Chapter XX - First Churches in Kentucky - William Hickman -
Boone's Creek - Marble Creek - Council
Near the present village of Athens, in Fayette county, Ky., runs a small stream, called Boone's Creek. That remarkable man, after whom it was named, had built his camp-fire on its banks, and slept upon his buffalo skin - alone in the tangled forest - a solitary representative, yet certain precursor of the on-rolling tide of civilization. Soon after came the fearless pioneers, before whose tread the Indians disappeared, and the wilderness blossomed as the rose.
In 1786, a few scattered disciples met on the banks of that same stream to worship God and form a Church of Jesus Christ. Around them was the still unpeeled wilderness. Near them lingered their still unconquered foes. But over the dark and bloody ground the gospel was shedding its radiance, and the standard of the Prince of Peace was unfurled.
Among those formed into a church were Squire Boone, Samuel Boone, George G. Boone, several Calaways and Winns. Of the condition of the little church and the state of society, an eye-witness thus speaks:"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 Irishman, 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."But this infant church was not without its trials. They were constituted on the "word of God alone." No articles of faith or church creed was introduced to "cause divisions among them." They were Separate Baptists.
But as previously shown,1 these people, while denouncing all creeds and formulas, withheld Christian fellowship and confidence from all those who would not avow their faith in the eternal decrees, including eternal justification. There were those among them who held views widely differing from the rigid Separates. Alienation was the consequences, and these circumstances brought about a division of the church.
Marble Creek 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 to themselves, called Marble Creek; a growing young church, living in peace and harmony. I baptized the greater part of them. In consequence of this an attachment subisted between us. Thwy wished me to live among them, but Providence said no."2
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, 3 S. Smith and Ambrose Dudley assisting this church, then consisting of nineteen members, viz: William School, Robert Frecer, Flanders Colaway, John Hunt, Martin Stafford, Samuel Bryan, and thirteen others."
In August following, the church applied for admission into the Association [Elkhorn]. 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.
Years of peace and prosperity succeeded, broken, however, by the restless spirit of rivalry, which ever and anon sheds it blight and mildew over the whitening fields of the Lord.
John Price had been called to the charge of the church. The minute on the church book is as follows:
Jan. 24, 1779. "The church met according to custom, and agreed to give Bro. Price a call to be our minister, which was unanimously agreed to; and that Bro. Jno. Gano and Lewis Craig be invited to attend our next meeting and assist in the matter. Agreed that L20 be raised in property or produce, for the support of the gospel."
The pastor was popular and influential, and dearly had he to pay for the esteem in which he was held. The circumstances need not be detailed here. The course pursued by them is all that interests.
Nov. 20th, 1790. "The church being convened in order, and agreed to call helps to meet on the 16th day of December, at Bro. David Baker's, in order to inquire into certain reports, &c."
Dec. 16th 1793 . "The church convened according to order, and following helps appeared, viz: Lewis Craig, G. S. Smith, A. Hampton, John Keller, Ambrose Dudley, Geo. Winn, James Whaley, David Thompson, and John White. These helps were formed into a Council, Lewis Craig, Moderator, and G. S. Smith, Clerk, and proceeded to the business designed for them,
"1st. Agreed not to take up any matter that had been already settled, nor receive and witness but such as was according to gospel order.
"Then entering into a full investigation of the accusation against Bro. Price, We, the Council, do report, that we are clearly of the opinion that he is slandered, and not guilty of the charge. In testimony wherof we have hereunto set our hands, this 16th day of December, 1790."
Lewis Craig, Moderator, G. S. Smith, Secretary. Ambrose Dudley, David Thompson, Willey Payne, William Hadege, Alexander Chambers, John Keller, James Whaley, G. Winn, Jno. White.
Thus a matter of serious difficulty was settled, and Price rescued from the hands of his persecutors.
In the minutes of the following meeting is this record: - "Agreed to furnish Bro. Price with two cows and calves, which was done." It was a primitive way of showing their esteem for their pastors.
The meetings of the church were still held in the open air, and except in the severest weather, the members collected for business or worship around a log stand, on the margin of a small stream called Marble Creek.
"August 6th, 1791. It was agreed that John Young, Walter Carr, and Arthur Tall be appointed Trustees, to raise by subscription money for the building of a meeting-house on the place appointed, viz: near the stage."
Of the discipline and watchful care of these early churches, the following record is an illustration:
"Agreed, that the church receive the following bounds, and that the brethren named shall have the watch-care over all the brethren belonging to this church living below Bro. Calaway's, and Bro. Danney from Bro. Calaway's to Mr. Carr's, and Bro. Simpson all west of Marble Creek, and that Bro. Fryer take the watch-care of all members west or east of Marble Creek."
In the history of old Mount Pleasant Church4 were detailed some of the difficulties arising from the introduction of the emancipation question. Price was a decided pro-slavery man, and advocated his views with intemperate zeal. He denounced most bitterly the emancipation brethren, for which he was denounced in return. Thus a trial for slander disturbed the Mount Pleasant Church, and a serious difficulty, demanding the aid of a Council, occurred at Marble Creek.
"At the April meeting, 1779, Price moved a question, desiring to know of this church whether slavery was a moral evil — or whether slave-holding be a sin against God? To which it was agreed that the church should not take it up at this time."
"As Bro. Price had declared that such as were in favor of Emancipation were Deists, the question was put, whether the church could have fellowship with such members as were of the deistical opinion?
"Bro. Fryer informed the church that he was grieved with Bro. Price for saying that he (Fryer) and others, as well as most of the Presbyterians, were Deists.
"Helps were called, who decided that Bro. John Price had acted imprudently, when we believe there are members, both of Baptists and Presbyterians, that are in favor of Emancipation, who are not Deists."
The matter here ended in the Marble Creek Church, but a breach took place in the denomination, and an emancipation party was formed.
Elijah Craig - Slanderous Pamphlet
We have already mentioned, that in 1801 Elijah Craig published a pamphlet, entitled "A Portrait of Jacob Creath." the painful difficulties, which agitated for years the whole denomination in Kentucky, originated while Craig was a member of McConnell's Run, now Stamping Ground Church, but terminated in the Marble Creek Church. In the minutes of the September meeting is this record:
"Bro. Fryer presented a request from our sister church at McConnell's Run, to send four members to assist in the investigation of a certain matter respecting Elijah Craig's writing, or causing to be written, a certain pamphlet."
A council met a McConnell's Run, and condemned the course of Craig. The church, though partisans of Craig, concurred in the decision of the Council. Craig took his letter at once from the church, and joined at Silas, Bourbon Co. But finding that he was rapidly losing ground there, he soon after managed to obtain a letter of dismission, and unexpectedly to all, and with the aid and connivance of Price, joined at marble Creek. No sooner had he joined, however, than charges were preferred against him. A letter was received from Town Fork Church in regard to Craig's pamphlet, as implicating and slandering the church and the Council of helps.
Price, bold and managing, arranged a kind of mock trial of Craig in the Marble Creek Church, and Craig was acquitted, "there being no proof that publishing said pamphlet was contrary to scripture or the rules of society."
At the following meeting, however, the party zeal of Craig's defenders and admirers cooled down, and common sense and propriety prevailed. The church became ashamed of its decision, and on reconsideration,
"Resolved, Does this church justify the principle of one member publishing the faults or crimes of any of his brethren, either by talking, writing, or printing them, in any other way than the scripture directs?"
"The church unanimously answers, she does not."
The church, now fully aroused to a sense of her hasty and partizan action in acquitting Craig, demanded of him an acknowledgement of the injury he had inflicted on society by the publication of his pamphlet. Craig delayed several months, but at length presented a written defence.
April, 1808. On hearing the defence of Craig, the question was put, "Whether the church is satisfied?"
"Resolved, SHE IS NOT."
He was consequently notified to attend the next meeting. The case was again called up, but the continued sickness of Craig, and the distance of his place of residence, was urged by his friends as a valid excuse. The matter died out, so far as Craig was concerned. He was condemned and neglected by his own party. Seldom, if ever, asked to preach, the hand of ministerial fellowship was virtually withdrawn from him; nor is there any record of his dismission, exclusion, or death in the Marble Creek church-book. It was different, however, in the Elkhorn Association. A query was sent by Mount Pleasant Church. It was answered thus:"We are happy in receiving those hints from Mt. Pleasant, as they give us an opportunity of expressing our abhorrence of such conduct. We do utterly condemn both the principle and practice of one member in a religious society publishing the crimes or defaming the character of his brethren, either by writing or printing, or any other way whatsoever, except before a proper tribunal."A division of the Association ensued. Marble creek, while condemning Craig, joined the Licking Association, and for years the consequences of the difficulty and rupture were felt throughout Kentucky, but nowhere as much as the Marble creek Church. It withered down to a few members. Price left it, and it was for years without a pastor. Its entire extinction was prophesied, and apparently certain. But the "darkest hour is just before the break of day."
A young man had emigrated from Virginia in 1818. His education was liberal, his presence imposing, and his talents of the first order. He opened an office in Winchester, Clarke county, and entered on the practice of Law. God called him to the work of the ministry, and he gave up his profession, and left the opening walks of worldly ambition to devote himself to the cause of Christ.
On the fourth Saturday of May, 1825, he was called to the watch-care of Marble Creek Church. The record reads, "The church then had under her consideration her situation, and agreed to give Ryland T. Dillard a call to take care of her."
The church, once so large and influential, was now reduced to twenty-seven members, two of whom were males, and Walter Carr, a brother so deaf that he could only hear through a trumpet. Two sisters were appointed to bear the letter of invitation. Such was the condition of the once flourishing Marble Creek Church - a wreck, riven and scattered by the storm of partyism. Her support of Craig in his unlawful and bitter course, was visited upon her with stripes. Dillard accepted the call, and was ordained the fourth Saturday in July, 1825, by Elders Ambrose Dudley and Rash.
The church soon began to awake and put on her strength. Peace and prosperity have attended her course since. The church soon after made some changes in her constitution, and changed it names to East Hickman. It was still a member of the Licking Association. But that body, which rallied in support of Craig, whose course was condemned, and yet sustained by the party which left the Elkhorn Association, departed farther and farther from gospel truth and order, until it also became a wreck.
In 1837, the East Hickman Church applied for membership in the Elkhorn Association, in which she has ever since remained a strong and influential body. Dr. Dillard is still her pastor. Peace still sheds its dew of blessing on her, and in her midst the last Elkhorn Association held its session — a session where liberal things were devised and effected.
Long may she live in the faith and patience of the saints — a memorial forever of the watch-care of Him who "walketh in the midst of the golden candlesticks."
Note: I obtained some two years since the old church book of East Hickman, from which I have written this sketch. I shall be pardoned for keeping it so long. Want of time to go through the book and familiarize myself with it is my apology. - (SHF)
______________1 Repository, 1855, p. 66.
2 Hickman's Narrative, p. 23.
3 Asplund gives the date 1789; a mistake of two years.
4 Repository for September, ult.
[From S. H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, October, 1858, pp. 725-732. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Ford's Kentucky Baptist History
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