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History of Bethel Baptist Church
Franklin County, Kentucky
Established 1802

1802 - 1975

      In the year of 1802, a body of believers in the Baptist faith united and began the erection of a church building of hewed poplar logs on a site that had been secured. The said property is now known as the Robert Penn farm near Elkhorn Creek on the Sullivan Lane Road.

      The benches for the pews were made by hand. One section of the building was set aside for the seating of the Negro slaves who were members of the church.

      Until 1860, whale oil lamps and candles were used to light the church. From 1860 to the early twenties, kerosene lamps were used. Then carbide gas was used until electricity was installed around 1940.

      The name "Bethel" was chosen for the church, and she called Rev. Jimmy Duvall to be the first pastor in which capacity he served for forty-five years until his death.

      It was here at old Bethel Church that F. H. Hodges was converted, later being renown as a minister for more than fifty years in the bounds of the Franklin Baptist Association and often during that time as pastor of Bethel Church.

      There were no musical instruments used in the old church, the only music being that of the singing of hymns.

      In the year 1889, a decision was reached to erect the present auditorium building, on this site which the trustees of the church had purchased. The name of the site or location then being known as Locust Grove.

      A decision was also reached at this time to tear down the old church building and have the poplar logs, which were still sound and well preserved, sawed into timbers to be used in the new church building. This was done, but during the building period, church services were held at other places. A great part of the time, the meeting place was at the Thorn Grove School.

      The contract for the erection of the new building was let to Mr. Nick Graham. Mr. Graham was a member of the church, having united with old Bethel Church at the age of twelve. He was a member of the old church for twenty-four years before he completed the new building in August of 1890.

      On Sunday after the third Saturday in August of 1890, the new building was dedicated. On Saturday the day before the dedication, Rev. John H. Burdin was ordained as pastor of Bethel Church, in which capacity he served for the next seven years. After an interval of a few years he was again called as pastor serving this time seven years. Again there followed an interval after which he again was called, this time serving four years. Thus, Rev. John H. Burdin served Bethel Church for eighteen years.

      Other pastors who served Bethel Church were Rev. R. W. Crume in 1913-1914, Rev. J. E. Meng in 1915, and Rev. R. H. Griffin in 1919.

It Was during these intervals that Rev. L. D. Stucker, another minister of renown in the Franklin Association, served as pastor of Bethel Church, being called three times and serving a total of eleven years.

      In the year of 1924, the church called Rev. Claude T. Ammerman, now Dr. Ammerman, as pastor of the church in which capacity he served for nine years. Then during the year of 1933, Rev. J. S. Thompson was called as pastor and served for ten years. The first new Sunday School rooms were added to the church in 1926.

      Other pastors who have served the church are: Rev. Sharp, Rev. Robert L. Murphy, Rev. Ernest C. Upchurch, Rev. Carl E. Epperson, and in 1952 Rev. Charles D. Taylor.

      Throughout the pages of the old church history, there runs a thread of church discipline, for from time to time down through the pages of the church minutes, there runs the story of committees being appointed on many and various occasions to see that certain members appear before the church in regard to their conduct, actions, or absence. Many of these were restored, but some were excluded.

      The following article about Bethel Church was taken from the History of Franklin Baptist Association from the years 1815 to 1912.

"Constituted in 1802, one of the oldest churches in the Association and except Frankfort, the largest in point of numbers.

One of the landmarks of the denomination-well abreast of the times and usages of the Baptist.

Holding at all times destinction of being a New Testament Church. Neither irregular in practice, nor heretic in doctrine.

Forward in missionary and Sunday School work; her light not hid under a bushel of selfishness or bigotry.

The descendants of her founders still abide and worship among her environments.

Was the Spiritual birthplace of one of the oldest and most revered of all the ministers of Franklin Association, the Rev. F. H. Hodges, who for more than fifty years lived and labored exclusively within the bounds of this Association, and often as her pastor.

Her membership has always been large in numbers and devoted in all Christian work."

     In the year 1902, a grave yard was added to the church property, which in 1925 became a self-supporting church cemetery. Visitors have often been attracted by its beauty and neatness.
     During the month of August, 1919, the church went from quarter time preaching to half time. In the year 1926, new Sunday School rooms.were added to the main auditorium, the permanent partitioning being completed in 1951.

      During the year of 1942, the church went from half time preaching to full time preaching. In the year of 1945, the church voted to start a building fund for a church parsonage. At that time, no suitable building sites were available, but the fund was kept alive by prayers, constant diligence, and some contributions for the next two and a half years. At that time the Lord provided the site by reaching the hearts of the two daughters of the Rev. L. D. Stucker who had just received title to the farm adjoining the church. When approached in regard to the matter, they gladly deeded to the church the tract of land on which the new parsonage was erected, being completed early in 1949 except the finishing of the upstairs rooms which were completed in 1952.

      Thus during the past fifty years, the church climbed from quarter time preaching to full time, from a one room auditorium to eight Sunday School rooms added to the main auditorium, the final completion of permanent partitions of said rooms having been completed in 1951. Progress was also made from a pastor's salary of $100 per year without a parsonage to $2600 per year with a parsonage. The church went from no stated missionary budget to that of twenty percent of church receipts to cooperative program in addition to designated gifts.

      In 1950, Rev. Charles Taylor began his ministry at Bethel. He was pastor of the church in 1952 when the church celebrated its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. He served as pastor for a period of five and one half years. During this time, the inside walls and ceiling of the sanctuary were newly plastered, a new pulpit with an enlarged platform to include room for the choir was installed, a new church steeple with a bell tower combination was built atop the church, a new vestibule was added to the front of the building and a new piano was purchased.

      Rev. J.C. Thrower became pastor of Bethel in the latter part of 1955, serving a bit over three years. During this time, new rooms were added across the back of the church with a hallway passage between the rest of the church and the new part which included four rooms with sliding doors, a kitchen above with a lavatory at the other end of the hallway, and a basement with four rooms, and a furnace were included in the building. Also, during this time, a cistern was installed with an electric water pump put in the basement, and water was piped to the upper part of the church.

      Rev. Thrower felt the call to become a missionary and requested to be released as pastor of Bethel to become a missionary in Brazil.

      Rev. Charles R. Gaba followed Rev. Thrower as pastor, and served during the years of 1959 and 1960.

      A recreation field was prepared for use on part of the grounds to be used for various games of sports as needed.

      Rev. Otto Spangler served as pastor of Bethel during the years of 1961 and 1962. During this period, a committee composed of the following members

was selected by the church to compile and write Constitution and By-Laws for the church: Rev. Spangler, Woodson Duvall, Floyd Shelton, Paul Smith, and Leslie Graves, with Etta Long as secretary. This was-completed during this period and approved by the church.

      Rev. Robert Kendig served as pastor of Bethel during the years of 1963 and 1964. During this period, a Sunday afternoon missionary Sunday School, with Deacon Floyd Shelton as Superintendent was held on Smither Brothers farm three miles from the church near the Kentucky River. The church reported forty-four baptisms during this time.

      Rev. Ross E. Lishen became pastor of Bethel in 1965, and served until 1972. During the latter part of 1965, consideration was given concerning the building of a new sanctuary. The decision was reached to build in the early part of 1966 to be paid for by the selling of bonds paying interest of six percent. Gray and Coblin of Frankfort were the architects chosen, and T. C. Pitman was the contractor. The new building with all new furniture, wall to wall carpenting, and modern facilities was completed at the end of the year 1966, and dedicated on February 5, 1967.

      During 1969, three new Sunday School rooms were constructed down the right side of the former sanctuary to which the new building had been adjoined directly in front. The nursery was enlarged, and more completely furnished with modern necessities. A speaker system from the new sanctuary was installed.

      Rev. Ted Wigglesworth was called as pastor of Bethel in September of 1972. During 1973, a bus ministry was started; the church was air conditioned; a total of 200 in Vacation Bible School. In 1974, a total of 202 attended Vacation Bible School. In early 1975, the Church ordained Rev. David A. Smith into the full gospel ministry. He is presently serving as Assistant Pastor. From September, 1972, to present, (April, 1975) there have been 104 new members added to the Church by letter or statement; 89 baptisms, with 250 other decisions. Two more new Sunday School rooms are being built down the left side of the original sanctuary with a hallway passage between the two sections of Sunday School Rooms.

      However, there is much room for improvement, growth, and progress for the fields are white already unto harvest and the laborers are few, pray ye therefore that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth laborers.

      If Bethel Church shows progress in carrying out the Great Commission in the future, each member must be faithful and loyal to the church in every phase of the work.
      Respectfully submitted,
      Woodson Duvall, Chairman
      Church History Committee
      Ted C. Wigglesworth, Pastor


[Copied from a four-page typed document at the Kentucky Historical Society Library, Frankfort, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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