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Baptist Problems and Progress in the District Associations

1802 - 1813
By Frank M. Masters
      The many churches constituted as a result of the great revival made it necessary to increase the number of associations. At the close of 1800, there were six such bodies, but at the close of 1810 the number had increased to fifteen. Also as a result of the same revival the Separate and Eegular Baptists were united in one body, as has already been described. When the long standing division of sixteen years was healed, and the associations entered into full correspondence, it appeared that "the golden age" of Kentucky Baptists had come. But in some instances the union WBS only external and "the leaven of malice and wickedness began to work." There was no general state body with which the churches could co-operate and all progress in spreading the gospel must be made through the associations scattered over the state. Hence in order to determine the progress made by the Baptists of Kentucky in these district bodies and the difficulties encountered, it will foe in order to give brief attention to the associations constituted during this period.

      When the last session of the South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists was held in 1801, thirty-one churches were represented in that meeting, embracing a large territory. The final action taken in this last session was to resolve to divide this territory into two associations, with vhe Kentucky River as practically the dividing line. The churches south of river were to compose the South District Association, and those on the north side, the North District Association. The churches of which these two associations were constituted had all been Separate Baptists, but the union with the Regular Baptists in 1801, they had taken the name of United Baptists, as was mentioned in another connection.1


      The messengers from twenty-four of the thirty-one churches, aggregating 1928 members, met with the Unity Church in Clark County on the first Friday in October, 1802 and constituted the North District Association. About the same time the churches south of the river went into the organization of the South District Association. The extent of the territory embraced in the North District body can be observed from the location of the churches which entered into its organization. These churches were Spencer Creek, Lulbegrud, Bethel, in Montgomery County; Providence, Unity, Red River, Upper Howard's Creek and East Fork in Clark County; Boffman's Fork, in Fayette County; Salt Lick, and Bald Eagle, in Bath County; Mt. Pleasant, in Franklin County; Tate's Creek, in Madison County; Salem and Station Camp, in Estill County; Jessamine, in Jessamine County; Grier's Creek and Hopewell, in Woodford County; while the location of five churches cannot be known. The preachers in the Association were as follows: David Scott, Robert Elkin, Leonard Turley, James Quisenberry, James Craig, Isaac Crutcher, Moses Bledsoe, Charles Finnell, Daniel

Williams, John Davis, Edward Kindred, Henry Blackgrove, James Haggard and Mahalaleel Shackle.

      One of the peculiar practices adopted by this new body was to seat corresponding messengers from other associations as members with authority to vote and take part in the transaction of business. In the session of 1804, a party from the South District Association, headed by Thomas J. Chilton, the Clerk of that body, requested the North District body to join with them in charges against two of their ministers - Jeremiah Vardeman and John Rice - but the Association refused to recognize this party or to consider their request. The slavery question was greatly agitating the churches and associations about this time.

      The Elkhorn Association in session on August 10, 1805, passed the following resolution: "This Association judges it improper for ministers, churches, or associations, to meddle with emancipation from slavery, or any other political subject; and as such we advise ministers and churches to have nothing to do therewith in their religious capacities."2 This action of Elkhorn was directed against the preachers, who were accused of giving offense to the slave-holding members of the churches by (their preaching against slavery. Among the preachers so charged, was David Barrow, who had moved from Virginia in 1802 to become pastor of the Mt. Sterling Church. He was a very strong preacher, and was opposed to slavery. Also William Hickman, pastor at Forks of Elkhorn, George Smith, Carter Tarrant and others opposed the system of slavery.

      This vexing question was introduced into the North District Association, October, 1805, by five corresponding messengers from Bracken Association. After these messengers from Bracken were seated and given all the privileges of the body, they brought five charges against David Barrow, the strongest man in the Association, on account of his sentiment on slavery. The Association heard Mr. Barrow in his own defense, and rendered the decision, that his apologies were satisfactory, but some of the churches determined to get rid of him; and new provisions were made for his expulsion.

      The Providence Church, Clark County, and Boone's Creek, in Fayette, brought in a question: ". . . how a church shall deal with a minister who propagates doctrines that are unsound or pernicious to peace and good order?" The following answer to this question was prepared and adopted: "The Association advises that a church, in such case, withdraw all the power they gave such a preacher; and that two preachers may suspend, or stop such a preacher from preaching, until he can be tried by a council of five ministers, whose decision, dn such case, ought to be obeyed until, reversed by the Association." A council of five preachers was then appointed to proceed immediately to try Mr. Barrow.

      At the next meeting of the Association, in 1806, the following appears in the Minutes of that session: "A committee or council of five ministers reported: That, agreeable to the provision made last Association, for the trial of ministers, they had been dealing with brother David Barrow, for preaching the doctrine of Emancipation, to the hurt and injury of the

brotherhood. And the Association, after considering the foregoing report, and hearing what brother Barrow had to say, in justification of his conduct, on that subject, and brother Barrow manifesting no disposition to alter his mode of preaching, as to the aforesaid doctrine, they proceed to expell him from his seat in this Association." The Association then "appointed a committee to deal with brother Barrow, in the church at Mt. Sterling, at the next monthly meeting, and report to next Association.3

      Immediately after David Barrow was expelled from the North District Association and from the Mt. Sterling Church, where he was pastor, he and others began to rally the forces to organize an Emancipation Association. "A meeting was called to convene at New Hope, in Woodford County, on the 29th of August, 1807. Eleven preachers and nineteen other messengers, were enrolled as members of the meeting. Preliminary steps were taken for the organization of an Association." On September 26, 1807, the messengers from seven churches met at the Ebenezer meeting house, in Mason County, and constituted an Emancipation body styled, "Baptized Licking-Locust Association, Friends of Humanity." Two new churches were received, making nine, with 1902 members. Carter Tarrant was chosen Moderator, and David Barrow preached one of the opening sermons. A strong, lengthy circular letter was prepared and sent out, condemning slavery in all of its forms, and describing ihe wickedness of the system.4

      Some entered this society by choice, others had been expelled from the churches and associations of which they were formerly members. Their purpose was to endeavor to secure the complete freedom of human beings in bondage. Elders Donald Holmes, David Barrow, Carter Tarrant, Jacob Gregg, George Smith and a number of others joined in the contest against the slave system. Most of these officiated as pastors where slavery was tolerated. Rev. David Barrow was by far the strongest advocate of the abolition party. He was a man of highest order of talent, and well educated for his day. He was driven to the extremes to which he attained, because of the harsh actions taken against him by the slave owners in the churches.5 The society was composed of twelve preachers and twelve churches with about three hundred members.

      In the session of 1807 the North District Association proceeded to annul and revoke the act of the last meeting of the Association in expelling Elder David Barrow from his seat in the Association. But the matter had gone too far. The Association, by this unbaptistic act, had lost three churches and two leading preachers to the abolition society, who refused to return in response to this action.6 The Association also lost heavily in the Alexander Campbell controversy. After the final division, the body met at Upper Howard's Creek Church in July, 1831, with eleven churches represented, aggregating 950 members and three preachers.

      In 1837, the anti-missionary forces so prevailed that correspondence was dropped with all the neighboring missionary associations. In 1859, the name "Old Baptist" was assumed, which indicated that it was strictly an anti-missionary body. In 1880, only nine churches were reported with 417 members, and it continued to decline until it finally went out of existence.


      The South District Association met in its first session in 1802 with the Salt River Church, located in what is now Anderson County. This new organization was formed out of the churches south of the Kentucky River, which previously belonged to the old South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists. This body was in correspondence with all the associations in the state, except Tate's Creek. When the motion was made to admit that association to correspondence a heated debate arose. Jeremiah Vardeman and John Rice, two prominent preachers, advocated with great zeal entering into this correspondence and succeeded in carrying the proposition by one vote.

      The minority submitted to the results, but claimed ibhe vote illegal and determined to bring the matter before the next session, which was held in 1803 with McCormacks Church, in Lincoln County. The venerable Joseph Bledsoe was elected Moderator and Thomas J. Chilton, Clerk. Mr. Chilton also preached the opening sermon. The messengers from twenty-four churches composed the body. When the corresponding letter from Tate's Creek Association was presented the discussion became intense. John Bailey and Joseph Bledsoe led the opposition, while Jeremiah Vardeman and John Rice earnestly favored accepting the letter of correspondence. The motion was defeated by a large majority, and the corresponding letter from Tate's Creek Association was rejected.

      The time for the separation of the two factions had come. Jeremiah Vardeman and John Rice at once withdrew from the body followed by a number of their adherents. This minority group immediately organized themselves under the name of the South District Association, but the majority body in session in the house resented the action, claiming the name and all the prerogatives of the Association. But the following year all the associations recognized the minority organization as the orderly South District Association and with the same unanimity rejected the majority body.

      The first meeting of this new South District Association, of which the records have been preserved was held in September, 1806 with the Cartwright's Creek Church, located in what is now Marion County. This session was represented by fifteen churches, aggregating 937 members. These churches were: Forks of Dix River, Gilbert's Creek and Sugar Creek in Garrard County; Deep Creek, Stony Point, Shawnee Run, and Unity, in Mercer County; Salt River, in Anderson County; Rush Branch and McCormacks, in Lincoln County; Doctors Fork and Hanging Fork (Providence), in Boyle County; Pleasant Run and Buffalo Creek, in Washington County; and Cartwright's Creek (Lebanon), in Marion County. The preachers were Randolph Hall, James Kell, John Rice, Jeremiah Vandeman, James Rogers and Owen Owens.

      The Association seems to have had a steady growth from 1817, when a revival prevailed in the churches for several years. In 1820, the Association was composed of twenty-one churches with 1703 members; in 1860, it numbered twenty-six churches with 3147; and in 1880 twenty-four

churches with 2594 members. This Association is now a prosperous body (1946) with twenty-nine cooperating churches and 10,522 members. The largest church in 1947 was the Lexington Avenue, Church, Danville, with 1335 members and R. R. Couey, pastor; while the second largest was the First Church, Danville, with 1075 members and with W. E. Todd, pastor. The latter was succeeded in 1948 by Ray E. Roberts.


      It has been narrated, that, when the test vote was taken in the South District Association in 1803 over receiving the corresponding letter from the Tate's Creek Association, the minority withdrew and organized the present South District Association, while the majority party remained in the house and continued the transaction of business. One of the first questions raised was whether to approve the reception of John Bailey. This brilliant preacher had been excluded by the old South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists in 1791 for preaching Universalism, or Redemption from Hell, but he was restored to fellowship in 1799, without ever having renounced his heresy. In 1803 when a query was submitted as to whether "the association approbate the reception of John Bailey" he was approved in the following resolution: "Upon hearing his willing submission to our association and church government; also (to) the terms of union with Elkhorn Association, they do." After this action the corresponding messengers present from Elkhorn Association, at once, withdrew from the body.7

      This Association met in 1804 at Rifes meeting house, Lincoln County, with messengers from twenty-two churches, aggregating 827 members. John Bailey was elected (Moderator, and Thomas J. Chilton, Clerk. The name of South District Association of separate Baptists was adopted. They then declared "The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments a sufficient rule for both faith and practice, exclusive of all human compositions, set up as orthodox, either in Associations or churches." It was stated in a Circular Letter issued in a conference held in October, 1804 that their corresponding letters and messengers had been rejected by Elkhorn, North District and Green River associations. The Association now stood alone, having been cut off from all correspondence with other Baptist bodies. This was the only Association of Separate Baptists in the South at that time. There was no other similar body with which this one could correspond by letter or messengers.

      In the session of 1805, the question of open communion was discussed, but the decision was against the practice. However, this same Association adopted the following in 1873: "Resolved that no person has the right to debar one of God's children from his table."

      In 1806, the name of the body was changed to South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists, omitting the term "District" and substituting "Kentucky." Russell's Creek and Cumberland River associations attempted to draw this South Kentucky body into the general union of Baptists, but received the following reply: "This Association is willing

to unite with all Christians, on the Old and New Testaments, as the only rule of faith and practice." This Association has been anti-missionary from its origin, both in theory and practice. In 1816 it resolved not to be a party to any missionary institution.

      In 1819, this South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists comprised about fifty churches with approximately 2000 members. The territory was so extended, that it was thought expedient to form a new association. Accordingly, Thomas J. Chilton, Michael Dillingham, James Prather and Richard Shackleford, some of their leading preachers, were appointed to meet the messengers at Little Mount Church, in what is now Larue County, for the purpose of preparing and adopting a Constitution. The new organization was called Nolynn Association of Separate Baptists, consisting of fifteen churches with about eight hundred members. This left the mother Association in 1824 only twenty-six churches with 1231 members. The New Lights under Barton W. Stone took off 311 members in 1827.

      The followers of Alexander Campbell in 1831 drew off more members. By these disturbances, the Association lost twelve churches, so that by 1834 the body was reduced to sixteen churches with 725 members. By 1874, the mother body comprised twenty-nine churches with 1312 members. In 1876, several churches were dismissed to form a new organization by the name of East Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists. The original South Kentucky body was corresponding with Nolynn and East Kentucky Associations of Separate Baptists in 1880. The report is that there are still seperate Baptist churches scattered over Kentucky (1946). One of the principal Articles of Faith adopted in 1873 was "The Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the Washing of the saint's feet are ordinances of the gospel, that should be kept until the coming of the Lord and Master."8


      The North Bend Association, a small body, was constituted at Dry Creek meeting house, in what is now Kenton County, on Friday, July 29, 1803, composed of messengers from nine churches, with 429 members. The growth of this Association was very slow until 1811, when the churches enjoyed a revival, and 277 converts were baptized. Again in 1817 a revival began and continued two years, resulting in 728 baptisms, and the number of churches was increased to sixteen with 1453 members. In 1825 there were twenty-five churches dismissed to form Campbell Association, which became Campbell County Association in 1830. In 1831 four churches were dismissed to form Ten Mile Association. "In 1880 it comprised thirteen churehes aggregating 1412 members. During sixty-two of the first 77 years of its existence, its churches reported 4549 baptisms."9 The Association was composed of thirty-two churches with a membership of 12,088 in 1946, of which the Bullittsburg Church, organized in 1794, was the oldest. In 1947 the Latonia Church, Covington, was the largest with 1,930 members of which John E. Huss was pastor.


      The Salem Association, in its nineteenth session, dismissed twenty-four churches north of the Salt River, whose messengers met at the Long Run

meeting house in Jefferson County, on the 16th day of September, 1803, to form a new association. The opening sermon was preached by the noted John Taylor from the text, "Therefore, my beloved brethern, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). After the enrollment of messengers, James Dupuy, who came to Kentucky from Virginia in 1788, was elected Moderator, and William Ford, Clerk. The name "Long Run Association" was adopted, and the new body tendered correspondence to Salem and Elkhorn associations.

      It was agreed unanimously that the Association be constituted on the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, "excepting some things contained in the 3rd and 5th articles, if construed so as to make God the author of sin. Also, in the 31st article, respecting laying hands on newly baptized persons, that the using or not using that ceremony, be no bar to fellowship." Two new churches were received - East Floyd's Creek, and Port William. These twenty-six churches are located in Jefferson, Shelby, Spencer, Henry, Trimble, Carroll, Oldham, and Anderson Counties in Kentucky, and Floyd County in Indiana.

      The session of 1804 was held with the Six Mile Church in Shelby County. Four new churches were received. The most important of these was Drennon's Creek, which had been a member of the Elkhorn Association since 1799, and was later located in New Castle, the county seat of Henry County, and took the name of that town. This was probably the largest church in the state at that time.

      The meeting of 1805 was held with the Brashear's Creek Church. The subject of Free Masonry was discussed, and it was decided that "any member of our society is condemnable in joining a Freemason lodge."

      From the constitution of the Long Run Association, till 1809, a great spiritual dearth prevailed in all the churches, and there was very little increase. But the revival spirit began to be manifested, and an increased ingathering was reported to the Association in the fall of 1809. In 1810 the churches reported 956 baptisms, and five new churches received. The Association then numbered forty-one churches with 2025 members. The six churches located in Indiana in 1812 went into the Silver Creek Association in that state. The question was raised in the session of 1811 as follows: "Is it not advisable that the ministers, belonging to the churches of this Association, visit the churches round, and preach to them once a year?" The answer was "yes, so far as ministering brethren will voluntarily engage in this good work." John Taylor, William Hickman, and a number of others gave their consent to put in practice the above.

      In 1813, the twenty-four churches, which entered into the organization of the Long Run Association had grown to thirty-nine, and the 1619 members had increased to 2739. In 1815, the First Baptist Church, Louisville, located at Fifth and Green Streets, was received. George Waller became Moderator in 1817, and served until 1841, a period of twenty-five years. In 1880, W. E. Powers was chosen Moderator, and continued in that honored

position to 1916, presiding over every session during that long period, except three years. A. B. Knight was the third Moderator in length of service, beginning in 1866, and continuing to 1877, a period of twelve years.

      In 1826, seven churches were dismissed to go into the forming of the Sulphur Fork Association, which left the Long Run body with twenty-three churches, aggregating 2721 members. The numerical strength of the Association was greatly reduced by the Alexander Campbell controversy, but it began to prosper after the division. Many new churches were received from year to year. The Second Baptist Church, Louisville, constituted September 30, 1838, was received the following year. The East Baptist Church, Louisville, was admitted in the session of 1842. The Walnut Street Church, Louisville, constituted in 1849 by the union of the First and Second Churches, was received into the Association the same year.

      The Long Run Association continued to prosper until the Civil War period, when the body numbered twenty-six churches with 5350 members in 1861, (but it lost over 2000 colored members, as a result of the war. In 1871 some of the churches were dismissed to go into the constitution of the Shelby County Association the following year, which left twenty-two churches with 2691 members. By 1880, the number of churches had increased to twenty-five with a total membership of 3820. In 1912, there were forty-four churches, aggregating 14,808 members. In 1925, the number of churches had increased to fifty-five with a total membership of 23,086.

      In 1947, the Association was composed of seventy-five churches, be¬sides mission stations, with a total of 55,183 members. Walnut Street Church was the largest, reporting 4,573 members, and Dr. W. R. Pettigrew, pastor, who was also Moderator of the Association. The second largest church reporting in 1947, was the Parkland Church with 2,273 members, and Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, pastor.


      In 1804, the Green River Association was composed of thirty-eight churches with 1876 members, and its territory had become very large. It was thought expedient, therefore, to divide the Association into three parts. Accordingly, eleven churches containing 457 members were dismissed to form the Russell's Creek Association. Messengers from these eleven churches met in the meeting house of the Pitman's Creek Church, in what is now Taylor County, on September 8, 1804, and constituted the Association styled the Russell's Creek Association of Baptists. Eleven short Articles, denomi¬nated "Principles of Union" were adopted. The names and location of the churches by counties are as follows: Brush Creek, Mt. Gilead and Meadow Creek, in Green; Good Hope and Pitman's Creek, in Taylor; Trammells Creek, in Metcalfe; Zion in Adair; South Fork of Nolynn and Otter Creek, in Larue; Liberty, in Marion; and Lynn Camp in Hart. The ordained ministers who labored in the Association were William Mathews, Elijah Summacrs, Thomas Skaggs, Thomas Whitman, Jonathan Paddox and Baldwin Clifton. Quarterly meetings were appointed to be held among the churches according to the customs. A query from the Pitman's Creek Church was answered to the effect "that in ordaining a minister both the church and presbytery should be satisfied with the proceedings."

      The second annual session was held in 1805 with Brush Creek in

Green County. A spiritual dearth prevailed, during which there was an average loss of one member to each church. A strange motion was made and carried "that it is expedient to have the Lord's Supper administered at our Associations."

      The third session was held with Meadow Creek Church, in Green County, September, 1806. A query was presented: "Is it agreeable to the gospel for a man to marry again, when his wife has left him, and is living in adultery?" The answer given by the Association was, "We think it is, if (the man gave her no cause to leave him." The answer was withdrawn at the next session. Another query was: "Is it not the duty of the Association to adopt some measures to extend the preaching of the gospel to places that are destitute, at least to the frontiers of our own State?" The answer: "We think it is, and for that benevolent purpose, we recommend to the churches we represent to open subscription for either money or property, and forward to our next Association."

      The Russell's Creek fraternity gradually decreased in numbers from the time of its beginning until 1810, when it numbered twelve churches, with only 374 members. An attempt was made at the session of 1810 to form a union with South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists, or at least to maintain a friendly correspondence. But the matter was dropped, because that Association was holding in fellowship Cooper's Run and other churches, which Elkhorn Association had excluded for denying the Deity of Christ.

      In 1811, a gracious revival visited the churches, which resulted within two years in an increase of membership from 353 to 1119, and in the addition of five new churches. When Luther Rice visited the Russell's Creek Association in 1815, he was most cordially received and an offering of $114.50 was taken, and placed in his hands for Foreign Missions. After the Kentucky Baptist State Convention was organized in 1832, the Association advised the churches to take into consideration the propriety of forming a society auxiliary to the Convention "for the purpose of promoting the preachng of the gospel." In the session of 1834, the State Convention recommended that, "The churches which are favorable to the Convention, are advised to become auxiliary thereto, and raise funds for its objects. . . ."

      In 1936, protracted meetings were introduced into the Association, when four such meetings were appointed, and preachers to attend them. Generally three preachers were expected to assist in each meeting, which usually continued from five to eight days. When the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky was announced to be organized in October, 1837, the Association endorsed the movement and sent seven prominent pastors, as messengers to that first meeting. In 1856, several churches were lost to Lynn Association, which was constituted on its northwestern border. In 1861, the churches of the Russell's Creek body numbered twenty-six, with a total of 2187 members. During the next ten years about 300 colored members were lost. But in the next ten years the gain was greater than the loss; as the Association numbered thirty-two churches with 2349 members in 1871.

      The subject of alien baptism was before the body at the session of that year, and the sentiment of the messengers was expressed as follows:

"Resolved, that the Association does not consider any person baptized, unless he has been immersed in water, in the name of the Trinity, by the authority of a regularly organized Baptist Church."

      The churches of the Association in 1880, numbered thirty-three, ag¬gregating 2668 members. In 1915, the old Association had increased to forty-four churches with 4,407 members; while in 1925, there were thirty-ndne churches, aggregating 5503 members. In 1947, forty-six churches made reports to the Russell's Creek Association, showing 6742 members. Six of these churches reported full time preaching.10


      When the Green River fraternity divided in 1804, about eleven churches were dismissed to form an Association in Cumberland and surrounding counties. The messengers from these churches met in 1805 and constituted the Stockton's Valley Association, but nothing is known of the proceedings of this first session except the records of 1806 speak of the preceding year as "our first Association."

      The meeting of 1806 was composed of the messengers from the following churches: Sinking Spring, in Fentress County, Tennessee; Clear Fork (formerly Stockton's Valley), in Clinton County; Otter Creek and Beaver Creek, in Wayne; Brimstone (now Mt. Zion), Roaring River and West Fork in Overton County, Tennessee; Cumberland and Mill Creek in Monroe; Casey's Creek in Cumberland; and Blackburns Fork, Salt Lick, Mashecks Creek (afterwards called Words Run) and Caney Fork (since called Big Spring), unknown. These fourteen churches reported 680 members.

      The third session of Stockton's Valley was held at Mill Creek, in what is now Monroe County, in 1807. Isaac Denton preached the opening sermon. He was the first preacher to settle in the territory of the As-sociation, and was indeed the father of the organization. He was born in North Carolina, came to Tennessee where he was converted and baptized in 1792. He moved to Kentucky in 1798 and settled in Clinton County. In the revival of 1801 many of the settlers were saved and became Baptists. On April 1, 1801, he constituted the Stockton's Valley Church after which the Association was later named. The name of the church was afterwards changed from Stockton's Valley to Clear Fork. In the organization of the body, John Mulkey was elected Moderator and William Wood, Clerk. The eighteen churches reported that year ten baptisms and 806 members.

      About this time, the New Lights, the followers of Barton W. Stone, came into the Association. Two preachers, two churches and members of three other churches went off with Stone, but were all excluded from the Association. These dark days were followed by a revival in 1811, as a result of which the churches increased in three years to seventeen, and the membership from 416 to 891.

      Lewis Ellison was one of the leading preachers in the Stockton's Valley Association from its beginning. He was pastor of the old Salem Church near Burkesville in Cumberland County for thirty years, which

church still exists (1946). This pioneer preacher was Moderator of the Association from 1810 to 1833, and he preached the introductory sermon nine times. The Stockton's Valley body began to go Anti-missionary in 1835 and has remained largely such to the present (1947).11


      The Red River Association of Baptists was constituted at Fort's Meetinghouse, afterwards called Red River Church, Robertson County, Tennessee, not far from the Kentucky line, on April 15, 1807. Twelve churches went into the organization, three in Tennessee, eight in Kentucky, and one un¬known. Those located in Kentucky were Dry Creek, Muddy Fork of Little River and Mount Pleasant of Little River in Trigg County; Muddy River in Logan; McFarland's Fork of Pond River and West Fork of Red River, in Christian; Grave Creek in Henderson; and Dry Fork of Eddy Creek in Lyon.

      In the session of 1808, nine other churches were received bringing the total number to twenty-one, with 550 members. In 1813 there were forty churches with 1791 members, extending over a large territory in Kentucky and Tennessee, which made it necessary to form a new Association to be known as Little River. The most noted of the ministers, who labored in the Red River body was Reuben Ross, who arrived in July, 1807 from North Carolina and settled in Robertson County, Tennessee. He served as Moderator seven years and led out the missionary forces in 1824 to form Bethel Association.


      The Tate's Creek Association in annual session in 1809 with the White Oak Pond Church, Madison County, dismissed six churches from the south part of its territory to form another association according to the terms of the general union. These churches were Double Springs, in Lincoln County; White Oak, Sinking Creek, Forks of Cumberland, and Union, in Pulaski County; and Big Sinking in Wayne County.

      These six churches, together with Beaver Creek, and Otter Creek Churches in Wayne County, met by their messengers at Sinking Creek, Pulaski County on the first Saturday in October, 1809, and constituted the Cumberland River Association. The number of the churches is not given in the records of the first session, and there are no minutes available of the second session, but the records of 1811 show thirteen churches with 447 members, and that five new churches had been added since its constitution two years before. Some of the preachers, who labored among the churches at this time were as follows: Richard Barrier, Isham Burnett, John Smith, Stephen Collier, Wesley Short, Thomas Hansford, Thomas Hill, Thomas Wolverton, Moses Foley, Malachi Cooper, Peleg Baker, Joseph M. James and Richard Collier.

      The Sinking Creek Church, where the Association was formed, was constituted in what is now Pulaski County on June 8, 1798 with twenty-one members. Thomas Hansford was the first pastor. The Sinking Creek Church is now the First Baptist Church of Somerset.

      The Cumberland River Association experienced a great revival in the churches in 1811 and 1812, as a result of which, 368 baptisms were reported

to the session of 1812. The Hurricane Church, located three miles from Barbourville, in Knox County, was received that year. This was the largest church in the Association. In 1825, nine churches located on the southern part of its territory were dismissed to form the South Concord Association, leaving fourteen churches, numbering 903 members. This number was practically doubled during the revival in Kentucky, that began in 1837, lasting for more than a decade.

      Through the years the Cumberland River Association was nominally missionary, but there was continually growing an anti-missionary element, which began to defeat every effort to promote any form of benevolent work. This condition continued until 1861, when the Association divided, and eleven churches with 683 members organized an anti-missionary Association. The original missionary body located in a mountainous, sterile section did little towards spreading the gospel beyond its own bounds. In 1881, seventeen churches reported 1422 members. In 1903, Monticello and other churches went into the organization of the Wiayn« County Association, and the Cumberland River body went out of existence.12


      The Association known as Licking was constituted, August, 1810, having its origin as a result of a division of Elkhorn Association. After five years of dissention and bitterness the Elkhorn fraternity was finally rent in two factions. The circumstances which led to the division were the result of an unfortunate business transaction between the pastor of a Baptist Church and one of his members. The preacher was Elder Jacob Creath, Sr., pastor and member of the Town Fork Church, near Lexington, and Thomas Lewis, a layman of considerable wealth. They made an exchange of slave girls, and Pastor Creath gave his note to Lewis for the difference in value of the two servants. Soon after the transaction, the Negro girl Creath had bargained for, died and he refused to pay the note given to Lewis. The matter was brought before the Town Fork Church of which both were members, and the church decided in favor of Pastor Creath. This decision was regarded by many as an outrage of justice. Elijah Craig, now much absorbed in business and not as useful in the ministry as in former years, published a bitter pamphlet, "A Portrait of Jacob Creath."

      Town Fork Church thought it expedient to call a council to meet in July, 1807 to consider the matter. This council consisted of forty-two delegates from sixteen churches, which remained in session four continuous days. Elder Creath was unanimously acquitted of all charges. This decision of the Council caused much dissatisfaction in many of the churches, and enraged a number of the most prominent ministers in the Elkhorn Association. There was much excitement in the Association and beyond. Joseph Redding, a popular pioneer preacher, long pastor at Great Crossings Church, made three charges against Creath in the Town Fork Church, which were considered. Redding withdrew one charge, and the church acquitted Creath of the other two.

      In the session of the Elkhorn Association in 1808, the church at Bryant's Station brought three charges against the Town Fork Church, for

disorder, but the Association cleared the church of all three charges, decision caused more strife and engendered more bitterness.

      The Elkhorn Association met with the South Elkhorn Church in 1809, and to the disappointment of the body, ten churches were not represented in any way. The seriousness of the situation was now more manifest. In February, 1809, the Bryant's Station Church, Ambrose Dudley, pastor, held a business meeting, the proceedings of which exhibited to what extent the fires of malice had spread. The following is an extract from the church records, secured by Dr. Spencer: "Received a letter signed by a number of our brethren who have thought it would be most for the glory of God, and for the peace and happiness of society, under our present distress, to call a meeting on the first Tuesday in March, to meet at the Forks of Elkhorn, in order to dissolve the Elkhorn Association, which was agreed to. And Brethren Ambrose Dudley and Leonard Young are chosen to attend the said meeting, and let the brethren know that we chose to meet at what they call the New Elkhorn Association at Bryant's."

      The meaning of the above proceedings is that the minority of Elkhorn Association proposed to meet and dissolve that body without consulting the majority, and then meet again and reconstitute the body according to their own plan. The purpose of it all was to form a new Elkhorn Association so as to leave Jacob Creath and all those who supported him on the outside. The slavery question, which was playing havoc in so many churches in Kentucky at that time, was no doubt at the root of the whole trouble.

      The circular letter signed by seven ministers was sent out to the churches inviting them to meet by messengers, at Bryants on the second Saturday in August, 1810, and the same day that the real Elkhorn Association was to meet at Clear Creek in Woodford County. Thus the two bodies met at the same time, and both organized under the style of Elkhorn Association. The majority body sent overtures to the minority party pleading for reunion, and to let the past be forgotten. The minority replied: "You are in possession of our difficulties, until they are removed, we remain a distressed and grieved people." They also expressed their conviction that it was best for the two bodies to remain separate. There was no hope of a reunion at the time. Before the minority session closed they took over the name Licking Association.

      The churches represented in the constitution of this new Association were Tate's Creek, Bryants, Dry Run, East Hickman, Brush Fork, Raven Creek, Stony Point, Flat Lick, Elk Lick, Mill Creek and Rock Bridge. Ambrose Dudley was elected Moderator and served in that capacity until his death in 1825, and John Price was elected Clerk. The other ministers besides these two, who entered into the organization, were Joseph Redding, John Barnett, Lewis Corban, Richard Thomas, John Conner and Bartlett Bennett.

      The second session was held with the Stony Point Church in Bourbon County in 1811. The following churches were received: Boone's Creek, Mt. Carmel, Little Huston and Second Town Fork.

      The Licking Association, apart from the division with Elkhorn, did not differ in doctrine nor polity from surrounding associations, during the first five years of its existence. There was no difference in doctrine from Elk-horn. The departure of this fraternity from the faith and order of Baptists in Kentucky will be considered in another connection.13


      The Union was a small Association formed during this period, but it continued only about six years when it dissolved. According to Benedict, the Church Historian, this Association "was formed in the Southwest part of the State in 1806." The location and extent of its territory can be determined by the churches, which are known to belong to the body. Some of these churches were: Hazel Creek and Nelson Creek, in Muhlenburg County; Beaver Dam, in Ohio County; Providence, Bays Fork and Union, in Warren County; Midway and Sandy Creek, in Butler County; and Sulphur Springs, in Allen County. What the trouble was in this organization is not definitely known, only it is certain that this body was never in harmoy with the neighboring associations. This fraternity made application for correspondence with the Red River Association in 1809, but the offer was declined for the reason that there was a want of similarity in doctrine.

      The Union Association dissolved in 1812, and the Red River body placed the following item in its minutes: "The brethren, who formerly composed the Union Association, heretofore advertised in our Minutes as disorderly, have given satisfaction and are now in our union." According to available records, some of the churches of this dissolved body had already united with the Green River Association, and later in the year some went into the newly formed Gasper River fraternity, and in 1820, several of them went into the Drake's Creek Association.


      The Gasper River Association was constituted at Providence Church in Warren County, September 26, 1812, and took its name from a small stream which flowed through its territory. Edward Turner was elected Moderator, and Thomas Downs, Clerk. This organization was a result of the division of the territory of the Green River Association at its annual session held July 12, 1812, with the Dripping Springs Church, located in what is now Metcalfe County. The dividing line, agreed to, ran nearly north and south through what is now Allen County, and the sixteen churches west of this line were to compose the new Association.

      The territory of the Gasper River body was very extended at first as may be seen from the location of the churches. Bay's Fork, Union, Ivy, Smiths Grove, Mt. Zion and Providence Churches were located in Warren County; Trammels Fork, Middle Fork, and Sulphur Springs, in Allen County; Center, in Logan County; Hazel Creek, in Muhlenberg County; Sandy Creek and Midway, in Butler County; Beaver Dam, in Ohio County; Lick Fork in Simpson; Salem in Barren; and Lick Creek, unknown. The Union Church in Warren County was the oldest church in the new Association, but after going into the formation of Drake's Creek Association in 1820. it finally dissolved.

      After the organization of the new Association, messengers were appointed to solicit correspondence with the surrounding Baptist bodies. The Articles of Faith, Constitution and Rules of Decorum, were adopted and ordered to be printed in the minutes. The session of 1813 was held with the Bays Fork Church, in Warren County, with twenty-one churches represented, which reported 1334 members. The Association continually increased in the number of churches, yet decreased for several years in the aggregate membership.

      In the session of 1817, there were twenty-four churches with only 1097 members. During the session of the same year, the Association agreed to correspond with the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, but three years later the correspondence was discontinued. In the session of 1818 the motion carried to support the Kentucky Foreign Mission Society, but before the session closed the motion was reconsidered and support was withheld. Smiths Grove Church was dismissed to join Green River, and Tanners and Panther Creek, were given letters to go into the constitution of the Goshen Association. In 1820 the territory of the Gasper River fraternity was divided and thirteen churches were constituted into the Drake's Creek Association, reducing the mother body in 1821 to eleven churches with 693 members.

      In 1833, after the elimination of the Campbellite forces, a new spirit began to be manifest in the Association. Elder D. L. Mansfield had become one of the most useful preachers in that section. There were frequent visits to the churches of such men as William Warder, John Q. Wilson, D. J. Kelley and others, who infused new life into them. In 1835, protracted meetings were recommended by the Association, and appointments were made for such meetings at Hazel Creek, and Beaver Dam Churches. In 1837 three protracted meetings were appointed to be held at Walton Creek, Stony Point and Cave Spring Churches. Five preachers were appointed to hold the revival services at the first two named churches, and four preachers, to hold the meetings at the other church. A little later Alfred Taylor was the leader in the lower Green River Country in the protracted meeting work. The opposition to these revivals was intense, especially among the older preachers.

      In 1946, the territory of the Gasper River Association was practically limited to Butler County. There were twenty-three churches aggregating 4,276 members. The Sandy Creek Church, constituted in 1805, was the oldest in the Association, with a membership of 247, and Elder H. E. White pastor. The church at Morgantown was the only one having full time preaching in 1947. Its membership was 299, and Elder Weldon Marcum, pastor.


      The Little River Association was constituted, November, 1813, at the Eddy Grove Church in Caldwell County, three miles South of Princeton. This Association is the result of the division of territory of the Red River Association, which contained forty churches extending from Clarksville, Tennessee, to near Henderson, Kentucky. The plan of dividing this vast territory was by a line beginning about six miles west of Clarksville, and

running west of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to the Ohio River near Henderson. The nineteen churches located west of this line were constituted into what is styled the Little River Association.

      As far as can be ascertained the following named churches composed the new Association: Blooming Grove, and Cubb Creek, Tennessee; Big Creek, Cypress, Dry Creek, Dry Fork, Eddy Grove, Flat Creek, Muddy Fork, New Hope, New Bethel, Providence, Salem, Sinking Fork of Little River, Saline Creek, Tirzah, Unity, Little River and Mt. Pleasant. These churches, aggregated 1028 members. Among the ordained ministers were Josiah Horn, John Wall, Dudley Williams, Thomas McLean, Henry Darnell, Fielding Wolf, M. B. Roland, Daniel Brown, James Rucker, Golden Williams, John Dorris and Thomas Ross.

      The first Minutes of this body in existence are for the session of 1817. "A circular letter from the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions was handed in and read." The Association then "Resolved to recommend to the churches to set apart the first Monday in each month to unite in the general con¬cert of prayer meetings, for the purpose of imploring the blessing of Almighty God on the Missionary effort."

      In 1818, the Association met with the Grave Creek Church in Henderson County. Thomas Ross was elected Moderator, and Isaac McCoy, missionary to the Indians, preached the introductory sermon. The Association thus became interested in Indian Missions, and resolved to form a Society to promote that cause. There were some indications of interest in missions within the bounds of the Association. The Minutes state, "Paid Brother Thomas Ross for his services in the missionary business." An interesting query was presented by the Salem Church: "What shall be done in receiving a member, dismissed from a church not in our faith and order, but he having faith in his baptism?" The answer was: "We advise the church to receive him on a profession of his faith in Christ, and baptize him agreeable to our order."

      In the session of 1819, the Association declined to answer a question, as to the propriety of educating young men called to preach the gospel, claiming a lack of information on the subject. In the following year, 1820, the Association declined to express an opinion concerning the educational enterprise, which had been inaugurated in Philadelphia. By the year 1821, the anti-mission element in the Association, though in the minority, had become so determined in their opposition to all missions, that a division was threatened. To avoid this disaster, the Association decided to drop all relations with the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, and to break all correspondence with two neighboring associations for the sake of peace. The experience of the Association with the Alexander Campbell movement and the final fruitage of anti-missionism will be considered under another head.

      Many fruitful preachers have labored in Little River Association through its nearly one century and half of history. Elder James Mansfield was one of the most useful and highly esteemed ministers who ever labored in Western Kentucky. He was born in Virginia in 1794, baptized into the

fellowship of the Danville Church in Kentucky and moved to Caldwell County in 1819. He united with the New Bethel Church in what is now Lyon County, and was licensel to preach in 1820. He was pastor of Donald¬son and New Bethel Churches for twenty-five years and in 1850 led in the constitution of the First Baptist Church of Princeton. He had been pastor of the Harmony Church in Caldwell County thirteen years at the time of his death, Sunday, October 15, 1853. He served as Moderator of the Little River Association fourteen years.

      Elder A. W. Meacham, born in Christian County, Kentucky, in 1818, served in the Little River Association for thirty years. He was elected Moderator twenty-four times, and preached the introductory sermon at nine sessions. In a letter to Dr. J. H. Spencer, dated June 1, 1880, Brother Meacham says: "I have aided in the constitution of 25 churches, and have baptized 4000 persons, more than 20 of whom, to my knowledge, have engaged in the ministry." He died December 11, 1902.

      Elder R. W. Morehead spent forty-five years of his ministry in the Little River Association. He was born in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1834, and began his pastorate at Cadiz in Trigg County at the close of the Civil War. He later moved to Princeton and was pastor there and of Harmony Church in Caldwell County. He was pastor of the New Bethel Church in Lyon County five years. He was Moderator of the Association three years, clerk thirteen years, preached the introductory sermon six times, and was a member of the Executive Board through many years.

      Elder John T. Cunningham, born in Trigg County, October 26, 1859, was the oldest living preacher in Little River Association, in 1949. He has spent his long ministry of nearly seventy years as a member of that body. He served as its moderator five years, preached the introductory sermon five times, and served on the Executive Board of the Association twenty-seven years. He has been pastor of the Oak Grove Church fifty-five years. He was ordained by this old church, as its pastor, May, 1890.

      In 1882, there were fifty-eight churches in this old historic body with 5339 members. In 1946, the number of churches was thirty-one with 3225 members. Eddy Grove Church, which was constituted in 1799, where the Association was organized, was the oldest in all the territory. The church dissolved in 1850, and a stone monument now marks the place where the old meeting house stood, with the inscription: "The Little River Association organized in 1813." This Monument is located on United States Highway 62 on the right, about three miles southwest of Princeton. The oldest church now in existence is Mt. Pleasant in Trigg County, formed in 1810, which now has a membership of 329, and Elder J. R. Guess is pastor. The only other church which went into the formation of Little River Association in 1813, still in existence, is New Bethel, located in Lyon County.14

* * * * *

      Though there had been strife and division in many of the district associations during this period, yet marked progress was made. Some of the churches and associations were purged of much dross, and thereby greatly strengthened. In 1810, a glorious work of God's grace began to be manifested with an outpouring of His Spirit. That year, the churches of

Long Run Association reported 956 baptisms, and during the following two years 605 members were reported by the churches of Elkhorn Association. During the same period 1098 members were added to the churches of North District Association. As a result of this general spiritual awakening, the membership of the churches in the State was increased to approximately 20,000 in 1812, and that in spite of the strife and division, we have seen.

      In 1810, the population of Kentucky was 406,511, and the number of Baptists reported that year was 16,650, which gave one Baptist to every twenty-four of the population. This was the condition of Baptist affairs in Kentucky in 1812, when the great Missionary Awakening began, which will be considered in the following chapter.


1. Spencer, John H., A History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 1, p. 546-547; Vol. 2, p. 118ff, 127ff.
2. Minutes of Elkhorn Baptist Association, 1805.
3. Spencer, John H., op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 119-120.
4. Sweet, W. W., Religion on the American Frontier, The Baptists, 1783-1830, p. 564.
5. Benedict, David, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, 1813 Edition, Vol. 2, p. 245-248.
6. Spencer, John H., op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 120.
7. Ibid., Vol 2, p. 85, 86, 138.
8. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 139-142.
9. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 144-147.
10. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 192-203.
11. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 212-225; on pages 212 and 213 Dr. Spencer gives his reasons for disagreeing with Benedict who sets the date of organization a year too early.
12. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 234-239.
13. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 239-250; Vol. 1, p. 311, 551, 552.
14. Noel, E. R., A Brief History of Little River Association, p. 1-16; Spencer, John H., op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 268-285.


[From A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 167-184. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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