Baptist History Homepage

By B. F. Swindler

      [To write one hundred years of history to be read in about fifty minutes, means unusually rapid reading, or very briefly stated facts. The former will be sacrificed for the latter, inasmuch as some may hear this paper who may not otherwise know its contents. In order to present the most salient points in an easy and comprehensive way, I will treat the subject by decades.]

First Decade - 1803-1813.

      Messengers from Bullittsburg, Mouth of Licking, Forks of Licking, Flower Creek, Bank Lick, Dry Creek, Middle Creek, Twelve Mile, and Brush Creek Churches met in Dry Creek Meeting-house, in what was then Campbell county, now Kenton, on July 29th. 1803. Eld. Alexander Monroe preached a sermon from Psalm 73:24, "Thou shalt guide me by Thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory." Elder Wm. Cave was chosen Moderator, and Absalom Graves, Clerk. The object calling them together was duly considered, and it was decided to effect a permanent organization to be known as the North Bend Association. The nine churches embraced 429 members. The field was immense but sparsely settled. Forks of Licking is now Falmouth church in Pendleton county; and Brush Creek is now Persimmon Grove in Campbell county. The early ministers of the body were Alexander Monroe, Lewis Deweese, Josiah Herbert, Wm. Can, Moses Vickers, Thomas Griffin or Griffing.

      At the second session in 1804, Mud Lick and Wilmington churches were received into the union. A letter was presented by Eld. George Eve from Elkhorn Association, proposing correspondence, which was agreed to. Two queries were sent up from Bullittsburg to this effect: "Whether a lay member may properly assist in constituting a church?" And "Whether a church, when sent to, may properly send lay members as a help to judge of the

[p. 22]
gift and qualifications of a minister, who is set apart for ordination?" Both were answered in the affirmative. At the next session at Bullittsburg, the famous John Taylor presented a letter from Long Run Association proposing correspondence, which was agreed to. Bracken Association appears by correspondence in 1806.

     At the session in 1808, Dry Creek asks, "Is it right for a church to give its members letters of dismission, and not say in full fellowship?" Answer. "We advise churches in future to dismiss their members in full fellowship, or not dismiss them at all." They also raised


the question of the power or authority of the Association. Whereupon they were referred to the fourth section of the constitution, which reads: "The Association thus formed shall be an advisory counsel, and not an authoritative body." The body from its organization had been appointing "Yearly Meetings," and also preachers to attend them. This led to the question, if it did not touch upon the independence of the churches. After some discussion, the question was withdrawn. These meetings were, no doubt, fruitful of great good in the way of unity of faith and practice, and brotherly love

[p. 23]
and fellowship. And yet the body grew very slowly at first, gaining only 75 members in seven years. But, at the session in 1811, great things were reported, 277 members having been added by baptism during the year. Among this number was Robert Kirtley, destined under God to be a great power in the Association, and bear the burdens when the fathers should fall on sleep. This first decade closed at Mud Lick, September 25th, 1812, and was notable for receiving the churches at Forks of Gunpowder, Bethel, Newport and Laughery, Indiana. There had been six Moderators, but good Clerks were scarce then as now, hence Bro. Absalom Graves had been continued in office, and served most acceptably for 20 years. The Introductory Sermons had been preached by Alexander Monroe, Lewis Deweese, Thomas Griffing, Josiah Herbert, Christopher Wilson, Moses Vickers and Daniel Biggs. Point Pleasant Church was received in 1805, and Ten Mile, in 1806.

Second Decade - 1813-1823.

     The opening of this decade was at Dry Creek, September 24, 1813. In 1814, our country being in a war with Great Brittain, the following was passed: "This Association, feeling for the cause of her beloved country, and the suffering of our brethren and friends in defending her rights, and also the languid state of Zion, do recommend a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to be observed as such by all the churches of our body on the first Wednesday in November next." The session of 1815 witnessed the introduction of Elder Luther Rice to the body as an Agent of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions for the United States, and Bro. Absalom Graves is appointed "a standing secretary" to keep up the correspondence with him. This correspondence was of great benefit to Bro. Graves, who had recently become a preacher, and of whom John Taylor wrote that he received a "missionary spirit, in its warmest glow, from his first acquaintance with Rice, which gave him a growth that he never would have had but for that circumstance." At the same time Alexander Monroe, Thomas Griffing, Christopher Wilson, Moses Scott and Jesse L. Holman were appointed "to use their utmost endeavors to raise, by subscription or otherwise, a fund of money to be appropriated to the spread of the Gospel to destitute regions of our western frontier, and among our neighboring Indians." It is expressly stated that said committee was to serve "without compensation." Thus early did this body begin its work of systematic benevolence, and sending the gospel to the regions beyond. The year
[p. 24]
following, the death of Elder Thomas Griffng is noted with much sadness and tenderness. The committee on Domestic Missions raised $78.37 1/2, and Bro. Graves read interesting correspondence with Elder Luther Rice. This was the first money raised distinctively for Missions. The 1817 minute has this record: "An address was presented and read from the corresponding secretary of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, and also one from the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Missionary Society." In 1818 the treasurer was instructed to pay over the Mission Funds in his hands, amounting


to $139, to the "Kentucky Baptist Mission Society." There is just the slightest reference to the societies in the history of Ky. Baptists. This year was one of great prosperity. There were 611 baptisms reported, so that the 16 churches numbered 1,453 members. This body was now in correspondence with eight other Associations, viz: Elkhorn, Long Run, Bracken, South District, Franklin, Union, Licking, and Laughery, Ind. It was the custom on the first day of the Association, which was Friday, to have the Introductory sermon, to read the letters from the churches, and then elect its officers. Then followed the reading of the correspondence from sister Associations,

[p. 25]
and inviting visiting messengers to seats. Then brethren were appointed to write letters to those bodies. The "Circular Letter," which was a feature from the beginning, was read and laid on the table. These matters occupied all the first day. Usually a committee was appointed to examine the circular letter, so that if anything objectionable appeared therein it might be eliminated before it went into print. The business of the second day was arranged usually by the Moderator and Clerk, who were instructed to do so. After special matters of business, the correspondence with other bodies was read and approved, and messengers appointed to same. The circular letter was read again, and ordered printed with the minutes, which at this time was only a four page production, one-half containing the business of the body and the other the circular letter, which was usually in larger print. The Sunday following, or the third day of the Association, three or four ministers preached, usually visitors. This order prevailed for many years.

     Twelve Mile church was received in 1818, Crew's Creek, Sand Run, and Fredericksburg, in 1819, East Bend, Alexandria and Four-Mile in 1820, and Visalia in 1822, bringing the number of churches up to 24 with 1,447 members. At this session, the question of the validity of those immersions administered by others than Baptist preachers arose. While the answer is strangely worded the sense is that the Association endorsed only regular baptisms. At this session the body called for a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer in view ot the languid state of Zion. Have we improved upon the fathers with our annual meeting with some professional evangelist or new, strange preacher?

Third Decade - 1823-1833.

     The third decade opened at Crews' Creek, Friday, August 15, 1823, with 25 churches, 1,391 members. The ordained ministers were Absalom Graves, Jas. Dicken, Robt. Kirtley, Robt. Wan?, John Arnold, Elam Grizzel, Robt. Garnett, David Lillard, Wm. Gosney, Christopher Wilson, Lewis Conner, John Stephens, William Hume, Wm. Montague, and John M. Price. Absalom Graves, having served 20 years as clerk, was now elected Moderator, a position he held till his death a few years later. Moses Scott, who had been Moderator for several years, was elected Clerk. The year following was a very prosperous one, 310 having been baptized. Bro. Absalom Graves read the circular letter in 1828, which was a resume of the working of the body, which seems the more significant, as he passed to his
[p. 26]
reward the day before the meeting1 the following year. In summing up he says: "Two churches newly constituted (Springfield and Salem) have united with us at this meeting, which make 24 that have been added to the nine that first united in forming this Association; making in whole, 33 churches. Four of these have been, at different times, dismissed, to join other Associations, and four dissolved. The present members is 25 churches, composed of 1,656 members. Agreeably to the annual returns to this Association, there have been since its formation, 1,929 baptized; added by letter 1,049; restored, 185; dismissed by letter, 989; excluded, 480; deceased, 263." This was certainly a fine showing for 22 years of service in those days.

(Who for Thirty-three years was Clerk of the Association.)

     At this session Wm. Vaughn, who afterwards became famous as a Baptist leader, made his appearance, as a messenger from the Bracken Association. At this time six "yearly meetings" were appointed, and ministers assigned to conduct them. The unity and growth of the body were no doubt largely due to such meetings.

     The session of 1826 was a painful one. Elders James Dicken, Landon Robinson and Absalom Graves had passed away. The loss of three such faithful ministers of the word in one year, was very remarkable. The brethren evidently saw in this afflicting providence a reason for a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer that the Lord would send more laborers into His vineyard, and such a day was

[p. 27]
fixed. The session was a very tender and sympathetic one. Willis Graves was elected Clerk, and continued in the service for nine years.

     In 1827, Licking:, Four-Mile, Bank Lick, Wilmington, Brush Creek, Twelve Mile, Alexandria and Flower Creek churches were dismissed to form another Association, and a large number of brethren appointed to meet with them, to aid in their undertaking. On Friday before the fourth Saturday in September, 1827, the Campbell County Association was formed, and admitted to the sisterhood of corresponding bodies. At this time Bro. Robt. Cornelius was appointed as our correspondent with the Baptist Tract Society of Philadelphia. Little did the fathers dream that this was the thin edge of the wedge, that would one day rend them in twain.

     "There is that which scattereth and yet increaseth," was happily illustrated the second year following the dismissal of so many churches. There were 186 baptized, 71 added by letter and 9 restored, bringing the aggregate to 1384 - only 137 less than the body had previously. Herbert C. Thompson, the general agent of the American Bible Society, was given a cordial welcome. His work was to extend the circulation of scriptures in the State, both by sale and gifts. Hence, it was "Resolved, That we recommend to our fellow-citizens generally, and particularly to the brethren of our denomination, to organize Bible Societies in the different towns and congregations throughout the State of Kentucky. As this Society figured in the division, it is the more noticeable that at the next session - 1830, Thos. P. Dudley, who afterwards became famous as the leader of "Predestinarian Baptists," appears on the scene as a messenger from Licking Association, which finally seceded. We may call this the preaching session, as John Taylor, Jas. Seymour, Wm. Morgan and Jos. Crouch were to preach on Saturday, and Thos. P. Dudley, A. Sargeant and John Scott on Sunday.

     The following year was one of great depression, if we are to judge by the conversions reported, which were only four. While the body had declined almost one hundred, she was to suffer a further diminution of members. Ten Mile, Lick Creek, Providence and Mt. Zion churches withdrew to enter into the organization of Ten Mile Association, which was effected on the first Friday in October, 1831. At this time Elder Robert Kirtley was elected Moderator, which position he held for thirty-two years. This period closed with 12 churches and 985 members, and 10 corresponding bodies. This session conflicting with the day fixed by the Governor of the State for fasting, humiliation and prayer to avert certain threatened

[p. 28]
calamities, another day was set apart for such purposes, and a revival of religion was also to be sought. Thus were the fathers respectful to the civic powers.

Fourth Decade - 1833-1843.

     So early as 1815, there was a church in the union called "Newport," but at the session in 1828, it asked that its name be changed to "Covington," and now, 1833, it disappears without any assigned reason.

     The ordained ministers are Robert Kirtley, John Arnold, Philip Spillman, Lewis Conner, Wm. Hume, Wm. Whilaker and John Riddle.


      The licentiates are Jos. Botts, Daniel Baldwin, Jesse Terrill, and James Finnell. These were the men whose heads and hearts and hands were to be tried in leading the Lord's hosts through a troublesome period, which cast its shadow at this opening session. Already the lines were being drawn in the spirit of the people, and the trend of events was forcasting itself as seen in two requests, which were sent up. Middle Creek (Bellevue) requests that a certain day be set apart for fasting, humiliation and prayer to Almighty God to revive His Holy religion and to avert the threatened calamities, whatever they were. The Forks of Gunpowder delivered herself

[p. 29]
thus: "Since our last we have taken into consideration the propriety of our members uniting with, or having anything to do with societies as follows, to wit: Missionary Society, Bible Society, Tract Society, Sunday School Union, Temperance Society, State Convention, American Society, &c. After the matter was taken up and investigation had on the subject, the church agreed that her members should have no connection with said societies; and we wish also the counsel of the Association to be given upon that decision and advise the churches accordingly. We have no division of sentiment on the subject, with the exception of two of our members who are friendly to the Bible Society." This was a sweeping judgment, and manifestly an appeal to approve it, and to advise other churches to follow their lead. In the interest of harmony and religious liberty the following reply was returned: "We are willing to leave the whole subject of those societies with the brethren, who compose our churches, trusting that each one will act in the matter so as to have a conscience void of offense towards God, and that they will bear with one another in love" This was certainly a wise answer, and what glorious ends would have been subserved, if it had been heeded. For several years following the membership constantly decreased till it went to 733. In 1835 there were only three baptisms. However, the minutes which had not exceeded four pages were now double - partly for the sake of a cover and to accommodate a larger circular letter - or it may have been to enlarge the print. The Forks of Gunpowder's request for more preaching at the session was denied. Elk Horn Association's request for a day of prayer, &c., was acceded to. The circular letters of this period touch upon the current controversy. One by Lewis Conner urged most earnestly a consideration of those points which were producing division, and one was a difference in the way of preaching the same gospel, which he pertinently says, was like its divine author, "the same yesterday, to-day and forever." The next circular letter was by Robert Kirtley, who also sought unity, especially among the ministry, cultivating humility and love. Among other things, he wrote "Let both preachers and private members remember that humility and love are necessary fruits of our doctrine, the highest beauty of our character, and strong guards of our churches." Truly a beautiful and worthy sentiment. In 1837, Eld. Lewis Conner deliverd the introductory sermon from, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." The next year Elder Robert Kirtley delivered the sermon
[p. 30]
from the words, "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." These texts indicate the lines of controversy - one on the high plane of God's love towards sinners - the other upon the high plane of predestination. At the session in 1839, application was made by the "First Baptist Church of Covington" for admittance into the union, but it was rejected. Objections rested on two counts. In their articles were the words, "that man was originally created holy," and "that all who hear the gospel are called upon to repent and believe it, and that their guilt


consists principally in their unbelief and opposition to the plan of grace which the gospel reveals." At this session, also, Forks of Gunpowder, Mud Lick, Crews' Creek and Salem, in their letters, preferred charges against Campbell County Association, and asked that she be dropped, as a corresponding body. They referred to Lewis Conner, Buford Rice, Stanton Aylor and Wm. Hume as witnesses. These stated that the Campbell County Association encouraged preaching, which they regarded unscriptural, and also for disorder in "receiving and baptizing persons in an unusual manner," after the business of the body closed. Bro. James Robinson regarded

[p. 31]
the preaching sound and scriptural, and as to the other matter, he thought our Association had no right to notice it. After hearing from the corresponding messengers from said body, the relation was broken off. And thus the "Predestinarians" scored a great victory on two counts - the Covington Church and the Campbell County Association. These actions seem to have had two effects on those councelling forbearance and peace; one was to make them more aggressive in extending the gospel, and the other to nerve them to steadfastness to what they thought right - realizing, doubtless, the extreme position to which they were being driven. Hence, at the next session Dry Creek and Middle Creek both ask for a reconsideration of dropping correspondence with Campbell County Association, where upon the relation was restored. First Church Covington was also admitted to the union. The record does not say whether any change was made in the articles of faith. There seems to have been no friction over these matters. But it was the calm before the storm. For following this session, in the fall of 1840, Mud Lick, Forks of Gunpowder, Bethel, Crews' Creek, Four Mile and Salem churches called a meeting and organized themselves into "the Salem Association of Predestinarian Baptists." These six churches had 263 members, four ordained ministers and two licentiates. In 1846 this body had increased to 388, but in 1879, reported only 5 churches and 65 members; hence from 11 churches and 388 members in 1846, it declined as above. Dr. Spencer, in History of Kentucky Baptists, says this body had 71 baptisms in 29 years. Elder Lewis Conner was the leader of this body, and presided several years as Moderator. As our Association had selected one of the seceding churches as its place of meeting for 1841, it became necessary to make other arrangements, so in the early spring a preliminary meeting was held at Bullittsburg, and East Bend was chosen. When the body convened Friday, August 20th, it had only 6 churches and 611 members, with five ordained ministers; they were Robert Kirtley, Francis Craig, Wm. Whitaker, Jas. T. Roberts and Bartlett Bennett. The division was pretty even with respect to the number of ministers. With Robert Kirtley as leader and Wm. Whitaker a strong second, they courageously faced the situation. At the first session after the division, Elder Robert Kirtley preached the introductory sermon from Acts 9:31 - "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea. and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified: and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." This was, no doubt, a strong and helpful
[p. 32]
sermon, and fit, admirably, the condition. Only 26 had been baptized during the year. The circular letter was also by Elder Kirtltey. While it made brief reference to the rupture, it pleaded, earnestly, for peace, love and unity in the things of God. The charges made by the Salem Association in its minutes and circular letter were answered after this manner: "Whereas, the churches of the Forks of Gunpowder, Crews' Creek, Salem, Mud Lick, Bethel and Four Mile have withdrawn from this Association, and have united themselves into an Association called 'Salem Association of Predestinarian Baptists;' and, whereas, they have charged this Association


with the introduction of doctrines and practices unknown to the constitution, and unsustained by the standard of her faith and practice, the Bible; and that she has waged a war against her constitution, and was reckless of the feelings of said churches, in neither of which charges have they or can they afford the proof, and all of which we deny; therefore be it "Resolved and made known to the Regular Baptists of Kentucky, that this Association adheres to its original constitution, and that her principles of faith and practice are in accordance with her earliest action, and the doctrine and views of the Regular Baptists throughout the United States." This was a strong and dignified reply; and implied the policy that would be

[p. 33]
pursued by the old body. At the suggestion of Bullittsburg church, a series of meetings was arranged for the remaining churches. There was great need for such work, as was thus aimed at, after such a serious rupture in the body. The very next session showed evidences of aggressive work as there had been 30 baptisms during the year. Elder Wm. Whitaker struck the keynote in his introductory sermon from the words, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am Chief." The circular letter on Faith and Works was a very strong one by Bro. P. S. Bush, a layman. It was well written and strongly fortified by scripture quotations, giving chapter and verse. It made a fine campaign document and must have exerted a great influence through the 600 copies of minutes printed for 614 members. This minute contains the first historical sketch - very brief of the six churches. Bullittsburg was constituted in 1794, with 7 members; Dry Creek in 1800, with 23 members; Middle Creek (now Bellevue) 1803, with 78 members; Sand Run in 1810, with 14 members; and First Covington in 1838, with 19 members. This closing of the fourth decade must have been painful, growing out of doctrinal strifes, but such things will happen among the Lord's people, "that they which are approved may be made manifest." The career of the two bodies seems like a providential commentary on the distinctive doctrines held.

Fifth Decade - 1843-1853.

     The opening session was held with Dry Creek church, August 18th, when just 40 years before the body came into existence. The year had been a great one in conversions, and 364 baptisms were reported, making just 101 MORE than were lost in the division. The Lord had wonderfully set the seal of His approbation upon the work. Three new churches came in - Burlington, Pleasant Ridge and Big Bone - thus bringing the number up to the original nine - with 978 members. The circular letters, which previously consisted of fraternal greetings and exortations to faithful and devout living, now dealt largely in discussions along lines of aggressive Christian work. A large number of young ministers also appears among the messengers.

     The session of 1844 was held in Covington for the first time. Pleasant Ridge withdrew to join Laughery (Ind.) Association. A proposition to open correspondence with the Miami (O.) Association, after discussion, was withdrawn. However, the body agreed in 1804, to correspond with Miami and two brethren were appointed as

[p. 34]
messengers, but there is no further reference to it until this '44 session. At this time the body declined to act upon a communication received from the Board of Managers of the American Indian Mission Association.

     In 1845, a committee was ordered "to consider the expediency of establishing a depository of Baptist publications" in our bounds. A favorable report was made, and the same was ordered established at Burlington. When the first session at Big Bone was held in 1846, the body was grappling with outside disorder at its annual meetings,


as "the vending of spirituous liquor, beer, cider, melons, &c." The circular letter by J. A. Kirtley was a masterly arraignment of heresies and defense of the truth. Tremendous blows were dealt Hyper-Calvinism, Campbellism, and Universalism.

     In 1847 the objects promoted by the Ky. and Foreign Bible Society were commended to the churches for favorable consideration. The following year was one of great destitution - only 2 baptisms being reported. The great revivals seem to have been followed by corresponding depression and lethargy; and the body had declined till there were only 676 members. At this session Bullittsburg and Dry Creek requested a change to the middle of the week in holding the

[p. 35]
session. And this was done. For 46 years a Sabbath had been included. It first went to Tuesday, and then dropped to Wednesday. The Western Baptist Theological Institute, which had been founded at Covington at a considerable outlay of money was endorsed as worthy of entire confidence.

     The Association early identified itself with the work of the General Association and at its session in 1848, ordered all funds for that body turned over to Elder J. M. Frost, to go as designated. In 1850 it was decided to have just a simple letter of correspondence prepared, and have that printed in the minutes. It was recommended to the churches "to hold protracted meeting's, under the immediate direction of the pastors, aided by such ministering brethren as can be procured to assist in the work." In those early years the relation between churches and pastors was somewhat different from our time, and the same honor was not given pastors then as now. The unhappiness growing out of the separation of the body, shows itself in the circular letter by Bro. Webb, who refers to it as an evil work wrought out by "the divider of brethren." Whether this refers to satan or some human leader, is not clear. The church at Ludlow, with seven members, was received. Bank Lick, that had been dismissed in 1827, with 74 members, returned in 1851 with 78 members. At this time $142.15 was reported raised for objects of the General Association, which was another expression for missions. Elder Geo. H. Scott had passed away and was sorely lamented "as a devoted Christian and useful minister of the gospel."

     The more orderly management of missionary work had its birth at this time in the appointment of an "Executive Committee," consisting of Absalom Graves, James Robinson. D. M. Scott, Lewis Webb, Wm. Kirtley, James Semple, J. P. Scott, Robert Huey, Hiram Cornelius and G. F. Northcutt, with instructions and authority to raise by subscription a sufficient sum to employ one or more missionaries, and to meet at Burlington the third Saturday in October and arrange the workers. At the next session they reported the employment of Elders J. A. Kirtley and Robert Vickers for one year, and recommended the continuence of the committee, which was done. The draft this work made on the churches for funds, greatly diminished the amount given the General Association. This closing year ot this period had but little to cheer the workers - only 2 baptisms being reported. To add to the depression Elders Francis Craig and P. C. Scott had passed away, and their loss was lamented.

[p. 36]
Sixth Decade - 1853-1863.

     This was entered at First Church Covington, Sept. 6, 1853. There had been 86 baptisms. At the next session, 222 baptisms were reported - every church having had one or more. Burlington, Big Bone, Walton, Florence, Petersburg and Taylorsport were the points fostered by the Executive Committee through its missionary. The subject of Temperance had here a distinct recognition, and a brother, Buckley, invited to address the body on that subject.

     The Executive Committee made an extensive report, signed by the president and clerk, printed in full in the minutes and occupying


a full page. It would be an interesting document to produce, but a few extracts must suffice. It had now been in operation three years. It says in part, "We are carried back to the time when this Association refused, not only to cooperate with any missionary body, even the General Association of Kentucky, but such was the fear of hurting the feelings of some of the members, that it was thought best not even to name in the minutes, that a small sum had been tendered, to be sent to their aid. From the same cause, we feared to send delegates to that body. Indeed our minds are led still further back, to the time, when through the same influence, we were compelled to

[p. 37]
sit almost in silence and hear in our circular and corresponding letters, the cause of the extension of Christ's Kingdom, through preaching; of the gospel and circulation of the Bible, opposed and condemned as unscriptural, and those who advocated it denounced as unsound in the faith, and pointed at as "ring-streaked, speckled and spotted Baptists." The report recites that when the resolution was offered, creating the Executive Committee, it was not known that it would find another advocate. Special mention is made of Elds. Robert Kirtley and Wm. Whitaker advocating it, which makes it appear to have been penned by the clerk, Lewis Webb, or Absalom Graves, who became the president of the committee. At this time it had been declared in the General Association that, while North Bend Association was only about one-hundredth part of the Baptists of the State, she was doing about one-tenth of the work for Domestic Missions. This was a magnificent record. The circular letter of this session is worthy of especial mention, being by J. D. McGill, a layman, and urging the calling out of such ministerial gifts as are discovered among the brethren, the better support of the ministry, that without distraction they may give themselves to their work; the greater appreciation of supplying the people with faithful workers, to the end of enlarging the Kingdom. It was a strong plea for more prayer for more laborers, more effort to put them forward, more support for those who devoted themselves to the work, and more all-round devotion to meeting the needs among the people at home and abroad.

     In 1855, Florence Church with 11 members was admitted to the union. Elder H. F. Buckner, missionary to the Creek Indians, was present and addressed the body. At the next session, by request of the Association, the churches reported whites and blacks separately - there being 937 white members, and 110 colored, "as far as reported," the clerk added. This was a session of resolutions: One pertained to urging increased contributions in view of the great destitution in our bounds; another urged the appointment of J. A. Kirtley to write a history of the Association, agreeing to take 300 copies and present one to each Association in the State; another urged, in view of the great destitution in our State and the Southwest, our churches to pray the Lord of the harvest for more laborers, that they take a deeper interest in ministerial education, and consider the claims of Georgetown College, whose endowment was now being pressed. The tendency was towards systematic work - facts and figures. Hence the missionary reports 1639 miles traveled, 127 sermons

[p. 38]
preached, 7 exhortations delivered and 3 baptized. The aggregate collections for the year was $934.63.

     At the session in 1857, "John's Church" (now Madison Ave.), Covington, was admitted with 42 members. Here, again, the body wrestled with matters of systematic benevolence and ministerial supply. Prayer was urged for more laborers, and more work to cherish and develop any evidence of ministerial gifts; and time fixed for special prayer "to God to answer their prayers for the needed blessing."

     After five years of service as missionary, Eld. J. A. Kirtley declined further service, and Eld. James Vickers was engaged for all time service. He was a man of advanced age, but addressed himself vigorously to the work.

     In 1858, there is a decided change. A letter was read from Miss S. A. Haines, principal of the Judsonian Female Seminary, Covington, and a lengthy report, commending and endorsing the same, was adopted. There were reports also on Georgetown College, Domestic Missions, and Denominational Publications. The circular letter by A. Drury failed of the endorsement of the committee to examine it, and it was not printed.

      The event of 1859 was the very able discussion of the Lord's Supper, assigned the year before to J. A. Kirtley. It occupied over seven pages of the minutes. One thousand copies were ordered printed, and a copy sent the clerk of each of our corresponding Associations.

     The next important step taken by the body was the hearty reception given the inauguration of the colportage work of the General Association, and recommending Bro. Elam Davis, of Aurora, Ind., as a suitable man to work in the bounds of the Association, and to act as missionary, also. These years preceding the great political upheaval in our country, and its precipitation into civil war, were marked by a decline in membership. This year saw the opening conflict, and special prayer was made "for the restoration of peace to our country." The circular letter of this '61 session bore upon the civil situation, and counseled forbearance and love, and at this distance, seems quite inoffensive, but the committee to pass upon it disagreed, and referred it back, asking the body to vote without discussion, which was done, and it was printed.

     This period closed at Middle Creek, Sept. 10, 1862, with a one-day's session, in consequence of the war. This is the only marked evidence that there was any serious disturbance to the body. It continued its work without any great loss.

[p. 39]
Seventh Decade - 1863-1873.

     This period was entered with 12 churches and 906 members. There were present at the first meeting only four ordained ministers - Robert and J. A. Kirtley, Wm. Whitaker and W. Pope Yeaman. But some very important business was transacted. From the session in 1858 to this time there had been no report from the Executive Committee, and now a reorganization of missionary work was effected by the appointment of a "Home Missionary Society" of one from each church, to have full authority in raising funds and employing missionaries, and report annually to the Association. Later the resident pastors were made a part of this board, and such is its constitution now. The work moved well the first year, and Elder Fergus German was employed. The next year a debt of $188 was reported; but the same plan of work was continued. The work of the Foreign Mission Board was endorsed, and Elder Jas. B. Taylor, its corresponding Secretary, given an opportunity to present its claims. The report on Domestic Missions was strong and vigorous.

     In 1866, Walton Church with 25 members, was received. Ludlow had dropped out. This was another year of many resolutions. One bore upon the mission work in our bounds; another, upon the presence of the venerable and beloved Eld. Robt. Kirtley, whose presence was gratefully acknowledged and much enjoyed. The report of the Executive Board was doleful in the extreme, reciting failure of funds, failure of cooperation, and still in debt. A committee of five to report on the situation urged the continuance of the board; and the doctrine of "eliciting, combining and developing" was never more clearly and strongly urged. The board was "to endeavor to enlist EVERY MEMBER OF EVERY CHURCH to give at least the proceeds of one day's labor or one day's revenue as a free-will offering to the Lord in this work and any persons not members of the church to be enlisted, when practicable." An auxiliary relationship with the General Association, was recommended. The report on Domestic Missions states that Bro. VanHoose, the agent of the Board, has collected about $500, in our bounds during the year.

     Agricultural Fairs, as then conducted, were declared "productive of demoralizing and evil tendencies, and the churches urged to discountenance them by withholding from the same our time, our influence and our means." Are they any better after 36 years of experience? The reappearance of the Ludlow church with a female messenger provoked this deliverance: "Resolved, That the delegates of the churches of this Association, shall be white male members in good standing in their own churches."

[p. 40]
     This period had just 600 baptisms reported, the lowest number any one year being 17, and the highest 110. The growth was gradual and good. While there were many discouragements for lack of men and money for missionary purposes, there was great determination to press forward the Lord's work.

     It was in 1865 that Elder J. A. Kirtley was elected moderator and S. P. Brady clerk, and for 30 consecutive years they sat side by side in carrying on the work of the body. Bro. Kirtley was elected for the 31st time, and then later was again elected, and now holds the office of Moderator emeritus. This service of moderator and clerk is without a parallel in our history. Bro. Lewis Webb served for 30 consecutive years, which was a remarkable service, and in which he was greatly honored.

     The valuable history of Bullittsburg, the Mother Church, loved and honored, was written and published in this period by J. A. Kirtley. The circular letters of this period were very fine - touching as they did on, "The Christian Laborer," "Church Discipline," "Luke-warmness," "The Divine Procedure in the Administration of the Final Judgment," &c.

     Elder Robt. Kirtley passed away from earthly scenes, April 9th, 1872, lacking a few days of being 86 years old. He had been a minister 53 years, and a great leader among God's people for all of forty years. He was the recognized leader of the Missionary forces, as Lewis Conner was of the Predestinarians, in the dreadful rupture that divided the Association. The unity, peace, continuity and prosperity of the old body were due mainly to his earnestness, zeal, love and devotion to the pure word of God, with a harmonious adjustment of all its doctrines. He was most heartily seconded by Eld. Wm. Whitaker, who was a strong and earnest preacher of God's word. This true yoke-fellow passed away, Aug. 12th, 1872. They were united in life, and not long separated in death. This was one of the great periods of the body.

Eighth Decade - 1873-1883.

     This period opened at Dry Creek with 13 churches and 1282 members, and closed with 13 churches and 1522 members. DeCoursey Creek Church was received at the first session with 34 members. A brief history of the several churches now takes place of the circular letter, which had been a prominent feature from the beginning.

     At the session in 1876 an Executive Committee for the furtherance of the Sunday School work was ordered. All necessary authority was given it. A mission to the Germans in Covington was

[p. 41]
also approved and cooperation promised. The pastors of this body were made an Executive Committee to foster the work; but nothing of importance was accomplished for lack of a house.

     The minutes of 1877 and 1878 contains a history of the Association for the first 75 years. And the minute of 1890 has the history continued to 1889 inclusive. This was prepared at much labor by the then clerk, Bro. S. P. Brady, who filled his office so faithfully. He gives for each year the place of meeting, day and dates; preacher of introductory sermon, moderator and clerk; writer of circular letter, or history of church, names of corresponding Associations and messengers, and other interesting facts. It would be well to have the history continued to the present time in the same way.

     During this period there was a gradual growth, and although there were 802 baptisms, the body had a net increase of only 240 in ten years. There was a constant pursuing of the work, and a disposition to help every deserving enterprise to forward the Master's Kingdom. The reports were extended to the various objects fostered, and were prepared with much care. The growth along all lines was healthy. The Association struck rock-bottom in 1840, when the division came, and while it had had many trying experiences, it felt committed to extending the gospel at home and abroad, hence its way was upward and onward, and it was now taking high ground for aggressive work for extending the kingdom.

Ninth Decade - 1883-1893.

     The session of 1883 was held at Bullittsburg. and 186 baptisms were reported. There were still just 13 churches, but they had grown to 1600 in membership; this was but little short of what the body had with 25 churches. The growth was now both gradual and continuous - no great awakenings and no great declinations. A new constitution and order of business were adopted, and among other things an Executive Board, of two members from each church and all resident pastors was provided for, and also a Sunday School Board.

     At its session in 1885, the body was much occupied with the German Mission in Covington; and the Executive Board's report was amended by instructing it to exert itself to secure funds both for the missionary and also to build or purchase a chapel. But there was a failure of both means and moral support - so Bro. Koopman closed his work, April 30, 1886. The Board however, resolved to purchase a lot on which to build a chapel. Subscription blanks were sent to the churches. But there were no responses, save $300 subscribed by First Covington and $200 by Madison Ave. Thus the work failed.

[p. 42]
     In 1884, Beaver Lick Church with 26 members was received. This church was organized in the Old Mud Lick meeting-house and upon the ruins of said church, which went off in 1840 with 34 members. It took 44 years for the Predestinarians to die and for 26 Missionary Baptists to be raised up, but in 19 years she has grown to be 151 strong. The same thing has occurred at the Forks of Gunpowder, when in 1902 a Missionary Baptist Church was organized in the old meeting-house.

     In 1885, the Independence church was received with 30 members, Union in 1887, with 48 members; Ludlow, after an absence since 1868, returned with 50 souls. Erlanger with 18 members and Third Church, Covington, with 52 came in 1891. There were 1495 baptisms during this period and a net gain of 972 - the total membership now being 2494.

     In October 12, 1888, the Executive Board was called in special session at Erlanger, when J. L. Bristow, J. M. Kirtley, T. M. Porter, Ben Dulaney and Louis Senior were appointed a board of trustees with a view of acquiring property, &c. They were incorporated and were instructed to undertake the erection of a church building, cost not to exceed "$2,500." Later this was changed and a brick building with slate roof, and costing several thousand dollars was erected. The work was completed in 1890 and the entire indebtedness cancelled in 1900. There was also considerable colportage work done during 1887 to 1891.

Tenth Decade - 1893-1903.

The closing decade has been one of continued growth in many particulars. There have been 1621 baptized, and the membership brought up to 5308. Three new churches have been constructed and added to the body: Latonia, in 1900, New Bank Lick and Visalia in 1901, and Gunpowder in 1903.

     At the session in 1894, an expression of gratitude and of thankfulness to Bro. J. A. Kirtley, as Moderator, and Bro. S. P. Brady, as Clerk, was passed for the unusual favor of 30 consecutive years of faithful service. They both had been faithful and painstaking servants of the body. At the session in 1896, Bro. Kirtley, having served as Moderator 30 consecutive years, positively refused a re-election and Eld. B. F. Swindler was elected, and Bro. Kirtley graciously accepted the position of Assistant Moderator. Bro. G. M. Allen, having served one year as Clerk, begged to be excused from further service, and Bro. D. E. Castleman was elected to fill that important office.

[p. 43]
     Some dark shadows marked this period. Bro. Sebern Perry Brady, the old and honored ex-clerk of the body, passed to his reward Dec. 29th, 1896, in his 81st year. The biographical sketch of his life, together with a good picture covers two pages of the minutes of 1897. The minutes of 1898 contains a splendid picture of the lamented Robt. E. Kirtley, and also a brief account of his life. He was a man of commanding appearance, a preacher of great erudition and a profound theologian. In the year 1902, we were stunned and saddened by the cutting off in the very prime of a noble young manhood of C. G. Jones, D. D., pastor of the First Baptist Church, Covington. As a preacher, he was strong vigorous and direct; as a pastor, active and energetic; as a man kind-hearted and generous. A memorial page with picture, statemant of life and resolutions, was set apart.

     For many years the Association gave one day to preaching - usually by three or four visiting ministers. This finally gave way to a missionary sermon on the second day. When the session was cut to two days, only one sermon, to be known as the Annual Sermon, was provided for.

     There have been 14 moderators, as follows: Wm. Cave 1 year, A. Monroe 5, Lewis Dewees 2, Thos. Griffing 4, Chichester Mathews 1, Christopher Wilson 4, Moses Scott 6, Absalom Graves 3, Wm. Montague 2, Robt. Kirtley 32, Lewis Conner 1, Wm. Whitaker 1, J. A. Kirtley 32, B. F. Swindler 6. There have been 7 Clerks, as follows: Absalom Graves 20, Moses Scott, 3, Willis Graves 9, Lewis Webb 30, S. P. Brady 30, G. M. Allen 1, D. E. Castleman 7. These lives link together this first hundred years, and around them gather all these historical facts: Absalom Graves, 1803-1825; Robt. Kirtley from 1818-1872; and James A. Kirtley from 1842 to the present time. These all came from the old mother Church, Bullittsburg. Their lives and labors are thus blended like the Christian graces of faith, hope and love.

     The North Bend Association is not now, nor has she ever been a large body, but she has been a great power in the denomination. She has been always strongly orthodox. She has been blest with a strong ministry, mainly of her own production. Two of these, Robt. Kirtley, and his son, J. A., wielded an influence in the body for about 80 years. Eld. Robt. Kirtley was pastor of Bullittsburg church for 30 years, and of Big Bone 13 years. Eld. J. A. Kirtley was pastor of Bullittsburg 42 alone, and 5 years with his father. He was pastor at Big Bone 49, four or five years associated with his father.

[p. 44]
Their united pastorate at Bullittsburg was 72 years. The notable pastorates are these two at Bullittsburg and Big Bone churches and Eld. W. H. Felix, D.D., 14 years at the First Church in Covington. The ministry has been strongly seconded by a noble brotherhood, and of honorable women a very great multitude. Hence, the body has been in the front rank in missions; in benevolence, and in all kinds of aggressive Christian work. Power, progress and prosperity have marked her steps through the century.

     As the Association faces her second century in this the twentieth century, she has 19 churches, and the following resident pastors: S. M. Adams [M.D.], E. B. Atwood, C. W. Daniel, C. A. Earl, G. W. Hill, J. L. Presser, W. S. Taylor, J. L. Sproles, B. F. Swindler, A. L. Vickers, and resident ministers; not pastors, W. R. Hutton, W. R. Elliston, J. H. Summey, F. M. Marshall, T. L. Utz, and our venerable, honored and beloved J. A. Kirtley. And now beloved and honored North Bend Association, may thy way be upward and onward, and by the Divine Hand be made "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."


From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1904, pp. 21-44. Document from the Baptist Building, Erlanger. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More Boone County Baptist History
Baptist History Homepage