Four Baptist Pastors of Early Kentucky
From The Kentucky Baptist Heritage Journal, 1995
Narrator: The time is about 1800 or 1801. The place is Kentucky and the occasion is a meeting of one of the early Baptist associations. The meeting is fictitious and time has been stretched a bit out of shape to allow us to listen in on the conversation of four of this state's earliest and most influential Baptist ministers. In looking back at their lives and their accomplishments all four seem larger than life, but the primitive frontier times they experienced often required a superhuman effort just to survive and these men managed to do a great deal more than that.
There were of course other ministers who also made exceptional contributions to the early life of the Kentucky church. These four are presented for the vaiety of experiences they represent, the particular challenges they faced and the manner in which they met those challenges. In many ways they were typical men of the period, but in other ways they were very unique. Together they made a tremendous and lasting contribution to the church they represented and the God they served. They are foundation stones in the Kentucky Baptist church.
On this particular evening the associational meeting has just taken a break and our four pastor have arranged to meet outside on the porch during the interval. They are:
(1) Rev. John Whitaker, eldest of four and one of the first ordained Baptist ministers to settle permanently in this state, emigrated from Maryland - to near Pittsburg then came to Kentucky in the spring of 1780. He participated in the founding of Kentucky's first church ad was influential in the founding of most of the Baptist churches within fifty miles of Louisville that were gathered prior to his death.
(2) Rev. Elijah Craig, brother of the famous Lewis and the eccentric Joseph Craig. A man of rare intelligence and ability despite his limited education, Elijah began preaching in his own tobacco barn in about 1764. Although solemn he has been a popular and very talented preacher who emigrated from Virginia in about 1784. He is unusually capable in business.
(3) Rev. John Taylor, also a Virginian, grew up in a life
of hard work on a farm after his intemperate father lost the family's estate. He was converted to the Baptist faith at age twenty and worked almost constantly in and with the churches from that time until his death. He came to Kentucky with his family in the fall of 1783.
(4) Rev. John Corbly, born in England in 1733, pledged four years of servitude in order to obtain passage to America. Following his period of indenture he settled in Virginia where he was converted to the Baptist belief by the Reverend John Garard. He is an outspoken man with strong opinions who has attracted both admirers and enemies. Of the four he is the only one who did not settle in Kentucky.
Craig: Just one more over-long presentation in that over-warm room and I would have been in danger of dozing off, so I'm very grateful for this break. Not only do I get to revive a bit but I am also privileged to meet with men whose names I hear mentioned so often whenever Kentucky Baptist history is discussed. John Taylor I know well but Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Corbly I know only by reputation.
Corbly: And I am delighted to finally meet you and Mr. Whitaker.
Whitaker: This is a great pleasure for me as well. And since one of today's speakers mentioned what is being called "The Traveling Church" I wonder if I might take advantage of this opportunity Mr. Craig to learn more about your connection with it? Would you tell us how in this world so many people ever came to agree on anything as momentous as leaving their homes in Virginia and moving to a primitive frontier like Kentucky?
Craig: Well, as you know, that happened back near the close of the Revolution. My brother Lewis was pastor of the church involved, the Upper Spottsylvania Church, and from what he has told me nothing ever surprised him so much before or since as the way that all came about. He never expected it.
Lewis was in his forties when he decided to move to Kentucky. He had done some scouting around, had the place for his new home picked out and was very excited about his prospects. Naturally he talked about all this to the people in his congregatin and first thing you know some of them started to think about moving themselves. From that point it just mushroomed until September of 1781 when Lewis and nearly six hundred people from his church left Virginia and set out for Kentucky. Nearly every single member. They brought the church's official books and records, the communion service, the pulpit Bible, everything they possibly could in order to continue their worship together with as little disruption as possible.
Taylor: I have had the pleasure of hearing your brother preach. Like yourself, he has a wonderful ability to impress his hearers. I would even call him magnetic. Isn't it true that some members of his church were actually imprisoned with him in '68 when he was arrested for preaching?
Craig: True indeed. In fact it was the first time Virginia actually imprisoned anyone for preaching, as they said, "contrary to law."
Corbly: And not the last time, unfortunately. Although they were certainly stretching a point with that "contrary to law" business. No one's law except those few aristocrats who formed to General Assembly and did all the lawmaking. It never had much popular support.
Taylor: I've always said it never works in the long run to have a state supported church. The Episcopal church in Virginia lost its zeal, lost its desire to go out and make converts. Why should they try when it was against the law not to attend their church?
Whitaker: Now that law would have been real hard to impose -west of the Alleghenies where the first Kentuckians avoided all churches like they were some sort of plague. And I remember
well when the Virginia authorities imprisoned Lewis. The action was widely denounced, even Patrick Henry spoke in his defense. Of course that sort of adversity seldom hurts a church and Lewis' congregation at Upper Spottsylvania continued to grow.
Corbly: Elijah, I know you came to Kentucky yourself with the Traveling Church, but were there any other pastors besides you and your brother?
Craig: Actually I would say there were about a dozen. Our brother Joseph came along, also Rev. William Cave, Simeon Walton from Nottaway Church, Joseph Bledsoe of the Wilderness Church. But some, like myself, did not have their families with them.
Whitaker: Considering the danger from Indians in those days it must have been comforting to be part of such a large group. Safley in numbers as they say.
Craig: It was definitely a comfort. I dare say many of the women would not have been convinced to come otherwise. And we were well organized. Captain William Ellis, who had been an officer in the Continental army, served as our expedition's military leader. In addition to being a soldier he was an excellent woodsman. Got up before sunrise every day to get us off to a good start.
It turned into a journey none of us will ever forget. Most of the people were on foot, the horses and mules being riden mainly by the very old or very young. Little children were carried in hickory baskets swung to the sides of the horses. We had to even their weight by adding stones to the baskets of the smaller ones. And everyone carried as much as they possibly could. We loaded the animals and we loaded ourselves and then we started walking.
About the time we reached the mountains the weather turned to sleet and snow. Then for days it rained, swelling the rivers and making them harder to cross. When we came through Cumberland Gap things were so bad it took almost three weeks to
travel thirty miles. And I'll never forget Cumberland Fork where we waded in ice water breast deep. After that we passed through miles of cane breaks where we often lost runaway horses along with the supplies on their backs. That cane was so thick a man could become completely lost just a few feet from the trail. But as we came near our destination we found ourselves getting positively light hearted. We reached Gilbert's Creek in December, made a clearing in the woods and established Craig's Station. When we gathered for worship we used the old Bible we had brought from Spottsylvania. Many eyes were filled with tears that day.
Taylor: Wonderful to be a part of that. Hard of course, but so amazing to be part of the opening up of this beautiful country. To be among the first ministers on the frontier. The churches have been so important to many isolated people whose daily lives were filled with one threat or another. Some would travel for miles, bouncing about in horse-drawn wagons over dirt roads, just to hear a sermon and worship with friends.
Craig: My first experience with that was back in Virginia listening to Samuel Harris whose reputation drew such crowds that we called him the "Virginia Apostle." He led me to my own conversion. Then in 1771 when I took on the pastoral care of the Blue Run church the authorities took notice and put me in jail. That "contrary to.law" thing again. Like most of us I just kept on preaching through the grates. You may have heard about the lawyer who said the Court should go on and release me because, he said, "The Baptists are like a bed of camomile; the more they are trodden the more they spread."
Corbly: Truth is, that lawyer was right. I often thought I had more effect on people when I preached from behind bars than nearly any other time. Not that the law actually prohibited preaching the Gospel. I was charged with "disturbing the peace" and "going into private houses and making dissensions."
Craig: But in spite of their intentions the Virginia Court probably did us more good than harm in the end. Upper Spottsylvania was not the only Baptist church to have members numbering in the hundreds. But talking about the "traveling Church" has reminded me that Br. Whitaker came to Kentucky with such a large family they might have seemed like a traveling church themselves.
Whitaker: Nothing like that I assure you, but it's certainly true that I came here with a big family. Some were my brothers and sisters, grown by then, and the rest were my own. My wife Mary and I just about raised two families. My parents died in '39 when I was seventeen, so as the eldest boy I took responbility for the younger ones. Little Abraham was just two years old, Isaac was four, Catherine was six and so on. My oldest sister Mary was eleven and a lot of work fell on her young shoulders. Then when I married my own Mary two years later she became like another mother to the little ones. Our first son was born in '42 so there was only a five year gap between my parents' family and my own.
Taylor: For myself it was a bit different. I first came into Ketucky alone. That was in the fall of '79. I crossed the Alleghenies on horseback. But the state of things here, and I don't mean the primitive conditions although that alone was enough to discourage anyone, no, I mean the low state of religion. When I saw the thieving and promiscuity and general lawlessness going on I turned around and went back to Virginia.
Corbly: You weren't the only one to go back. I know you've heard of Rev. David Rice who has become a leader among the Presbyterians. On his first trip here he took one look, turned around and went home and expected never to return. I was here myself for a short time then went back to the congregations I had started earlier near the Monongahela River. But after what happened to my wife and children there I spent many years wishing I had brought them down the Ohio.
Taylor: You know, I have heard several versions of what happened to your family. Would it be presuming too much to ask you to tell us about it?
Corbly: For a long time I would have avoided doing that. Talking about it was too difficult but I have decided it's best to try to tell it like it was.
It happened in May of 1782 near Garard's Fort. Today that's in Pennsylvania but back then there was some dipute about whether it was Pennsylvania or Virginia. My wife Betsy and I lived with our children in a cabin about one mile from the fort and about the same distance from the meetinghouse which was outside the stockade but only by about 400 yards. Like most meetinghouses it stood beside the local cemetery.
We left, my family and I, and started for church one Sunday with me thinking Betsy had our Bible, but I soon realized it had been left behind so I went back to get it. My mind was on the sermon I was to preach that day and if there were any signs of the tragedy about to happen, I never saw them. I returned to our cabin for the Bible while the rest walked on and as soon as I had retrieved it I commenced following them down the path with my mind still preoccupied. The next thing I knew I heard the most terrible screams and I ran toward the sounds trying to pick up something to use as a club while I ran, as I did not have even a knife on me. When I got within about forty rods of my family I saw they were being attacked by Indians. Betsy saw me and cried out to me to run and make my escape. About that time an Indian raised his gun and took aim at me so I turned and ran. I never thought the Indians would kill them, I thought they would be taken as prisoners, like so many other women and children had been, and then ransomed to the British at Detroit. But my wife and baby and one daughter were killed outright.
Men in the fort heard their cries and came running to the rescue but so much damage was already done. My son Isaiah died the next day. My daughter Elizabeth lived to be twenty one but had a head wound that never healed. Sometimes it would seem to
heal and she would be entirely well then suddenly it would reopen and her life would hang in the balance once again. She was engaged to be married when it broke open a final time and she died.
My daughter Delilah was the only child I have by Betsy who survived to live a normal life. My older children John Jr. and Margaret, children by my first wife Abagail, had gone on ahead of the little ones and had already reached the meetinghouse, probably the only thing that saved them. I feel certain all of us would have died that day except for the intervention of men from the fort.
Taylor: What about the story that the men may have been white men dressed as Indians?
Corbly: Personally, I have never doubted that the men were Indians, but Elizabeth and Isaiah both believed they had been attacked by white men. Elizabeth believed that to her dying day. Of course I strongly supported the Revolution and believed we should break completely with Great Britain and establish our own freedoms. This formed a part of many of my sermons and, as you might expect, I made political enemies. But the Indians had recently gone to war to revenge the massacre of some of their own people and I believe they killed my family in an act of revenge. Only God knows the truth.
Craig: Knowledge of what happened to your family shocked us all and our people offered many prayers for you and them. It has been a hard thing for our families to have to face not only the dangers of life on the frontier but also the special trials we face as ministers of the gospel. My own trials as a minister have been of a different nature from yours. Kentucky is such a beautiful place and so ready for development of nearly any sort. The possibilities are endless and so, I think, are my own interests. I built a fulling mill and a rope walk at Georgetown and then a paper mill at the same place. I'm especially proud of the paper mill and also proud of producing something I have believed would aid in the great
necessity of being able to read and write, something the average man can not do these days to say nothing of the average woman.
We built the mill on a stone basement which supports two and one half stories framed in with wood, the best frame we knew how to build, and not one cut nail in the whole place. Even the shingles we put on with oak pins. That mill produced the first sheet of paper made in the west, all hand made and hand rolled. I also went into the retail trade with my brother Joseph, we owned a store together. But all of this took time away from my work in the church. The congregation became upset with me and rightly so.
Whitaker: Right they may have been, but all of us faced the problem of serving the church while at the same time we had families to provide for. I had always wanted to preach and serve the church but at age seventeen a family came to me ready-made. Then Mary and I had eight of our own and only one of those a girl which made things hard for Mary. Our Hannah is a good daughter and always worked with her mother but still there was so much we had to do just to survive. And the congregations didn't believe in paying a pastor. A pat on the back and a pair of knit gloves now and then are fine but we couldn't live on that. Sometimes I truly thought I would grow old before I could come to Kentucky and minister on the frontier. And from what I heard of the frontier it needed all the ministers it could get.
Taylor: It was not only a place without gospel but without law since the few laws that existed were seldom enforced. But while the times were hard, the rewards were often great. It was wonderful to see people willing to travel miles to attend a church meeting. Of course in the long run I suppose few men traveled more miles year in and year out than we preachers.
One event that impressed me so much while I was still young and living in Virginia was the time Samuel Harris traveled two hundred miles to administer Baptism. Fifty three were baptized in the South River that day with hundreds looking on who had never even seen the rite performed before. Afterwards we
had the laying on of hands which was still being practiced in that time on the newly baptized. This was in 1770. I believe you were also there, Elijah.
Craig: I remember it well. Bro. Harris was later named an Apostle for the south side of the James River. That was when the Association of Virginia Baptist became concerned about whether all the offices mentioned in Ephesians 4: 11 were still in use in the churches. In consequence they elected three Apostles, Bro. Harris to the South River and Bro. John Waller and myself to the north. We had no real authority but served as Evangelists in those regions.
Corbly: It was said that you were the first Baptist Apostles since the original twelve. I always enjoyed debating that statement.
Craig: Actually, that position may have kept me in Virginia longer than I intended. I was a latecomer to Kentucky compared to the rest of you, but that was perhaps for the best since my greatest temptations came from the secular world after I came west. The ministry was always my first love and I never intended to abandon it but I also loved industry, still do, and I still fmd great pleasure in a good business deal. I've been so tom between the church and the world that I suppose I would have to admit that in the end my brother Lewis has worked to greater effect in the churches than I.
Taylor: Well, in speaking for myself, like Bro. Whitaker I also found it difficult to dedicate the necessary time to God's work while trying to support my family. Before coming to Kentucky I preached on and off for ten years at South River Church and they paid me nothing until I married, then they considered my past service and gave me $100 with what seemed like real pleasure. And I can assure you that I received it with real pleasure. Then in 1783 my wife and I moved to Kentucky.
For us too it was an experience neither of us will ever forget. We didn't walk but came by river, first setting out on the
Allegheny at Redstone where I paid for passage on a poorly built flatboat filled with strangers. It took about seven weeks before we made landing at Beargrass Creek near the Falls of the Ohio. Not a soul was settled in those days between Wheeling and Louisville, a distance of over five hundred miles, and we spent not one of those miles in safety. The situation was so bad that when we arrived at Louisville the people were crowded into the forts despite the fact that it was winter which usually brought a respite from the Indians.
Whitaker: Wasn't life in those forts a trial? They were so crowded, we often dressed and slept in the same room with people we hardly knew, the ladies holding blankets up for each other to try to maintain some modesty. But even worse was being dependent on a water source that often became polluted. Sometimes there was just one little spring for drinking, cooking, washing, you know how it was. Disease threatened to destroy us faster than the Indians could.
Taylor: Exactly. I took one look and decided to go the eighty miles further to Craig's Station in Lincoln County. After resting a few days we set out carrying just about everything we owned. I had three horses, two were packed and the other carried my wife plus all the lumber the beast could bear. The trace was so bad we had no choice but to wade through the mud in all the rivers and creeks we came to. At least our struggles kept us from worrying as much as we might have about the danger from Indians. After about six days we reached Craig's Station. This was just before Christmas. About three months had passed since we had left Virginia. Through all this rugged travel my wife was in a very helpless state, about one month after our arrival my son Ben was born.
Our danger on the journey was somewhat increased by my lack of skill with a rifle. I had one but it couldn't do me much good. That reminds me Bro. Whitaker, I have heard that your wife is quite a good shot.
Whitaker: She is indeed and fortunate that has been for me. Many's the time she kept watch with her rifle while I plowed. Plowing puts one in a very vulnerable position you know. A man can't plow and carry a gun and if the Indians come rushing at you while your gun is leaning against some tree you're out of luck. When we came to Kentucky in 1780 our family was grown and mostly married off, so the plowing was up to me and the watching was up to her.
Corbly: Then you were not a young man when you came?
Whitaker: No indeed. I was an old man truth to tell. I was born in 1722 and came to Kentucky in 1780, now that's how old I was. And while I wanted to come to Kentucky I might never have done it but for my boys who were all dead set on it. They heard all the tales you know, about how beautiful it was and land so rich anything you might stick in the ground would take root and grow.
Corbly: Is the story I heard about your son Abraham being able to carry a fence rail over his shoulder and still outrun any other man a true story?
Whitaker: It is true, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to brag on one of my boys. He did it often, racing maybe fifty or a hundred yards.
My family and I had left the older more settled part of Maryland in 1771 and moved to near Pittsburg which in those days was a frontier region. From that time it seems there was constant war and fighting all around us. My sons, who were in their teens and early twenties, became hardedned to it and as a result they would dare to do just about anything, especially Abraham and Acquilla. Both fought with General Clark as militiamen. In one battle with the Indians the army's sitution had gotten desperate when Abraham spotted the Indian chief on horseback, ran out from his position, pulled the chief from his horse, shot him, and lived to tell the tale. With their leader dead
the Indians retreated which saved the army that day.
But we lived with too much bloodshed, too much violence. Men were quick to fight with little provocation. Quick even to kill each other in a moment of temper.
Corbly: Those times were hard on children a[n]d on parents trying to raise them.
In sitting here listening to Bro. Taylor tell of his journey to Kentucky I'm reminded of the first time I met him. He was traveling through the Monogahela area which was my neck of the woods and was visiting churches with another fellow who had the last name of Wood. Well Bro. Wood, who had only recently become a Baptist, liked to dress well and had a very serious look about him while Bro. Taylor dressed like a woodsman, was quite young and looked absolutely jolly, so of course everyone mistook Bro. Wood for the preacher.
Taylor: I remember. And sometimes I took pleasure in letting them believe he was.
Craig: (speaking to Taylor) Don't I recall your owning some land in Woodford County.
Taylor: I did for a time. In 1784 I moved to Woodford and soon was holding evening church meetings with our neighbors, what few there were, in one of our little cabins. Most Sundays I preached at the station. Kentucky was dotted with little stations even after the Indian threat was about past. Newcomers were always grateful for a place to stay. But in Woodford County my family's situation was difficult and I was considerably worried. We had to pack com forty miles and then send our own mule to grind it at a mill before we could have bread. All the meat we had to eat came from the woods, and me as poor a shot as ever. I would take my rifle and go out with the hunters who let me share in the profits of the hunt but I was precious little help to them.
here was a fat old buck that had his lodge a few hundred yards from our cabin, which by-the-way was sixteen feet square
with no floor but the earth. Anyway, I kept trying to get a shot at that buck until one day I finally got lucky and killed him more by accident than anything else. We ate well for weeks which was a great treat to my family.
But as time went on we men in that area had so much to do just supplying our families with basic necessities that religion became less important rather than more so. We still had meetings but they lacked devotion, we talked generally of other things. At this time the only church established north of the Kentucy River was south Elkhorn where Lewis Craig was pastor. I became a member of that church and came to have great respect for Mr. Craig who was older than myself and treated me like his own son.
It was about this time that I began taking real pleasure in farm work. I put up my own fences, cleared many acres of good land, got the planting done. I was industrious enough but did little as a preacher. Then a change seemed to slowly come over the religious community.
Whitaker: I know the very change you speak of. In fact we witnessed the beginning of it together the spring you and I were at Hillsborough. We had a church meeting and two couples came forward wanting to be baptized. From that time onward our congregations increased even if sometimes not nearly so fast as we hoped they would. I traveled many miles and had the gratification of helping many churches get a start. But you know, I was never able to establish a church at Louisville even though it was something I dreamed of doing. Louisville was a fast-growing place with people coming and going all the time. I thought there would be a tremendous opportunity for spreading the Gospel and influencing people for Christ, but there was hardly a spark of interest. That has been one of my greatest disappointments.
But I was able to start a congregation east of Louisville on Beargrass Creek. As early as 1780, or maybe it was '81, I bapized the wife of Richard Chenoweth and two other ladies there. They may have been the first persons I baptized in Kentucky. Come to think of it, I believe I was in Louisville on one of
my failed attempts at revival when I first heard of Mr. Corbly's map.
Corbly: You know, so much has happened in the intervening years that I seldome think of that map. It was drawn in April of '79 when I was at the Falls and thinking perhaps I would bring my family there. The new town needed a plat map so I made one using a scale of 200 yards to the inch. It located the various town lots as they had been drawn off and numbered by the trustees. Later it was officially adopted and I suppose they still have a copy. Louisville has changed so much you would scarcely recognize it today by that little map.
Also, at about that time I first became acquainted with Bro. Whitaker's sons Abraham and Acquilla. We served together in William Harrod's militia company at the Falls.
Whitaker: I remember them speaking of you. Our whole family moved to Kentucky just after that, in 1780, and lived at Brashear' s Station near the salt lick in Bullitt County. The salt licks were tough places in those days I can tell you that. Full of men fighting too much, drinking too much. I had purchased several tresury warrants before coming here and my boys were kept busy with locating and surveying our land. At that time very few people cared about going to church. Best I can remember there were just five of us ordained Baptist ministers in all of Kentucky county and as one of the few I was kept right busy performing marriages.
I'll never forget September of 1781. They were planning a double wedding at Linn's Station. Now that was on Beargrass Creek, quite a distance from Bullitt's Lick, and they needed a minister so Bland Ballard, and Kentucky never had a better man than Bland, left Linn's to come get me. He hadn't gone far when he saw signs that many Indians had recently passed by, so he turned back, warned the settlers at Linn's, then went up to Boone's Station and warned the people there.
Well, Boone's was not as large or so well fortified as Linn's and most of the folks there decided to run for it. They left
Boone's in a line that became too strung out and when they got to Long Run Creek the Indians attacked. Seven settlers were killed but the Indians were driven off and by nightfall most of the group managed to straggle in to Linn's.
I know you all remember what happened next. John Floyd gathered the militia to pursue the Indians but, at a point not far from where the earlier attack had occurred, the Indians decoyed them onto a ridge. Of Floyd's twenty six men, sixteen were killed. We've called it Floyd's Defeat ever since that day.
Taylor: News of it spread like wildfire through the settlements. It was a disaster that made us all feel defeated for a time.
Corbly: My own brother-in-law, Peter A'Sturgus, was killed that day. He was a Captain with Floyd's militia and was married to Betsy's sister Nancy. Most of us had large families and too often we knew friends or had relatives who were fighting either Indians or some dreadful disease. We stayed worried about someone all the time. Still do, I suppose.
I have been sitting here thinking about families who have several members in the ministry but I can't recall a family other than the Craigs that has three brothers in the Baptist ministry, and all of them pioneer Kentuckians as well. Just think Elijah how much the three of you have seen and accomplished.
Craig: It has always seemed so natural that I've given little thought to it. We are not together as often as we would like, but on those few occasions we do seem to have a great deal to talk about. Of course my brother Joseph gives everyone a great deal to talk about. He is quite eccentric as I am sure you know. I even went into a parternship with Joe and set up a store in hopes of getting him out of the ministry. He is younger than Lewis and myself, and a wonderul fellow in many ways, but Joe can be so downright odd that people tend to concentrate on his oddities rather than on his message.
For instance back in the days when pack horses were even more in demand than they are now Joe was preaching at an
outdoor meeting in the woods and right during his sermon he looks upwards into the trees and says, "Brethren, there is a fork that would make a good pack-saddle." Then he picked right back up on his sermon like he had said nothing out of the ordinary
Corbly: You know, I heard one story about Joseph that always makes me chuckle. I hope you won't mind my repeating it. It is said that Brother Joe was talking with a woman who was supposed to be at the point of death and he said to her, "Think of your husband and all the children you have to raise. If you die now it will be the meanest thing you ever did in your life." And from what I hear, she actually recovered.
Craig: And that's a true story. In fact, the woman was our own niece.
So you can understand that my brother Lewis became concerned that Joe might be doing at least as much harm as good and wanted to persuade him to leave the ministry. So Lewis went to Joe ad said, "You have been trying to preach twenty years and I have never known of your being instrumental in the salvation of but one person." "Well, thank God," Joe told him, "if Christ has saved one soul by me, in twenty years, I am ready to labor twenty more for the salvation of another." Of course arfter that there was nothing more to say.
Whitaker: I guess we've all heard about Joe and had a good laugh at one time or another. But whatever is said, he was certainly convicted of his beliefs and never wavered as many of us have from time to time. And he certainly came into Kentucky when it was still a wilderness and required any man to face danger and even death before it would be conquered.
Taylor: Did you hear about Henry Bottorff, the Lutheran minister who disappeared last year? He lived not far from Louisville and was riding home alone one night after performing a marriage when he just disappeared. It is said that when his friends went searching for him all they found were the buttons from his clothes.
Whitaker: Do they think it was Indians or maybe thieves?
Taylor: No. They believe it must have been a wild animal since neither Indians nor thieves would have left the buttons.
A bell sounds.
Corbly: As reluctant as I am for this meeting to end I believe I just heard the bell calling us back inside.
Craig: That you did Bro. Corbly, but I do want to say what a pleasure it has been to be with all of you and have this chance to chat.
All four shake hands, express their good-byes and readers return to their original seats.
Narrator: There is much more to know about these men than could be revealed in this short time. For instance you may be wondering whether Rev. Corbly ever married again. He did. His third wife was Nancy Lynn. By his three marriages John Corbly was father to seventeen children. His active life was filled with crusading for causes both religious and political, whenever he believed the controversy to be worthy of his efforts, with the result that he is probably the best known of all the pioneers in Greene County, Pennsylvania.
The tragic loss of his second wife and a large portion of his family was widely publicized at the time. While it was not the only. tragedy he experienced it was probably the greatest. His first wife died in Virginia in 1768 perhaps following the birth of their fourth child. His marriage to Betsy took place in about 1773. Rev. John Corbly died in 1803 and is buried in the Garard's Fort Cemetery with Betsy and this third wife who survived him by twenty three years.
John Taylor, who had been penniless until about the time of his marriage, inherited some property from an unmarried uncle, survived the rigors of being a pioneer in Kentucky and pastored a number of churches. His final church home was at Buck Run in Franklin County which he helped constitute in 1818 at the age of 66. He traveled and preached and attended seven or eight association meetings every fall until his death in January of 1836 at the age of 83 years. Like Elijah Craig he had little formal education but was neverless literate and intellectual. He possessed sound judgement and is remembered as a wise, conservative counselor.
Elijah Craig is said to have been the finest preacher of the three Craig brothers but after coming to Kentucky his interests in the church became second to his interests in business. He bought one thousand acres of land and laid off a town called at first Lebanon and later Georgetown. He erected a saw and grist mill, then the first fulling mill, the first rope works and the first paper mill in Kentucky. However his success in business was accompanied by an increasing inability to work effectively in the church. Despite this conflict he remained active and continued preaching until his death at about age 60. His greatest contributions to the church were made in his younger days in Virginia.
The ministry of John Whitaker was first mentioned in 1772 by a Baptist missionary to Ohio who passed through western Pennsylvania and reported three candidates for the ministry whose names he gave as John Corbly, John Swingler, and John Whitacre. In 1773 Rev. Whitacre organized the church later known as Peter Creek Baptist Church where he preached until coming to Kentucky. After a year or two at Bullitt's Lick he moved up Salt River to near present Mt. Washington and estab- lished Whitaker's Station near the mouth of a creek known from that time as Whitaker's Run. In 1784 he and Rev. James Smith gathered the Baptist Church on Beargrass, today Beargrass Christian Church, east of Louisville. He preached there for the next
ten years and continued to ride the circuit as well. In about 1788 he moved to Shelby County south of present Finchville where he lived until his death in 1798. The partriarch of a large family, he left a sizeable estate for his time and many descendants.
[Prepared for the Kentucky Baptist Historical Commission by Joellen Tyler Johnston, May 1995; via E-Text, SBTS Archives, Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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