condition of the country at large, from this period till the formation of our three associations in 1785.
The year 1782 was a dark period for the settlers. Repeated attacks from the Indians disturbed them, and produced the gloomiest forebodings. Estill's defeat (March 22), not far from "Little Mount," now Mt. Sterling, was a mournful event for the whole country. Some of the Gilbert's Creek members were murdered in it. The attack on Bryant's (August, 15, 1782), by 600 Indians, though foiled, was sufficiently alarming. And the terrible disaster at the Lower Blue Licks, on the 19th of August, spread dismay, as well as mourning, through all the settlements. Not till November was the peril removed, and the dread allayed, by the expedition under Gen. Geo. Rogers Clark, with over 1,000 men, under Cols. Floyd and Logan; who marched 130 miles up the Miami River, and destroyed the principal Shawnee town, November 10th. After this time no large body of Indians invaded Kentucky. Though the treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain was signed November 30, at Paris, France, the tidings did not reach Kentucky till the next Spring.
In 1783, a judicial district was established out of the three counties formed in 1780, Jefferson, Lincoln and Fayette, and the town of Danville was founded as a place to hold the court. The second store in Kentucky was opened by Col. Broadhead at Louisville, and next year (1784) the third, at Lexington, by Col. James Wilkinson. The first store in Kentucky had been opened in April, 1775, by Henderson & Co., the proprietors of "Transylvania." The county of Nelson was formed in 1784, and Bourbon, Mercer and Madison in 1785. During this period the separation of Kentucky from Virginia, and its establishment as an independent State, begins to be discussed, but is not consummated until June 1, 1792, when the first Governor, Gen. Isaac Shelby, is inaugurated at Lexington, and soon after, the seat of government is removed to Frankfort. In 1789, August 18, the first newpaper, the Kentucky Gazette, is established by John Bradford, at Lexington.
We have no census, that I have seen, of the population of Kentucky in 1785. In 1790, it was, white, 6l,133; free colored, 114; slaves, 12,430; total, 73,677.
John Taylor, who landed at Beargrass, near Louisville, December, 1782, thus describes the situation (History Ten Churches, pp. 13, 14): "It was a gloomy thing, at that time, to move to Kentucky. But I had seen the place; and without a single friend or acquaintance to accompany me with my helpless family, we took water at Red Stone, Pa., and for the want of a better opening, I paid for a passage in a lowly, ill-fixed flat boat of strangers. The river being low, this lonesome boat was about seven weeks before she landed at Beargrass. Not a soul was then settled on the Ohio River between Wheeling and Louisville - a distance of five or six hundred miles - and not one hour, day or night, in safety. Though it was now winter, not a soul in all Bear Grass (Louisville) was in safety, but by being in a fort. I meditated travelling 80 miles further, to Craig's Station, in Lincoln Countv." This journey he accomplished in six days, walking all the way, and leading the three heavily laden horses through mud, and often wading through rivers, deep to the middle, in the bitter cold weather.
The Gilbert's Creek Church was greatly weakened, not long before John Taylor's arrival, by the removal of nearly the whole membership with Craig to the north side of the Kentucky river near Lexington. It seems to have divided into two fragments; the one (the regular) uniting in forming the Elkhorn Association in 1785, but reported in 1786 as dissolved;
the other (separate) being one of the constituent members of the South Kentucky Association, which included all the separate Baptist churches in Kentucky. Its subsequent history I cannot not now trace, though it continued for at least forty years.
The Tate's Creek Church, according to Bro. S. H. Ford, was founded in 1783, though Asplund dates it in 1785. I can give no particulars of its organization.
South Elkhorn Church was established July 31, 1784, where the road from Lexington to Harrodsburg crosses the south branch of Elkhorn. To this point Lewis Craig had removed in 1783. Here he built a mill, it is said the first grist mill in Kentucky, afterwards known as Higbee's mill. "He preached in the woods or in his mill, and the first time the ordinance of baptism was observed in Kentucky it was performed by "Lewis Craig." - (Ford's Repository, 1856, p. 263). By degrees the members from Gilbert's Creek so many of them settled in this region that it became desirable to constitute them into a church, which was done as above mentioned. The original minutes are preserved, showing that they were organized at the house of Lewis Craig. Wm. Cave being chosen Moderator, and Richard Young, Clerk. The Philadelphia Confession of Faith was adopted. Fourteen members' names are given. Two others were received apparently the same day by letter.
A resolution was adopted, "that the Baptist professors not joining this society be requested to attend the next meeting and give their reasons for not joining." Those who would not attend, or who could give no good reason for not joining, "were dealt with," and the Clerk was ordered to write to the churches which granted them letters.
"Among the early members of this Church," says Dr. Ford, "was Abraham Bowman, known in the revolutionary history of the country. Distinguished as a colonel in the army of Washington, he became an humble, consistent Christian, whose influence in the society in its formation in Kentucky, was manifest and beneficial. He was a member, from Fayette county, of the Legislature that met under the first constitution of Kentucky. James Garrard, who was connected with this church, and afterwards a member of Cooper's Run, was one of the members from Kentucky in the Virginia Legislature that ratified the constitution of the United States. Than the Craigs, a nobler set of men never trod this soil. In the convention at Danville, in 1785, John Craig was a prominent and influential member; and the first effort made in the West to awake a spirit of intellectual improvement, announced in the "Kentucky Gazette" as a "Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge," was an appeal published in that paper in December, 1787, and is signed by John Craig, James Speed, Robert Johnson and James Garrard, all Baptists, and three of them members of South Elkhorn Church." - (Ford's Repository, 1856, p. 265.)
The following notice appeared in the Kentucky Gazette, perhaps the earliest school notice that is yet preserved, showing that even at that date (1787) Georgetown was an educational centre, and that Elijah Craig, one of the prominent Baptists, was at the head of the enterprise:
"EDUCATION - Notice is hereby given that on Monday, the 28th of January next, a school will be opened by Misses Jones & Worley at the Royal Spring, in Lebanontown, (this was the name by which the place, originally called McClelland's Station, in October, 1775, was called from 1784 to 1790, when it was incorporated by the Legislature of Virginia, and the name changed to Georgetown in honor of George Washington. - (Collins, II, 697), Fayette county, where a commodious house sufficient to contain fifty or sixty scholars will be prepared. They will teach the Latin and
Greek languages together with such branches of the sciences as are usually taught in public seminaries, at twenty-five shillings a quarter for each scholar, one-half to be paid in cash, the other in produce at cash price, &c., &c.
(Signed) ELIJAH CRAIG."
Lebanon, Dec. 27, 1787.
The next church in chronological order, so far as can now be ascertained by examination of the evidence still in existence, was that at the "Great Crossings," or, as it was often styled, the "Big Crossing" Church. About two and a half miles northwest of the Royal Spring, where Georgetown now stands, the great buffalo track from Southern Kentucky to the Ohio crossed the Elkhorn. A small fort was erected, there in 1778, but soon abandoned. In the spring of 1784, Col. Robert Johnson removed to the Great Crossings, himself a military man whose skill and courage inspired confidence. Around the little fort a settlement soon gathered, and before a year had passed they felt that the time had come for the organization of a church. The records of the church, which were transcibed by a careful committee from the original records (now lost) about the year 1793, show that on Saturday and Suuday, 28th and 29th of May, 1785, brethren Lewis Craig, John Taylor, Richard Young and Samuel Deadmon, as helps called for, proceeded to constitute into the church at the Great Crossings, Wm. Cave, James Suggett, sr., Robert Johnson, Robert Bradley, and others whose names are given, sixteen in all. The meeting was held in an upper room of Robert Johnson's residence. Wm. Cave, was a minister, but Elijah Craig, who moved soon after into the neighborhood, became their first pastor.
The next church in order of time was that at Clear Creek, about ten miles from South Elkhorn. John Taylor (Hist. of Ten Churches, p. 54) mentions that "through the winter and spring of 1785 several preachers had moved into the neighborhood, as John Dupuy, James Rucker and Richard Cave." Though apprehensive of losing the preaching and oversight of Lewis Craig, whom they all reverenced, if they had a new church, they determined to "apply to South Elkhorn for assistance, and the helps from that establishment agreed to acknowledge us as a sister church. I think in April, 1785, about thirty members, to the best of my recollection, were in the new church, under the style of the Baptist Church of Christ, at Clear Creek." This was written from memory in 1821 or 1822, and he only says, "I think in April, 1785." The records of the South Elkhorn Church, however, as transcribed by Dr. S. H. Ford, aud published in the Repository for 1856, pp. 266-7, seem to settle the question as to the date. "At the church meeting at South Elkhorn, April 23, 1785, Lewis Craig, Moderator. Elder Wm. Hickman and Elizabeth Hickman were received by letter. A motion being made for a constitution of a church at Clear Creek was ordered to be laid over till the next regular meeting. At the May meeting it was taken up and laid over to the adjourned meeting on Sunday."
"May 29, 1785 - Met according to adjournment. A motion was made for the constltution of a church at Clear Creek. Debated and agreed to." Accordingly, Dr. Ford adds, evidently with some original records before him (the old church books of Clear Creek being now lost), "that on the third Saturday, the 18th of June, 1785, they were constituted into a Church of Christ at Clear Creek, by Lewis Craig, Wm. Hickman, George Smith and James Garrard."
Most of the members at this new church were from the Old Spottsylvania Church in Virginia, had come with Craig through the wilderness, and had been successively members of the churches at Gilbert's Creek and
South Elkhorn. [John] Taylor describes very graphically their election of him as their pastor in March following, his refusal, and their persistence - a narrative which casts a pleasing light on the simplicity and earnestness of those early days, but, which we must resist the temptation to quote.
The only remaining church which entered into the constitution of the Elkhorn Association, was Limestone, "which was organized in July, between the preliminary meeting June 25, 1785, and the actual constitution, Sept. 30."
Simon Kenton had returned in 1784 to his camp near the present town of Washington. A number of emigrants settled around his fort, and this became one of the most travelled routes in coming west, to disembark from the boats on the Ohio, at the mouth of the creek where Maysville is now situated, and then make their way across Licking to Lexington. The scattered Baptists were constituted into a church under the care of Wm. Wood. Among them were one of the Wallers and E. Dobbins. The church continued steadily representing itself in the Association till the formation of the Bracken Association in 1798, though after l791 its name was changed to Washington.
ORGANIZATION OF THE ASSOCIATION
The minutes of the first meeting for the organization of the Elkhorn Baptist Association, are as follows:
A Baptist conference held at South Elkhorn, Fayette County, Saturday, June 25th, 1785. Members present who represented the different churches. South Elkhorn . . . Lewis Craig, William Hickman and Benj. Craig. Clear Creek . . . John Taylor, John Dupey, James Rucker and Richard Cave. Big Crossing . . . William Cave and Bartlett Collins. Tate's Creek . . . John Tanner and William Jones. Gilbert's Creek . . George S. Smith and John Price.
Lewis Craig was chosen Moderator, and Richard Young, Clerk. Bros. Elijah Craig, Augustine Eastin, James Garrard and Henry Roch, who were present, were requested to take their seats in the conference.
Agreed to be ruled in any matter that should come before them by a majority.
QUERY. - Whether the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, adopted by the Baptists, shall be strictly adhered to, as the rule of our communion, or whether a suspension thereof for the sake of society be best?
ANSWER. - It is agreed that the said recited confession of faith be strictly adhered to.
NOTE. - That in September, they adopted, not the Philadelphia Confession, which is the same as the confession of 1689, of the Hundred Congregations in England, but the confession of the Seven Churches of 1643. See both in full in Cutting's Historical Vindications.
As the result of this preliminary meeting, which is simply styled "a Baptist conference," it appears next that a "Baptist Association" was held at Clear Creek, Friday, September 30th, 1785, at 3 o'clock. Sermon by Brother Wm. Hickman, from Exodus 23:30. "By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased and inherit the land."
William Wood was chosen Moderator, Richard Young, Clerk. Letters from six churches were read, the same as above named, with the addition of Limestone. The delegates were:
Gilbert's Creek . . George S. Smith and John Prince. Tate's Creek . . . John Tanner, Wm. Jones and Wm. Williams. South Elkhorn . . . Lewis Craig, Wiliiam Hickman, and Benj. Craig.
Clear Creek . . . John Taylor, James Rucker and John Dupey. Big Crossing . . . William Cave, Bartlett Collins and Robt. Johnson. Limestone . . . William Wood and Edward Dobbins.
Being assembled together, and taking into our serious consideration what might be most advantageous for the glory of God, the advancement of the Kingdom of the dear Redeemer, and the mutual comfort and happiness of the churches of Christ: having unanimously agreed to unite in the strongest bonds of Christiain love and fellowship, and in order to support and keep that union [we] do hereby adopt the Baptist Confession of Failh, first put forth in the name of the seven congregations met together in London in the year 1643, containing a system of the evangelical doctrines agreeable to the gospel of Christ, which we do heartily believe in and receive. But something in the third and fifth chapters in said book we do except, if construed in that light that makes God the cause or author of sin; but we do acknowledge and believe God to be an Almighty Sovereign, wisely to govern and direct all things, so as to promote his own glory. Also in chapter 31st concerning laying on of hands on persons baptized, as essential in their reception into the church, it is agreed on by us that the using or not using of that practice shall not affect our fellowship to each other. And, as there are a number of Christian professors in this country under the Baptist name, in order to distinguish ourselves from them, we are of opinion that no appellation is more suitable to our profession than that of "Regular Baptist," which name we profess.
On Saturday, proceeding to business, they chose William Cave, Moderator, resolved that all matters of business be determined by a majority of this Association; sent a committee to Gilbert's Creek church, at their request "to enquire into the standing of said church," and to report to the next association. This committee consisted of Lewis Craig, James Rucker, William Hickman and William Cave, or any three of them.
QUERY. - From Tate's Creek church - What may be thought best to be done with members that hold conditional salvation?
ANSWER. - We would give it as our opinion to the churches to use all tenderness to reclaim such persons from their errors; but if they persist to deal with them as with all other incorrigible offenders.
A proposition to the Association for their opinion on the following matter - Whether it is lawful for a christian to bear office, civil or military?
ANSWER. - It is our opinion that it is lawful for any christian to bear office, either civil or military, except ministers of the Gospel.
Appointed quarterly meetings at Big Crossing, Tate's Creek and Limestone. Next association to be at South Elkhorn, Saturday before the first Sabbath in August; Brother William Wood to preach the introductory and write the Circular Letter.
Agreed that no query be received into the association in the future, but what is first debated in the church, and inserted in the church letter.
[Note - From a notebook at the Elkhorn Baptist Association office, Lexington, KY. Inside the cover it reads: "Material in this notebook compiled by Rev. Wendell H. Rone, Sr. Given to the Elkhorn Baptist Association by Rev. John Wallace, Jr., January 9, 1984." Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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