The Pioneer Baptist Preachers of Kentucky
1776 - 1785
Among the first permanent settlers in the wilderness territory of Kentucky were many of the people called Baptists, who were the pioneers in religion in Kentucky.1 Along with these early settlers came the pioneer Baptist preachers, facing every danger, suffering hardship, visiting the settlers in their rude log cabins, comforting the bereaved families, whose loved ones had been murdered by the Indians, and preaching the gospel at every opportunity.
Squire Boone was evidently the first Baptist preacher to set foot on Kentucky soil. He was a son of Squire Boone and Sarah Morgan Boone, and a younger brother of the famous explorer. He was born in Berks County, not far from Reading, on October 5, 1744, and had the honor of receiving his father's name, Squire, which had been transmitted "through several generations of the Boones".2 While Squire was yet a lad, his parents moved to North Carolina and settled in the Yadkin region in Wilkes County, where he grew to manhood. He was married to Jane Van Cleve, August 8, 1765, following the death of his father early the same year. To their marriage were born five children, all of whom were given Bible names - Jonathan, Moses, Isaiah, Sarah and Enoch, which indicates a knowledge of Bible characters. Squire spent a number of years with his brother Daniel in his hunting and exploring expeditions.
When Squire Boone became a Baptist and a Baptist preacher cannot be definitely known. He came in contact with the Baptists in Yadkin county in North Carolina, where he was reared. "The majority of the settlers from the Yadkin Region were Baptists and they from the beginning more than outnumbered all other denominations. Squire Boone himself was an itinerant Baptist preacher". It has been mentioned that he was "an occasional preacher in the Calvinistic Baptist Church" in 1776, when he performed the first marriage ceremony in Kentucky.3 The records show that in 1779 Squire Boone moved his family down the Kentucky and Ohio River to Louisville, where he purchased some lots and erected a cabin at the mouth of the Bear Grass Creek. Here "He signed the early petitions of 1779 and 1780 presented by the residents of Louisville to the Legislature of Virginia for the establishment of the town. He - a Baptist - is said to have preached the first sermon in Louisville".4
Squire Boone was also the first Baptist preacher in Meade County. This man from all the evidence" available "certainly preached at a rude hunting camp at the Blue Spring near the head of Doe Run". On January 3, 1783, "Squire Boone entered 6000 acres of land on the Ohio River below the mouth of Doe Run" in Meade County.5
This first pioneer preacher rendered valuable service in several political
relations. He was a member of the Virginia Legislature from Kentucky in 1783, and was also a member of the first Kentucky Convention held at Danville December 27, 1784, looking to the separation from Virginia. From 1787 Squire Boone was in and out of Kentucky for several years. He died in Harrison County, Indiana, in August, 1815, across the Ohio River from Brandenburg, Kentucky.6
The first recorded Baptist preaching done in Kentucky was by Thomas Tinsley and William Hickman at Harrodstown in the Spring of 1776; about four years after the appearance of Squire Boone and five years before a Baptist church was planted in Kentucky. There is nothing known of Thomas Tinsley, except in his relation to the first visit to Kentucky of William Hickman, who was not then an ordained preacher.
WILLIAM HICKMAN was born February 4, 1747, in King and Queen County, Virginia. His father, Thomas Hickman, and his mother, Sarah Sanderson Hickman, died while he and his sister were young children, who were left under the care of their grandmother. William's chances for" an education were very limited, having but "little time to go to school". He "could read but little, and hardly write any".
At the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to John Shackleford to learn a trade. His grandmother had given him a Bible and charged him to read it, as he was accustomed to do, when he was with her. Young Hickman was in a bad environment. He says: "I found them notoriously wicked. I soon fell into evil habits, for master, mistress, children, apprentices, and Negroes were all alike". Young Hickman neglected his Bible, left off praying and learned to curse and swear. He says: "I went often to church to hear the parson (Episcopal Rector) preach, when he was sober enough to go through with his discourse." In 1770, after nine years of service in his trade he married Miss Shackelford, his master's daughter, who was "fond of myrth and dancing". Soon after their marriage they heard of the Baptists, then called New Lights, and learned that they "dipped a person all over in water". Later two pioneer Virginia preachers, John Waller and James Childs, visited the community where the Hickmans lived.
Hickman says: "Curiosity led me to go some distance to hear these babblers; the two precious men were John Waller and James Childs, from the north side of James river; when I got to the meeting the people were relating their experiences, but I could not get sight of the preachers till they were done, there was such a multitude of people. At last they broke; the two preachers sat together, I thought they looked like Angels; then each of them preached, God's power attended the word, numbers falling, some convulsed, others crying out for mercy; that day's worship ended; the next day they were to dip, as they called it in those days. I went home heavy hearted, knowing myself in a wicked state; I informed my wife what I had seen and heard she was much disgusted for fear I should be dipped too; she begged I would not go again, but I told her I must see them dipped. I went, and an awful day to me it was; one of those ministers preached before Baptism and then moved on to the water, near a quarter of a mile; the people moved in solemn order, singing 'Lord, what a wretched land is this, etc.' Though it was a strange thing in that part of the world, yet I think the people behaved orderly; a great many tears dropped at
the water, and not a few from my eyes. The first man brother Waller led in had been dancing master to whom brother Waller said he had given a gold piece to learn him to dance, and now he was about to baptize him in the name of the Lord Jesus. I think eleven were baptized that day. . . .
"In the fall of the next year I moved lower down to Cumberland county; there I shook off the awful feelings I have named above, and yoked in with a parcel of ruffians and took to dissipation, but with a guilty conscience. The Lord sent his servants in that part, as under-shepherds, to hunt up his lost sheep, and pretty soon a number of our dear neighbors were converted to God ... among the rest, my wife; though she once opposed me, she was the first effectually called of God.7
She made a profession in the absence of her husband from home. He was displeased and told her to go and see Parson McRoberts (Episcopal) "that he would convince her that infant baptism was the right mode". She replied "that she was fond of hearing him preach, but that she would not pin her faith to his sleeves". For months he kept her from being baptized. Later under the preaching of David Tinsley, William Hickman was saved, February 24, and during the following April was baptized by Reuben Ford, who had baptized his wife the fall before.
Soon Hickman and the other converts organized a prayer meeting. In all there were nine men, women and young people, who carried on the prayer meeting. In a few years the result was 'the organization of the Skin-quarter Church and the nine men became ministers. Among these were William Hickman, George Smith, George Stokes Smith, John Dupuy, Edward Maxey, Jeremiah Hatcher and two others. On February 23, 1776, he left his home in Virginia with five companions, and after a journey of thirty-six days arrived in Harrodsburg on April 1. Here Mr. Hickman found that Thomas Tinsley was preaching on the Sabbath days.
He says in his Life and Travels: "We got to Harrodstown the first day of April, 1776. Myself, Brother Thomas Tinsley, my old friend, Mr. Morton, took our lodging at Mr. Gordon's, four miles from town. Mr. Tinsley was a good old preacher, Mr. Morton, a good, pious Presbyterian, and love and friendship abounded among us. We went nearly every Sunday to hear Mr. Tinsley preach. I usually concluded his meetings. One Sunday morning, isitting at the head of a spring at this place, he laid the Bible on my thigh and said, 'You must preach today'. He said if I did not, he would not. It set me in a tremor. I knew he would not draw back. I took the book and turned to the 23rd Chapter of Numbers, 10th verse: 'Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his'. I suppose I spoke fifteen or twenty minutes, a good deal scared, thinking if I had left any gaps down, he would put them up. He followed me with a good discourse but never mentioned any blunders". The above quotation gives the only account of Thomas Tinsley, the second pioneer preacher in Kentucky. William Hickman was not an ordained preacher when he delivered his first sermon in Harrodsburg.
After William Hickman spent sixty days in Kentucky on his first visit in 1776, already referred to, he returned to Virginia, arriving on June 24 after an absence of about four months. He was ordained to the ministry
in 1778 by Elders George Smith and James Dupree at the age of thirty-one, about two years after preaching the first sermon in Kentucky. Hickman spent eight years of active service in Virginia, enduring many hardships for the sake of the gospel.
On the sixteenth of August, 1784, Elder Hickman, with his family started on the long journey to Kentucky, and arrived on November 9 in what is now Garrard County, at the home of George Stokes Smith, his fellow worker in the ministry in Virginia. He speaks thus of this journey: "We took plenty of provision with us, and drove two milch cows, that gave milk for the children and my wife's coffee. The fatigues of the journey were too tedious to mention. We proceeded to the wilderness; it rained almost every day, which made it dreadful traveling; the waters were deep and no ferry boats the children and myself wet both day and night . . . wet and dirty, poor spectacles we were, but thank God, all in common health; the Lord was with us through the whole journey.
"The next day which was Sunday, there was a meeting at brother Smith's, and, as unprepared as I was, I had to try to preach, though there were three other preachers there . . . old brother W. Marshall was there, and invited me to where he lived, a place called the Knobs. Some time afterwards I went to see him and we soon got acquainted he appeared to set some store by me, but thought I was tinctured with Arminianism. I thought he was strenuous on eternal justification, but never disagreed so as to have hard thoughts."8
On the fifth of April, 1785, Mr. Hickman moved his family to the North side of the Kentucky River. On the fourth Saturday of the same month, he and his wife united with the South Elkhorn Church, Lewis Craig, pastor. On January 17, 1788, Elder Hickman moved to Forks of Elkhorn, where his friends had persuaded him to locate, and had arranged to present him with one hundred acres of land. His soul winning preaching resulted in the constitution of the Forks of Elkhorn Church on the second Saturday in June 1788. He became pastor, which position, with the exception of about two years, he held until the day of his death on Friday, January 24, 1834, a period of forty-five years. He probably baptized more happy converts than any other pioneer preacher. John Taylor says, "His preaching is a plain and solemn style, and the sound of it like that of thunder at a distance but when in his best gears, his sound is like thunder at home, and operates with prodigious force on the consciences of his hearers".9
William Hickman was married twice and reared a large family. His oldest son, William Hickman, was long pastor in Kentucky. Captain Paschal Hickman, another son, fell in the bloody battle of the River Raisin January 1813 and in his honor, Hickman County was named. The friends of Mr. Hickman gave him a home with land. "Here they established Mr. Hickman . . . until his death, and when he passed away, he and both his wives (he was married twice) were buried in a blue grass pasture just outside the yard. There the Daughters of the American Revolution found their bones, which they removed to the lot in the Frankfort Cemetery, set apart for the burial of Revolutionary soldiers".10
JOHN TAYLOR was probably the fourth pioneer preacher to visit Kentucky, followed by Joseph Redding, but like William Hickman, they remained only a short time.
John Taylor was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1752, While a youth, his parents moved over the Blue Ridge Mountains and settled on the Shenandoah River in Frederick County. At the age of seventeen years, young Taylor heard the gospel preached by William Marshall, who later settled permanently in Kentucky. He began to read the Bible and pray. Many were converted and baptized. Among these were two brothers, Joseph and Isaac Redding, who began to hold meetings soon after they were saved. John Taylor says: "Under the preaching of the Reddings the poor rags of my righteousness took fire and burnt me to death". After great remorse, and agony of mind for several months, he at last found peace and was baptized at the age of twenty years by the devoted "prisoner of the Lord" James Ireland. He soon began to warn sinners to "flee the wrath to come".
After beginning to preach, Taylor had such a desire to communicate with his friend, Joseph Redding, who had moved to South Carolina, that he set out to that State to be with him. They returned to Virginia the next Spring (1773) and labored in the gospel, sometimes together in the frontier settlements.
In the fall of 1779, John Taylor, set out to visit Kentucky. He came through the Cumberland Gap on horseback over the mountains, through the wilderness. At the same time, Joseph Redding started down the Ohio River in a flat boat with his family and some emigrants, principally from his churches. The Reddings were delayed by the wreck of their boat, and did not reach the Falls until March of the following year (1780). They suffered the cold of the severe winter, and soon after arriving, were filled with grief over the death of one of the children. Mrs. Redding was probably the first preacher's wife who came to Kentucky. Redding found the people of the Bear Grass Creek settlement so shut up in the fort for protection from the Indians that there was no opportunity to preach the gospel. John Taylor says, "All things bore such a gloomy appearance, as to preaching, that we returned again to Virginia, and resumed our former travels for about two years".11
After returning to Virgina, John Taylor married, and later inherited some property from an uncle. He continued his ministerial labors until 1783, when he decided to move to Kentucky and make his permanent home there. Semple says: "Mr. Taylor also, about 1783, moved to Kentucky, and has been there, as he was in Virginia, a preacher of weight, wisdom, and usefulness".12
Mr. Taylor thus describes his experience on the way to Kentucky: "It was a gloomy thing at this time to move to Kentucky. . . . Without a single friend or acquaintance to accompany me, with my young helpless family, to feel all the horrors that then lay in the way to Kentucky, we took water at Redstone; and for want of a better opening, I paid for a passage in a lonely, ill fixed boat of strangers. The river being low, this lonesome boat was about seven weeks before she landed at Beargrass; not a soul was then settled on the Ohio between Wheeling and Louisville, a space of five or six hundred miles, and not one hour, day or night, in safety".
After a few days at Bear Grass, John Taylor set out with his family on an eighty mile journey through the wilderness to Craig Station on Gilbert Creek in Lincoln County. He thus describes the mode of travel over this eighty mile distance: "Nearly all I owned was at stake. I had three horses. Two of them were packed, the other my wife rode with as much lumber besides as the beast could bear. I had four black people, one man and three smaller ones. The pack horses were led, one by myself, the other by my man; the trace, what there was, being so narrow and bad, we had no chance, but to wade through all the mud, rivers and creeks, we came to. . . . We only camped in the woods one night, where we could only look for protection from the Lord. One Indian might have defeated us; for though I had a rifle, I had very little skill to use it. After six days of painful travel of this kind, we arrived at Craig's Station, a little before Christmas (1783), and about three months after our start from Virginia. Through all this rugged travel my wife was in a very helpless state; for about one month after our arrival, my son Ben was born".
Here John Taylor began his long ministry in Kentucky, as will be seen in another chapter. Joseph Redding, Taylor's devoted yoke fellow in the ministry, continued his work in Virginia until 1789, when he came to Kentucky, to spend the remainder of his life.
Not until 1780 did the pioneer preachers begin to settle permanently in Kentucky. During this same year a great tide of emigration was flowing from Virginia into the new country, forming settlements. Among them were many Baptists. Some of the Baptist ministers in 1780 were William Marshall, John Whitaker, Benjamin Lynn, Joseph Barnett, James Skaggs, and probably others who are unknown. At this time there was not a Baptist church in all the territory of Kentucky.
WILLIAM MARSHALL was born in 1735 in the Northern neck of Virginia. He came from a very prominent family, and was reared in affluence. He was an uncle of the distinguished Chief Justice John Marshall, appointed to that high office by President John Adams. He was converted and baptized in 1768 in a great revival conducted by the Separate Baptists. John Taylor thus speaks of him: "He soon began to preach, and a flaming zealot he was. His preaching was of the loud thunder gust kind. His labors were mostly employed on the waters of Shenandoah River, west of the Blue Ridge. It was not long before the people became marvelously affected, and their cries would often drown Mr. Marshall's voice while preaching. To see one or more thousands of people gathered at a large meeting house, lately put up, without room to receive them, and in the dead of winter the people standing in the snow for hours together to hear the word, and hundreds at once crying out for mercy, or loudly rejoicing in hope".
Multitudes were saved in these meetings conducted by William Marshall, but not having been ordained, Samuel Harris, the great Separate Baptists' evangelist, traveled 200 miles to baptize the converts. The baptizing occured in 1770, and was performed in the Shenandoah River. The South River Separate Church was immediately organized, and Marshall became its pastor following his ordination. It was in these services, that the two brothers, Joseph and Isaac Redding, were converted, and later, John Taylor, to which reference has already been made.
Elder Marshall continued a fruitful ministry about twelve years before moving to Kentucky in 1780, where his labors were not as successful as they had been in Virginia, yet he rendered valuable service for several years. Accidently falling from his horse, he was so injured, that he could not be active in the ministry for some time. During this period, he devoted his time to study, and made some hurtful changes in his doctrinal views. John Taylor writes thus about this special study: "He now studied consistently, beginning with God's decrees. There he found eternal justification, couched in the doctrine of election; and so on with the several links of his chain, till he was led to find out that the gospel address was only to certain characters which, when explained, were already righteous. . . ."
When William Marshall found that his Baptist brethren could not endure such "strong meat" of the gospel, he began to doubt their Christianity and soundness in the faith. The Little Fox Run Church in Shelby County, where he held his membership, excluded him. He never returned to the church, but died a few years after at the age of seventy-five. John Taylor says of William Marshall, "In his days of success, he preached after the Apostolic mode, strongly urging repentance towards God and faith in Christ Jesus and with longing, heart melting invitations, exhorting every sinner in his congregaton to seek the salvation of his soul".13
JOHN WHITAKER, who was one of the first pioneer preachers to settle in Kentucky in 1780, is supposed to have come from Maryland and probably arrived earlier than William Marshall. Though advanced in years, yet he was very active, and rendered valuable service in fifty miles of Louisville, aiding in constituting most of the churches in that section and was the first pastor of Bear Grass Church.
BENJAMIN LYNN, known as "the hunter preacher", according to the latest authority was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1750. When only seventeen years of age, he left home and plunged into the forest region, Northwest of the Ohio River, where he spent seven years away from his people. Here he lived among the several tribes of Indians and became familiar with their language and customs. He visited the French settlements as far west as the Mississippi River and as far South as Natchez, "hunting, trapping and learning the country as he went".
In 1776, he visited the station at Harrodsburg, and remained there for a time, assisting the settlers in preparing for an Indian attack, and giving them the benefit of his knowledge and experience. He was a skilled Indian fighter and had achieved the honor of a Lieutenant. During the prolonged horrible siege of Harrodsburg, Benjamin Lynn was married to Hannah Sovereign, whose father was killed by the Indians. General George Rogers Clark records the marriage in his diary, which shows that on July 9, 1776, "Lt. Lynn married. Great merriment".
The date that Benjamin Lynn became a Baptist preacher is not known. However, it is certain that in 1780 there were three Separate Baptist preachers in Kentucky, William Marshall, Benjamin Lynn, and James Skaggs. In the Summer of 1782, he and James Skaggs gathered the South Fork Church, located in what is now LaRue County. This was the first Separate Baptist Church formed in the State. Lynn also led in the constitution
of the Pottengers Creek Church in Nelson County, of which he became pastor. He was also pastor of South Fork and Level Wood Churches as long as he remained in Nelson County. Sometime after 1790, he moved into what is now Green County, where later he joined the New Lights, led by Barton W. Stone. Benjamin Lynn was regarded as a good preacher, a man of undoubted piety, and devoted to the cause of Christ. His name is perpetuated in Nolin River, and Lynn Camp Creek, and honored in Nolin Church, Lynn Camp Association, Lynn Association, and Lynnland Institute, which was utilized for the Kentucky Baptist Childrens' Home in 1915.14
JOSEPH BARNETT came from Virginia to Kentucky some time during 1780 and settled in what is now Nelson County. He was a Regular Baptist, and was active in the Ketockton Association in Virginia which was constituted in 1766. He was a faithful servant of the Lord, and rendered effective service in forming some of the earlier churches.
LEWIS CRAIG, a distinguished pioneer preacher in Virginia and Kentucky, was born in Orange County in old Dominion in 1737. He was the son of Toliver and Polly Hawkins Craig, who raised a family of eleven children, seven sons and four daughters. Three of the sons became Baptist preachers, Lewis, Elijah, and Joseph; while Betsy, the youngest daughter and child, married Richard Cave, a pioneer preacher, who came to Kentucky. Lewis Craig in early life married Betsy Landers. In 1765, Samuel Harris, a Baptist preacher of great power and prominence, visited Orange County, and under his ministry Toliver Craig and his family were converted and became Baptists. Many people in the community experienced salvation during the revival. When Elder Harris left, he exhorted the converts, who had special talents to exercise their gifts in holding mettings, though they had not been baptized, as Harris was not an ordained minister.15
Up to this time, Lewis Craig lived "in all kinds of vanity, folly and vice": but under the preaching of Samuel Harris, he was convicted of sin, and struggled under a conscious load of guilt for days. John Taylor thus describes his condition: "Mr. Craig's great pressure of guilt induced him to follow the preachers from one meeting to another, and when preaching ended, he would rise up in tears, and loudly exclaim that he was a justly condemned sinner, and with loud voice warn the people to fly from the wrath to come, and except they were born again, with himself they would all go to hell together; while under his exhortation, the people would weep and cry aloud for mercy. In this manner, his ministry began before he himself had hope of conversion, and after relief came to him, he went on preaching a considerable time, before he was baptized, no administrator being near, many being converted under his labors".16
Shortly after his conversion, he was arrested and indicted by the Grand Jury "for holding unlawful conventicles and preaching contrary to law". John Waller was a member of the Grand Jury that indicted him. It was frequently remarked by the people "that there could be no deviltry unless swearing Jack was at the head of it. He was sometimes called the Devil's adjutant to muster the troops. To all this may be added his fury against the Baptists".
Craig observed that the Grand Jury was dismissed to go to a grog shop. In order to gain their attention, he bought them a mug of grog and
while they were drinking, Lewis Craig began to speak thus: "I thank you, gentlemen of the grand jury, for the honor you have done me. While I was wicked and injurious, you took no notice of me; but since I have altered my course of life, and endeavoured to reform my neighbors, you concern yourselves much about me. I have gotten you this mug of grog to treat you with; and shall take the spoiling of my goods joyfully". When John Waller heard him speak "in that manner and observed the meekness of his spirit, he was convinced that Craig was possessed of something that he had never seen in man before". Waller began to attend their meeting, and became so deeply convicted of sin that he had no peace until he was saved about eight months later.17
Lewis Craig was baptized sometime during 1766, when James Reed was brought from North Carolina by Elijah Craig and two others to baptize the converts in Orange County, left by Samuel Harris the year before. It appears that Craig and his fellow workers were not persecuted for about three years, when another attack was made on the Baptists. Spencer says: "On the 4th of June, 1768, Lewis Craig, John Waller (now a preacher) and James Childs were seized by the Sheriff while engaged in public worship, and brought before three magistrates in the meeting house yard. They were held to bail in a thousand pounds, to appear in court two days afterwards. They were arraigned before the court as disturbers of the peace."
During the trial, they were vehemently accused by the prosecuting lawyer thus: "May it please your worships, these men are great disturbers of the peace; they cannot meet a man on the road, but they must ram a text of scripture down his throat". John Waller, who had been educated in the law, made his own defense and for his brethren, so ingeniously that they were somewhat puzzled, how to dispose of them. They offered to release them for a year and a day, if they would promise to preach no more in the county. This they refused to do and were committed at once to jail.
As they were moving from the Court house to the prison through the streets, they sang the hymn, "Broad is the road that leads to Death". A great crowd followed them, and the scene was awfully solemn. "After four weeks' confinement, Lewis Craig was released from prison, and immediately went down to Williamsburg, to get a release for his companions".18
In 1770 Lewis Craig was ordained to the ministry and became pastor of the Upper Spotsylvania Church, then with twenty-five members. During a revival in 1776 over one hundred were added to the church. He led in gathering three new churches during his ministry in Virginia. One year after his ordination, Lewis Craig was arrested in Caroline County, Virginia, for preaching the gospel, and sent to jail for three months. He continued as pastor of Upper Spotsylvania with great success, until 1781, when he moved to Kentucky.
ELIJAH CRAIG, a third son of Toliver Craig was born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1743. Immediately following his conversion he began preaching and exhorting with his brother, Lewis Craig, and other young Christians. He furnished his tobacco barn as a preaching place. He was ordained
to the ministry in 1771 and became pastor of the Blue Run Church, which he constituted. The church prospered under his ministry. "He was accounted a preacher of considerable talents for that day".19
Elijah Craig suffered persecution along with many other pioneer preachers in Virginia. While he was ploughing in his own field, the authorities sent the Sherriff to arrest him. He was taken before the magistrate of Culpeper, who at once ordered him to jail. Later he and thriee companions were brought to trial. One of the lawyers informed the Court that it would be better to discharge these men, as holding them advanced their cause rather than retarded it. But the Court decided otherwise and sent them to jail, to be fed on bread and water to the injury of their health. While in prison, they preached through the bars to all who came. After one month they gave bond for good behavior and were released. Later Elijah Craig was sent to jail in Orange County, Virginia, for the same offense of causing disturbances by preaching the gospel. He continued his ministry in Virginia until 1786, when he moved to Kentucky and was one of the pioneer preachers in the new country. His brother, Lewis Craig, preceded him five years before with the Traveling Church through the wilderness.20
JOSEPH CRAIG, a younger brother of Lewis and Elijah, and The fifth son of Toliver Craig was also born in Orange County, Virginia, about 1747. Like his brothers, soon after he was saved, he began to exhort sinners to repent. While Joseph Craig with a number of preachers was holding services at Guinea Bridge Church, Spotsylvania County, Virginia, they were all arrested and carried before the Magistrate. Semple says: Among them was Joseph Craig, remarkable for his eccentric manners. On their way to the magistrate's house, Mr. Craig thinking it no dishonor to cheat the devil, as he termed it, slipped off the horse, and took to the bushes. They hunted him with dogs, but Asahel like, being light of foot, he made good his retreat."21
Joseph Craig came to Kentucky in 1781 with his brother, Lewis Craig, and the Traveling Church. Here his peculiarities were observed as in his ministry in Virginia. He was said to be "cracked some times", a "curious sort of man". But he said he was "cracked on the right side of his head". He claimed he "got the richest of any of the Craigs, but it was by farming". When Bryant's Station was attacked by the Indians, "Joe Craig, one of the first Baptist preachers in Kentucky, was there. . . . He went out and threw himself on the ground, and wrestled and prayed, 'till at length he got up and came and told the women they might run the bullets, the Lord would save the city. Some of the women really believed he was a man of God if ever there was one".22 Joseph Craig was never more than a moderate exhorter, but it is said of him that "he maintained an unblemished reputation and was zealous, and diligent in his calling". He filled his place of service in Kentucky, as he had done in Virginia.
JOSHUA MORRIS, a prominent preacher in Virginia, came to Kentucky in 1788, where he spent the remaining years of his life in planting and serving churches. This distinguished brother was born in James City County, Virginia, in 1750. He was saved and baptized under the ministry of Elijah Baker, who suffered great persecution. Soon after his baptism Mr. Morris became active as an exhorter. He later moved into the vicinity
of the Boar Swamp Church of which he became a member. While living here he began holding services at the home of one Mr. Franklin, near the town of Richmond, Virginia, where he baptized several converts. Later he moved into the town to live, and there constituted the First Baptist Church in Richmond in 1780 and became the first pastor.23 In Kentucky, he first labored in Shelby County, where he gathered several churches. He then moved to Nelson County, where he died about 1837. Elder Morris was pastor of some of the oldest churches in Kentucky.
JOHN SHACKLEFORD was another preacher who suffered great persecution before coming to Kentucky to finish his ministry. He was born in Caroline County, Virginia, in 1850, and began his ministry at the age of twenty-two and was active for six years before he was ordained. During the six years Elder Shackleford spent a term in the Essex County jail.
Semple gives the following account of this imprisonment: On March 13, 1774, the day on which the Piscataway Church was constituted, a warrant was issued to arrest all the Baptist preachers, who were at the meeting. Accordingly John Waller, John Shackleford, Robert Ware, and Ivison Lewis, were taken and carried before the Magistrate. All were sent to prison except Lewis, who was dismissed, not having preached in tlhe county. While in prison God permitted them to pass through divers and fiery trials; their minds for a season, being greatly harrassed by the enemy of souls, they, however, preached twice weekly, gave much godly advice to those, who came to visit them, read a great deal, and prayed almost without ceasing. They continued in prison from March 13 to March 21, which was court day, being brought to trial, they were requested to give bond and security for good behavior for twelve months, or go back to jail. Ware and Shackleford gave bond and returned home. Waller was released fourteen days later.24
Soon after being released from prison, John Shackleford was ordained and became pastor of the Tuckahoe Church, which had been gathered by Lewis Craig. Though this was a small church, a great revival came to it in 1788, and Pastor Shackleford baptized about three hundred converts. In 1792, this servant of God moved to Kentucky at the age of forty-two years, where he continued his ministry under some trying conditions, as we shall see in another chapter.
JOHN GANO is referred to as one of the most eminent and learned pioneer preachers among those who came to Kentucky. He was born in Hopewell, New Jersey, July 22, 1727. In early life he professed conversion and united with the Presbyterian Church, of which his father, Stephen Gano, was a member, but his mother was a Baptist. He later united with the Baptist Church at Hopewell. He was soon convinced that he should preach the gospel and began to make preparation for that high calling.
In 1751, at the age of twenty-four years, John Gano accompanied a number of Baptist preachers to Virginia, who had been sent out as mission-aries by the Philadelphia Association, On this tour, he preached his first sermon before being licensed or ordained. When the news of his preaching reached the Hopewell Church, they regarded him as out of order. On his return, he informed the churche that he did not mean to act disorderly. In 1754 he was ordained to the ministry and made several preaching tours through the Southern Colonies.
He was married to Sarah Stites, a sister of the wife of James Manning, the founder and first president of Rhode Island College, which later became Brown University.
In 1762 John Gano assisted in the constitution of the First Baptist Church of New York City and immediately became the first pastor. When the War of the American Revolution began in 1776, he entered the Army as Chaplain and continued until the close of the struggle, when he returned to his pastorate in New York. Here he remained until 1786, when he was induced to move to Kentucky. He arrived with his family at Limestone, Mason County, on June 11, 1787, and preached his first sermon in the town of Washington. In a short time he moved to the neighborhood of Lexington, in Fayette County. He became a co-laborer with Lewis Craig, William Hick-man, John Taylor, Ambrose Dudley, and other pioneer preachers, all of whom had preceded him to Kentucky.
This distinguished minister was in his sixtieth year when he arrived in Kentucky and was permitted to give ten years of active service as pastor and in building up the churches. He died near Frankfort August 9, 1804 in the 78th year of his age.25
AMBROSE DUDLEY, another distinguished pioneer preacher to Kentucky, was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in 1750. At the beginning of the War of the Revolution, he entered the American Army as Captain. While stationed at Williamsburg, Virginia, he was converted, and on returning home was ordained, and became pastor of the church at Spotsylvania. After preaching several years with good success, he moved with his young family to Kentucky, arriving at his destination in Fayette County, May 3, 1786. He settled six miles East of Lexington, and in a few weeks became pastor of the church at Bryant's Station. Later he was called to the care of the Davids Fork Church, which was organized out of the Bryant Church. He remained pastor of these two churches preaching at many other parts, through his natural life. During the revival of 1801, Pastor Dudley welcomed 421 members into the church at Bryant Station. He was moderator of the Elkhorn Association several times. He was in the formation of the Licking Association in 1810, and was elected moderator and served in that honored position until his death January 27, 1825, at the age of 73 years.
Ambrose Dudley is described as a man of fine natural gifts, with superior education and clear practical judgment. He was married in his youth to Miss N. Parker and at his death left eleven sons, three daughters, and nearly one hundred grandchildren. The Dudleys have contributed much to Kentucky Baptists as we shall see.26
THOMAS AMMON was another pioneer preacher, who came to Kentucky from Virginia, where he was active in the ministry. The evidence is that he was a wicked youth, but experienced a remarkable conversion, and became a member of the Crooked Run Baptist Church in Culpeper County, and was later raised up for the ministry in that church. At the time Thomas Ammon began to preach, the established church in Virginia was persecuting Baptists for preaching the gospel "contrary to law". John Taylor says: "He began to preach in the time of hot persecution in Virginia,
and was honored as many others were, with a place in Culpeper prison for a testimony of his divine Master".
While Thomas Ammon was in prison, the tradition in the family is "that he preached through the windows of the prison to crowds, and that his voice was so strong that he could be heard for a mile in the open air, either preaching or singing". He was released from prison and after the close of the Revolutionary War, came to Kentucky, but it is difficult to determine the time of his arrival. Thomas Ammon was probably the first and only pastor of the Hickmans Creek Separate Baptist Church, in Fayette County, which was organized about 1790, and he was listed among its members, as an ordained minister. John Taylor states that he labored with Thomas Ammon in Kentucky as well as in Virginia; and also speaks of a young mother becoming "alarmed of her awful sins", because of the preaching of Thomas Ammon at Clear Creek Church, where John Taylor was pastor.
The Minutes of the Elkhorn Association for the session beginning May 30, 1789 indicates that Thomas Ammon was a messenger to the Association from South Elkhorn Church. Also in the Minutes of the Elkhorn Association for 1803, 1805-1808, Thomas Ammon was listed as an ordained minister in Brushy Fork Church, and a messenger to the Association.
Thus this old pioneer preacher was connected with the early Baptist work in Kentucky. His death occured about 1811, and he was buried near Millersburg, in Bourbon County, but the place of his burial has not been located. The estate of Thomas Ammon, amounting to $4,393.50, was settled February 16, 1815. Elizabeth Ammon, his wife, was living and received a child's share of the estate. Of the nine daughters, the one named Fannie will be connected wtih future Kentucky Baptist history.
Thomas Ammon owned a watch, made in London, which he carried, while in Culpeper jail before the Revolutionary War. This watch came into the possession of John Holliday, a grandson of Thomas Ammon, and a son of William Holliday and Fannie Ammon Holliday. John Holliday was born April 4, 1797, was converted in 1828, united witih the Millersburg Baptist Church, where he was ordained the following year, and became pastor and served thirty years. He spent most of his active ministry in Bracken and Union Associations; and continued active in the work until 1876, nearly fifty years. This old preacher came to the close of life destitute, and in want. A well known preacher, J. M. Bent, visited him and called attention to his destitute condition in the Western Recorder, October 13, 1881, in which he stated "He is the grandson of one, who went to prison for his faith".
After John Holliday's death on October 9, 1881, at Millersburg, J. M. Bent gave a sketch of his life in the Western Recorder, November 24, 1881, and refers to his visit to the old preacher mentioned above as follows: "At this visit there was hanging on the wall the watch, that he had carried for years, which had been the property of his grandfather Ammon, which he wore in jail. What a Baptist relic is that watch, linking the present with
the past". This watch was finally in possession of Mr. James Robert Bullock, Louisville, Kentucky, a grandson of John Holliday. On October 12, 1944, this same watch was presented to Dr. Ellis A. Fuller, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary by Dr. James A. Stewart, pastor of the Broadway Baptist Church, wihere Mr. Bullock was a member. This old historic watch was placed in the museum of the Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.27
1. Collins, Lewis, History of Kentucky, Revised, Vol. 1, p. 416.
2. Thwaites, Reuben Gold, Daniel Boone, p. 1.
3. Cotterill, R. S., History of Pioneer Kentucky, p. 243; Collins, Lewis, op. cit. Vol. 1, p. 511.
4. Jillson, Willard Rouse, "Squire Boone; a Sketch of His Life," The Filson Club History Quarterly, July, 1942, p. 155, 156.
5. Ridenour, George L., Early Times in Meade County, Kentucky, p. 2, 3, 24, 96.
6. Collins, Lewis H., op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 21, 355; Vol. 2, p. 710, 712; Jillson, Willard Rouse, op. cit., p. 162; Spraker Hazel Atterbury, The Boone Family, p. 81.
7. Hickman, William, Life and Travels of William Hickman (Typed copy).
9. Taylor, John, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, Second Edition, p. 49.
10. Frankfort (Ky.) State Journal, January 28, 1925.
11. Taylor, John, op. cit., p. 40; see also p. 13, 14.
12. Semple, Robert B., A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia, Revised Edition, p. 415.
13. Spencer, John H., A History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 1, p. 16.
14. Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 18.
15. Semple, Robert B., op. cit., p. 20.
16. Taylor, John, op. cit, p. 278.
17. Semple, Robert B., op cit., 1810 Edition, p. 404.
18. Ibid., p. 15.
19. Ibid., p. 182-183, 414-415.
20. Ibid., p. 414-417.
21. Ibid., p. 156.
22. "John D. Shane's Interview with Jesse Grady of Woodford County", The Filson Club History Quarterly, January, 1946, p. 14.
23. Semple, Robert B., op. cit., 1810 Edition, p. Ill; Revised Edition, p. 147.
24. Semple, Robert B., op. cit., Revised Edition, p. 39, 40.
25. Spencer, John H., op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 116-127.
26. Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 112-115.
27. Crismon, Leo T., Thomas Ammon, an Address delivered in Chapel at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Friday, February 23, 1945, p. 1-5.
[From A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 10-23. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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