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History of the Kentucky Baptists
The Christian Repository, 1856
By Samuel H. Ford

Chapter VI. - Marble Creek - Forks of Elkhorn - Difficulties

The state of things which existed in the Boone's Creek Church could not but result in difficulties and division. It was a singular and instructive comment on the religious schemes of union so frequently and earnestly advocated. Here were the opposers of all creeds and confessions, the most rigid and uncompromising Calvinists. Bitterly opposed to any basis of union but the New Testament, the Separates withheld Christian fellowship and confidence from those who would not avow their faith in the eternal decrees, including eternal justification. Denouncing all formulas, rules, or terms of agreement in Christian compact, they insisted with uncompromising pertinacity on the use of oil when praying for the sick, the laying on of hands after baptism, and the "ordinance" of feet-washing. To "unite on the word of God alone," which was their constant invitation and argument, simply meant to adopt their religious views and practices. Nor could they be convinced but that if creeds and confessions were abolished, and all took the Bible alone for their creed, all would unite with them -- be Separates, Higher Calvinists and feet-washers. The alienations in the Boone's Creek Church were becoming more painful, when circumstances brought about the dissolution of the Church.

Several of the Boone's Creek Church members lived in the settlement on Marble Creek, some ten miles from the meeting place of the Church. Among those awakened under the preaching of William Hickman, and baptized by him, were many who lived in the neighborhood of Marble Creek. Several Regular Baptists, from Virginia, had also settled there, and "that detached part of the Church appointed preaching among themselves." "I attended them," says Hickman, "until they became a Church, living in peace and harmony. I baptized the greater part of them. In consequence of this an attachment subsisted between us. They wished me to live among them, but Providence said no."1

After considerable difficulty nineteen members obtained letters, and adopted the following "Constitution of the Church, known by the name of Marble Creek:"
"Being dismissed from Boone's Creek, and constituted upon the Confession of Faith this, 15th day of June, 1787,2 S. Smith and Ambrose Dudley assisting this Church, then consisting of nineteen members, viz: William School, Robert Frecer, Flanders Coloway, John Hunt, Martin Stafford, Samuel Bryan, and thirteen others."
In August following, the Church applied for admission into the Association. Objections made by the Boone's Creek delegates, of a trifling character caused a delay; but it was unanimously received into the Association at the next session.

The Church steadily prospered, enjoying for several years uninterrupted harmony. Soon after its establishment John Price was called to its pastorship, and, like most of the early Churches in Kentucky, voted him L10 a year for his pastoral support.

The following year another Church was constituted through the labors of William Hickman.

Forks of Elkhorn Church
As the character of the early Baptists of Kentucky has not been generally understood; as they have been represented by foes, and even sometimes by thoughtless friends, as ignorant illiberal, in temperate and uncivilized - charges as baseless as any that ignorance or malice ever invented against God's people; and as an acquaintance with the state of society, and circumstances surrounding a man or a people is essential to a just appreciation of his or their character, a reference to the perils and appalling difficulties in the midst of which the first Churches were established, will not be deemed too frequent.

"About this time," says Hickman, "the forks of Elkhorn began to settle. Mr. Nathaniel Sanders, old Brother John Major, Brother Daniel James, William Hogden, Mr. Lindsay, and a few others, had moved down; and as there was a prospect of a large settlement, Mr. Sanders mentioned to his neighbor Major, that it would be right to get some minister to come down and live among them, which pleased Major, he being an old Baptist. They consulted who they should get; and having a small acquaintance with me, Mr. Sanders named me. This was strange, as Mr. Sanders was a very careless man about his soul. However, they agreed among themselves to make me a present of one hundred acres of land. This was unknown to me till afterwards, one very cold night, Bro. Major came to my cabin, some twenty miles from his residence. On being asked to sit down, he said, 'No, like Abraham's servant, I will not sit down till I have told my errand.' He then told me what had brought him to see me, and gave me till next morning to give him an answer. We spent some time in prayer. It was a night of deep thought to me, for I wished to do right. I was halting between two opinions; and when I reflected that the forks of Elkhorn was exposed to the savages, and as there was no settlement from there to the Indian town, I thought it would frighten my wife and children. However, I consulted them, and finding them willing, in the morning I answered Bro. Major in this way: I have an appointment at Marble Cable; I will name the thing to them, and if they will give me up and let me off, I will come down and see you and conclude upon it." (Hickman soon after accepted the invitation.) "I had sent down an appointment to preach on Sunday. Almost all the whole of the inhabitants came out -- about thirty whites and a few blacks. It was a blessed day, for I think four or five experiences came from that day's labor, and among the rest Mr. Sanders. During a few following months there were twenty or thirty obtained a hope in the Lord; old sister Cook's family, brother Major's children, and several of their blacks. No weather stopped us, and we thought but little of the Indians."

Such was the simple record of the establishment of this Church. It was constituted on the second Saturday in June, 1788, with the assistance of John Taylor and Lewis Craig. Peace and prosperity continued to attend it. The venerable Hickman continued its pastor for nearly a half century, and was through his whole life one of the best loved, as well as one of the most successful ministers in Kentucky.

But while the Church had peace within, it had troubles without. Hickman baptized nine of old sister Cook's family; and among them the well known Abraham Cook, afterwards pastor of Indian Fork. Wonderful were the domestic bereavements of this family. Brief were the days of the mother's rejoicing over the conversion of her sons, followed by a night of saddest gloom.

About Christmas, 1792, two sons of Mrs. Cook, Hosea and Jesse, both members of the Fork Church, with their families, and William Dun and part of his family, moved to Main Elkhorn, about three miles from the Forks, and formed a settlement, known as Innis Bottom. This was between three and four miles from Frankfort, at that time containing but a few families. The Cooks had but recently been married, and with industrious energy were felling the forests that it might yield them a home and a support. They settled in cabins, close together; the other families were within hailing distance. A solitary Indian passed on horseback through the settlement, in the depth of winter, but no fears were entertained of an attack.

On the 28th of April, 1792, three several [separate? - jrd] points of the settlement were suddenly attacked by about one hundred Indians. The first onset was made upon the Cooks. The brothers were near their cabins, one engaged in shearing sheep, the other looking on. The crack of rifles was the first intimation of the proximity of the foe, and that fire was fatal to the brothers; the elder fell dead, and the younger was mortally wounded, but enabled to reach the cabin. The two Mrs. Cooks, with three children (two whites and one black), were instantly collected within the house and the door made secure. The younger Cook, mortally wounded, as soon as the door was barred, sunk down on the floor and expired. The females were the only defenders of the cabin. They had a rifle, and no balls could be found. One of them, finding a musket ball, placed it between her teeth, and actually bit it in two. With one piece she loaded the rifle, and taking deliberate aim at the foremost Indian, she shot him dead. They, now incensed to madness, fired the roof of the Cabin. But the intrepidity of these Spartan women baffled every attempt to reduce the cabin to flames; and with fiendish yell the savage returned, dragging the dead Indian with them. At the other cabins they were more successful, and nearly all the little settlement was massacred.

This incident is but one out of thousands, and illustrates the state of society then in Kentucky, and the unavoidable effect of such circumstances on the character and manners of the inhabitants. What could be expected of a moral and religious kind under such circumstances? Could it be expected that Churches would spring up in the midst of the confusion, and that the harassed inhabitants would settle ministers, observe Christian discipline, and enforce Christian morality in the midst of war, plunder and massacre? Could it be anticipated that, without a hierarchy, or Episcopal supervision; without even a missionary sent among them to gather them into congregations; without the action or aid of a synod or conference, these dwellers in the wilderness should voluntarily associate themselves into independent Churches; interpret God's word for themselves; adopt their own rules and regulations; choose, settle, and support their own ministers; erect by voluntary subscription, ere their own farms were fenced in, places of worship, and thus, with the first dawn of civilization in the forest, mingle the inspiring radiance of religion? Where is the denomination, or people, that has, under such circumstances, done the same? And shall they be taunted with rudeness? Was the forest rude? Were the log cabins and the scattered villages rude? Was the pioneer huntsman, with his hunting shirt, and mocasins [sic], rude? Then, indeed, was Kentucky, with those who won it from the wilderness and the savage, rude; for no one of common information will deny that these Baptists were not only equal, but in advance of the population - were the pioneers of religion and civilization.

Were they given to intemperance? The charge is untrue; and often as it is made against the first Baptists in Kentucky, it has no foundation but in the ignorance of their history and of the state of society in the first settlements of the State.

Let it be remembered, that the use of spirits as a common beverage, was a practice so general among all classes, that exceptions were rarely found. Professors of religion, of every grade of refinement, kept spirits in their families, and considered it essential to genuine hospitality to place them before their guests. It was so everywhere, as well as in Kentucky; it was the case with preachers as well as private members. And shall the common usages of society, which effected all religious denominations, and which would be apt to verge on the borders of criminal indulgence in the forests of Kentucky, be totally attributed to the early Baptists of the State?

Glance at the conditions of other denominations, less numerous in the territory, and therefore having fewer false professors among them.

Writing of the Presbyterians, says David Rice, their pioneer preacher: "They 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, most of them totally negligent of the forms of religion in their own houses. Many of these produced certificates of their having been regular members, in full fellowship, and in good standing in their Churches; 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 would not certify, contrary to their knowledge and belief, that the bearer was of 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."3

Such was the character of the comparatively few Presbyterians in Kentucky, previous to 1800; and if the intemperance, charged on them did not become a proverb, it was because the Baptists were twenty times their number. But that the early Baptist churches gave the lest encouragement to intemperance is untrue. Their records show a determined, uncompromising opposition to this sin; and that they, as a body, were the first advocates of temperance in the State.

Now compare the above description with the following voluntary resolve of a number of Baptist layman, who assembled together about the same time in the town of Washington:
"We believe that Christians should be transformed in the renewing of their minds. We believe that they should abstain, even from the appearance of evil; from associating with the wicked any more than necessity calls. We think it wrong for professors to be found drinking with clubs of wicked men; laughing or jesting with them in the Court House; gazing at the evil and pernicious practices without reproving them."
And be it observed, such Christians morality as this was not only recommended, but regularly enforced by the congregations drawn together by principle, without the aid of counsel of priest or preacher. Was not such a most extraordinary exhibition of the constraining power of truth? And shall those who heard its voice above the wild storms of the forest, and obeyed its summons, be taunted with peculiar ignorance, or irregularity, because unadorned with the refinements of the present?

Were they opposed to the support of the Ministry? It is time that the friends, as well as the opposers of the Baptists, ceased the repetition of this baseless charge. The first Churches in Kentucky recognized the obligation of a Church to support its pastor, as full as does any Church, of any name, at the present day.

"Baptists have been charged," says R. H. Bishop, a Presbyterian, "with being opposed to ministers having a right to a temporary support from those among whom they labor. This is evidently a gross misrepresentation, occasioned wholly by the mistaken zeal of a few of that body."4

Fifty pounds a year was the salary voted by Bryant's Station Church to its pastor, Ambrose Dudley, in 1784, a small Church in the wilderness; and scarcely a single Church, in those days, but what paid a regular and liberal salary to its pastor. The Washington Church voted it pastor £80 a year; the Marble Creek £10, and Forks of Elkhorn as much, in addition to the present of one hundred acres of land.

Now let these facts be compared with the liberality of other denominations at the same time. "Although Mr. Rice," says the historian of Presbyterianism in Kentucky, "was faithful and assiduous in the discharge of his duties, he was often in great straits, like many other of his brethren, for want of an adequate support; and his family would have been reduced to a crust of bread had it been for the seasonable friendship of Mr. Jacob Fishback. There were not wanted narrow-minded persons who expected a minister, when placed on a small tract of land, to maintain himself by the labor of his own hands, and who considered themselves absolved from all further obligations to contribute to his support."

Were there bickerings and divisions among them? There doubtless were. In a mixed and unsettled society, such as Kentucky contained, with men of independent spirit and iron will; with no acknowledged leader, or presiding ruler, no wonder they should differ. But a wonder it is, that they should, nevertheless, triumph over every difference and difficulty, and attain to abundant peace.

Personal Difficulties - Craig and Reding
In 1790, Joseph Reding emigrated to Kentucky, and located in the neighborhood of Great Crossing. He at once became the most popular preacher in Kentucky. Elijah Craig was the pastor of the Crossings Church, but had lost the fiery zeal which made him so distinguished and useful during the times of persecution in Virginia. He had speculated largely in land, and become interested in several money-making enterprises. Unfitted by this for the sacrifices and endurances of a minister of Christ, preaching but little, and that little without interest or success, he still clung to the pastorship of the Crossing Church. An avaricious, covetous minister, must ever be a curse to a Church; despised by the world, and will meet the frown of the Almighty.

Reding, on the other hand, was poor, laborious, and earnest. The Church needed a man, and a large majority determined to secure his services as pastor. Craig was chagrined and disappointed. He threw every difficulty in the way of Reding; and injurious remarks about his preaching, his doctrines, and standing, were whispered through the neighborhood. Things soon assumed a serious and sad aspect. Craig was taken under dealings by the Church. No favor or mercy was shown to him. He was not even admitted to make acknowledgements or ask forgiveness. In the house of Robert Johnson, in 1793, the Church met, with closed doors. It was an upper room, and crowded to excess. Discussion, division, and confusion, prevented everything like compromise or forbearance. A party spirit, a roused up zeal for a private champion, will, while it lasts, bear down every other principle or attachment.

The motion was finally made that Elijah Craig - the eloquent, fearless herald of the cross, whose commanding voice had often sounded out the glad tidings of great joy from the prisons of Virginia - be excluded from the Great Crossing Church. The confusion was such in the crowded room that the vote could not be taken. Richard Cave, the Moderator, then proposed that the yeas and nays occupy different sides of the room. A large beam ran along the center of the ceiling. Those for expulsion were requested to take the right of the beam, those opposed, the left. Amid increased confusion it was announced that the majority were for exclusion, and the Church adjourned.

The Craig party, however, were not to be thus defeated. They met the following week and organized as the Crossing Church, and expelled the majority, including Reding, the pastor. As a consequence, the majority in their turn, expelled them. There were now two organized and determined parties, each claiming to be the Church, and holding the others as excluded. Was not the inherent weakness of Baptist Church government fully exemplified in this shameful state of things? Was there not here the strongest evidence of the absolute need of a presiding Bishop or Elder - a super-ecclesiastical court of appeal?

The sequel will answer. The word of God makes no provision for such a judicature; and the influence of that word, and the strong sense of justice and love of truth implanted in the human mind and developed by Christianity, will ever when the storm of passion subsides, rectify the errors of faction

The calm soon returned. The advice of disinterested brethren was sought. Their counsel was followed. The difficulties finally resulted in good, and a new and flourishing Church was constituted. McConnell's Run, near stamping ground, whose history will follow.

Other difficulties existed, to which reference has already been made. Joseph Craig, a determined Separate, zealous for laying on of hands after baptism, washing feet, and the use of oil in praying for the sick, and uncompromising in his opposition to creeds and articles of faith, constituted a Church of the disaffected members at Boone's Creek, called Second Boone's Creek Church. It soon withered and dissolved. Another attempt was made, and a Separate Church called Buck Run was constituted in Woodford. This, also, was shattered by division, and driven from one extreme to another, it finally became an Anti-mission Church, having changed its name to Greer's Creek.

Efforts, however, were being made to destroy forever the names Separate and Regular, and in 1789 a union between the two orders took place in Virginia, and their example was soon followed in Kentucky.

With this record of the general state of the Churches, we proceed to condense from the minutes of the Association what follows:

Elkhorn Association -
Third Anniversary
"July 31st, 1788, at South Elkhorn - Wm Cave, Mod'r, R. Young, Clerk - Introductory by A. Eastin.
"The eleven Churches now comprising this Association, count 559 members.
"The committee sent to Marble Creek, report in favor of the Church, and she is no longer suspended.
"Delegates attend this meeting with a letter from Salem Association. They are not satisfied with tolerating Churches, in using or not using, laying on hands upon persons newly baptized. L. Craig, E. Craig. And A. Dudley, appointed a committed to confer with them. (William Taylor and Joshua Cannon)
"The difficulty is removed; the delegates received, and union declared.
"Agreed, To Form a plan to receive an accusation against a Church, to point out the mode of suspending and declaring disunion.
"Several important subjects were discussed at this meeting, but were not decided -- such as that of washing Feet, making a marriage ceremony, a catechism, supporting ministers with comfortable living, &c.

Fourth Anniversary
"On the 25th October, 1788, at Clear Creek - Introductory by A. Dudely.
"John Gano, Moderator, Richard Young, Clerk.
"Received a Church constituted at the Forks of Elkhorn, on 7th June, 1788. Delegates - William Hickman, Richard Thomas.
"Also a Church on Buck Run, constituted 1st October, 1788. Delegate - James Dupuy.
"Received a letter from Salem, and were informed of one from the Philadelphia Association.
"Elder John Sutton invited to a seat.
"In reply to a query from Limestone Church, relative to supporting ministers - appointed a committed (Elders A. Dudley, and John Gano, with two lay-members) to visit that Church and others, to set in order things that may be wanting.
"Marriage ceremony presented - rejected, and motion struck out.
"Advised, That a catechism is necessary, but not considered a term of communion.
"Answered, Relative to washng feet.
"That the Churches are not unanimous, and that using or not using it, is not to touch fellowship.
"That the members who withdraw their membership and cannot be reclaimed by gospel steps, must be excommunicated.
"That it is disorderly for any Church to receive an excommunicated member from any Church of our denomination, without first having written information of the charge against him.

Fifth Anniversary
"On the 30th of May 1789, at Great Crossing - Introductory by J. Gano.
"John Gano, Moderator, John Price, Clerk.
"The thirteen Churches count 1,000 members.
"Received a letter from general committee in Virginia, informing of the union between Regular and Separate Baptists.
"Agreed, To drop the appellation Regular, in all letters going from this Association.
"Received a letter from the united Baptist Association, south of Kentucky, desiring to treat respecting union. The committed. John Baily, Joseph Bledsoe, Wm Bledsoe, and A. Treble were invited to seats. Appointed Jas. Garrard, R. Johnson, John Taylor, and A. Eastin, to confer with them, and provide for a general Association - which was done, and appointed at Herod's meeting house, on the second Friday in August following, to consist of one member and two lay-members, from each Church - or where there is no minister, three private members.
"Agreed, To excommunicate members privately, only in particular cases.

Sixth Anniversary
"On the 30th of October, 1789, at Boone's Creek - Introductory by John Farmer.
"James Garrard, Moderator, R. Young, Clerk.
"The thirteen Churches count 1,143 members.
"Letters received from Salem and Ketockton Associations; also one from the Separate Baptist Association, south of Kentucky - which was laid on the table.
"The committee appointed to revise the rules presented the following, which were received, to-wit:

"1st. A Moderator shall be appointed by the Association, by ballot, who shall preside during the Association, to preserve order, and state questions and propositions that may be made, agreeable to the rules of the Association
"2nd. No proposition or motion shall be debated, unless made by one of member and second by another.
"3d. All motions and propositions shall be decided on as they are proposed; nor shall any new motion be made, or taken up, while there is one undetermined before the Association, unless the first be postponed or referred.
"4th. Any motion made and seconded, may be withdrawn by the member making such motion, before any decision had on it.
"5th. Every motion shall be made in writing, if required by the Moderator, or any other member, and read by the Clerk, before any debate or division had on it.
"6th. Every member about to make a motion shall rise from his seat, and respectfully address himself to the Moderator.
"7th No Member shall speak more than twice to the same question; nor more than once, until every other member who chooses, shall have spoken.
"8th. Every member, in debate, shall confine himself to the subject at hand; and if he shall wander from the question, he shall be called to order by the Moderator, or any other member; and every member called to order, shall immediately sit down, unless permitted to proceed to explain himself.
"9th. Every member shall keep his seat while the Moderator puts the question, which he shall do standing.
"10th. If any proposition shall be made which, to the Association, may appear improper to decide on, the Association may quash it by previous question, which shall be put in this form: 'Shall the main question be now put?'

"Resolved, That the Association consider the washing of feet to be a Christian duty, to be practiced at discretion.

"A committee appointed to answer the letter from the Separate Baptist Association, and to write to corresponding Associations.

"Resolved, To have one Association each year, and one yearly meeting.

Seventh Anniversary
"On the 27th August, 1790, at Lexington - Introductory by John Taylor.
"James Garrard, Moderator, R. Young, Clerk.
"The thirteen Churches count 1,365 members.
"Agreed, That in future the Moderator do appoint the Clerk.
"To a query whether the office of elder is distinct from minister - answered in the affirmative.
"Received the Church at Indian Creek.
"Appointed a committee to answer the letter from general committee.
Agreed, To record all letters sent to, and received from public bodies.

Eighth Anniversary
"On the 26th August, 1791, at Cowper's Run - Introductory by John Gano.
"John Gano, Moderator, R. Young, Clerk.
"The eighteen Churches (six of which now received) count 1,497 members.
"Churches now received - Mays Lick, Cove Spring, Green Creek, from Cumberland settlement, Stroud's Fork, and Taylor's Fork.
"John Sutton and Abel Griffy invited to seats.
"A committed sent to enquire into the distress at Great Crossing.
"A committee of five appointed to revise the confession of Faith and Discipline annexed, and Salem Association invited to aid in it.
"A committee appointed to draw a memorial on the subject of religious liberty and perpetual slavery, to send to the convention at Danville.
"Adjourned till 8th of September following.

Ninth Anniversary
"On the 8th September, 1791, at Big Crossings - same Moderator and Clerk.
"The several committees appointed at the last meeting reported.
"The committee sent to the Crossings reported as follows:
"Agreeable to appointment, we met at Great Crossings, 7th September, 1791 - appointed James Garrard Chairman, and R. Young, Clerk. Present, John Taylor, Geo. Smith, John Price, John Gano, A. Dudley, A. Eastin, Jas. Dupuy, Geo. Shortage, David Thomson, James Rucker, John Hadon, John Mason, and A. Thomson.

"Difficulties proposed by Robert Johnson:
"1st. There was a complaint against Mr. Craig, for which, some wished him cited to appear before the Church without taking gospel steps.
"The committee are of opinion that the brother who was offended with Mr. Craig, ought to have taken the steps of the gospel, as mentioned in the 18th of Matthew, and that the Church ought not to have received the complaint, not being in gospel order.

"Second difficulty. The Church failed to hear Mr. Craig, when he wished to offer his repentance for two meetings.
"The committee are of opinion that the Church was to blame for not hearing him.

"Third difficulty. No member voted that he could not bear with the Church, and a majority voted they could bear with the conduct of the Church; fifteen members who were neuter, were supposed to have no privilege in the Church, without a trial. "The committee are of opinion that these members ought not to be deprived of Church privileges.

"Fourth difficulty. Twenty-nine members withdrew, contrary to good order.
"It is the opinion of the committee that those members withdrew in a disorderly manner.
"Another difficulty arose relative to adopting the treatise of discipline when a member was on trial.

"Answered, That the Church had a right to receive it at any time, but had no right to apply it to the person then on trial.
"Difficulty proposed by Joseph Redding - Was the Church right in excluding Mr. Craig on the first Saturday in January last?
"The committee are of opinion, from what appears on the record, that Mr. Craig was justly excluded for his misconduct; but we think the Church was wrong in receiving the accusation contrary to the 18th of Matthew.

"This report was received and approved, and the Church were advised to meet in the next Association, with the twenty-nine members (who had withdrawn) united with them. Also, not to consider any persons received by either party since the division as members, until they satisfied the whole body, in case of a union between them."



1 Hickman's Narrative, p. 23.

2 Asplund gives the date 1789; a mistake of two years.

3 Rice's Memoirs, page 68.

4 History of the Church in the State of Kentucky, 1828; page 32.


[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, August, 1856, pp. 65-78. The Footnotes are changed to endnotes; symbols to numbers. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Chapter Seven
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