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The Great Revival of 1800 in Kentucky

1799 - 1803
By Frank Masters, 1953
      What is known as the Great Revival, which reached its climax in Kentucky during the years 1800-1803, was the most wonderful spiritual event of modern times. The beginning and progress of this great spiritual awakening was a continuous miracle of God's grace. The moral and spiritual condition of the people at that time was not conducive to such a revival. The religious forces were weak, while the powers of wickedness, infidelity and greed were thoroughly entrenched in the hearts and lives of the people.

      According to the census of 1790, the population of Kentucky was 73,677, while by 1800 the population had increased to 220,955. In 1790, there were forty-two Baptist churches in the territory of Kentucky, with a membership of 3,105, or a little less than one Baptist to every twenty-three of the population of the State. In 1800, the reports showed 106 churches and 5,119 members, or one Baptist to every forty-three of the population, which was a falling off of nearly 100% in the number of the Baptists in proportion to the increased population.

      The Methodists reported to the Annual Conference in 1800, six circuits in Kentucky and 1,714 members. "There was a spiritual dearth throughout the land" says Arnold, the Methodist historian. The same spiritual condition prevailed among the Presbyterians. Barton W. Stone, speaking for that denomination says, "Apathy in religious societies appeared everywhere to an alarming degree. Not only the power of religion had disappeared, but also the very form of it was waning fast away."1

      From 1795 to 1800 the most serious impediment to the progress of the gospel in Kentucky was the rapid spread of French infidelity among the masses of the people. Of all the infidel literature, which had made its way among the pioneers of the entire Mississippi Valley, The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine was the most vicious in its influence. This strange man was born in England, came to America and espoused the cause of the Colonies in the American Revolution. He visited France about 1792 and found the entire Nation given over to infidelity largely through the influence of Voltaire. Paine soon learned that the strongest passion of the French people was their hatred of revealed religion and sacred things. He began at once to write a book against the Bible as the Word of God, entitled The Age of Reason, which was published in 1794. J. M. Peck, the pioneer Baptist says: "Amongst the less informed classes, the 'Age of Reason' was a popular book and obtained extensive circulation, while Bibles were obtained with difficulty and found a place only in religious families." Peck also says, "It was the general opinion among intelligent Christians that toward the close of the century, a majority of the population were either avowedly infidels or skeptically inclined. There were few men of the professions of law and physic who would avow their belief in the truth of Christianity."2

      It was during such a religious dearth that the great revival had its origin among the Presbyterians in what is now Logan County, Kentucky, under the leadership of Rev. James McGready. He was born in Pennsylvania, and moved with his parents to North Carolina in his youth. McGready entered the Presbyterian ministry "without any religion." In a revival, he was brought to realize his ruined, lost condition and sought the Lord, and found "conscious salvation." His preaching was as much changed as he himself was. He began work for the Lord in North Carolina in his new experience with marked results. His messages aroused the consciences of the sinners, awakened the unsaved church members, and promoted precious revivals. These revivals were "bitterly opposed by church members, and McGready was fiercely persecuted, even to the extent of endangering his life."3

      A number of McGready's members in North Carolina moved to Kentucky and settled in what was called the Green River Country, and called for his services. McCready arrived in 1796, and began work with three small congregations - Red River, Gasper River and Muddy River, all located in Logan County. At that time, Mr. McGready was about thirty-three years of age, and full of fiery zeal." He was one of the "Sons of Thunder," "an uncompromising reprover of sin in every shape," and the "curses of the law lost none of their severity in falling from his lips." McGready in his preaching emphasized the vital themes of regeneration, repentance and faith, and aroused his hearers on the subject of experimental religion. He was primarily an evangelist.4 His voice was like a trumpet and could be heard with ease several hundred yards, nor was it harsh or uncomfortable.

      He drew up a solemn covenant for his congregations. Every Saturday evening, every Sunday morning, and one whole Sabbath in each month, was to be observed as a season for special prayer for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Logan County, Kentucky, and throughout the world. He obtained the signature of his members to the Covenant. The signs of a spiritual awakening began to appeaar. At a regular sacramental meeting in the Gasper River Congregation in May, 1797 church members began to approach Mr. McCready, inquiring about their spiritual condition. His preaching had alarmed those members who were resting on a false hope. Finally one of them, a female, found "the sure Rock," and began at once to visit her neighbors from house to house, and they were awakened to their lost condition.5

      In July, 1798 the revival spirit was again manifested at Gasper River. Godless church members were convicted of their sins and saved. Men began to leave their business and go alone into the woods, and spend the time in weeping and praying. By the following September, the revival was extended to Rev. McGready's congregations on Muddy River and Red River. The religious interest became general in all the territory of these congregations. But about this time there was a marked disturbance in the work of the revival which caused a decline of interest and some division in the congregations. This changed condition was ascribed by Mr. McGready to the active and discouraging methods of Rev. James Balch, a strict Presbyterian minister, who was visiting in the

vicinity of the churches. He opposed the preaching of McGready and "turned the whole into ridicule."6

      During the year 1798, the Baptists gathered the first two churches in all that region of the State; the Muddy River Church, near Russellville, and Hazel Creek, near the present site of Greenville.

      In July, 1799 at a sacramental meeting, held with the Gasper River Presbyterian congregation, the interest was deeper than ever before, and many burdened souls were saved. Men and women, overwhelmed with con-viction, fell to the floor and would remain prostrate and motionless for hours, but when they arose with the shout of victory, they would testify that they were conscious through the experience. This was the beginning of the "falling exercises" that prevailed so extensively during the great revivals, especially among Presbyterians and Methodists.

      The same falling experience often prevailed in the revival in Virginia in 1785, among the country Baptist churches. Robert Semple says "The manner of conducting the great revival was somewhat extraordinary- It was not unusual to have a large proportion of a congregation prostrate on the floor; and, in some instances, they have lost the use of their limbs; no distinct articulation could be heard, unless from those immediately by; screams, cries, groans, songs, shouts, and hozannas, notes of grief and notes of joy, all heard at the same time, made a heavenly confusion, a sort of indescribable concert."7

      In June, 1800 a sacramental meeting was held in McGready's congregation on Red River, which was followed by the most wonderful revival to date. The Presbyterian ministers, who attended these services in addition to Elder James McGready, were John Rankin, William Hodge, William McGee, and his brother, John McGee, who was a Methodist preacher. Dr. Davidson thus writes of this meeting: "The public services were animated and tears flowed freely; but nothing special was noticed until Monday. While Mr. Hodge was preaching, a woman, at the extreme end of the house unable to repress the violence of her emotions, gave vent to them in loud cries. During the intermission which succeeded the services, the people showed no disposition to leave their seats, but wept in silence all over the house.

      "Such was the state of things when John McGee, the Methodist, rose in his turn to speak."8

      John McGee gives his experience in this service as follows: "At the close of the sermon, Messrs. Hodge, McGready, and Rankin went out of the house; my brother and myself sat still. The people seemed to have no disposition to leave their seats. My brother felt such power come on him, that he quit his seat and sat down on the floor of the pulpit . . . . A power which caused me to tremble was upon me. There was a solemn weeping all over the house. Having a wish to preach, I strove against my feelings. At length I rose up and told the people I was appointed to preach, but there was a greater than I preaching, and exhorted them to let the Lord God Omnipotent reign in their hearts, and to submit to him, and their souls should live. Many broke silence; the woman in the east

end of the house shouted tremendously. I left the pulpit to go to her, and as I went along through the people, it was suggested to me; 'You know these people are much for order - they will not bear this confusion. Go back, and be quiet.' I turned to go back, and was near falling. The power of God was strong upon me; I turned again, and, losing sight of the fear of man, I went through the house, shouting and exhorting with all possible ecstacy and energy, and the floor was soon covered with the slain. Their screams for mercy pierced the heavens, and mercy came down. Some found forgiveness, and many went away from that meeting feeling unutterable agonies of soul for redemption in the blood of Jesus."9

      McGready relates how all classes were concerned in the revival on Red River: "There you might see profane swearers, and Sabbath breakers, pricked in the heart crying out 'What must we do to be saved?' There were frolicers, dancers, crying for mercy. There you might see little children, ten, eleven, or twelve years of age, praying and crying for redemption in the blood of Christ in agony of distress."10

      A family recently from North Carolina heard of the proposed meeting at Red River, and came in their wagons with supplies and camped beside them. At another sacramental meeting held soon after, others followed the example of this family, and came in their wagons and camped. When McGready saw the results of "this spontaneous camping," he published it far and wide that the sacramental meeting to be held at Gasper River in Logan County the following July would be a camp meeting.

      Impelled by curiosity, a great concourse of people assembled from a distance of forty, fifty, and a hundred miles to attend this meeting. The campers had no tents, nor cabins, as in after years, but slept in their wagons, or under temporary shelter, formed of bed covers. There was built for worship a large shelter, covered with boards, and seated with hewn logs. Near the center of this place was "the stand, a ruled platform, or temporary pulpit, constructed of logs and surrounded by a handrail."

      The preachers for this meeting were James McGready, William Hodge, William McGee, all Presbyterians, and perhaps some others. The services continued for four days, from Friday until Tuesday morning. No special interest was observed till Saturday evening, when two pious females were conversing together about the state of their souls, in a manner that deeply affected some persons standing by. "Instantly the divine flame spread through the whole multitude. Many of the unconverted became so deeply affected that they fell powerless on the ground, and cried aloud for mercy. Ministers and pious Christians passed among them, giving them instructions and encouragement to close with Christ, as he is offered in the gospel. In this way the night was spent, and before the Sabbath morning, a goodly number obtained peace and joy in believing." Before the meeting closed on Tuesday morning forty-five precious souls passed from nature to grace. This was 'the first camp meeting' of Christendom.11 Here the camp meeting originated with the Presbyterians and soon became immensely popular. Later they took the name of General Camp Meeting, on account of the Methodists joining in with the Presbyterians. The Baptists were invited to come in as churches, which they refused to do, but many individual Baptists worked in these revivals.

      During the year 1800, ten sacramental meetings were held in the Cumberland and Green River Country, and as a result, 340 converts were added to the Presbyterian churches. There were only four of the preachers of that religious body, McGready, Hodge, McGee and Rankin, who engaged in promoting these meetings, while all the rest of their ministerial brethren "disapproved and discountenanced the work from its commencement as spurious."

      Barton W. Stone, one of James McGready's converts in North Carolina, had to come to Kentucky to become pastor of two Presbyterian churches - Cane Ridge, in Bourbon County, and Concord, in Nichols County, located only a few miles apart. In the Spring of 1801, Mr. Stone, having heard of the great revival among the Presbyterians in Logan County, visited that section and attended one of the camp meetings. Elder Stone says:

"There, on the edge of a prairie in Logan County, Kentucky, the multitudes came together, and continued a number of days and nights encamped on the ground; during which time worship was carried on in some part of the encampment. The scene to me was new, and passing strange. It baffled description. Many, very many fell down, as men slain in battle, and continued for hours together in an apparently breathless and motionless state - sometimes for a few moments reviving, and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep groan, or piercing shriek, or by a prayer for mercy most fervently uttered. After lying thus for hours, they obtained deliverance . . . . With astonishment did I hear men, women and children declaring the wonderful works of God, and the glorious mysteries of the gospel. Their appeals were solemn, heart-penetrating, bold and free. Under such addresses many others would fall down into the same state from which the speakers had just been delivered."
      Mr. Stone continues:
"Two or three of my particular acquaintances from a distance were struck down. I sat patiently by one of them, whom I knew to be a careless sinner, for hours, and observed with critical attention, every thing that passed from the beginning to the end. I noticed the momentary revivings as from death - the humble confession of sins - the fervent prayer, and the ultimate deliverance - then the solemn thanks and praise to God - the affectionate exhortation to companions and to the people around, to repent and come to Jesus. I was astonished at the knowledge of the gospel truth displayed in the address. The effect was that several sunk down into the same appearance of death."
      He continues,
"My conviction was complete that it was a good work - the work of God; nor has my mind wavered on the subject. Much did I then see, and much have I since seen, that I considered to be fanaticism; but this should not condemn the work. The Devil has always tried to ape the works of God, to bring them into disrepute. But that cannot be a Satanic work, which brings men to humble confession and forsaking of sin - to solemn prayer - fervent praise and thanksgiving, and to sincere and affectionate exhortations to sinners to repent and go to Jesus the Saviour."12
      At the close of the camp meeting in Logan County Mr. Stone returned to his congregations and filled his appointment at Cane Ridge on the Lord's Day at 11 o'clock. Multitudes collected anxious to hear the news from the pastor, concerning the revivals he had attended. Mr. Stone
"I ascended the pulpit and gave a relation of what I had seen and heard; then opened my Bible and preached from the words, 'Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.' On the universality of the gospel, and faith as the condition of salvation I principally dwelt, and urged the sinner to believe now, and be saved . . . . The congregation was affected with awful solemnity, and many returned home weeping."
      Mr. Stone hastened to Concord Church to preach at night. He says: ". . . at Concord, two little girls were struck down under the preaching of the word, and in every respect were exercised as those were in the south of Kentucky, as already described. Their addresses made deep impressions on the congregation."

      On the next day Mr. Stone returned to Cane Ridge to hold services in the home of William Maxwell. Here he heard of the good effects of the meeting on the Sunday before. Many had found the Lord and were rejoicing in Him, while others were solemnly engaged in seeking salvation. Mr. Stone says, that among those saved "was my particular friend, Nathaniel Rogers, a man of first respectability and influence in the neighborhood. Just as I arrived at the gate, my friend Rogers and his lady, came up; as soon as he saw me, he shouted aloud the praise of God. We hurried into each other's embrace, he still praising the Lord aloud. The crowd left the house, and hurried to this novel scene. In less than twenty minutes, scores had fallen to the ground - paleness, trembling, and anxiety appeared in all - some attempted to fly from the scene panic stricken, but they either fell, or returned immediately to the crowd, as unable to get away. In the midst of this service, an intelligent deist in the neighborhood, stepped up to me, and said 'Mr. Stone, I always thought before that you were an honest man; but now I am convinced you are deceiving the people.' I viewed him with pity, and mildly spoke a few words to him - immediately he fell as a dead man, and rose no more till he confessed the Saviour. The meeting continued on that spot in the open air, till late at night and many found peace in the Lord.

      "The effects of this meeting through the country were like fire in dry stubble driven by a strong wind."

      Soon after the Cane Ridge experience, Mr. Stone held a five days' meeting with his church at Concord, and the whole country was set in motion to attend the services. He says, "To give a true description of this meeting cannot be done; it would border on the marvelous."13

      A General Camp Meeting began at Cane Ridge Church on August 6, 1801 under the leadership of the pastor, Barton W. Stone, and continued one week. This was the most remarkable of all the camp meetings held in Kentucky, not only for what took place there, but also because of the incredible number of people, who attended. Dr. Davidson says "Cane Ridge was a beautiful spot, in the vicinity of a country church of the same name . . . in the county of Bourbon, about seven miles from Paris, it was finely shaded and watered, and admirably adapted to the purpose of an encampment."14

      This meeting was attended by thousands of people, who came by all kinds of conveyances, and from great distances. It was reported by a statistically inclined person that he counted 143 carriages and wagons, 500 covered sledges, and 500 without covers, making in all 1143 vehicles. There were 500 candles, besides lamps, to illumine the camp at night. The total number of people in attendance has been variously estimated from ten to twenty thousand. One of the Presbyterian ministers, John Lyle, recorded in his diary that there were from 800 to 1100 communicants present.15

      Mr. Stone said:

"The roads were literally crowded with wagons, carriages, horsemen, and footmen, moving to the solemn camp . . . . Four or five preachers were frequently speaking at the same time, in different parts of the encampment without confusion . . . . Free salvation urged upon all by faith and repentance. . . . Many things transpired there, which were so much like miracles, that if they were not, they had the same effects as miracles on infidels and unbelievers, for many of them by these were convinced that Jesus was the Christ, and bowed into submission to him. . . . So low had religion sunk, and such carelessness universally had prevailed, that I have thought that nothing common could have arrested the attention of the world; therefore these uncommon agitations were sent for this purpose."16 An attendant on the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting reported: "There were eighteen Presbyterian preachers present at the meeting and that Baptists and Methodists were also represented there with ministers, 'all being either preaching or exhorting the distressed with more harmony than could be expected'."17
      There is no record of the name of any Baptist preacher taking part in the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting, but Rev. William Burke, a Methodist minister attended, but received no invitation by the Presbyterians to preach or to have any part in the services, though he arrived on Friday, the first day of the meeting. Rev. Burke says: "On Sunday morning, when I came on the ground, I was met by my friends, to know if I was going to preach for them that day. I told them I had not been invited; if I was, I should certainly do so. The morning passed off, but no invitation. Between ten and eleven I found a convenient place on the body of a fallen tree, about fifteen feet from the ground, where I fixed my stand in the open sun, with an umbrella fixed to a long pole and held over my head by Brother Hugh Barnes. I commenced reading a hymn with an audible voice, and by the time we concluded singing and praying we had around us, standing on their feet, by fair calculation ten thousand people. I gave out my text . . . . 'For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ;' and before I concluded my voice was not to be heard for the groans of distress and the shouts of triumph.

      Hundreds fell prostrate to the ground, and work continued on that spot till Wednesday afternoon. It was estimated by some that not less than five hundred were at one time lying on the ground in the deepest agonies of distress, and every few minutes rising in shouts of triumph . . . . I remained Sunday night, and Monday and Monday night; and during that time there was not a single moment's cessation, but the work went on, and old and young, men, women, and children, were converted to God. It

was estimated that on Sunday and Sunday night there were twenty thousand people on the ground. They had come far and near from all parts of Kentucky; some from Tennessee, and from north of the Ohio river; so that tidings of Cane Ridge Meeting was carried to almost every corner of the country, and the holy fire spread in all directions."18

      The Great Revival throughout was marked by many physical exercises but the "falling" seems to have been the most common. Dr. Davidson says, "The numbers affected in this singular manner were astonishing. At Cabin Creek Camp-Meeting, May 22, 1801, so many fell on the third night, that, to prevent their being trodden upon, they were collected together, and laid out in order on two squares of the meeting-house, covering the floor like so many corpses. At Paint Creek Sacrament, 200 were supposed to have fallen; at Pleasant Point, 300; but these accounts are beggared by the great meeting at Cane Ridge, August 6, 1801, when 3,000 were computed to have fallen."19

      Barton W. Stone in referring to the "falling exercises" says,

"The falling exercise was very common among all classes, the saints and the sinners of every age and of every grade, from the philosopher to the clown. The subject of this exercise would, generally, with a piercing scream, fall like a log on the floor, earth, or mud, and appear as dead. Of thousands of similar cases, I will mention one. At a meeting, two gay young ladies, sisters, were standing together, attending the exercises and preaching at the time. Instantly they both fell, with a shriek of distress, and lay for more than an hour apparently in a lifeless state. Their mother, a pious Baptist, was in great distress, fearing they would not revive. At length they began to exhibit symptoms of life, by crying fervently for mercy, and then relapsed into the same death-like state, with an awful gloom on their countenances. After awhile, the gloom on the face of one was succeeded by a heavenly smile, and she cried out, precious Jesus, and rose up and spoke of the love of God> - the preciousness of Jesus, and of the glory of the gospel, to the surrounding crowd, in language almost superhuman, and pathetically exhorted all to repentance. In a little while after, the other sister was similarly exercised. From that time they became remarkably pious members of the church."
      There were other physical exercises that appeared in the great revival as the jerks, the dancing, laughing, singing and running exercises. "The jerks", says Mr. Stone, "cannot be so easily described. Sometimes the subject of the jerks would 'be affected in some one member of the body, and sometimes the whole system. When the head alone was affected, it would be jerked backward and forward, or from side to side, so quickly that the features of the face could not be distinguished. When the whole system was affected, I have seen the person stand in one place, and jerk backward and forward in quick succession, their head nearly touching the floor behind and before. All classes, saints and sinners, the strong as well as the weak, were thus affected. I have inquired of those thus affected. They could not account for it; but some have told me that those were the happiest seasons of their lives. I have seen some wicked persons thus affected, and all the time cursing the jerks, while they were thrown to the earth with violence. Though so awful to behold, I do not remember
that any one of the thousands I have seen ever sustained an injury in body. This was as strange as the exercise itself."

      In regard to the dancing exercise, Mr. Stone states, "This generally began with the jerks, and was peculiar to professors of religion. The subject, after jerking for a while, began to dance, and the jerks would cease. Such dancing was indeed heavenly to the spectators; there was nothing in it like levity, nor calculated to excite levity in the beholders. The smile of heaven shone on the countenance of the subject, and assimilated to angels appeared the whole person. Sometimes the motion was quick and sometimes slow. Thus they continued to move forward and backward in the same track or alley till nature seemed exhausted, and they would fall prostrate on the floor or earth, unless caught by those standing by."

      Mr. Stone speaks of the singing exercises as the most curious and most unaccountable of all the physical marks of the revival. He says, "The subject in a very happy state of mind would sing most melodiously, not from the mouth or nose, but entirely in the breast, the sound issuing thence. Such music silenced everything, and attracted the attention of all. It was most heavenly. None could ever be tired of hearing it." The laughing exercise commenced early in the great revival. It was confined to religious persons and often was witnessed in young converts. This holy laugh was not mirthful nor did it provoke mirth. The running exercises were nothing more than an attempt on the part of persons feeling something of the bodily agitations, to run away and thus escape them.20

      The Baptists were generally exempt from these exercises during the great revival that so sorely afflicted the Presbyterians. There was some excitement in the falling and jerking exercises in the upper Green River country and in the part adjoining Tennessee, where the Separate Baptists were most numerous. Many individual Baptists, who may have joined in the union meeting of the Presbyterians and Methodists, were no doubt affected by these extraordinary exercises. But the Baptist churches and pastors of Kentucky did not join with the Presbyterians in their great sacramental services, which were a part of the revival, because of their restricted communion principles. Collins says: "The Baptists escaped almost entirely those extraordinary and disgraceful scenes produced by the jerks, the rolling and the barking exercises, etc., which extensively obtained among some other persuasions of those days. The work among the Baptists was deep, solemn, and powerful; but comporting with that decency and order, so emphatically enjoined in the scriptures."21

      According to the records, the great revival began among the Baptists in a union meeting with the Methodists in the northern part of the State, at the mouth of the Kentucky River, where the town of Carrollton now stands. We are indebted to John Taylor for some information concerning this meeting, who was present and took part in the services in the Spring of 1800. Mr. Taylor says:

"From the dull feelings of my heart, I took a text which suited my own state - 'Lord help me'. . . . After which they continued on in prayer, praise, and exhortation, with much noise at times, until late at night. Some were rejoicing, having lately obtained deliverance; others were groaning in tears . . . . Many of the people tarried all night . . . to converse with me; I never heard the question (What shall we do

to be saved?) more prevalent at any time in my life . . . . A number of them neither lay down, nor slept through the whole night. . . . About sunrise next morning, I took my leave of this blessed company of the young disciples. . . . I had no desire to use food that day; I rode on with pensive reflections, calling up in my mind past days, when I hoped the candle of the Lord shone on me; but by the multiplicity of the business of this little world, my affections had been stolen off from the Lord; my eyes would not only swim but overflow with tears as I rode along by myself."22
      The revival resulted in a church being constituted, known as Port William, which applied for membership in the Salem Association, but was rejected because the Articles of Faith were not satisfactory. The church was received a year later into the Elkhorn Association and is now located at Ghent, Carroll County.

      In the meantime John Taylor returned to his home at Bullittsburg, a settlement on the Ohio River below Cincinnati, where he was pastor. He said, "I almost dreaded to go home, fearing I should be as I had been unprofitable among them. Poor Bullittsburg now appeared like a forsaken cottage in the wilderness." When Mr. Taylor arrived he learned that there had been a marriage in the community, which was followed up by a series of dancing parties, in the home of one of the leading members. He held a service at night near the place of the dance, but few people attended service. Services were to be held in the meeting house the following Sunday. He said, "I never had been so thoroughly cowed down by discouragement, through the course of my ministry as now."

      Referring to Sunday service, Mr. Taylor said, "Soon after I began, a set of feelings overtook me, that exceeded any I ever felt in public speaking; they consisted of a profuse weeping that I could not supress. . . .the whole assembly seemed to reciprocate the same feelings, perhaps there was not a dry eye in the house. . . . What the Lord did at this meeting, entirely broke up all the dancing in the settlement." The revival began in this church, and spread over the settlement "like wild fire," and continued about two years, during which time 152 members were added to the Bullittsburg Church by baptism and a large number by letter.23

      A great revival began in 1800 in the Clear Creek Baptist Church in Woodford County, where Richard Cave was pastor, and resulted in 346 by baptism. William Hickman led in many revivals with great results. During 1801 he baptized two hundred and sixteen souls into the Forks of the Elkhorn Church, where he was so long pastor. Hickman says he baptized more than five hundred in the course of two years.

      The revival began in the Severns Valley Church in 1801 conducted by the venerable Joshua Morris. The church record exhibited the following: "In September 1801, prayed at opening and received seven members by experience . . . ."

      "In November, had no business, but to praise God and receive twenty members" . . . . "In December received nine members." . . . . "In January 1802, received twenty-two members" . . . . "In this manner the

work continued until one hundred and forty-six members were received," which was by baptism.

      At South Elkhorn, the oldest church north of the Kentucky River, the revival began under the pastor, John Shackleford, who preached the gospel through prison gates in Virginia. In 1800 this church numbered 127 members, but during the revival period of two years, there were added 318 members by baptism. At Bryant's Station Church, where Ambrose Dudley was pastor, there were 170 members in 1800, but during the revival period 421 members were added by baptism. The Great Crossings Church, Scott County, Joseph Redding, pastor, reported 107 members in 1800, but during the revival 407 were baptized into the fellowship of the church.

      In something like this proportion, the churches increased in membership in different sections of the State. The growth of the associations in churches and membership was very marked. In 1800, there were six associations, 106 churches and 5,119 members. At the close of the great Revival in 1803, there were ten associations, 219 churches, and 15,495 members, which was a clear gain of four associations, 113 churches, and 10,380 members. In 1801, the churches of the Elkhorn Association reported 3,011 baptisms.

      The results of the revival in Kentucky in addition to the large number of people saved, and added to the churches, were exceedingly beneficial in many ways. Before the revival the morals of the people, largely under infidel influence, were very bad. J. M. Peck writing to The Christian Review in 1852 says:

"Infidelity received its death blow during that revival period . . . . Not a few continued infidels and scoffers, but they were shorn of their strength. So many of their number had been converted, some of whom became efficient preachers of the gospel, that infidelity could not longer boast. . . . Multitudes of strong-minded men, proud of their habits of free-thinking, were converted in so sudden and impressive a mode as to perplex and confound their associates."24
The effects of the revival on Christians was permanently good. They became more imbued with the spirit of Christ and experienced a clearer view of the spirituality of religion. The mere form of religious morals, ceremonies, and saying the Catechism gave way to the necessity of the new birth.


1. Arnold, W. E., A History of Methodism in Kentucky, Vol. 1, p. 193.

2. Peck, John Mason, "Baptists in the Mississippi Valley," The Christian Review, October, 1852, p. 500.

3. McDonnold, B. W., History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, p. 9.

4. Davidson, Robert, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky, p. 132.

5. McDonnold, B. W., op. cit., p. 10, 11.

6. Davidson, Robert, op. cit., p. 132-133; Spencer, John H., A History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 1, p. 506.

7. Semple, Robert B., A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia, 1810 Edition, p. 37.

8. Davidson, Robert, op. cit. p. 133.

9. Arnold, W. E., op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 195-196; Christian, John T., A History of Baptists of the United States, p. 356.

10. "McGready's Narrative of the Revival in Logan County," New York Magazine and Repository of Religious Intelligence, 1803, Vol. 4, p. 155.

11. Spencer, John H., op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 508; Davidson, Robert, op. cit,, p. 134-135.

12. Rogers, John, The Biography of Elder Barton Warren Stone, p. 34-31.

13. Ibid., p. 36, 37.

14. Davidson, Robert, pp. cit., p. 137.

15. Sweet, W. W., Religion on the American Frontier, The Presbyterians, 1783-1840, p. 87.

16. Rogers, John, op. cit., p. 37, 38.

17. Ware, Charles C., Barton Warren Stone: Pathfinder of Christian Union, p. 107.

18. Arnold, W. E., op. cit., Vol 1, p. 205, 206.

19. Davidson, Robert, op. cit., p. 145.

20. Rogers, John, op. cit., p. 39-42.

21. Collins, Lewis, History of Kentucky, Vol. 1, p. 417, 418.

22. Taylor, John, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, Second Edition, p. 131, 132.

23. Ibid., p. 133, 134.

24. October, 1852, p. 506, 513, "Baptists in the Mississippi Valley," by J Mason Peck; Spencer, John H., op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 542.


[From Frank M. Masters, A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 147-157. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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