The Ohio Valley - Kentucky - John Finlay - Hunters from North Carolina - Daniel Boone - Lexington - The Customs of the People - The County of Fincastle - Baptists the Pioneers - John Lythe Holds "Divine Service" at Harrodsburg - Bishop Smith on the Baptists - Thomas Tinsley and William Hickman - John Taylor - William Marshall - Severn's Valley Church - Cedar Creek Church - The Traveling Church - Lewis Craig - Other Famous Preachers - The Negro Servant Peter - The Land and Water Routes to Kentucky - Calvinistic and Separate Churches - Religious Conditions - The Revival - John Gano - The Elkhorn Association - Foot Washing - United Baptists - Augustine Eastin and James Garrard - Cooper Run Church - A Horrible Murder - The Unitarian Movement - The Universalists.
The discovery and occupation of the Ohio Valley was a matter of the greatest political and religious importance. The issue was, should it be French and Roman Catholic, or English and Protestant? The settlement of Kentucky was the key to this vexed problem. So the occupation of Kentucky became a question of international moment.
The delightful country of Kentucky, with its majestic rivers, from time immemorial had been the resort of wild beasts and of men no less savage, when in the year 1767 it was visited by John Finlay, and a few wandering white men, from the British colony of North Carolina, lured to the wilderness by a love for hunting, and the desire of trading with the Indians, who were then understood to be at peace. "The country once seen," says Marshall, one of the earliest Kentucky historians, "held out abundant inducements to be revisited, and better known. Among the circumstances best adapted to engage the attention, and impress the feelings of the adventurous hunters of North Carolina,
may be selected the uncommon fertility of the soil, and the great abundance of wild game, so conspicuous at this time. And we are assured that the effect lost nothing of the cause. Forests those hunters had seen - mountains they had ascended - valleys they had traversed - deer they had killed and bears they had successfully hunted. They had heard the howl of the wolf, the whine of the panther, and the heart-rending yell of the savage man with corresponding sensations of delight, or horror. But these were all lost to memory, in the contemplation of Kentucky; animated with all the enchanting variety, and adorned with all the magnificent grace and boldness of nature's creative energy. To nature's children, she herself is eloquent, and affecting. Never before had the feelings of those rude hunters experienced so much of the pathetic, the sublime, the marvelous" (Humphrey Marshall, The History of Kentucky, I. 4. Frankfort, 1824).
Finlay was the pilot of Daniel Boone, and 1769 is the memorable date of the latter's arrival in Kentucky. He was not encumbered with worldly goods; had no local attachments; he possessed only high health and vigorous constitution, supported by great muscular strength and nervous activity. With the exception of a few traders who had passed the Cumberland Gap "and viewed with delight the landscape that stretched away toward the setting sun like an undulating sea of verdure" (Finlay, Topographical Description of the Western Territory), this whole sweep of country bordering on the Ohio, was entirely unknown. There were no permanent settlers in this region and in it no particular interest.
This was a momentous period in American history. These early emigrants came during the struggle and triumphs of civil and religious liberty in America. On April 17, 1775, occurred the famous battle of Lexington, near Boston, Massachusetts. About two months afterwards"a party of hunters had kindled their evening fire and were seated on their buffalo robes around a cheerful blaze, deliberating, as may be supposed, about the name by which they should designate the newly settled site, when the news arrived of the momentous battle fought in Massachusetts on the 17th of April, 1775. In the enthusiasm of the moment the spot was called Lexington, to commemorate the
285event" (Flint, History and Geography of the Mississippi Valley, I. 356. Cincinnati, 1833).Such was the land of Kentucky. The customs of the people who settled this country were not less noteworthy. An intelligent observer who was reared under the conditions then existing has described them as follows:It is no reproach to the first settlers of the country, to say, that they were enured to danger, to labor, and to rough living - they were chiefly from the frontier settlements, or had recently been such, in Virginia, or the neighboring States-and had served an apprenticeship, to their condition in Kentucky, before they came here. Indeed, it is of such, that new countries are made. For who else has that sort of Spartan virtue, necessary to conquer nature, in her most obdurate forms? But Kentucky was destined to ameliorate their condition. And this history, faithful to the transitory pictures of real life, will exhibit the contrast, of what they were and what they are, after the lapse of forty years.
Then, the women did the offices of the household - milked the cows - cooked the mess, prepared the flax - spun, wove, and made the garment, of linen, or linsey; the men hunted, and brought in the meat - they planted, ploughed, and gathered in the corn - grinding it into meal, at the hand mill, or pounded it into hominy, in the mortar, was occasionally the work of either; or the joint labor of both. The men exposed themselves alone to danger; they fought with the Indians; they cleared the land; they reared the hut, or built the fort - in which the women were placed for safety. Much use was made of the skin of deer, for dress, while the buffalo, the bear skins, were consigned to the floor, for beds, and covering. There might accidentally be a few articles, brought to the country for sale, in a private way; but there was no store for supply. Wooden vessels, either turned or coopered were in common use, as table furniture. A tin cup was an article of delicate luxury; almost as rare as an iron fork. Every hunter carried his knife; it was no less the implement of a warrior. Not unfrequently the rest of the family was left with but one, or two, for the use of all. A like workmanship, composed the table, and the stool, a slab, hewed with the axe - and sticks of a similar manufacture, set in, for legs, supported both. When the bed was by chance, or refinement, elevated above the floor, and given a fixed place, it was often laid on slabs, placed across poles, supported on forks, set in the earthen floor; or where the floor was puncheons - the bedstead, was hewed pieces, pinned on upright posts, or let into them by auger holes. Other utensils and furniture, were of corresponding description - applicable to the time. These facts depict the condition, and circumstances of the country; therefore they merit notice (Marshall, I.).
Virginia under favorable royal patents had vast possessions. The territory of Kentucky was included in the county of Fincastle,
and shortly afterwards it was constituted into the county of Kentucky. Virginia had furnished many soldiers in the French and English wars on the Continent, and at the close of the Revolution the soldiers were paid in Landscript and were permitted to settle four hundred acres of land in Kentucky. These grants, along with favorable reports of the country, brought immense numbers of people to the territory, especially at the close of the Revolutionary War. Says Lewis Collins:"No country was settled by men of more distinct character from the great mass, and the infusion of those traits was so common to the population of the early emigrants, that it will take centuries to eradicate it from their descendants. More of the gallant officers of the American Revolution, and no less gallant soldiers, found a retreat in Kentucky than in any other part of America, and they brought with them to the West the young men of enterprise, talent and courage, who like Sidney, were to find how to make a way to distinction" (Lewis Collins, History of Kentucky, 308. First edition).
The Baptists were the pioneers of religion in Kentucky. They came with the earliest permanent settlers. Such is the statement of Collins (p. 108). The Rev. John Lythe, an Episcopal clergyman, was a member of the legislative assembly, in Transylvania, May 23, 1775 (Perrin, History of Kentucky), and on Sunday, May 27, he held "divine service the first time" (Judge Richard Henderson, Journal of a Trip to Kentucky and of events at Boonesborough). He is not elsewhere mentioned and there is no evidence that he preached in Kentucky. The old antagonisms were transferred from Virginia to Kentucky, and the Episcopal Church found no encouragement in the new settlements. It was known only as "an organized body of Arminians enlisted in the service of despotism" (Perrin). Humphrey Marshall, himself an Episcopalian and thoroughly conversant with the facts, says:There were in the country, and chiefly from Virginia, many Episcopalians; but who had formed no church - there being no parson, or minister, of that denomination to take charge of it. Persons of that description seem not to like new countries; or to be deficient in seal, were it not cherished, by parish or tithes - as was the case in Kentucky (Humphry Marshall, I.).
Of Methodists and Presbyterians at this period there is no mention.
Previous to the year 1781 there was not a Baptist church in the State. There were, however, many Baptists in Kentucky. There were several Baptist preachers who had emigrated to the State, and the story of the eight years of beginnings is intensely interesting. After mentioning that the Baptists were the first settlers, Bishop B. B. Smith, the celebrated Episcopal Bishop of Kentucky, in an annual address in 1863, says of these early Kentucky Baptists:Many of these Baptist dogmas rung like a tocsin in the ears of the poor white people. An unlettered clergy, nor haughtily superior to the poor; a laborious unpaid clergy, shared in the daily toils, and thankful for the rough hospitality of the poorest farmer; forms of religion, which made the wild wood and the mountain stream, ever dear to the heart of the backwoodsman the most fit and welcome temple of Jehovah, and in their estimation, the only consecrated font of baptism. No stately altars, no dignified vestments, no costly sacramental vases, no pompous dignitaries, no far fetched ministerial commission, no sober forms of prayer for them. Their sons and brothers, in everyday attire, often in their shirt sleeves, and with their own home-spun modes of speech, rich in the embroidering of inspired sentences, and eloquent with all the ardor of impassioned earnestness, preached to them the unsearchable riches of Christ, and labored for them freely as their servants in the gospel for Jesus' sake. Add to this, the stern enthusiasm of the Calvinistic creed, the fond allurements of a republican form of government, and the prestige of an imposing primitive rite, administered in a mode plainly consonant with the Scripture, and who can wonder that they carried all before them.It was a bright Sunday in April, 1776, that the sound of a horn called the little settlement of Harrodsburg to worship. The whole population of Kentucky at the time numbered less than one hundred. The meeting was held near the spring under an expanding elm tree. The preacher was Thomas Tinsley, assisted by William Hickman, who was not yet ordained as a minister. Not much is known of Tinsley, but he was described as a "son of thunder." Hickman filled a large place in Kentucky Baptist history. John Taylor says "this man had a great range in Kentucky for nearly forty years." "Though now about seventy-six years old," continues Taylor, "he walks and stands as erect as a palm tree, being at least six feet high, rather of lean texture, his whole deportment solemn and grave, and like Caleb, the servant
of the Lord of old, at four score years of age, was as capable of going to war as when he was young" (John Taylor, A History of Ten Churches).
John Taylor was himself a man of great power. He labored hard on his farm. After mentioning a certain day's work which he had accomplished that seemed to be impossible, he remarked: "I name this day's work that it may be accounted for how I cleared nearly four hundred acres of land in the heavy forests of Kentucky, besides making other improvements." He then remarksWe had to pack corn forty miles, and then send a mile to grind it at a handmill, before we could get bread; as to meat, it must come from the woods, and myself no hunter; I would at times go out with hunters and they with the common generosity of hunters would admit me a share in the profits so far as meat went. Soon after I settled in my little cabin (sixteen feet square, with no floor except the natural earth, without table, bedstead or stool) I found that an old buck had his lodge a few hundred steps from my cabin among the nettles, high as a man's shoulders, and interlocked with pea vines; those nettles, the next winter we found to be very useful, in getting the lint and with the help of buffalo wool, made good clothing for our black people - however, I went every morning to visit the old buck lodge, hoping to get a shot at him, I could sometimes see him - but I at length got a fire at him and accidentally shot him through the heart, this was a greater treat for my family than the largest bullock I have ever killed since, for he was large and fat (Taylor).He was equally laborious as a minister. George Stokes Smith was a "man of great responsibility, a doctrinal preacher of simplicity and plainness." William Marshall was the first permanent preacher in the State. "His tall, graceful form, dark piercing eye and engaging manners made him the pride of the circle in which he moved." There were six Baptist preachers in Kentucky as early as 1780, but there were no churches.
The Severn's Valley Church, the first in Kentucky, was organized, June 18, 1781. It is now known as Elizabethtown. The ministers present were Joseph Barnett, John Whitaker and John Gerrard. Gerrard was called as pastor and ordained to the ministry. He was the first pastor of a church in Kentucky. His was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. The church was organized under a green sugar tree. There were eighteen members, three of whom were colored, in the constitution of the church.
The Cedar Creek Church, five miles from Bardstown, was organized July 4, 1781. This was the second church in Kentucky. It was probably from patriotic motives that the church was constituted on Independence Day. This was while the Revolutionary War was still in progress. The church was gathered by Joseph Barnett and he was assisted by John Gerrard. Barnett was pastor for some years. Two of the members, Judge James Slaughter and James Rogers, were members of the Danville Convention.
The famous Traveling Church worshiped for the first time at Gilbert's Creek, Lincoln county, the second Lord's day in December, 1781 (Samuel H. Ford, "History of Kentucky Baptists," The Christian Repository, March, 1856). This story dates far back in Virginia history, as has already been seen, when Craig had fallen under the heavy hand of the Established Church. Craig was far from possessing a cultivated mind, but being a sensible man, and having a very musical voice, with agreeable manners, and, especially going forth under the constraining influence of the love of Christ, he excited much interest among the people whom he addressed. He traveled continually, and under his pungent preaching, and impassioned earnestness he won multitudes of converts. The Baptist church organized, between the James and the Rappahannock rivers, called Lower Spotsylvania, afterwards Craig's, was the fruit of his labor. He became pastor and the church greatly prospered.
He was continually annoyed by members of the Establishment and more than once imprisoned. The time had come for Craig and his church to emigrate to Kentucky. It was perhaps on the church meeting day, September 2, 1781, that he announced his purpose. An appointed day was set when all who would go to "a foreign land" would meet at the church house. Many were the ministers who assembled on the set day. Among them were Elijah Craig, who had eaten rye bread in prison; Ambrose Dudley, who had often labored with him; William E. Waller and the aged shepherd William Ellis; and John Waller, the most picturesque of the early Baptist ministers of Virginia, was also there. These men of God embraced and parted, some of them, forever. The feelings of Waller were expressed in rude poetry. About two hundred of the members agreed to go into
the wilderness land. This left but few behind. Preachers were not lacking in the expedition itself. Joseph Bledsoe of the Wilderness Church and father of the afterwards noted Senator James Bledsoe of Kentucky; Joseph Craig "the man who laid down in the road"; William Cave and Simeon Watson were four of a number of preachers who accompanied it. So the church, the pastor and the clerk with the old church book started upon the journey. It was in the month of October. The church had been constituted in 1767 by Read Harris and Dutton Lane.
This was the most considerable company that had yet gone to Kentucky. The old historian calls Kentucky "the vortex of Baptist preachers." Semple adds: "It is questionable with some whether half of the Baptist preachers raised in Virginia have not emigrated. to the Western country." This exodus was no small affair for its day and generation. The moving train included church members, their children, negro slaves, and other emigrants, who, for better protection, had attached themselves to an organized expedition, between five and six hundred souls (George W. Ranck, The Traveling Church, 13. Louisville, 1891). The women rode on horseback carrying the children; the men walked probably the entire distance of more than six hundred miles. On arriving at Gilbert's Creek, William Marshall preached on Sunday.
Craig had anticipated the needs of his church. Early the year before his removal he had sent his old Negro servant, Peter, to go to the new place and make a crop of corn. Peter was a member of the Spotsylvania Church and a very effective preacher. With a two-horse wagon, and farming implements, he had gone through the wilderness. In the spring he planted a crop of corn, but about the time the corn tasseled an excursion of Indians laid all to waste. Discouraged, the Negro returned and arrived in Virginia about the time the church began to move. Peter became the guide of the church to its new home. He was long a faithful preacher among his people. The fort was built and the people became settled in their new home. Finally the church removed north of the river and organized South Elkhorn Church.
One can hardly appreciate the sufferings and sacrifices of these early Baptists. There were two routes open to Kentucky, one by land, the other by water. It is difficult to say which was the more dangerous and toilsome. Lewis Craig traveled by land,
John Taylor by water. He landed on his way to Craig's station in December, 1783, at Bear Grass, near Louisville. Taylor says of his journey:It was a gloomy thing at that time of day, to move to Kentucky - but I had seen the place, and when I found a growing family to provide for, this overweighed all, and without a single friend or acquaintance to accompany me, with my young helpless family, to feel all the horrors that then lay in the way to Kentucky - we took water at Redstone, and for want of a better opening, I paid for a passage, in a lonely ill-fixed 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 between Wheeling and Louisville, a space of five or six hundred miles, and not one hour, day or night, in safety. Though it was not winter, not a soul in all Beargrass settlement was in safety but by being in a fort - I then meditated about traveling about eighty miles, to Craig's station on Gilbert's Creek, in Lincoln county; we set out in a few days - nearly all I owned was then at stake, I had three horses, two of them were packed, the other my wife rode, with as much lumber besides as the beast could bear; I had four black people, one man and three smaller ones. The pack horses were led, one by myself, the other by my man - the trace, what there was, being so narrow and bad, we had no chance but to wade through all the mud, rivers and creeks we came to Salt River, with a number of its large branches we had to deal with often; those waters being flush, we often must wade to our middle, and though the weather was very cold, the ice was not very troublesome, those struggles often made us forget the danger we were in from the Indians - we only encamped in the woods one night, where we could only look for protection from the Lord, one Indian might have defeated us, for though I had a rifle, I had very little use of it; after six days painful travel of this kind, we arrived at Craig's Station, a little before Christmas and about three months after our start from Virginia. Through all of this rugged travel my wife was in a very helpless state, for about one month after our arrival my son Ben was born (Taylor).The three churches organized in Kentucky in 1781 were all Calvinistic or the Regular Baptists. The Regular Baptist preachers were Barnett, Whitaker, Marshall, Lewis Craig, and probably Richard Cave and George Stokes Smith. All of these except the first two were Separate Baptists in Virginia. The Separate Baptists as yet had organized no churches. In the whole country there were but three churches and nine preachers. There were probably two churches organized the next year and both were of the Separate order. At the close of the year 1784 there were eight small churches in the State, and not one house of worship. The
winter of this year was unprecedented for coldness and many of the inhabitants were forced to eat dead carcasses.
The religious condition of the. people was even worse than their temporal affairs. John Taylor says of this period:Embarrassed as my worldly circumstances were, the face of things, as to religion, gave me more pain of mind; there were a number of Baptists scattered about, but we all seemed cold as death. Everybody had so much to do that religion was scarcely talked of, even on Sundays. All our meetings seemed only the name of things, with but little of the spirit of devotion (Taylor).There is likewise the testimony of David Rice, a Presbyterian minister. He had previously visited the State, and he moved there in October, 1783. The Presbyterians had become numerous and he says of them:After I had been here some weeks, and had preached at several places. I found scarcely one man, and but few women, who supported a credible profession of religion. Some were grossly ignorant of the first principles of religion. Some were given to quarreling and fighting, some to profane swearing, some to intemperance, and perhaps the most of them totally negligent of the forms of religion in their own houses. I could not think that a church formed of such materials as these could properly be called a church of Christ. With this I was considerably distressed, and made to cry, Where am I? What situation am I in? Many of these produced certificates of their having been regular members in full communion and good standing in the churches from whence they had emigrated, and this they thought entitled them to what they called Christian privileges here. Others would be angry and raise a quarrel with their neighbors if they did not certify, contrary to their knowledge and belief, that the bearer was a good moral character. I found indeed very few on whose information I could rely respecting the moral character of those who wished to be church members (Rice, Memoirs).The year 1785 brought a fruitful revival among the churches of Kentucky. The good work spread into many communities and churches. The revival drew the churches and pastors closer together. At the close of this year there had been constituted in Kentucky, eighteen churches, eleven of Regular Baptists, and seven of Separate Baptists. There were in Kentucky at the same time nineteen Baptist preachers (Spencer, History of Kentucky Baptists, I.) Of the first twenty-five Baptist preachers who settled in Kentucky, twenty are known to have been Separate Baptists in Virginia and North Carolina; of the other five, only
Joseph Barnett is known to have been a Regular Baptist. Yet, after they settled, eighteen of the twenty-five subscribed to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith and identified themselves with the Regular Baptists. The Separate Baptists organized most of the churches on the south side of the Kentucky river, constituted previous to the year 1786, and two on the north side of that stream. The Regular Baptists had two churches on the south side of that river (Spencer I.).
The revival having drawn the Baptists of Kentucky together, and the need of organization being acknowledged by all, it was hoped that all could unite in one body. But though the doctrinal differences were not great, and the methods not radically different, harmony was not at this time attained. The Separates were not willing to form an association; but the Regular Baptists, in 1785, constituted two associations, the Elkhorn and the Salem. The Elkhorn Association had thirteen churches and five hundred and fifty-nine members. A writer in Rippon's Register for 1790 reports the meeting of the Association at Lexington as follows:The increase since the last meeting amounted to 222, and their whole number was 1,383. There has been a considerable addition to some of our churches since the association. The Calvinistic system prevails much; we have a number of General Baptists in Kentucky, some Presbyterians, a few of the Church of England, with a variety of other sects. Liberty of conscience is unlimited among us. I never remember the ministers of Christ more strengthened to preach the truth, than they are of late... The Rev. John Gano was surely sent hither by Providence; he is a blessing to our new country; he and his family are in health. He is a valuable preacher.The coming of John Gano was indeed a blessing. It was very fitting upon the sitting of the first Legislature of Kentucky, in Lexington, Monday, June 4, 1792, he was chosen chaplain of both houses.
The history of the organization of the South Association of Separate Baptists is involved in obscurity. It would appear that a preliminary meeting was held in October, 1787, and in May, 1788, the organization was completed. Asplund in his Register for 1790 says of them:Adopted no articles of faith, only the Bible; they hold to general provision. Correspond only with the General Committee, by letter, and
294sometimes delegates. Their annual meeting is held on the second Thursday in October, and besides this, they have two occasional associations in May and August, hold three days.In 1792 they reaffirmed their principles as follows:1. What was the Separate Baptists first constituted upon, in Kentucky? Ans. The Bible.The South Kentucky Association decided against all creeds and accepted the Bible alone as their confession of faith. They decided in favor of foot washing. At their preliminary meeting the following decisions were published:
2. How did we become united with the Baptists of Virginia, called United Baptists? Ans. On a letter the Committee of Baptists in Virginia, in Richmond, directed to be written to us, in Kentucky, bearing date, October 2, 1788, from under the signature of Reuben Ford and William Webber.
3. Did those terms oblige us to receive any part of the Philadelphia Confession of Faith? Ans. No.
4. Do we agree to abide by the constitution and terms of union with the United Baptists of Virginia? Ans. We do.
1. Declared that they thought that all ministerial difficulties should be settled by a company of ministers, and that, if any minister was supposed to preach any unsound doctrine, two ministers might suspend or atop him from preaching, until he could be tried by a sufficient number of ministers; and it was provided also, that the churches should have power to cite anyone, suspected of preaching unsound doctrine, before the ministers, in order for trial.
2. They also defined what power there was in a gospel church, viz.: To receive into her communion, and expel from it, such members as she may choose, according to the gospel discipline; also to choose their own pastor, to refuse him, when it shall appear that he is no longer their pastor; also to excommunicate him for immoral conduct, as any other member.
The union between these two parties was not effected till the year 1801. By this time those little party asperities, which had unhappily prevailed, were much mollified and diminished; their cold and indifferent charity for each other was inflamed; and with the most of them their notion of doctrine was found to be not so different as they had supposed. A union was now proposed in earnest, and soon effected with ease. Both associations had become large, containing together some seven or eight thousand members. Committees were appointed by both sides to
confer on the subject of union, and after mature deliberation agreed upon the following terms:1. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the infallible Word of God and the only rule of faith and practice.Thus were the names Regular and Separate no longer used and the name assumed was that of United Baptists.
2. That there is only one true God, and in the Godhead or Divine Essence there are Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
3. That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures:
4. That salvation, regeneration, sanctification and justification are by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
5. That saints will persevere through grace to glory.
6. That believers' baptism, by immersion, is necessary to receive the Lord's Supper.
7. That the salvation of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
8. That it is a duty to be tender and affectionate to one another, and to study the happiness of the children of God in general; to be engaged singly to promote the honor of God.
9. That preaching Christ tasted death for every man shall be no bar to communion.
10. And that each church may keep up their association and church government as to them may seem best.
11. That a free correspondence and communion be kept up between the churches thus united.
Unanimously agreed to by the joint committee.
Ambrose Dudley David Ramsey John Price Thomas J. Chilton Joseph Redding Moses Bledsoe Robert Elkin Samuel Johnson.
A harsh note of discord was heard just as the sweet melody of the revival and brotherly love began to subside, and before they had ceased. It originated in the Cooper Run Church, Bourbon county, near the present site of Paris. This was an old and honored church, having been constituted in 1787, and was probably gathered by Augustine Eastin and James Garrard. The church had been organized in the midst of privations and dangers, the contemplation of which still chills the blood. The following incident is recorded of the church:
On the night of the 11th of April, nine months after the establishment of the church, a widow, named Shanks, a member of Cooper Run church, lived in a lonely cabin in a lonely part of the country. Two sons, a widowed daughter, with an infant at her breast, and three unmarried
daughters, composed the pious, but bereaved family. At midnight, hurried steps were heard, succeeded by sudden knocks at the door, and accompanied by the usual exclamation, "Who keeps house here?" The lady at once recognized the Indian accent, and springing from her bed, waked her sons. Efforts were made to force the door; but the discharge of the young men's rifles obliged the Indians to shift the attack to a less exposed point. The three girls were in another part of the humble cabin. The door was discovered and soon forced from its hinges, the oldest daughter tomahawked, the second made a prisoner, whilst the youngest fled in confusion, and ran around the cabin, wringing her hands with imploring cries. The mother and brothers within heard her cries, and would have attempted to save her; but a scream, a moan, and all was silent. They knew she had fallen under the hatchet of the merciless foe. Soon the other end of the cabin was in flames. Rapidly they spread, revealing to the helpless inmates the smile of triumph on the dark countenances of their murderers. All was lost. A brief prayer went up from the aged widow, expressing her trust in him to whom her spirit would soon return. They unbarred the door; and as she reached the style, amid the bright blaze of the burning cabin, she fell dead. The youngest son defended his endeared sister and babe, and they escaped, while his corpse lay beside that of his mother; and the older brother, wounded, and bleeding, after displaying the most intrepid valor, also escaped. These three survivors, and the five who fell, were members of the Cooper Run church (Ford, "History of Kentucky Baptists," The Christian Repository, 362. July, 1856).
It was in such a church as this honored by martyrs, and having a highly intellectual membership, that the trouble began. James Garrard was elected Governor of Kentucky. Marshall says of this event:General B. Logan, and James Garrard, Esq., perhaps, he should be styled, "Reverend ______" as he had recently been, or was then a preacher in the Baptist society; were the candidates, for the office of governor. Both were thought to be sufficiently democratic; and the votes were nearly equal; Garrard was certified to be governor. The first of June, he entered into the office, and chose for his secretary, Harry Toulmin, who had been a follower of Dr. Priestly in England, and recently a preacher, of the Unitarian sort. Hence they preached no more - and applied themselves to the more immediate duties of their respective offices; which they discharged to general satisfaction (Marshall, II.).
Toulmin, who was a polished Unitarian preacher, was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Garrard for both terms in which he served as governor. He had come to the State with complimentary letters from Thomas Jefferson. He was received as a Baptist preacher, but he was in reality a Unitarian in his beliefs. He had an elevated character, and was highly regarded
for his learning and piety. Toward the close of his second term Toulmin converted Garrard to his opinions.
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Transylvania University, February 5, 1794, Toulmin was elected by a majority vote President of that institution. This election was the signal for open warfare upon the University by the Presbyterians and others. Dr. Davidson says:The Presbyterian members of the Board strongly remonstrated against this procedure, and exerted all their influence to prevent its mischievous consequences; but they were overruled by a mad and misguided majority, and a fatal blow was thus given to the prosperity of the school (Robert Peter, The History of Transylvania University, Filson Club Publications).He was also opposed by Ambrose Dudley. There was constant trouble in the University till he resigned in April, 1796.
About the year 1802 Governor Garrard and Augustine Eastin began to promulgate Arian, or rather Socinian sentiments. The majority of the church, and several neighboring churches to which Eastin preached; espoused the doctrines of Garrard and their minister. The introduction of Arian doctrines in this manner was no small affair among the Baptists of Kentucky.
James Garrard was one of the most intellectual, influential and popular men in Kentucky (Mann Butler, History of Kentucky). He was born January 14, 1749, in Virginia, and served as an officer in the militia in the War of the Revolution, and later he was elected to the Virginia legislature. Semple says of him:While in Virginia he was distinguished by his fellow citizens, and elected to the Assembly and military appointments. After he moved to Kentucky he began to preach, and was thought to possess talents for the pulpit. He continued to preach until he was made governor. For the honors of men he resigned the office of God. He relinquished the clerical robe for the more splendid mantle of human power. The prophet says to Asa: "If ye forsake God, he will forsake you." It is not strange that Colonel Garrard, after such a course, should fall into many foolish and hurtful snares.
Let it be tried a thousand times, and in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases it will be found that preachers who aim at worldly honors will be completely ruined or greatly depreciated as preachers.
It is due to Governor Garrard to say that his conduct has been orderly and, indeed, gentlemanly, and that he has honored every other character which he has ever assumed, except the one which, of all others, he ought to have valued (Semple, 407).
To him, however, belongs much of the honor of securing religious freedom in the Virginia Legislature. Collins says: "He contributed by his zeal and prudence, as much, or perhaps more than any other individual, to the passage of the famous act securing religious freedom" (Collins, Historical Sketches of Kentucky) Collins continues:He was an early emigrant to Kentucky, and was exposed to all the perils and dangers incident to the settlement and occupation of the country. He was repeatedly called by the voice of his fellow citizens to represent their interests of the State; and finally, by two successive elections, was elected to the chief magistracy of the commonwealth, a trust which, for eight years, he discharged with wisdom, prudence and vigor.Augustine Eastin was likewise a man of note. He was the only pastor Cooper Run Church had ever had. He came from Goochland county, Virginia, and for a time he was in Chesterfield jail for his religious convictions. But he was unstable in his ways. Semple says of him:
As a man, Governor Garrard had few equals; and, in the various scenes and different stations of life, he acted with firmness, prudence and decision. At an early age, he embraced and professed the religion of Christ, giving it, through life, the preference over all sublunary things. In the private circle he was a man of great practical usefulness, and discharged with fidelity and tenderness the social and relative duties of husband, parent, neighbor, master. He died on the 19th of January, at his residence, Mount Lebanon, in Bourbon county, in the seventy-fourth year of his age.
For ten years he served the Elkhorn Association as moderator. He was not a ready public speaker but he never declined to address his fellow men on the subject of religion. The defection of such a man was of no small moment.Augustine Eastin, who removed to Kentucky, and who, though a man of some talent, was never any credit to the cause of truth. He appears always to have been carried away with the opinions of others whom he wished to imitate. Sometimes he was a professed and positive Calvinist; and then shifting about he becomes warm as an Arminian. And then to the right about again he is reconvinced that Calvinism is the only true way. Having removed to Kentucky he finds some professors of high standing in civil life who lean to the Arian scheme. Mr. Eastin soon became their champion, and even writes a pamphlet in defense of Arianism. This last change has made much noise among the Baptists of Kentucky. Mr. Eastin's moral character has not been impeached. On this head he and his coadjutors are men of high respectability (Robert Semple).
Every effort was made to reclaim these individuals and churches. A committee consisting of David Barrow, John Price, Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding and Carter Tarrant was appointed by the Elkhorn Association to visit Cooper Run Church, Flat Lick, Indian Creek and Union Churches and try to convince them of their error on the subject of the Trinity. The Association in the meantime reaffirmed the old articles of faith on the subject. The attempt at reclamation was unsuccessful and the Association reluctantly dropped them from connection and correspondence. For some time, the minds of many were much agitated by these new subjects of speculation; and the. eminence and ability of the men by whom they were propagated excited fearful apprehensions of their extensive prevalence. It may be recorded to the credit of the Baptists, that although Garrard and Eastin were much beloved, and of powerful influence, yet they could but take a very inconsiderable faction with them, which declined gradually and noiselessly away. Unitarianism never obtained favor with the Baptists of Kentucky (David Benedict, II. 231).
From this date on the Baptists consistently opposed Unitarianism. When Dr. Holley, a Unitarian minister, from Boston, was elected President of Transylvania University he was "deserted by the three leading denominations of Christians, the Baptists, the Methodists and the Presbyterians, and the (school) was sinking and must perish without a change" (The Western Luminary, a weekly Presbyterian paper, published from June 14, 1824, to July 6, 1825, p. 403. April). He was opposed among the Baptists by Dr. James Fishback, and whatever may have been his vagaries, which subjected him to much adverse criticism, he was an avowed opponent of Unitarianism. He said that Dr. Holly was "a natural religionist" and claimed that "whatever Christianity contained in distinction to natural religion was useless and false" (Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky). This incident will suggest the attitude of the Baptists toward the Unitarians.
About this time, in the South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists, a popular minister, John Bailey, embraced the sentiments of the Restorationists or universalists. He was generally believed to be a pious man, and a majority of the
association was devotedly attached to him; and insisted, although he had preached this doctrine, that he did. it in a manner not to offend the most delicate ear (Collins). On this account the association was miserably rent asunder.
"Hell Redemption," as it was called, first came up in the association in 1791. Bailey had been preaching the doctrine and William Bledsoe also embraced it. The association took action as follows:Query. Whether the Association will hold a member in society, that propagates the doctrine of Restoration from hell? Agreed, they would not.The way was opened in 1799 for the return of Bailey without enquiring into his private sentiments, provided he lived an orderly life. He was a brilliant orator and a popular man. There were many divisions and much strife. The associations of the State ceased correspondence with them. The association entertained many loose opinions and finally went off with the anti-missionary movement.
Bailey voted in the affirmative and two others were neutral. A presbytery was appointed to examine Bailey and demand of him his credentials if it was thought fit. James Smith, one of the Committee, was accused of saying that he believed that all men, for whom Christ died, would be saved. This accusation was proved. But upon his examination the association agreed that he did not teach Redemption from Hell. At this juncture, the body saw fit to agree "to abide by the plan upon which the churches of our union were constituted in October, 1787, and May, 1788."
Books for further reference:
History of Kentucky, by the late Lewis Collins, revised, enlarged fourfold, and brought down to the year 1874 by his son, Richard H. Collins. Covington, 1878. 2 volumes.
Robert McNutt McElroy, Kentucky in the Nation's History. New York, 1909.
J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885, including more than 800 Biographical Sketches. Printed for the Author, 1886; reprint, 1984, 2 volumes.
William Dudley Nowlin, Kentucky Baptist History 1770-1922, Louisville, 1922.
[From John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, II, 1926, pp. 283-300. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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