Chapter IV - Bryant's Station, Town Fork, Cooper's Run, Boone's Creek, and Washington Churches
With the first Churches of Kentucky are associated the trials, the triumphs, the tragic incidents of individual daring and endurances, which invest, with romantic interest, the early history of this Commonwealth.
In 1779, four brothers, names Bryant, from North Carolina, one of whom married the sister of Daniel Boone, erected some cabins on the south fork of Elkhorn, about three miles from Lexington. The place was soon known as Bryant's Station, and became famous in the history of the times. It was for several years a frontier post, and greatly exposed to the hostilities of the Indians.
In 1781, Wm. Bryant was killed while on a hunting expedition in the vicinity of the station, and the ownership of the property soon after fell into the hands of Joseph Rogers, a Baptist, from Virginia.
In 1782, after Martin's and Ruddel's Station had been captured, Craig's Station, on Clear Creek, abandoned, Bryant's Station became among the most important and secure positions in the country. It was therefore, sought as a rallying point and place of refuge by the settlers and hunters, and watched and doomed to destruction by the savage foe.
As the large bands of Indians, led on by the renegade [Simon] Girty, swept over the country, spreading desolation wherever the Stations were not strong enough to defy the storm, the principle forts were filled up with the fugitives from the out Stations, and presented formidable barriers against the wild rush of the unskilled enemy. That at Bryant's was composed of about forty cabins, ranged in two or three rows, and connected by strong palisades where they were not otherwise joined. There was a bastion at each end, composed of strong logs, built in the block-house form, with necessary loop holes. It stood on the point of an elevated ridge, where a gentle slope terminated at the back of a creek.
On the 15th August, about six hundred Indian warriors suddenly appeared before the fort, The gates were immediately secured. The horn was sounded to warn those who were in the adjacent corn fields. Of the attack and defence of Bryant's Station, the record is familiar. Six hundred warriors had suddenly raised their wild shouts, and commenced an unequal contest with forty or fifty brave men, who defended the fort.1 But among them were men of experience, of tried bravery; men who might be startled, but never intimidated. With their dangers rose their courage, and their resources and self-reliance was fully equal to the occasion. Streams of blazing arrows leaped from the Indian bows, while the constant shower of bullets made it perilous to attempt to quench the kindling flame. But calm and intrepid, amid these horrors, were the defenders of the fort. And among those brave men were most prominent the Johnsons and the Craigs. "While," says the historian, "all acted well their part, the Johnsons and the Craigs were among its most reputable inhabitants; and Jerry Craig was distinguished among its best soldiers"2 And each of these were prominent and active in the organization of the first three Churches, of any order, on the north side of the Kentucky River.
As peace returned, and the inhabitants of Bryant's Station retired to the settlements and farms, there was left but one family of Baptists, Joseph Rogers, the owner of the land on which the Station stood. Often had the voice of prayer and praise ascended to God, even when the watch-fires of the warriors blazed in frightening numbers around them. Lewis Craig made frequent visits; and in the center of the ranged cabins of this primitive citadel, while the sentinels watched the approach of the lurking foe, that man of God had often preached, with the true eloquence of love and zeal, the "glorious gospel of the blessed God." But peace, as it permitted the tenants of the fort to return to their little farms and out-stations, also invited fresh streams of emigration to Kentucky; and in 1786, among the increased population in the neighborhood of Bryant's, were Baptists sufficient to fortify the organization of a Church. From the records of that Church are the extracts which follow:
"Sundry Baptists in the neighborhood of Brant's Station, on Elkhorn, having met on the third Saturday of March, 1786, helps were called from South Elkhorn and Big Crossing."
The meeting adjourned to meet again on the third Saturday in April; when William Cave and Bartlett Collins, from Crossings, and Benjamin and Lewis Craig, from South Elkhorn, aided as a counsel in the regular constitution of the Baptist Church at Bryant's Station. Nine persons were in the organization - Augustus Easten, H. Roach, Sallie Roach, William Ellis, Joseph Rogers, Betty Darnaby, Judeth Tandy and Elizabeth Price.
The Church adopted two rules only: 1st. "That with respect to discipline, we do agree to observe the 18th of Matthew.
2d. That all matters of fellowship be determined by unanimity; and all other matters by a majority of male members."
These rules, or rather, principles, were acknowledged and agreed to at the first regular meeting of the Church after its constitution, third Saturday in May, 1786; at which meeting that noble and eminently pious man, Ambrose Dudley, united with the Church by letter. Two months later, William E. Waller, the father of Edward and George Waller, handed in his letter, and that of his wife's.
Most of the old Virginia Churches believed in a plurality of Elders, as did all the Separate Baptists. The Bryant's Church, August 19th, chose Ambrose Dudley, minister, and William E. Waller, H. Roach, William Ellis, and J. Mason, Elders, and Joseph Rogers, Deacon. By a subsequent vote of the Church, William Waller was "received in the ministry, to act as such in this Church, or wherever the Lord shall call him to that work." Waller was a minister - a pastor - before he left Virginia. He was received as a preacher, and as such, was frequently listened to by the Church. But it was believed that he held no office in the Church, because of his office in the Church he had left.
At the next meeting (Oct.), Ambrose Dudley accepted the charge of the Church, which relation he sustained for thirty-seven years, till he was called from life labor to an eternal rest.3
It was a common and not very beneficial custom in those early Churches to introduce queries for the consideration and discussion of the body. Among many others introduced during the first year at Bryant's, were these:
1st. Is it a duty on members to have public prayer for their infants?
Many Churches considered it a solemn duty. The infant was brought forward to the minister, who imitating the example of Christ, blessed the child and invoked on it the blessing of heaven. The query, after discussion, was answered, "It is a scriptureless tradition."
In receiving members, the custom was, at the regular Church meeting, to ask the candidates such questions as would bring out satisfactory evidence of their moral fitness for membership. The candidates then withdrew, and the vote was taken.
Two facts are especially worthy of notice in the history of Bryant's Station Church. It had no confession, or articles of faith, for years; nor had it even a Church covenant until 1789, three years after its constitution. In this year, the subject was taken up at the July meeting, and the month following it was
"Resolved, That a covenant is proper, and Brethren Dudley, Waller, Price, Mason, and Roach, be appointed to prepare one."
2d. It was the first missionary Church in Kentucky. In June, 1793, "twenty shillings were appropriated to bear the expenses of brethren to preach the gospel at Cumberland."4
3d. It was the first Church that voted a salary to its pastor. At the Church meeting, Sept., 1788, it was resolved that
"The Church are of opinion that ministers of our Church receive from us the sum L50, to be paid in such property as such persons shall think proper, at the common selling price; and that the proportion for each one to pay be assessed by a number of the brethren."
4th. That the immersions performed by pedo-Baptists were not to be received as valid.
But we must linger no longer over this most interesting Church, but shall have soon to introduce it again, surrounded with difficulties and divisions.
Town Fork ChurchThe city of Lexington is situated on a branch of the Elkhorn, called Town Fork. The early settlements stretch along this stream, and some two miles from the present site of the city, ten Baptists, in July, 1786, were constituted into a Church. Present, Lewis Craig, John Taylor, Ambrose Dudley, and Augustus Easten. Among the members were Edward Payne, William Payne, William Stone, and Thomas Lewis. It grew more slowly than most of the Churches around it. It was soon blessed with the labors of the great and good John Gano, and afterwards equally cursed with division and strife, terminating in the division of the Elkhorn Association. It has long since ceased to have a name.
Cooper's RunThe following year a Church was constituted in Bourbon county, not far from where Paris now stands, called Cooper's Run. It was constituted in the midst of privations and dangers, the contemplation of which, even at this distant day, chills the very blood. "On the night of the 11th April, nine months after the establishment of the Church, a widow, named Shanks, a member of the Cooper's Run Church, lived in a lonely cabin in a lonely part of the country. Two grown 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 usual exclamation, 'Who keeps house here!' The old 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, and the oldest daughter tomahawked, the second made a prisoner, while the youngest fled in the 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 she reached the stile, amid the bright blaze of the burning cabin, she fell, dead. The younger son defended his endeared sister and her 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's Run Church." It was composed of Jeyrel Ellis, Edmund Montjoy, Charles Smith, with their families; and, among others, a man, at that time the most intellectual, the most influential, and the most popular man in the district of Kentucky - James Garrard.
From active military service during the revolutionary struggle he was called, by the voice of his fellow-citizens, to a seat in the assembly of Virginia. Brought in contact with the "plebian sect of the Baptists," he was led, through their instrumentality, to God's truth; and while he occupied his seat as legislator, "he contributed, by his zeal and prudence, perhaps more than any other individual, to the passage of the famous act securing universal religious liberty."5 He was ordained as minister in 1780, and soon emigrated to Kentucky. Here he mingled and labored with the Craigs, Taylor, Cave, Easten, and other men of God. But such were his abilities, and the need of the services of a man of his wisdom and legislative capacity, that he was sent as a delegate to the convention which framed the Constitution of the United States, and afterwards twice elected to the chief magistracy of Kentucky. His memory is perpetuated by the county called in honor of his name; and the marble monument erected by the State, has this beautiful inscription:
"This marble consecrates the spot on which repose mortal remains of James Garrard, and records a brief memorial of his virtues and his worth. * * * Honored by his country, by frequent calls to represent her dearest interests in her legislative councils, and finally, by two elections, to fill the chair of Chief Magistrate of the State - a trust which, for eight successive years, he fulfilled with that energy, vigor, and impartiality which, tempered with the Christian spirit of God-like mercy and charity for the frailty of men, is best calculated to perpetuate the inestimable blessings of government, and the happiness of man * * * He departed this life 1822, as he had lived, a sincere and pure Christian; pure, constant and sincere in his own religious sentiments; tolerant for those who differed from him; reposing in the mercy of God and the merits of his Redeemer his hopes of a glorious and immortality."
He was for many years the moderator of the Elkhorn Association, and though never a ready public speaker, he never, till his death, amid all his honors or labors, declined to address his fellow-men, when the opportunity served, on the great subject of Religion.
Boone's Creek ChurchIn the same year, 1786, some of the oldest settlers in Kentucky formed the Church at Boone's Creek, not far from where Athens, Fayette county, now stands. Among the names of early members of this Church, is that of Squire Boone, Samuel Boone, George G. Boone, William Boone, George Shortage, Robert Fryar; several of the Winns and Calaways were on the constitution. There were several circumstances connected with this Church which caused fearful defaulters. Many of its members were Separates of the highest Calvinistic notions. Others were earnest Separates, as regarded laying on of hands after baptism and objections to creeds, and on these points, agreed with the rest of the Separate brethren, even the lowest kind of Arminians. The regular Baptists were moderate, but were opposed by both classes of the Separates.
"I was once called," says Wm. Hickman, "to Boone's Creek to preach and baptize. I went. There was no meeting house, consequently, we met in the woods. When I got to the place, there was a large collection for those days. Bro. John Tanner was preaching. I went on the stand, and when he concluded, I closed the meeting. Knowing the Church was to set and hear experiences, I insisted on Bro. Tanner to take the seat, as he was the oldest man. But he utterly refused, and I was obliged to take it myself. The first man that came up was a raw Irishmen, of the name of Watson, and if I am any judge, related a good work. I asked him all the questions necessary, and when we were just about to receive him, Bro Tanner rose up and said he did not believe he was a Christian. I desired him to ask him questions. There was one other old man who backed Tanner. However, he asked him some deep questions on eternal decrees. I replied I did not think they were proper questions to be put to a child. Then he said he would talk with him when the Church broke. He was set aside, and others came up till we received seven or eight. It became dark, and we retired to the cabin. After getting some refreshments, the Church formed again. Tanner had conversed with Watson and became satisfied. We received, after night, to the amount of eleven in all. The next day was Sunday. We repaired to the waters near the mouth of Boone's Creek. We both preached. It was the first time I baptized in the country."
This was in 1786. A few years previously, a lonely wanderer, at this very same spot, Daniel Boone, built his camp fire and slept upon his buffalo skin - a solitary representation, yet certain precursor of the on-rolling of civilization. But a few months previous to the incidents just sketched, and the foemen met on the banks of this same stream in the fell work of death. Around them was still the unpeopled wilderness. Near them still lingered their unconquered foes. But over all the dark scenery the gospel shed its light, and the authority of the Prince of Peace was acknowledged. The wild woods were made the temples of his worships, and his followers buried by baptism in the sacred name of the trinity.
Washington ChurchAfter the partial cessation of hostilities, Simon Kenton returned to the station where he had built a cabin and raised a crop of corn in 1775. It was on Limestone Creek, about one mile from where the town of Washington stands, and is owned and cultivated, at present, by Thomas Forman, a member of the Baptist Church.
In 1786, Kenton sold to William Wood, a Baptist preacher, in company with Arthur Fox, one thousand acres of land. Wood at once laid off a town. His patriotism induced him to call it - and it was the first town in the world so named -- after the name of Washington. Two months after it incorporation, the Baptist Church at Washington was completed. It numbered fourteen, among whom were the pastor, Wm. Wood, Robert Taylor, and A. Houghton. It adopted the Philadelphia confession and the discipline annexed thereunto. It was, for some time, one of the most flourishing Churches, but it will be seen as we proceed, that throughout its whole history, sorrow and difficulty have been its lot.
Elkhorn Association - Third, Fourth, and Fifth SessionsThere were now seven Churches united in the Association. Here follows extracts from its minutes. The first regular session, which occurred September 30, 1785, was continued with a new moderator, Wm. Cave, to the first Saturday in October. It was called in minutes the third Conference, but was, in fact, the first regular meeting.6
First Saturday in October, 1785, Wm. Cave, Mod.; Richard Cave, Clerk.
Resolved, That all matters of controversy be determined by a majority of this Association.
Advised, That with persons who hold conditional salvation, great tenderness be used to reclaim them from their error.
Query Answered - Is it lawful for any Christian to hold office, either civil or military.
Agreed, That no query be received in future, unless first detailed in Church and inserted in Church letter.
Second SessionJohn Taylor, Mod.; R. Young, Clerk.
Received three Churches, to wit: Bryant's Station - Messengers, A. Dudley, A. Easten; Town Fork - Messengers, Edward Payne, William Payne, Wm. Stone; Boone's Creek - Messengers, Geo. Shortage, Robert Fryar.
A committee appointed to inspect a form of marriage, and consider the expediency of a Catechism and report. E. Craig, J. Taylor, L. Craig, A. Easten, A. Dudley, and J. S. Smith, the committee.
Agreed, That this Association has a right to reject a seat to the messengers of a Church who do not comply with her advice; provided, her advice is not contrary to the terms of the general union. That a slave may be considered a proper Church member.
A committee sent to Gilbert's Creek, report that Church dissolved.
The next Association met at Bryant's. There were now ten Churches belonging to the Association. They numbered about five hundred members. Among them were men of talent, piety, and zeal; and their membership was rapidly increasing. The war cry of the Indians was seldom heard, and was dying away in the west. On the same spot where, two years previously, Lewis Craig had preached within the fort; and where this host of fierce warriors, led on by Girty, threatened captivity or death to all within the rude citadel beneath the deep shades of the primeval forest at Bryant's Station, the Elkhorn Association held its third session, which was its second anniversary. Crowds were there from Boonsboro, from Clear Creek, from Washington, from Bear Grass, and South Kentucky. Hundreds of miles were traveled, by many on foot, to be present at this primitive convocation.7 Nor let it be thought that they were addressed by illiterate or ignorant men. James Garrard, Ambrose Dudley, and Elijah Craig, were among their preachers. Men whose education, whose Biblical knowledge and talents would do honor to any denomination or any age. And of their elevated views of the work of the ministry, a resolution in the following minutes fully attests:
Minutes of the Third Session of the Elkhorn AssociationMet at Bryant's, 4th August, 1787 - Edward Payne, Moderator; R. Young, Clerk.
Received two Churches - Cooper's Run, and Hanging Fork.
Agreed, That the Association receive Churches and determine all matters touching fellowship by unanimity.
Resolved, That it is not agreeable to scripture for Churches to suffer men to preach, and have the care of them, who trade and entangle themselves with the affairs of this life; but that it is the duty of Churches to give their ministers a reasonable support, and to restrict them in these respects.
That the Association has no right to concern itself with the affairs of a Church that stands out (of an Association) and acts on constitutional principles.
That the Churches have regard to the discipline annexed to the confession of faith in receiving members into society.
That the Association correspond with the Ketocton Association, Virginia.
Delegates and letters sent to the Association at Cox's Creek, Nelson county.
Marble creek Church suspended, (not received), and a committee sent to inquire into the grievances
So far, the Church and Association enjoyed peace, and the Churches and members labored in love and harmony. But difficulties were already springing up, and were soon to interfere with and sully the progress and triumphs of truth.
1 The garrison was supplied with water from a spring outside the fort, at the base of the eminence near the creek. Near this spring a considerable body of Indians were placed in ambush, while another party were posted in full view of the garrison, to display itself at a given time, with the hope of enticing those within to an engagement without the walls. If this stratagem succeeded, those in ambush were to rush upon the fort and force the gates. Connected with this M'Clung has preserved the following anecdote. It may add to its interest to know that among them was a Baptist sister, Mrs. Singleton, afterwards a members of South Elkhorn.
"The more experienced of the garrison felt satisfied that a powerful party was in ambuscade near the spring, but at the same time they supposed that the Indians would not unmask themselves until the firing on the opposite side of the fort was returned with such warmth as to induce the belief that the feint had succeeded.
"Acting upon this impression, and yielding to the urgent necessity of the case, they summoned all the women, without exception, and explaining to them the circumstances in which they were placed, and the improbability that any injury would be offered them, until the firing had been returned from the opposite side of the fort, they urged them to go in a body to the spring, and each of them bring up a bucket full of water. Some of the ladies, as was natural, had no relish for the undertaking and asked why the men could not bring water as well as themselves? - observing that they were not bullet proof, and that the Indians made no distinction between male and female scalps!
"To this it was answered, that women were in the habit of bringing water every morning to the fort, and that if the Indians saw them engaged as usual, it would induce them to think that their ambuscade was undiscovered, and that these would not unmask themselves for the sake of firing at a few women, when they hoped, by remaining concealed a few moments longer, to obtain complete possession of the fort. That if men should go down to the spring, the Indians would immediately suspect that something was wrong, would despair of succeeding by ambuscade, and would instantly rush upon them, follow them into the fort, or shoot them down at the spring. The decision was soon over.
"A few of the boldest declared their readiness to brave the danger, and the younger and more timid rallying in the rear of these veterans, they all marched down in a body to the spring, within point blank shot of more than five hundred Indian warriors! Some of the girls could not help betraying symptoms of terror, but the married women, in general, moved with a steadiness and composure that completely deceived the Indians. Not a shot was fired. The party were permitted to fill their buckets, one after another, without interruption, and although their steps became quicker and quicker, on their return, and when near the gate of the fort, degenerated into a rather unmilitary celerity, attended with some little crowding in passing the gate yet not more than one-fifth of the water was spilled, and the eyes of the youngest had not dilated to more than double their ordinary size." - See M'Clung's Sketches, page 62.
2 Marshall, p. 134.
3 His biography will hereafter be given.
4 J. P. Dudley is now its pastor, and would doubtless, oppose such a proceeding.
5 Collins' History of Kentucky, p. 322.
6 The Churches and Delegates['] Names, in the May number.
7 A notice of this session is found in the Kentucky (Lexington) Gazette of 1787.
[From S. H. Ford, editor, The Christian Respository, July, 1856. pp. 1-12. Footnotes changed to Endnotes; symbols changed to numbers. — jrd]
Ford's Kentucky Baptist History Index
Baptist History Hompeage