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Kentucky Baptists
The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881

"The Baptists were the pioneers of Kentucky." The first explorers of its territory were the brothers Daniel and Squire Boone. The latter was a Baptist preacher. The first settlement was made at Boonsborough, in what is now Madison County, in the summer of 1775, by Col. Daniel Boone, his wife and daughters being the only women in the small colony. Col. Richard Calloway and his family joined the settlers the first day of September. They also were Baptists. The same fall a small settlement was made at Harrodsburg, some thirty miles southwest of Boonsborough. Early in the spring of 1776, Thomas Tinsley and William Hickman, Baptist ministers, came to Harrodsburg. "Mr. Tinsley," says Mr. Hickman, "preached almost every Sunday." Hickman also preached. Nothing more is known of Mr. Tinsley except that "he was," says Hickman, "a good old preacher." Mr. Hickman returned to Virginia the following summer. Emigrants, principally from Virginia, now began to pour into the new country rapidly. Among these were Gen. Henry Crust, Gen. Aquilla Whitaker, Gen. Joseph Lewis, Col. Robert Johnson, Col. William Bush, Hon. James Garrard, Gabriel Slaughter, the Clays, and many others, who became prominent in the camps and councils of the State. These were all Baptists.

During the years 1779 and 1780, William Marshall, John Whitaker, Benjamin Lynn, John Garrard, and Joseph Barnett, Baptist ministers, settled in the new country. John Taylor and Joseph Reding visited it and preached during this period.

The first Baptist church formed in Kentucky, or in the great Mississippi Valley, was constituted of 18 members by Joseph Barnett and John Garrard, on the present site of Elizabethtown, forty miles south of Louisville, June 18, 1781. It still bears its ancient name, Severn's Valley. The second church was constituted by the same ministers, July 4, 1781. It is called Cedar Creek, and is located forty miles southeast from Louisville. The third church in Kentucky was Gilbert's Creek, in Garrard County. It was constituted in Spottsylvania Co., Va., and removed to Kentucky, under the pastoral care of Lewis Craig, in the fall of 1781. Here it held its first meeting the second Sunday in December of that year.

Then followed Forks of Dix River, in 1782 Providence, in 1783; South Elkhorn, in 1783; Gilbert's Creek (Separate Baptists), in 1783; Beargrass, in 1784; Cox's Creek, Clear Creek, Great Crossings, Tate's Creek, Limestone, Brashear's Creek, Rush Branch, Pottinger's Creek, and Head of Boone's Creek, in 1785.
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In 1785 three Associations were formed, Elkhorn and Salem of Regular Baptists, and South Kentucky of Separate Baptists. In 1793 an effort to form a union between the Regular and Separate Baptists failed in its object, and resulted in the formation of Tate's Creek Association of United Baptists. From this period till 1799 religion was at a low ebb, and open infidelity much abounded. In 1800 the religious awakening known as "The Great Revival in Kentucky" began, and continued three years. In this period the number of Baptists in the State was more than doubled. It was at this time that the jerks and the barking and dancing exercises prevailed in some degree among the Baptists, but much more extensively among the Presbyterians and Methodists.

In.1801 the Regular and Separate Baptists formed a union, and all assumed the name of United Baptists. From that time until 1818 the Baptists of Kentucky continued to prosper, with little to interrupt their harmony. About this period Daniel Parker introduced his two-seed doctrine, and with it the anti-mission spirit. This caused much trouble, dividing many churches and Associations. These factions still exist, but have become weak and insignificant. In 1823, Campbellism began to disturb the denomination, and continued to distress the churches until the Campbellites were cut off. The formal separation began in 1829, but was not completed till 1835, when the Campbellites became a distinct sect, known by various names indifferent localities.

In 1832 the Baptist State Convention was organized. Its operations were unsatisfactory, and, after a trial of four years, it was dissolved. In 1837 the General Association of Kentucky Baptists was constituted. Its special object was to promote the spread of the gospel in the State. Its success was encouraging from the beginning. It is estimated that 50,000 persons have been baptized under its auspices. Meanwhile, the anti-missionary spirit, which had first manifested itself in the churches about the year 1818, was fully aroused by the organization of the General Association. Divisions were produced in many churches and Associations. In not a few of these a majority was on the antimissionary side. The formal division began in 1840. Since that time the Baptists of Kentucky have been divided into missionary and anti-missionary churches. The latter have now an aggregate membership of about 7000.

Since the division last referred to the denomination has enjoyed a good degree of harmony and prosperity. Until the close of the late civil war, the white and colored people worshiped together in the same churches. Since that period the colored people have formed churches and Associations of their own. The separation was harmonious, and the feeling between the brethren of the two races is kind, and their correspondence is fraternal. The subjoined table will show the growth of the Baptist denomination in Kentucky from 1790 to 1880:
Date Population of the State Number of Baptists
1790 73,677 3,105
1810 406,511 ---
1812 --- 21,666
1830 687,917 ---
1831 --- 34,827
1840 779,828 47,325
1846 --- 60,991
1850 982,405 69,894
1860 1,115,684 81,262
1870 1,321,011 ---
1875 --- 144,269
1878 --- 159,743
1879 --- 161,190
1880 --- 163,696

General Association of Kentucky -- The first general organization of the Baptists in Kentucky was effected in 1832 at Bardstown. It was styled "The Kentucky Baptist Convention." There was much opposition to it among the churches. It continued to meet for about four years, and then dissolved. In 1837 "The General Association of Baptists in Kentucky" was organized in Louisville. Its leading objects were to promote preaching among the destitute within its bounds, to encourage literary and theological education, and to foster foreign missions. The churches watched its movements with doubt and suspicion, and some of them openly opposed it. But immediately after its organization an extensive revival swept over the whole State, and the General Association grew rapidly in favor. It employed a large corps of missionaries, and built up many churches that were weak, and constituted a large number of new ones. It is estimated that its missionaries, and those of its auxiliary societies, have averaged at least a thousand baptisms a year, from its organization until the present time. It has stimulated the churches to support their pastors, kindled the spirit of home and foreign missions, encouraged the building up of schools and colleges, and checked the ravages of intemperance, and has been in every way of incalculable advantage to the denomination in Kentucky.

[William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; reprint, 1988, pp. 650-1. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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