RELATIONSHIP OF THE KIRTLEY FAMILY
TO BULLITTSBURG BAPTIST CHURCH
By Elizabeth McMullen Kirtley, 1994
The first Kirtley at Bullittsburg was Jeremiah, Sr. To understand more about this, we need to know a little about the history of the family. As historians, you are aware we need to know where we came from so we can know where we are going. Sir Francis Kirtley was the progenitor of the Kirtleys in America. He was born ca. 1690 in Wales, and he migrated to the colonies in 1710 and stopped at Falmouth, Virginia. He brought with him the Kirtley crest which the motto is "Confide in God." While living in Falmouth, he was a merchant. He was a planter and a land speculator and by patent owned many acres in the Spotsylvania area. He was a member of St. Patrick's parish and in 1731 was appointed one of the first church wardens. At this time in Virginia history, the Episcopal church, the American version of the Church of England, was the original religious denomination of Virginia. In 1720, he served as captain of the militia and later served in the French and Indian wars. In 1721, Sir Francis married Margaret Roberts and they had six children. Sir Francis died in Culpepper County, Virginia, in 1763. This was before we were the United States. Their first child, William, was born in 1723, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He was the first generation Kirtley born in America. He served in the
military, as his father had. In 1749, he married Sara Early. They were the parents of five children. William died in Madison County, Virginia, in 1795.
JEREMIAH KIRTLEY, SR.
Jeremiah, the second child of William and Sara Early Kirtley, was born in 1754 in what is known as Madison County, Virginia. In 1773, he married Mary Robinson. Jeremiah was active in the affairs of his country as his father and grandfather had been. In 1793, he received a commission as Major of the Second Battalion of Militia. He also was a Justice of the Peace in Madison County, Virginia.
Jeremiah and Mary were brought up under Episcopal influence but in 1788, under the ministry of Rev. George Eve, saw the light and united with the Baptist church, worshiping at the "Rapidian Meeting House."
To this union was born seven children.
In 1796, Jeremiah and Mary with their children and families from Culpepper, Orange and Madison Counties, Virginia, made their way to Kentucky, probably following the Wilderness Road.
[The Bryan Station Baptist Churchbook (Fayette County, Kentucky) of June 1796 indicates that they received "Jerremiah Kirtley & Mary his Wife by letter." - Jim Duvall]
Jeremiah and Mary brought their family to what is now Boone County. They settled near Bullittsburg Baptist Church, which had been organized in 1794. During this time, other Kirtleys, descendants of Sir Francis, came to Kentucky. Several were ministers and made great contributions to the development of our Baptist work. We were so fortunate that Jeremiah came our way. When the
family arrived, they became members of Bullittsburg Baptist Church.
At this time we were Campbell County, and from their court order books we find Jeremiah participating in the development of the area. It was really a wilderness and the roads were buffalo paths and Indian trails. Jeremiah made motions for the surveying of roads and other developments of the county. At a court held for the County of Campbell on Monday the ninth of October, 1797, at the courthouse in Newport, Kentucky, Jeremiah Kirtley produced his commission from the Governor James Garrard and qualified according to law as a Justice of the Peace. Many members of Bullittsburg Church served in this area of development and when we became Boone County in 1798 were our county officials.
Soon after Jeremiah became a member of Bullittsburg Baptist Church, he and William Cave were ordained as Elders of that body (a nominal officer in some Baptist churches and was purely democratic) you might say an officer without an office.
At this time, I want to pay tribute to some men who have written and preserved our history of these times. J. H. Spencer, Frank Masters, John Taylor, and James A. Kirtley have recorded valuable information about our church growth and biographies of the men, who were here. John Taylor speaks of 1800 as a time of gloom and
discouragement. George Eve and James Lee had moved away, leaving John Taylor and Lewis Deweese alone. The population had grown, but with it iniquity had increased also. In June of 1800, Jeremiah Kirtley, William Cave, Chichester Matthews, and Philemon Vawter were licensed to preach. The charge to these men "who have heretofore at particular times exercised a public gift, be at liberty to exercise the same at their discretion." Some of these men were ordained as preachers but Jeremiah preached as a licentiate.
This was the beginning of the Great Revival of 1800-1801. Bullittsburg was the mother church of most of our early Northern Kentucky churches. In 1795, Bullittsburg asked and was received as a member of the Elkhorn Association in Fayette County, almost 80 miles away. Annually thereafter until 1803, when the North Bend Association was organized, the messengers from Bullittsburg were John Taylor, Jeremiah Kirtley and William Cave. Bullittsburg had great loss in 1806 by the death of William Cave and Jeremiah Kirtley.
Jeremiah Kirtley was a comparatively young man, just 52 years old at his death. His life reflected a man of excellent character, of genuine piety, and of sound, practical and discriminating good sense. He had lived only ten years in Boone County, but he had accomplished many things. His work for the Lord as a member of
Bullittsburg Baptist Church was truly fruitful. In addition to the things we have already discussed, he assisted in the organization of Dry Creek Baptist Church in 1800, Woolper's Creek in 1801, White Water, Indiana, in 1802, Middle Creek in 1803, Mud Lick Creek in 1804. He assisted in the organization of the North Bend Association in 1803. There is no way of accounting the number of souls he won to Christ through his preaching and expounding the scriptures. J. H. Spencer stated in his History of Kentucky Baptists: "Jeremiah Kirtley deserves to be held in remembrance, not only because of his own intrinsic excellence, but because he was the ancestor of many valuable men living and dead. May he never lack for a son to fill the pastorate of Bullittsburg Church as worthily as his son, Robert, and his grandson, James A., have filled it."
Robert Kirtley was born May 30, 1786, on the Rapidian River in Virginia. He was ten years old when his parents, Jeremiah and Mary Kirtley, came to Kentucky. His family left him at Lexington to receive some education from Parson Stubbs, an educated Englishman. Soon he came on to Bullittsburg, where his family was, and received more education from a fine Christian man, a member of Bullittsburg Baptist Church, Absalom Graves. All told, eighteen months duration was the extent of his education. The Bible was about the only reading material that he had.
At the age of 20, in 1806, he married Polly Thompson from a fine Christian family in the vicinity of Lexington. They were blessed with nine sons and one daughter, some of whom died in infancy or early youth. He labored hard with his family and friends, clearing the forests and cultivating the land.
Robert was always respectful of religious persons, but it was not until February, 1811, after much wrestling with his lost condition, that he accepted Christ as his Savior. He was baptized by Christopher Wilson and became a member of Bullittsburg Baptist Church. (James A. Kirtley gives a vivid report of this in his history of Bullittsburg Church.)
The following year, 1812, witnessed the breaking out of hostilities between Great Britain and this country. Robert was one of many Kentuckians who went to protect his country and the families and homes of those exposed settlements. He served as a Lieutenant in a company of Kentucky Militia under General William Harrison. The love for his family was truly expressed in the letters he wrote home. His son, James A., states in his report that Robert passed through the service with his Christian character untarnished. After the war, he studied his Bible diligently and was able to obtain some other valuable literature that helped him to be more useful in the Lord's work.
On June 8, 1817, he was ordained a deacon of Bullittsburg Baptist Church. The following year was a time of another great revival. In July, 1819, Bullittsburg Church gave him a formal license "to preach the gospel wherever God in His providence should cast his lot." For three years he preached as a licentiate in this and neighboring churches, and in company with other brethren extended his labors into adjoining counties. After much encouragement, he agreed for Bullittsburg Baptist Church to ordain him a minister of the gospel on August 4, 1822. For four years, Robert Kirtley, Absalom Graves, Chichester Matthews, and James Dicken jointly served Bullittsburg Church in pastoral labors. They also
did the work of evangelists throughout a very extensive boundary, comprising the counties of Boone, Campbell (which then included Kenton), Grant, and Gallatin in Kentucky, and on the north side of the Ohio River in Ohio and Indiana. In 1826, the last of his co-workers died. Robert was the only preacher for Bullittsburg, and this was a tremendous load to bear in those days. He had great insight into human character and purpose of men. This gave a great vantage ground in the coming years of trial through which he passed.
At that time in our associations, pastors were appointed to write the corresponding or circular letter from the association and various men were appointed to carry them to other associations at their designated meeting times. Robert wrote many of the letters and was an active corresponding messenger from North Bend (our association) to the Elkhorn, Bracken, Franklin, Concord, Laughery, and other associations. He recalled 13 years of service from 1826 to 1839 as good years of seed sowing and a harvest time near at hand.
On the first Lord's Day in November, 1839, he had the privilege to baptize two of his sons, Robert E. and James A. Kirtley, in the Ohio River. This was but a
first fruit of the great and gracious ingathering. They both became members of the Bullittsburg Church. They both were ordained ministers of the gospel and served the Lord for many years and many souls were saved.
In 1831, Robert Kirtley was elected moderator of the North Bend Association, a position that he held for 32 years. Seeds of discord were sown during these years, and at the associational meeting in 1840 at Sand Run Baptist Church, six churches with their ministers, withdrew from the North Bend Association and organized themselves into a body under the title of "The Salem Association of Predestinarian Baptists." In Robert Kirtley's circular letter to the association, he wrote:"Let both preachers and private members remember that humility and love are necessary fruits of our doctrine, the highest beauty of our character and strong guards of our church."At the meeting of the North Bend Association for 1842 held with the church at Bullittsburg, a revival spirit began publicly to be displayed.
It was in 1842 that Burlington Baptist Church was constituted with the help of Bullittsburg and Robert Kirtley. Robert became their pastor and served there
until 1845, along with his duties at Bullittsburg. In that time the churches only met one or two times a month for preaching. Robert served as pastor of Bullittsburg, 1826-1871. During this time, 15 churches were constituted in the North Bend Association. Bullittsburg was the mother church and Robert Kirtley assisted in the beginning of these churches and often served as their pastor along with his duties at Bullittsburg.
1. Flagg Spring - 1833
2. Covington, First (Fourth Street) - 1838
3. Second Twelve Mile - 1841
4. Burlington - 1842
5. Big Bone - 1843
6. Oak Ridge - 1844
7. Ludlow, First - 1849
8. Dayton, First - 1850
9. Pleasant Ridge - 1853
10. Licking Valley - 1854
11. Florence - 1855
12. Madison Avenue - 1857
13. Oak Island - 1858
15. Walton, First - 1866
In October, 1844, at Bullittsburg, Robert helped to ordain his son, James A., to the ministry. In 1845, Robert relinquished his pastorate at Burlington to his son, James A.
In 1851, Polly Kirtley, Robert's wife of 45 years, passed away. This was a lonely time for him, now in his 65th year. To cheer his loneliness, he sought another companion. He married a fine Christian widow, Mrs. Louisa Graves, in June, 1853. About this time, his son, James A., was associated with him in pastoral labor at Bullittsburg. In 1858, his second wife, Mrs. Louisa, died. In 1862, the North Bend Association met at Middle Creek Baptist Church for only one day because of the consequences of the war. At this meeting Robert Kirtley relinquished his office as moderator of North Bend Association after 32 years of service.
The feebleness of old age was creeping over him. He continued to preach according to the measure of his strength until Christmas, 1871, when he preached his last sermon at Bullittsburg. On the 8th of April, 1872, the good and great servant went to his reward.
Robert Kirtley is buried on a high crest in the Bullittsburg cemetery, beneath an impressive white marble stone inscribed, "Administrator of the Gospel 52 years."
ROBERT EDWARD KIRTLEY
Robert Edward Kirtley was born February 7, 1820, in Boone County, the fourth child of Robert and Polly Kirtley. In early youth he acquired a fair English education at a good country academy. He attended one year at Hanover College in Indiana. He was converted in October, 1839, and was baptized with his brother, James A., in the Ohio River by their father. He accepted from the beginning the governing thought that he was the Lord's and that he owed supreme allegiance to the Lord.
In 1842 his brother, Jeremiah, died in Illinois, leaving his widow, Mary Lacy Kirtley, and four children. In 1849, Robert Edward married Mary Lacy Kirtley and moved to St. Mary's, Illinois. Soon he moved to Missouri where he united with the Union Baptist Church. In this church, he was ordained to the full work of the Gospel ministry in 1863. He exercised his ministerial gifts and helped to organize the Saline Association in Missouri.
He spent some time in the Confederate Army. He returned to Kentucky in 1867, and took up work in North Bend Association. He preached at Middle Creek, East Bend and Sand Run churches. He served Sand Run Church 1872 until 1897 - about 1 1/2 years before his death in 1898.
At his memorial service it was stated: "He was a grand man, grand stature, grand in his noble Christian character, grand in his influence with his brethren. He will be greatly missed by the North Bend Association."
JAMES A. KIRTLEY, SR.
James A. Kirtley was born in Boone County, Kentucky, on May 26, 1822. His parents were Robert and Polly Kirtley. In his boyhood he attended the common school of the neighborhood. He made a profession of faith in 1839, and as previously stated, was baptized by his father in the Ohio River. He became a member of the Bullittsburg Baptist Church. They licensed him to preach the Gospel in 1842, having for a year previous exercised in public prayer and exhortation. He entered Georgetown College the same year.
On August 6, 1844, he married Margaret, a daughter of Moses Scott, one of our early church and county workers. They were blessed with six children, who became sincere church and community workers. Three of these were girls, who married fine men, and their descendants have blessed Bullittsburg and other churches with their work for the Lord. James A. was forced to leave college after a short time because of a temporary failure of his eyes.
He was ordained a minister of the Gospel at Bullittsburg Baptist Church in October, 1844, by his father, Robert, Asa Drury and William Whitaker. He was associated with his father in pastoral work for about three years, at the same time, he was preaching once a month at Warsaw, Kentucky. On December 20, 1845,
Burlington invited him to preach for the church and serve as their pastor, which he did until 1847.
In 1845, James A. wrote the circular letter for North Bend Association, and tremendous blows were dealt Hyper-Calvinism, Campbellism and Universalism. In 1847, James A. received $52 for his annual salary from Burlington Baptist Church. After leaving Burlington in 1847, James A. went to Madison, Indiana, as a pastor. When P. C. Scott left Burlington in 1851, James A. came back to Burlington and served as pastor until 1879.
In 1852, the Executive Committee of the North Bend Association employed James A. Kirtley and Robert Vickers to do missionary work in the association, thus beginning a more orderly manner of missionary work. Burlington, Big Bone, Walton, Florence, Petersburg, and Taylorsport were the points to be fostered by the Executive Committee.
In 1865, Rev. James A. Kirtley was elected as moderator of the North Bend Association. In April, 1872, Rev. James A. Kirtley wrote the History of Bullittsburg Church and Biographies at the request of the association. This book is invaluable with its information and history. On February 19, 1873, his devoted Margaret died. On April 28, 1874, he married Mrs. M. L. Huey. Their son was James A. Kirtley, Jr. James A., Sr. continued preaching at Burlington until 1879.
In 1877, he helped to ordain his son, Eusebius, to preach the Gospel. Eusebius preached at Carrollton two years and Vevay, Indiana, five years when he became very ill. He died in Boone County at the home of his father, James A., Sr.
In the 1896 session of the North Bend Association, Rev. James A. Kirtley, after serving as moderator for 30 consecutive years, positively refused re-election. He was made Moderator Emeritus.
Besides his 30 years of service in the association, he served as pastor of Bullittsburg for 42 years alone, and for five years with his father. He served as pastor at Big Bone Baptist for 49 years and four or five years with his father. He was pastor at Burlington for 30 years. Some of these were served simultaneously. He also served other churches. He attended the 1903 Centennial Associational Meeting of North Bend. In 1903, he had the privilege to ordain his son, James A. Kirtley, Jr., as minister of the Gospel at Bullittsburg Church. James A., Jr. was a pastor of Ninth Street Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, at one time.
During the lifetime of James A., Sr. he wrote several inspiring works, including Cody's Theology Examined and The Design of Baptism Viewed in Its Doctrinal Relations.
Rev. James A. Kirtley, Sr. departed this life on
February 16, 1904, after 60 years as a minister of the Gospel. A special memorial to him was presented at the North Bend Association in October, 1904. "Be it resolved, that we bow in sorrow and humble submission to the will of our Heavenly Father, thanking Him for the long and helpful ministry of our brother and for his clean and unspotted Christian life is ever in memory with us as an incentive to holy service and righteous living."
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
1. North Bend Association Minutes.
2. A History of Kentucky Baptists - J. H. Spencer.
3 A History of Baptists in Kentucky - Frank M. Masters.
4. History of Ten Churches - John Taylor. 5. History of Bullittsburg Baptist Church and Biographies - James A. Kirtley
6. Bullittsburg Baptist Church Minutes
7. Middle Creek Church Minutes
8. Sand Run Baptist Church Minutes
9. Burlington Baptist Church Minutes
10. The Western Recorder
11. Boone County Recorder
12. Martha J. Ernst
13. Joy Stafford
14. Bryan Cowherd
[From Mrs. Elizabeth M. Kirtley, Florence, Kentucky. Used with permission. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall, 1998.]
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