Baptist History Homepage

      Editor's note: The Mount Freeedom Baptist Church is significant in that when J. R. Graves came to Kentucky in 1841, he united with this church and she licensed and ordained him. He was twenty-one years old when he came to Mount Freedom and stayed there four years before moving on to Nashsville, Tennessee. As will be noted in this history, the church in 1838 had taken a doctrinal stand on two specific issues: baptism and the Lord's Supper.
"1st Query: Is it right that a member of this church should commune with any other church that is not of the same faith and order? Answer: No."

"2nd Query: Is it right for this church to receive a member's baptism valid that was baptized by another society, that is not of the same faith and order with us? Answer: In the negative."

     Many Baptist churches in central Kentucky had been ravaged by the teachings of Alexander Campbell; this church shortly after it was constituted in 1832 wrote a strong statement against Mr. Campbell's doctrine.

     Many indicate that J. R. Graves developed the "Landmark System," that emphasizes the doctrine of the local church and its ordinances in the early 1850s, but this document shows he was influenced as a young man by the actions of Mount Freedom Baptist Church; there are many antecedents to the written statements of J. R. Graves and others at Cotton Grove, Tennessee, where Landmarkism was supposed to have been birthed. - Jim Duvall

Mount Freedom Baptist Church
Jessamine County, Kentucky
Constituted in 1832
By S. J. Conkwright, 1923

      Mt. Freedom Church had two locations in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The first location was two miles east of Wilmore, on the Shaker Ferry turnpike; the old meeting house is still standing, but is now used as a barn. The second location is at Wilmore, in Jessamine County, where they have a splendid brick building, erected in 1903, and dedicated the same year, the dedicatory sermon being delivered by Dr. W. H. Felix.

      The constitution of this church is described in the record book as follows: "Jessamine County, Kentucky, the Friday before the third Saturday in September, 1832. Agreeable to a former appointment for the constitution of a Baptist church of the United Order of Baptists, at the above place. There were messengers to assist in the constitution from Hickman, Mt. Gilead, Boggs' Fork, Shawnee Run and Mt. Pleasant churches. Brother John Rice was chosen moderator and Brother R. L. Steinbergin clerk of the presbytery."

[p. 98]
      It is presumed that the new organization was composed of twelve members, as the church united with Boone's Creek Association the day following its constitution, and reported a membership of twelve, her messengers being B. P. Evans and Isaac Crisman.

     The church adopted as their articles of faith the terms of the General Union of 1801, between the Separate and Regular Baptists. The following resolution was also adopted on the day of their constitution: "Owing to the many strange doctrines lately propagated among the Baptist denomination, and in order that society and the world may know our opinion, we do solemnly protest against the doctrines of the Rev. Alexander Campbell and all its adherents."

     In October, 1852, Brother B. P. Evans was elected clerk of the church, and he continued to serve faithfully in this position for eleven years. At the same meeting Brother Josiah Minter was invited to exercise his gift of prayer and exhortation for the church and elsewhere, as he may see proper. On motion, Elder John Rice was called as pastor, but inasmuch as they never received an answer from him, the church extended a call to Elder John Dean in May, 1833, which he accepted and served as their pastor until January, 1834. In August, 1833, Isaac Crisman was chosen a deacon. In April, 1836, Gabriel Slaughter was chosen a deacon.

     Elder John Rice had preached for them from January, 1834, to April, 1837, but it does not appear clear from the records whether or not he accepted the pastorate during that time. Elder Edward Waller accepted the care of the church in April, 1837, serving them for one year.

     During the annual session of Boone's Creek Association, which was held with Mt. Freedom Church in 1837, the subject of foreign missions was brought before that body in the following manner: "The Association took up the question of Hickman Church in relation to raising a fund to aid the American Foreign Bible Society sending the word of God to the heathen, and adopted the following resolution, to wit: 'Resolved, that the Association believes the Bible cause to be the cause of God and worthy of the efforts of every Christian, we therefore recommend to the churches composing the Association to take the matter into consideration and report their views on the subject and send on their subscriptions and contributions to our next Association to aid the Society in its operations.'"

     According to the records of the next annual Association, Mt. Freedom was the only church in Boone's Creek Association to give anything for foreign missions. In the fall of 1837, a series of meetings was conducted by Elders Josiah Leak, Dennis Moss and Mason Owens, which resulted in thirty-three being added to the church by experience and baptism. After the close of the meeting Elder Josiah Leak accepted the care of the church, serving them until November, 1838. In January, 1838, on a motion made by Joseph Minter, the following two questions were put to a vote.

1st Query: Is it right that a member of this church should commune with any other church that is not of the same faith and order? Answer: "No."

"2nd Query: Is it right for this church to receive a member's baptism valid that was baptized by another society, that is not of the same faith and order with us? Answer: In the negative."

[p. 99]
     After the vote Brother Minter being satisfied with the action of the church, declines requesting a letter of dismissal. In April, 1838, Joseph Minter and Joseph Curd were elected deacons. In June, 1838, the church voted to hold a prayer meeting on the first Sunday in each month. One of their members, Brother Robert Melvin, was ordained to the ministry.

      Elder Mason Owens accepted the pastorate in February, 1841. The church agreed to pay him $150.00 a yeair for his services. This is the first record of this church having remunerated a pastor for his services. In May, 1841, Henry Ballard was chosen a deacon. Robert Rowland and James Graves were licensed by the church, an May, 1842, to exercise their gift of preaching and exhortation. Elder Thomas J. Fisher, assisted by the pastor, Mason Owens, held a series of meetings in July, 1842, when there was added to the church by experience and baptism, fifty white and twenty-eight black members. In August, 1842, Peter Campbell and Harrison Wilson were chosen deacons.

     James R. Graves and A. G. Rowland were ordained to the ministry from Mt. Freedom Church in October, 1842. Brother Graves was quite a useful man to the Baptist denomination, and became editor of the Tennessee Baptist in 1846, which he published in Nashville until the Civil War caused its suspension. After the war he continued the publication from Memphis, Tenn., for years. His industry, energy and activity were almost matchless. Although living most of his life in Tennessee, he labored much in Southern Kentucky.

     On motion, the church, at its meeting in December, 1842, agreed to request their pastor, Mason Owens, to preach two Sundays in each month. Thomas Hawkins was elected clerk in February, 1843. The following month, W. L. Ballard was elected clerk. In April, of the same year, the church invited Elder James R. Graves and R. G. Rowland to preach for them once a month. We do not think this means the pastoral call of the church, as Elder Mason Owens was still their pastor. In June, 1843, the church decided to build a house of worship. It is inferred from the records that the house they had been using was also used by others of different faith. They selected a lot adjoining the one they had been using.

      A series of meetings was held in September, 1843, the pastor being assisted by Elder Willis Peek; the meeting resulted in fourteen additions to the church. In January, 1844, the church agreed to observe the Lord's Supper once every two months, instead of once every three months, as had previously been her custom. Thomas Hawkins was elected clerk at this meetiing. In January, 1846, the church went into the investigation of some difficulty involving the pastor, Brother Owens, and Brother P. Campbell. Brother Campbell having insinuated that he had some objections to Brother Owens, the church called on him to state them, which he did, to the effect that Brother Owens had a fiddle in his house and that he had heard him trying to play it. The church dismissed the matter, and appointed a committee of four to try and reconcile the aggrieved brethren. In a short time the difficulty was settled. But when Elder Owens' time for which he had been called as pastor expired the following month, he declined to accept another call. In April, 1846, on motion, the part of the minutes of the January meeting

[p. 100]
that had reference to Brethren Owens and Campbell were ordered to be expunged from the records. In May, 1846, the church went into the call of a pastor, but could not agree on one.

     About this time, a difficulty arose in the church, charges and counter-charges being made againt certain members. This became quite serious, and referees were called in to see if they could not adjust the matter, but their efforts were fruitless, and the difficulty increased, finally resulting in two letters being sent to Boone's Creek Association, in 1847, each claiming to be from Mt. Freedom Church. Both letters were read and neither received by the Association, the church being declared in disorder. Whereupon letters were sent to the different churches composing the Association, requesting helps from them, to meet at Mt. Freedom Church on October 29th and 30th, 1847, to ascertain who were the true church. On the dates mentioned, committees from six churches met at Mt. Freedom Church, and selected Ambrose Bush, moderator of Boone's Creek Association, as chairman of the meeting. After a thorough investigation the convention decided that the portion of the church who were in possession of the church records were the true Church of Mt. Freedom.

     In the following November, Elder Edward Darnaby was called as pastor, and the proceedings of the convention from the several churches, held in October, were ordered to be printed and distributed among the churches. In August of the same year, Thomas Hawkins was released from the clerkship, and John Bradshaw chosen clerk. Elder T. I. Drane accepted the pastorate in January, 1848, and served them for three yaers.

     In October, 1851, we find the following entry: "On motion, the church appointed the following Brethren, I. Curd, James Minter, Thomas Hawkins, and J. Bradshaw, a committee to confer with the Methodist friends in selecting a preacher on our part for the purpose of dedicating the new house at this place." We infer from this that the Baptists and Methodists had jointly erected a house of worship. Elder Robert Noland accepted the care of the church, serving them for one year. He was succeeded by Elder Strother Cook, who remained with them until the latter part of the year 1853. James Dorman was chosen clerk of the church in January, 1852. Elder Rowland became pastor in February, 1854, and he was succeeded by Elder Jacob A. Ard, in April, 1856, who was in turn succeeded by Elder M. C. Clark. Elder Clark tendered his resignation in April, 1860, and was succeeded by Brother E. Neal, who was ordained to the ministry in November, 1860. Brother Neal was succeeded by Elder Strother Cook, a former pastor of the church, who began his pastorate in August, 1862.

      In May, 1861, John Bradshaw and J. H. Wilson were chosen deacons. In December, of the same year, J. H. Wilson was elected church clerk. In August, 1863, the church, after the preaching service, elected her messengers to Boone's Creek Association, which was to hold its next annual session in September with Mt. Freedom Church. The church book states that all the minutes from August, 1863 to August 14, 1866, were lost. On the last named date we find this record: "On motion, a committee was appointed to prepare the statistics of the church and a letter to South District Association." However, at their meeting in September following, the church agreed to send a letter to Boone's Creek Association

[p. 101]
and in that letter request a letter of dismissal from the Association, which was granted. This terminated the connection of Mt. Freedom Church with Boone's Creek Association. The church entertained four annual sessions of Boone's Creek Association, in the years 1837, 1843, 1853, and 1863.

     Here we leave them, except to say that presumably she did not become a member of South District Association, for her records show that in August, 1867, she sent her letter of dismissal from Boone's Creek Association together with her letter requesting admission into South Elkhorn Association, and is a member of that Association at the present time, and reported, in 1921, a membership of two hundred and seventy-eight, with a Sunday School enrollment of one hundred and seventy-four, her pastor being Dr. H. B. Gabby. At the same time she reported the valuation of church property at $30,500.00, including the parsonage.

      Through the present efficient and obliging clerk, Brother J. Hunt Lowry, we have had access to the old church records of Mt. Freedom Church.


[From S. J. Conkwright, History of the Churches of Boone's Creek Baptist Association (KY), 1923. Scanned and formatted by Jim Dvuall.]


      Samuel H. Ford reported in a bio of John L. Waller that Waller had known J. R. Graves from his coming to Kentucky. It was by this church [Mount Freedom] which Waller's father, John, had been pastor that Graves was ordained [October, 1842].

Kentucky Baptist Church Histories
Baptist History Homepage