"Sketches of the History of the Elkhorn Association"
by Basil Manly, Jr.
[The Division of the Elkhorn and the Licking Associations]
This year only twenty churches report, and the number of members is reduced to 1,800. The baptisms have been 159; but there is no intelligence from the fourteen churches at Bryan's, Boone's Creek, East Hickman, Forks of Elkhorn, Elk Lick, Raven Creek, Mouth of Elkhorn, Silas, Dry Run, Rockbridge, Bush Creek, Mill Creek, Little Huston, Flat Lick. These ominous blanks indicate dissension and alienation. A division has been created in the Association, and the initiatory steps have already been taken to form the Licking Association, by an assemblage to be held at Bryan's.
Brother Darnaby presented a letter signed by fifty-one members at Bryan's, which was read and referred. It stated that the majority had violated usage, and had agreed to send letters and messengers to an Association at Bryan's, which they conceived a violation of their engagement to the Elkhorn Association; praying also to be considered a part of this body, and asking advice. The Association sent a committee to visit the church at Bryan's, and while unanimously declaring their friendship and fellowship with said members of the minority, recommended patience, and deferred any further advice till the next Association.
Meanwhile, they "agreed to send a friendly statement to the brethren who may meet at Bryan's." This is printed in the minutes, and seems to have been conveyed at once, while the body remained still in session, awaiting the peaceful reply which they thought it reasonable to expect. They had selected brethren whom they "conceived most likely to win the others to friendship," viz: John Taylor, George Waller, Gabriel Slaughter, James
Suggett and James Johnson. They express their "sorrow that a difference in sentiment respecting the constitution and government of the Association has taken place;" assure their brethren that it never was their wish wantonly to hurt the feelings of any; are sorry that such a thing should have taken place, and express a willingness to cast into the sea of forgetfulness, as much as possible, the former difficulties, and bear and forbear, and endeavor to live in future in that state of brotherly love which Jesus Christ has prescribed. If this proposal is not acceded to, they ask the other brethren to let them know what they are willing to do.
During the absence of this fraternal deputation, they say "every heart beat high with the hope that our brethren who had convened at Bryan's, would consider the consequences of a division, and would reach forth to meet us the hand of peace and brotherly affection; but we cannot describe our mortification and disappointment at the answer received."
It curtly stated that they could by no means accede to the terms proposed; and added, "If you will in your minutes say that you have, in the heat of temptation and jealousy, given us just cause of grief, then in that case we are willing to say on our part, that although we are not conscious that in any of our public acts we have given you any just cause of offense, yet our feelings have been hurt, and we have spoken rashly and unadvisedly, for which we have been and still are sorry. Taking all things into consideration, we are of opinion it will be for the happiness of each to continue as we are at present, in two Associations."
The Elkhorn brethren express their sadness at this reply, and "regret that nothing would give satisfaction but a confession of those things, of which we cannot, in conscience, think ourselves guilty. We want the fellowship of our brethren, but cannot purchase it at the expense of truth and our respectability."
There does not appear at this time to have been any other cause of "distress and grief," but the decision of the Association with respect to the Town Fork Church, sustaining it against three charges of disorder brought against it by the church at Bryan's, and the subsequent recognition of the minorities at Bryan's and Dry Run as component parts of the Association.
An unhappy difference had arisen in a matter of business, relative to the exchange of a slave, between Thomas Lewis and Jacob Creath, both members of Town Fork Church. Out of this grew other difficulties, which produced a pamphlet entitled, "A portrait of Jacob Creath," by Elijah Craig. This induced the Town Fork Church to call for a committee of helps from eighhteen churches, who met in July, 1807, and investigated, for four days, the, fourteen charges contained in said pamphlet against Creath; at the close of which they unanimously acquitted him, on each of them separately, and on the whole together.
Afterwards other charges were brought against Creath by Joseph Redding, of Dry Run, which were investigated and negatived, except one, which was
[p. p. 34]
withdrawn by the prosecutor. The church at Bryan's took the Town Fork Church under dealings for negativing the charges. Town Fork justified herself. Bryan's then in 1808 brought three charges against Town Fork before the Association which met at Silas. The Association, "after hearing all the charges explained, determined that the said church was not guilty of disorder as charged."
In consequence of this at the Association of 1809, which met at South Elkhorn, ten churches were absent. A circular letter was issued, signed by Joseph Reddig and six other preachers, proposing to hold a meeting of the dissatisfied brethren at Bryan's, at the time of the regular Association in August, which had adjourned to meet in 1810 at Clear Creek. This letter was of the most extraordinary and disorganizing character, it is said, and evidently the production of wounded feelings or disappointed expectations. The correspondence between the two sets of brethren thus assembled at Clear Creek and Bryan's has already been sketched. Such seems to have been the origin of the "unfriendly dispositions and jealousies produced," as the Elkhorn brethren allege, "by a difference of opinion in matters of practice, and conducted with too much zeal and heat." And this account of the matter is not contradicted, but confirmed by the other party, in their documents, so far as I have seen them.
It will be unnecessary to follow the somewhat protracted course of negotiation in detail, which resulted first in the narrowing down of the points of disagreement to the question whether the Association did wrong in recognizing, as the church, the minority of fifty-one members at Bryan's, the previous difficulty at Town Fork having, apparently, dropped out of. view, and the Dry Run difficulty having been settled among themselves.
The Elkhorn Association, joined by the friendly suggestions and mediation of surrounding Associations, continued to solicit peace with their much esteemed brethren of the Licking, until in 1818 correspondence was formally renewed, as appears from the following minutes of the Licking Association.
"Received a letter from the Elkhorn Association desiring a correspondence; which was agreed to, and their messengers. James Suggett, G. G. Boone and John Foster, invited to seats, and received the right hand of fellowship."
This was done by unanimity; a rule having been adopted by them that every measure carried must be unanimous. The next year, however, 1819, they declined to send a letter and messengers to Elkhorn, though a large number of the members present were in favor of it. The suspension was on account-orthe old difficulty, recognition of the minority.
Though it is extending this sketch a little beyond the boundaries I had prescribed for myself at present, (the second and third decades of our history), I will add here, for the sake of completeness, a short extract from Dr. Fishback's "Defenseof the Elkhorn Association," published in 1822: "In 1820, the Elkhorn sent a letter and messengers again to the Licking[p. 35][Taken from Sketches of the History of the Elkhorn Association, Kentucky, by Basil Manly, Jr.; from the Elkhorn Association Minutes, 1878, pp. 32-35. - jrd]
Association, whereupon the latter made the following minute: 'From Elkhorn Association a letter was received by their messengers, E. Waller, J. Sims, and E. Mason. The same being read, on motion agreed, that it be laid upon the table, and the correspondence dropped; seeing that the original difficulties remain untouched by that Association, and that new ones have arisen respecting doctrines -- they holding in connection with those churches and preachers that hold and advocate doctrines contrary to those on which that Association, as weIl as this, was constituted.'
"It was in answer to this minute that the Elkhorn made the following reply in 1821: 'With regard to the first charge, we had with pleasure cherished the hope, and did believe that it was buried, never again to be revived, when the right hand of fellowship was given by them to our messengers in 1818.'
'As to the second charge, of our holding in connection with us churches and preachers who hold and advocate doctrines contrary to the constitution on which their, as well as our, Association was constituted -- we reply: When general charges are made, they can only be repelled by general terms. Our constitution remains unchanged, and we have adhered to it during all our difficulties with that Association; and it seems to us that those charges were made as a pretext to justify their own unwarrantable course in refusing to receive our messengers. And, notwithstanding those charges, we have the peculiar pleasure to find that our sister Associations still continue their correspondence with us, and that their love, esteem, and affection seem to be undiminished.'"
"The above minute of the Licking Association of 1820 exhibits the first intimation of a difference of doctrine between that and the Elkhorn Association; and this they describe as a new difficulty.
"From the preceding detail of facts and circumstances, it is abundantly manifest that there was no reason for asserting that difference of doctrine had a bearing on the original division; and that nothing but "unfriendly dispositions and jealousies, produced by a difference of opinion in matters of practice" in the trial of Jacob Creath, &c., were the only occasions of the unfortunate differences," (Page 41, "Defence of Elkhorn Association").