John Hightower was the first pastor of Union Baptist Church [located near the West Fork of Drakes creek, in Warren County]. He was an able and successful preacher, and a man of tireless zeal in the cause of his Master. He and Alexander Devin and Joseph Logan were instrumental in raising up most of the early churches in that region.
Mr. Hightower was a native of South Carolina, and spent the early years of his ministry in preaching among the Baptist of that State. [He had been a member of the Buck Creek Baptist Church in Spartanburg County.] In the year 1795, he and a number of others formed a settlement on the Middle Fork of Drakes creek in what is now Allen county. Here he spent the remainder of his days. As stated above, he and his fellow laborers gathered Union Baptist church in 1796. In 1798, he gathered Sulphur Spring Baptist church in Allen county, of which he became pastor. During the Great Revival, which began two years after this, his great zeal so carried him away that his feet were severely frost bitten. From this circumstance he was unable to walk for about a year. But as soon as he was able to sit in a chair, he made appointments for preaching at his house, and continued preaching with much fervor, sitting in his chair, till he was able to walk again. He was badly crippled in his feet the remainder of his life, but continued to preach with zeal and faithfulness, till the Lord took him to himself, about the year 1823.
Mr. Hightower was regarded a strong doctrinal preacher for his day. He held some loose notions about keeping the Sabbath that did much harm. He did not wholly discard the obligation to keep the day holy, but he held it very lightly, and broke the Sabbath himself for very trivial causes. The effect of his teaching was such, that many, otherwise pious and devout Christians, had no conscientious scruples about fishing, hunting or attending to any pressing business, on Sunday. It appears that most of the Baptists from South Carolina, at that period, held similar views to those of Mr. Hightower. The effects on the people were very pernicious, and even to the present day, the results of this false teaching are manifest in some portions of Southern Kentucky.
[J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, Volume I, 1885; reprint, CHR&A, 1984, pp. 323-4. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Baptist History Homepage