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     Editor's note: This is listed as chapter XV in the Journal, but another chapter is also listed as XV. It is believed this is chapter 13. - Jim Duvall]
History of the Kentucky Baptists
The Christian Repository, 1857
By Samuel H. Ford

Chapter XIII - Jacob Creath - Ambrose Dudley - Licking Association -
Anti-Mission Baptists

     History is the voice of the past, teaching by the follies as well as by the wisdom of our forefathers. The rocks and quick-sands are as essential in a chart as the safe harbor. And if beacon lights are not raised over spots where wrecks have occurred, similar disasters may be anticipated in frequent recurrence. With this aspect in view - to point out the dangers to which independent and democratic confraternities are exposed - the unpleasant and mischievous division in the ranks of Kentucky Baptists is here recorded.

     There is at present in Kentucky - and principally from Kentucky, spread through each new State in the West - a body of men, known as Particular Baptists, Regular Baptists, Predestination Baptists, and more commonly, Anti-mission Baptists. The last, however, is the most specific and correct appellation. For Regular Baptists are those in the United States who are connected by our great denominational ties, and the word United Baptists adheres only to those living in localities where a union took place between the Separates and Regulars. Particular is the well-known appellative of the Close Communion Baptists of England, who are foremost in all missionary enterprises. In the doctrines of grace there is little held by the Anti-missions which is not acceded to by all sound Baptists. The distinction, therefore, between these two classes is, that the one is opposed to effort, deny the use of means, and decry all missionary enterprise.

     The early churches of Kentucky and of the West were all missionary bodies - voted a regular and liberal salary to their pastors, and made contributions to send the gospel to destitute regions.1

     What, then, was the origin of the anti-mission movement and churches in Kentucky? As briefly as practicable we shall answer this question.

     Again and again has it been asserted that a difference in doctrine occasioned the sad division which gave rise to the Licking and other anti-mission associations in Kentucky. The incorrectness of this statement is shown by all the facts in the premises. Nor was it the mission question which gave rise to, or in any way introduced the dissensions. To other and far more trivial causes must we look for the cause which has driven both sides to extremes.

     Early in 1807 an unhappy difference occurred between Jacob Creath and Thomas Lewis, relative to the exchange of a slave. Lewis was a member of Town Fork Church, of which Creath was pastor. The matters in dispute were taken up by the friends of each, until the difficulty spread and created parties throughout the Association.

     Elijah Craig was at that time one of the ablest preachers in Kentucky. He was a man of integrity, but rancorous and severely sarcastic. For Creath he never entertained very high esteem. In the midst of the difficulties which arose between Creath and Lewis, Elijah Craig published a most scathing caricature of Creath, entitled, "A Portrait of Jacob Creath." The piece was by all condemned as uncalled for and unchristian. It has never, though diligently sought for, come under the eye of the present writer. As will always occur, the unsparing, merciless severity of Craig, awakened sympathy for the apparently persecuted brother. Creath, ever wily and sagacious, seized the turn of the tide to overwhelm his enemies with defeat. He called a council of helps at Town Fork Church to investigate his character, and exculpate or condemn him. Eighteen churches were represented, and the council was convened at the Town Fork meeting-house July 28th, 1807. Its proceedings were published, from which these quotations are made:2

     The Committee appointed Robert Johnson, Moderator, and Charles Buck, Clerk, and then proceeded to business; and continuing from day to day, and having examined the witness for and against the said Jacob Creath, proceeded to take the sense of the committee thereon, by stating the following charges to them, and obtaining their vote, viz:

Charge of intrigue and cunning, and dismembering society. Page 3.
Charge of breaking rule. Page 4.
Charge for stating that Craig's charges should be first heard. Page 4.
Charge for saying he did not know a minority, and for riding from house to house to prevent their signing a letter to the Association. Pages 4 & 5.
Charge of falsehood, in talking to Clifton Thompson. Page 5.
Charge of not preaching to churches without pay Page 33.
Charge of falsehood in questioning Jim, &c. Pages 5 & 6.
Charge of making havoc and distress in the churches. Page 33.
Charge of telling the judges to keep the $100. Page 6.
Charge of intoxication. Page 8.
Charge of grabbing the money, &c., at Frankfort. Page 8.
Charge of false claim to $1250. Page 27.
Charge of impropriety and sin at Mrs. Carter's burial. Page 29.
Charge of corruption used to get helps. Pages 26 & 27.

     The above charges were separately put to the committee, and each of them negatived. After which a question was put by the Moderator -- 'Is Bro. Creath guilty of any of the charges contained in the pamphlet aforesaid, which have not yet been voted on, supported by evidence brought against him?' Answerd in the negative. The committee are therefore of opinion that the said Jacob Creath ought to stand acquitted of the charges against him, contained in said pamphlet.

Signed by order of the committee unanimously,
                                                  ROBERT JOHNSON, Moderator. 
{A copy}  CHARLES BUCK,  Clerk.

     It is evident from this report that Craig anticipated the decision of this committee.. He had, in fact, charged Creath in his pamphlet with "corruption, used to get help." Be this as it may, Craig and his friends abstained from all connection with the council, and attached no importance to its decision. Charles Buck, the clerk, was known to be the friend and admirer of Creath, and his influence with the council was considerable. Of Jacob Creath and Charles Buck we shall speak again in the Rise of the Current Reformation.

     Bro. Elijah Craig was a member of the East Hickman Church. Both churches belonged to the Elkhorn Association. What course now was the Town Fork Church to pursue? She sent a letter to her sister church, at East Hickman, preferring charges against Craig, and declaring non-fellowship unless the difficulty was investigated. Accordingly charges were brought against Craig, formally in the East Hickman Church, for slandering a brother, the pastor of a sister church. The charge was a serious one. The slanderer deserved the righteous indignation of every good, every honorable man. Craig was called upon to make good his statements against Creath, and show his reasons for their publication. Here follows the record from East Hickman church-book:


First Falsehood - proven by Bros. Geo. Eve, David Clarkson, and Hawkins Smith.
Second Falsehood - proven by Bros. Henry Payne, Jas. Beatty.
Third Falsehood - proven by Bro. John Payne's letter, and Bro. Thomas Lewis.
Fourth Falsehood - proven in part by Bro. Thomas Lewis, and referred for information from Br. Clifton Thompson.
Fifth Falsehood - proven by Bros. Dudley, Lewis and wife.
The second charge - Fraud and deception in obtaining Jim, and retaining $100 from Bro. Thos. Lewis.
1st, Deception - proven by Bros. Henry Payne, Thos. Lewis, and wife.
2d. Fraud and Deception. From the information of Bro. Henry Payne, the church was opinion that Craig had strong ground for his supposition. Also, Creath applying to two men to influence his judges - proven by Bro. John Payne's letter, and A. Dudley.
Fraud and deception in obtaining the first helps - proven by Bro. Geo. Eve, Ambrose Dduley, and Leonard Young.
Similar deception in obtaining the second helps - proven by Br. Joseph Redding.
Frankfort Trip - deception in getting money - proven by Bro. Henry Payne and Sister Lewis.
Intoxication. From the certificate of Elisha Carter, of Bourbon county, and of Mr. Ballinger, of Knocks, and the relation of David Clarkson, of Virginia (who traveled with Creath), from his brother William Clarkson, of Bourbon, the church thought the presumption very strong.3

     In looking over these evidences and decisions so contradictory, an impartial mind must conclude that Creath was a loose, impudent man, artful, intriguing, and full of desperate energy. And that Craig was violent, revengeful, and exhibited a spirit not at all consistent with his profession, and the plain teachings of the gospel.

     But the contention was contagious. It passed from neighborhood to neighborhood. Dudley, the most prudent, dignified, and influential man in the Baptist ministry then in Kentucky, had lost all confidence in Jacob Creath. With Dudley was Corbin and Reddin, Bainbridge and Price, and Barrow - indeed, the age and influence of the Association.

     The Association came on. Plans had been already concerted by both parties. A struggle was anticipated, and a struggle it was.

     The session was held at Silas, in Bourbon county. The question of the want of fellowship between the two churches came up. Jacob Creath took the floor. A tall, majestic looking man, with a keen eye, a powerful and not unpleasant voice, his influence over a crowd was immense. He denounced his persecutors as intent on his reputation and his life. He singled them out by name, and charged Ambrose Dudley as the leader. The morning session adjourned. In the evening Dudley answered in his own dignified style. But the impression made by Creath was not to be removed by facts and calm argument. The Association decided by a slight majority in favor of Town Fork Church and Creath.

     And now the consequences. Church after church decided to leave the Association and form a new one. But in most of those churches were minorities agreeing with the majority of Elkhorn, and determined to adhere to the old Association. Difficulties occurred in every church that left the Association. The minorities claimed to be the original churches; the majorities rigidly expelled them. The Elkhorn Association received them these minorities into her body, and thus another difficulty increased the breach between the Licking Association, which was formed by the seceding churches, and Elkhorn. Ambrose Dudley was the pastor at Bryant's Station. It was a strong, almost the leading church. A large minority there refused to go into formation of the new Association. The minority were expelled. It was at once received into the Elkhorn Association as the church. It exists to this day; and two churches, with no fellowship for each other, worship in the same house at the present time.

     South Elkhorn was in numbers, then, the largest church in Kentucky. Its pastor, John Shackelford, opposed Creath, and inclined to the Licking Association. Divisions here also took place. The Licking brethren were in the minority. They were expelled by the majority, and their old pastor, who had been imprisoned in Virginia, for the testimony of Jesus, was expelled by the Creath party. The minority lingered till the second split in the majority church, again caused by Creath, at the rise of the current reformation. It claimed to be the original church. This little anti-mission body, which received the name of the Stump Church, is, at the present reduced to three members - the only remnant of the once flourishing South Elkhorn, constituted by Lewis Craig, and which received, in one year, three hundred and sixty into its membership.

     But the Licking Association was duly organized. With Elkhorn it had no fellowship. Every overture for correspondence was repulsed. And as it is natural for individuals to seek some pretext or reason, other than mere personal misunderstandings, for their opposition, the Licking brethren claimed to be more orthodox, more rigid, more thoroughly Baptist, than their then former co-laborers.

     Ah! these fathers have fallen asleep; their contentions and revilers sleep with them; but their effects are with us still, and the whole anti-mission organization date from these by-gone contentions. Divisions still exist, and when shall they be healed?



1 The record I gave of Bryant's Station Church - the oldest, if not leading Anti-mission body in the West, in charge of the able and renowned T. P. Dudley - has been called in question. What I penned in former chapters of this church I gather[ed] myself from the Bryant's Station church-book. In mid winter, after several unsuccessful attempts, I obtained, through the intervention of Mr. Berclay, of Fayette, permission to examine the old book, and spent some three hours transcribing portions of its records. Nothing that I have recorded in regard to that church but will be found in that book.
2 I obtained the only copy perhaps extant of this pamphlet from Elder Y. R. Pitts, of Great Crossings, whose father was one of the Committee of helps from Dry Run.
3 I have copied from the church-book, as I usually have in these sketches, books I have obtained through personal application from those churches.


[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, December, 1857, pp. 741-747. Scanned and transcribed by Jim Duvall.]

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