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The Six Churches Entering the Organization
of the Elkhorn Baptist Association (1781-1785)
By Lee Walter, 1906


      This church of which Lewis Craig was pastor removed in a body from Spotsylvania county, Virginia and settled on Gilbert's Creek, south of the Kentucky River, in the fall of 1781. Attracted by the glowing accounts which were given by retuning explorers of the beautiful scenery, the unexcelled productiveness, and the abundance of wild game of the charming region, beyond the mountains, and revolting ecclesiastical persecution and domination of the State Church authorities of Virginia, the larger number of the members of this church, having been, at their request, constituted into an independent church, and taking along with them, the pastor and old church book, began their long and tedious journey to the “foreign land.” Carrying their women, children and baggage on horseback, they travelled through the wilderness for 600 miles. Famine, cold, fatigue and sickness impeded their journey. The wild beast and treacherous Indian made perilous their match. Winter, with its ice, snow, and mud, tested their patience and tried their strength. Many times during their journey, when a halt was called, did they engaged in religious services. Many times did the primeval forest of the Dark and Bloody Ground resound with the hymns of Zion; the vales which formerly had reverberated with the scream of the catamount or the war hoop of the infuriated savage, now for the first time echoed with the hallelujahs of the saints. The “Great Spirit,” whom the savages ignorantly worshipped by means of magic and incantations, was now worshipped “in spirit and in truth.” On the second Sunday in December, 1781, weary and exhausted, they arrived at Gilbert’s Creek, and there permanently located. The church entered into the organization of Elkhorn association in 1785. The covenant of this church may be found in the first record book of Mt. Pleasant church. I found it there in the course of my wanderings through the Association last summer in search of data for the compilation of this document. As a specimen of pure, elegant, and beautiful English, it is unexcelled.


      This church was founded in Madison county in 1783. A body of less than 50 members, it was probably gathered by John Tanner. It entered into the organization in 1785.


      In the fall of 1783, Lewis Craig and many of the members of Gilbert’s Creek church moved across the Kentucky River and settled about six miles from the present city of Lexington. He built a grist mill at the point where the Lexington-Harrodsburg pike crosses the South Branch of Elkhorn. He began preaching in the woods and baptizing in the creek. Soon a church was considered desirable in the locality. Consequently, on July 31, 1784, helps having been called from Gilbert’s Creek, a church was organized. It took the name of South Elkhorn Church. This church united with the Elkhorn Association at its organization. In 1831 it was excluded from the Association because it had adopted “Reformed” [Campbellite] sentiments. The present South Elkhorn Baptist church was organized later.


      This church is so named from the fact that it is located at the place on the north branch of Elkhorn where the herds of buffalo crossed the creek going to and from the salt licks. Hither, in the spring of 1784, came Col. Robert Johnson, father of Jas. Johnson, Member of Congress, and R. M. Johnson, Vice-President of the United States. Here, on the most exposed frontier, Col. Johnson settled and built a fort. The settlement grew rapidly. John Taylor, Lewis Craig, and William Hickman frequently preached within the palisade of the fort. Col. Johnson, himself a Baptist, urged the constitution of a church. Accordingly, on May 28, 1785, Great Crossing church (at first called big Crossing) was organized. It entered into the organization of Elkhorn Association in 1785, and has remained a member till the present.


      Many members of the South Elkhorn church lived in the settlement known as Clear Creek, about ten miles from their church, among them being four preachers, John Dupey, James Rucker, Richard Cave, and John Taylor. A great revival broke out in the Clear Creek settlement in the spring of 1785, under the powerful evangelist preaching of John Taylor. A church was needed in the settlement, but the members of South Elkhorn loved their old pastor, Lewis Craig, so much, that they were somewhat unwilling to enter into a separation organization; but finally, after many councils had been held for the consideration of the matter, the South Elkhorn members residing at Clear Creek decided to enter into a church organization, provided Lewis Craig would visit them ocasionally [sic] and set them right when they got wrong. “To this height of respectability was Lewis Craig in Kentucky,” says John Taylor. On June 18, 1785, the members of South Elkhorn living west of a certain boundary were constituted into a Church of Christ at Clear Creek. It entered the organization in 1785.


      In 1785, just before the organization of Elkhorn Association, nine Baptists, led by William Wood, their subsequent pastor, united themselves under a church covenant, at Simon Kenton's old fort, near the present site of Washington, Ky. The fort was located on a small tributary of the Ohio River.


[From Lee Walter, a portion of a thesis for the degree of Doctor in Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1906, chapter 2; via E-Text, Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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