The Gospel Trail in Kentucky
By Lois Wickliffe Masters, 1939
"His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom and His dominion endureth throughout all generations." Daniel 4:3.
The Trail of the Pioneers
Baptist Aptitude for Liberty. When the old Liberty Bell "rang out" independence July 4, 1776, it had on it the inscription from Deuteronomy, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof." This quotation from God's word has been an underlying principle of Baptists throughout all time: On liberty of conscience and religious freedom they have founded a great spiritual fellowship in a great Republic, in the settlement of which by the Pilgrim Fathers the hand of God was so manifestly shown. When the death knell of British oppression and the birth of American Independence was sounded by the Liberty Bell on that Fourth of July, Kentucky was too young even to possess a name. But though so young, there flowed in her veins the blood of patriotism as she offered herself as the fourteenth colony in the revolt against the mother country. The Continental Congress refused to admit a delegate from the new "Colony of Transylvania," as Virginia claimed full jurisdiction over the territory of this would-be new colony.
Boone, The Trail Maker. Synonymus with the name Kentucky is the name Boone. The earliest history of the State tells of Daniel Boone, a daring, adventurous spirit who braved the wilderness and established a home at Boonesboro in 1775, to which he later brought his family. His wife and daughters were the first white women to stand on the banks of the Kentucky River. His brother, Squire Boone, was his companion in adventure and in after years became an influential Baptist preacher. The settlement of "Harrodstown" in 1774 by James Harrod, makes that a memorable year in history. And here, two years later, we find Rev. Thomas Tinsley "preaching regularly every Sabbath day." Thus we see that with the first settler, with his ax and trusted musket, came the Baptist preacher with the "sword of the Spirit." Little is known of the few families that were in Kentucky in 1775-76, but the Boones, Calloways, Logans and others were the pioneer Baptists who stood out prominently along the trail and produced many preachers who were to be the builders of the Kingdom of God in the coming years.
The Trail of the First Churches. Severn's Valley has the distinction of being the first church organized on Kentucky soil. June 18, 1781, it "was" gathered by John Gerrard and is now one hundred and forty-eight years old. The following graphic description of it is by that great Baptist historian, [J.H.] Spencer:"Not a human habitation was to be found between Louisville (then called the Falls of the Ohio) and Green River, save a few families who had ventured to Severn's Valley, a dense forest, unexplored, and formed a rude settlement. There John Gerrard, a voice of God, came like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness and, finding a few followers of Jesus like sheep without a shepherd, gathered them into the fold (which was at that time under a large sugar tree); and there they, under church covenant, gave themselves to the Lord and to each other as a Baptist church."Eighteen members were the nucleus of this church, three of whom were colored. It was named for the valley and the river that flows through it, and although it now exists in the beautiful town of Elizabethtown, "None have ever dared and it is hoped never may dare to lay impious hands upon it by changing its venerated name." John Gerrard ministered to the little flock only a few months. He went out to hunt one morning the following spring and never returned. His wife and daughter watched for him in vain; he was no doubt killed by Indians.
An Early Church at Worship. Let us stop on the trail in passing and take a glimpse of this first church, and possibly compare it with our "First" churches of today. In the small log cabin, built with twelve corners to represent the twelve apostles, dirt floor, windows with wooden shutters, opening inward a roof made of bark, we see "the men in part Indian costume, leather leggins, breech clouts, moccasinos, hats made of buffalo wool (as yet no sheep wool or flax were to be had) wrapped around white oak splints and sewed together. The men sat with rifl.e in hand and tomahawk at their side with a sentry at the door, for as yet the surrounding wilds were infested with Indians. Do you smile at the picture? Yes, but with a mingled feeling of pride and thankfulness for their courage and loyalty in the face of grave danger and perhaps death at any moment. Located about five miles southwest of Bardstown is Cedar Creek Church, now in Nelson Association, which is just sixteen days younger
than Severn's Valley, having come into existence July 4, 1781. The historian tells us it would have been constituted earlier except for the fact that the patriotic Baptist fathers wished in organizing it to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, while the War of Independence was still in progress. Joseph Barnett had the honor of being its first pastor and remained as such four years.
The Traveling Church. The third church to make its home in Kentucky was organized in Virginia. The romantic and unique history of Gilbert's Creek Church is of thrilling interest. It begins back in old Virginia from where in September, 1781, it journeyed the long trail of the Wilderness Road into Kentucky and became a factor in the forces that developed Baptist life in the Blue Grass State. Of its long pioneer trek westward for 600 miles through the wilderness the words of the apostle in II Corinthians 11:26-27 might not inappropriately be uttered, "In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." Back in colonial Virginia the Church of England had held sway, dictating to men's consciences its ritual. Baptist preachers, for their protest against the mandates of this official religion, brought upon their bodies not a few stripes and were often in prison for "preaching the Gospel not according to law."
One of the prominent offenders against the oppressive colonial religious laws was Lewis Craig. Converted at twenty-five years of age, he became a zealous and indefatigable minister of Christ - preaching, baptizing, founding churches. The church at Upper Spottsylvania, not far southwest of the historic little city of Fredericksburg, prospered under his pastoral leadership. But God was calling Lewis Craig to another field of labor, and when Captain William Ellis returned from a trip he had made to the enchanted wilds of Kentucky, whither he had been sent to spy out the land, he made a report so alluring that Elder Craig was constrained to go over and possess the land. But he was not to go alone. For nearly all of the people of his church had a mind
to go with him. On a Sunday morning in September, 1781, as the sun climbed toward the zenith above the green hills to the east this company assembled for the last time at their Virginia house ·of worship to offer thanks to God for His abundant mercies and to ask of Him a special blessing upon them that they might in hope fare forth into the unknown in the wilderness, and in the goodly land beyond where lay promise of liberty and rich pioneer opportunity.
Westward Ho, For Kaintuckee. After spending that September Sabbath in religious worship they did not return to their homes, but remained to be ready for their place in the westward caravan which was to move early Monday morning. In the woods adjacent to the church were their covered wagons laden with the impediments our pioneer fathers considered necessary for a move into the wilderness. Also cattle and the negro slaves owned by many of them, made up a part Df the camp life which crowded the sylvan vistas about the church on that last Sunday. The extant report of the sermon preached by Lewis Craig that day is brief and inadequate but yet thrilling. Those pioneer Baptists must have felt somewhat as the Israelites did when they set forth on their journey through the Sianitic wilderness to the land of promise. The 600 souls who answered to the call of Captain Ellis before daylight the next morning to take up the trail constituted the largest band of Virginians that ever set out at one single time for Kentucky. With them they carried the official books and records of the church, their treasured pulpit Bible and their simple communion service. These were carefully guarded, as if they had been the Ark of the Covenant.
Into Unbroken Wilderness. The first days of the slow movement of their long caravan was to the southwestward. Crossing James River and turning more directly westward, after some days they saw ahead the eastward slopes of the beautiful Blue Ridge. Later they reached the summit of the pass, their eyes beheld stretched out to the horizon westward an endless panorama of forest tops covering with the autumn-touched green of summer leaves the undulations of mountain and valley. Looking out over the mystery and silence of this unbroken wilderness, accustomed though they were to familiar commerce with nature, these brave home-makers were filled with awe. Reading their
feelings on their faces, Captain Ellis had an old negro strike up a merry tune on a banjo which was soon taken up by both whites and blacks down the length of the slow-moving caravan. So the pilgrims moved into the rougher and less undt:rstood reaches of their remarkable journey with courage and confidence.
At The Block House On Holston. Holston River rises west of the Blue Ridge in Virginia and flows southwest into Tennessee, where it joins Tennessee River. Near where Holston crosses into Tennessee the Craig caravan stopped at a wilderness post called Block House, after about three weeks on the road. There rumors from westward declared that the Indians were on the warpath. Though the Craig pilgrims were anxious to finish their trip before the rigors of winter set in, there was nothing for them to do but to await more favorable conditions. At Block House they found another pilgrim group, also intent on reaching the Kentucky land of promise. These Lewis Craig and his wilderness church assisted in the organization of another church. When Craig and his party left three weeks later, on reports that the Indans were quiet since the surrender of Cornwallis, they left this church which had been organized in the Holston. Later this church also moved into Kentucky, in a sense becoming a second "Traveling Church."
Cumberland Gap and Westward. Far back on the trail it had been necessary for the caravan to give up the pioneer covered wagons. Stuff that could not be carried on the beasts was sacrificed. Most of the women rode horseback, while others walked. Little splint bottom chairs, swung from pack-saddles, carried a child on either side, holding on as best it could as the path-picking horse brushed by the limbs of trees. The weather was now so cold and inclement that travelling became exceedingly difficult between the Holston to Cumberland Gap. Food became so scarce that at times almost nothing was had beyond the game which fell to their weapons. In the absence of wagons or tents, the cold and rain made their camps at night almost intolerable, even for people of such indomitable spirit. At this stage the journey became so difficult from cold and mire and flooded streams that an entire week was used in making twenty-one miles. But at last they reached the elevations about Cumberland Gap to which their weary eyes had looked forward for days.
Crossing through the gap where the Boone Monument now stands, and where a hard-surfaced road now passes, while a railway tunnel bores through beneath, they came into Kentucky about the first of December.
On To Gilbert's Creek. Passing over Cumberland Gap and down through the beautiful enclosed valley now occupied by Middlesboro, the Virginia Baptist Church folk took their course northward along the head waters of the Cumberland, which they crossed about where Pineville now is, whence they made their way along the rugged trail through two or three mountain gaps on out to Craig's Station and Gilbert's Creek. Arriving on an elevation overlooking Gilbert's Creek, two and one-half miles Southeast of where Lancaster is located, on the second Sunday in December, 1781, they held there the first regular worship at that place. Here they erected a church building, the ruins of which still clothe with unusal interest the brow of the naturally beautiful hill, from which an excellent outlook upon a lovely surrounding region may still be had. The hill is now an enclosed pasture and a few handsome walnut trees with a single great old cedar are among the forest growth which saves the place from a bald loneliness. While members of the Craig church, mostly moved northward later, enticed by the Blue Grass region nearer the present location of Lexington, leaving the Gilbert's Creek Church to be re-organized as a Separate Baptist Church, which was used about eighty years and is now dead, the location at Gilbert's Creek is worthy to be regarded as one of several Baptist shrines in Kentucky.
First Years in Kentucky. In 1781 there were five ordained Baptist preachers and one licentiate in Kentucky, but no preacber of any other denomination. The field of Kentucky was in possession of Baptists - Separate and Regular. The three churches established that year were "Regular," Severn's Valley, Cedar Creek and Gilbert's Creek. At the beginning of 1782 there were nine preachers, four having come over with the Traveling Church. Two "Separate" churches were gathered in 1782 - South Fork or North Lynn and Forks of Dix River. South Fork was constituted under a large oak tree and seven persons joined by experience. Tradition says they were guarded to the water's edge by armed citizens, as Indians lurking in the forests
made it dangerous to appear in the open. This is the first account of baptism in Kentucky. In 1783 Lewis Craig and part of his followers moved from Gilbert's Creek to the north side of the Kentucky River and established South Elkhorn Church, Fayette County, which was the first church north of that stream.
Bush Colony Traveling Church. Howard's Creek (now Providence), in Clark County, was the second "Traveling Church" constituted in Virginia and transplanted on Kentucky soil. It was not, however, a settled church in Virginia as was Craig's, but was organized by the aid of Craig and his people from wilderness pilgrims they found waiting on the Holston. Lewis Craig's caravan passed this large body of people at Holston River and he gladly used the weeks spent there in preaching to them and organizing a Baptist church. This group of travelers were known as the Bush Colony. Having started on their way, they were encamped here waiting orders from Captain Billy Bush, who had gone on ahead to select land for the building of their homes. The Indians were so troublesome at this time that they were kept waiting three years on the river Holston (now Abingdon, Va.) At last a messenger arrived in August, 1783, with the message, "On to Boonesboro." They halted briefly in the cabins built and used by Lewis Craig and his church two years before and then proceeded to near Boonesboro, where forty families, nearly all related, were each given a "farm." They built a log house of worship, providing in it port holes through which they could watch for Indians and defend themselves from attacks. Tradition says the men of the congregation alternated in watching and worshipping. Before they erected this structure they met from house to house for worship. Sometime before 1793, they built a stone church, which they used for nearly a hundred years, when a larger frame house was constructed in 1870, one mile south of the old stone meeting house and three miles north of Boonesboro on the Winchester-Boonesboro Turnpike. The old stone church building was bought by the Negro Baptists and they still use it as a place of worship.
In the Slough of Despond. In the beginning of 1784 there were in the State eight churches, sixteen Baptist ministers and one Presbyterian. It was eight years now since the first settlement
had been made. It was a bitter cold winter. Snow lay deep on the ground for weeks. The settlers suffered much in every way. Corn had to be carried forty miles to be ground into meal. Between twenty and thirty thousand people had arrived and few had been gathered into the churches. These were immigrants who poured into the young colony at the close of the Revolutionary War. Having such a hard time keeping the wolf from the door, literally and figuratively, the preachers as well as the people lapsed into a sad indifference and a low spiritual condition. They neglected the assembling of themselves together. Religion was scarcely talked of even on Sunday. Jehovah seemed to have turned His face away from them and they could do nothing. During this year only one church was organized, Bear Grass, Jefferson County, and for eight years the only church within thirty miles of Louisville. However, it was one of importance, being situated in a large field of destitution in a section which was being rapidly populated. In Louisville sixty-three homes had been built, fifty-nine were in the process of building and one hundred cabins. John Whitaker worked alone, except for the chance aid of an occasional traveling preacher. He collected the scattered Baptists and in January, 1784, formed Bear Grass Church, six miles east of Louisville. John Taylor, a notable figure who was to play an important part in the drama of the next few years had come into the country by this time and settled on Clear Creek. It was in his cabin and through his influence that the first great revival of religion began.
First Great Revival. In the winter of 1784, realizing the low spiritual state to which Baptists had fallen, preachers and people began to hold meetings in the cabins of the settlers and before the winter was over "some tenderness of feeling began to be manifest and there was some weeping under the ministry of the word." The revival spread to other communities, and during that year and in 1785 all the settlements of the new country had come under its influence and once more prosperity and peace prevailed. The revival continued for two years. Clear Creek was constituted in April, 1785, with John Taylor as its pastor. This was the second church on the north side of Kentucky River. Several other churches came into being in this good year of grace that have played an important part in civil and religious
history of Kentucky - Cox's Creek, Washington, Great Crossings and others.
An Eventful Year. 1785 marks a turning point in the gospel trail which all the way seems to have been like the Kentucky River itself, sometimes flowing calmly forward on a direct course, but at others shifting its way through serpentine curves that seem almost as prone to move backward as onward. It is now the close of the first ten-year period since the first settlement at Boonesboro. There have been constituted eleven Regular and seven Separate Baptist churches, with nineteen Regular preachers and seven Separates. These occupied the whole of the country then settled, which was in two distinct sections, separated by a wilderness so infested with hostile Indians that communication between the two was infre·quent and perilous.
Two Kinds of Baptists. Early in the year following the revival, the churches began to feel that they should unite in a general union for fuller fellowship and mutual aid. Here they faced a difficulty that proved to be serious, and which caused much confusion. Some of the churches were "Regular" and some "Separate," but all were true Baptists in the main sense of the word. This small difference of opinion started in New England, was brought down through Virginia and into Kentucky, and prevented the union of the young Kentucky churches into one association. Whether the Philadelphia Confession of Faith should be strictly adhered to was a question at issue in a Baptist gathering that year. More Regulars than Separates were present and the question was answered in the affirmative. This widened the breach between the two groups and kept them in a continual state of confusion for fifteen years. The Regular Baptists were Calvinistic and the Separates predominantly so. The Separates got their name from their being dissenters from the Congregational "State religion" then in New England. All dissenting denominations were there called "Separates": The term, as attached to Baptists, had at the beginning no particular doctrinal significance.
First Associations Formed. Messengers from regular Baptist churches met at the house of John Craig on Clear Creek in Woodford County, September 3, 1785, and organized Elkhorn
Association, four churches entering into it: South Elkhorn, Big Crossing, Clear Creek and Limestone. This body was enlarged every year until in 1802 it numbered forty-eight churches and 5,310 members. One month later - October 29, 1785 - the Salem Association was formed, with four "Regular" churches: Cox's Creek, Severn's Valley, Cedar Creek, Bear Grass. This association, reporting four churches and 123 members in 1785, grew to thirty-four churches and 2,500 members in 1802. These two associations were separated by a large tract of wilderness, beset by prowling savages, and there was consequently little communication between them. Salem for long seems not to have heard of the organization of the Elkhorn body.
Taking Stock of Ten Years. Ten years after the first church was founded and five years after the two association were formed, we stop once more to locate ourselves in the Trail. Three associations, forty-two churches, forty ordained and twenty-one licensed ministers and 3,228 members constitute the strength of Baptists (Regular and Separate) in the "Western County of Virginia," which was the next year to become the Commonwealth of Kentucky with a population of 73,677, making one Baptist to every twenty-three people. Political excitement over the forming of the State Constitution, the slavery question and trouble with the Indians, seemed to have absorbed the thoughts of all the next year, as little was done in religious life and a downgrade movement started that continued until the dawn of the new century.
1800 and a Gloomy Outlook. Before turning into a new century, it may be good to look back on the almost twenty-five years of rough, rocky road we have stumbled over, and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that "Grace has brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us on." Nearly twenty-five years of "enduring hardness" as "good soldiers" to subdue the wilderness and plant the standard of the Cross. So far 116 churches have been formed. Some have been dissolved for various reasons. A condition more difficult than any of the struggling churches had yet experienced confronted them. For them the sun of the eighteenth century sets behind a cloud. The American colonies at this time were enamored of all things French, owing to the sympathy and help extended to them by France in their struggle for political
liberty. So the infidelity, licentiousness and immorality of that then God-hating nation, had their pernicious influence in America - from the State of Maine to the fartherest log cabin in the wilderness. Voltaire and Volney, French writers of genius and education, had more influence with men of learning and wealth, but Tom Paine's "Age of Reason" was the most powerful of all infidel books among the uneducated. The country was "sowed down" with this vicious literature, while Bibles were scarce, religion was scoffed at, preachers seemed paralyzed and churches were almost depleted. Everywhere spiritual deadness and despair shed their gloom. In one of the best churches in Kentucky, only one man was baptized in five years and he was turned out two months afterward. Voltaire boasted that Christians had been 1800 years building up Christianity, but he would destroy it in one generation. Did he? Spencer says, "There was everything to discourage the Christian laborer, but relying solely on the promises of God, for the night was too dark to see even a little twinkling star, the humble servants of the Most High, went out to bring together the straying and panic stricken sheep." "Faith is the victory that overcomes· the world." John Taylor, William Hickman, Joshua Morris, John Shackleford, William E. Waller, and many others of like faith were the Gideons who in those days arose in the strength of the Lord and called upon the name of Jehovah for deliverance, and soon boasting infidels were crying for mercy at the feet of Jesus, the profane praising His name, the scorner and scoffer becoming flaming evangels of Him they had scorned. All this in the space of two years.
The Light Breaks.
"It is just as clear as can be
That God loves and freely gives
To the other States His blessing,
But Kentucky's where He lives."
"Beneath every cloud there is a silver lining," so the poet says, and it must be true, but there must be an omnipotent hand to reveal it. This was the case 1800-3 in Kentucky. The windows were opened, the blessings poured out from Heaven and a great revival spread like a forest fire over Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. The Presbyterians and Methodists united in battle
array against Satan and the Baptists in their own particular way gave him a mighty chase. The Holy Spirit had many ways of expression, as sinners were stricken under weight of their convictions, jerking, barking, falling in unconsciousness, running, rolling and dancing. The Shakers of New Lebanon, N. Y., having heard of all these things, sent missionaries to Kentucky. These exercises were not indulged in so much by the Baptists. They held meetings from house to house and on Saturday and Sunday at the churches. Spencer says, "Now ensued the golden age of Kentucky Baptists. Their divisions healed. Universal harmony prevailed and they were in the midst of the most powerful revival of religion that ever had been witnessed by them or their fathers." On the abatement of the revival Baptists had made a gain of ten associations, 111 churches and 10,380 members.
After the. Storm the Calm. The whole land seemed regenerated. Christians forgot their petty differences and the Gospel Trail in Kentucky started to climb upward once more. The future seemed full of hope and encouragement. They had so far conducted missionary work in the destitute places of their own State and sent some men to the neighboring States. At the meeting of the Elkhorn Association a request was sent up "to send missionaries to the Indian tribes." John Young was sent. We have no record of his work, but he returned ·and was a useful preacher in Greenup Association. At the same meeting steps were taken to support three aged ministers. Perhaps the most important change brought about by the revival was the union of the Regular and Separate Baptists, lack of which had from the beginning been a barrier to the full influence of the Baptist movement along the gospel trail in Kentucky. They found terms on which churches could agree, and took the name of "United Baptists." This heavenly state was not to continue long. Satan had ingenerously smuggled in some false and queer doctrine, in connection with the union, which lost to the Baptists one governor, one preacher, one church and a few private members.
Points of Interest Along the Way. During the next twenty-seven years clouds and sunshine alternated, but God's guiding hand was leading in a miraculous way toward the first golden jubilee 1831. Infidelity and all its attendant evils, which had been smothered by the big revival, now burst out afresh and
for seven years the souls of the faithful were tried - and strengthened by the trial. The year 1808 was said to be the darkest yet in the new country. Elkhorn Association churches reported only nine baptisms and in eight other associations only twenty-two were reported. But God heard the cries of His faithful stewards of the Word and sent an outpouring of His Spirit in another great revival in 1810. This began in Long Run and continued three years, spreading slowly over the State. Since the revival ending in 1804 there had been a gain of only sixty-seven churches and 1,105 members.
Missions and Anti-Missions. This story, not intended to be a complete history (as many have already been written), may only offer a synopsis of this great era in the life of Kentucky Baptists. As a background we will quote a passage from the Genesis of American Anti-Missionism by Dr. B. H. Carroll, Jr.: "This State has ever been in theological as well as profane history, a dark and bloody ground, the storm center of controversy." "When Kentucky's two extremes shall have tempered each other and the fierce fires of battle have been moderated to the warm glow of fraternal love, and all her exhaustless store of energy shall no longer need to be directed to the uprooting of every plant which our Father hath not planted, but to ending and cultivating the one He has planted, how speedy and magnificent will be the growth." Despite all opposition and ignorance and the powerful influence of Taylor, Parker and Campbell (anti-mission seed sowers), foreign missions took root and continued to grow throughout the distressing years of controversy. God sent another much-needed revival in 1817, by which the broken and depleted ranks were renewed and the work went on a decade of splendid prosperity. Ten associations were formed and the Baptists numbered 31,639, while the population had grown to 564,317. This gave one Baptist to every seventeen of population.
Campbellism. "But the tares had been sown among the wheat." Campbellism thrived and general confusion reigned everywhere. This caused a deep-felt desire for a better educated ministry. So on January 15, 1829, just a hundred years ago, the Legislature granted a charter for Georgetown College and its first session opened in the fall of that year. We will skip over this unpleasant period of disturbance, which affected every
association and retarded progress along the gospel trail in Kentucky many years. Scars of it remain to this day. God's all-seeing eye was upon this rich and beautiful "new West" and His hand was holding it firmly for His own ends in future days. Another revival swept the country in 1821, making the fourth that had come practically every ten years, just in time to give the needed power and Christian faith to combat some impending danger. Many members gained through this revival were lost to the Campbellites as their statistics show that in 1830 they had eight to ten thousand. Baptists were the most numerous denomination in the State at this time, but not as heretofore equal to all others combined.
Western Recorder Established in 1825. A significant act of this period, just before the first jubilee year, is celebrated the following: "In December, 1825, Spencer, Clark and George Waller commenced the publication at Bloomfield, Ky., of a periodical called Baptist Register, which name was afterward changed to "Baptist Recorder." Spencer says of it: "The object seems to have been to expose the errors advocated by Alexander Campbell." This paper, through its century of service, several times changed ownership, editors and names, also its place of residence, but never has it changed its principles of loyalty to the Word of God, so well expressed in its motto, "Earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints." Never under all its editors has it once failed to be true to its trust as a witness to revealed truth. It is now the Western Recorder, and although a hundred and four years old, is growing more vigorous every day, bearing witness to the truth of the Scriptures, strengthening the faith of Christians and holding forth the Word of Life to a constituency perhaps more far-spread and certainly including more ministers than that of any other Baptist paper published today.
Recapitulation. It has been the desire of the writer in this chapter to draw a picture of early days, of sacrifice, of danger, of loneliness, of heart burnings, of hardships through which our forefathers had to pass as they "blazed the trail," that Baptist feet might "follow in their train" and keep pushing on and on with the gospel till every mountain cove and every hilltop shall know the story of Jesus. But space is limited and ability
too small to reproduce all the riches of Kentucky Baptist history as it has unfolded its pages along the trail of the friendly and unfriendly years. The author's fondest hope will be realized if a desire has been awakened to know more about this historical old commonwealth, and of the courageous men and women who founded it and nurtured it on the word of God - for they were our Baptist forefathers. Was not Kentucky born Baptist? Thanks to persecution and religious intolerance in Virginia at the hands of the State Church, it was. Men whose loyalty and devotion to God, above every human institution, men who suffered persecution and were ready to die, if need be, for their convictions, men who scorned the dangers and privations of the wilderness, these were the men whose feet first trod the Gospel trail into Kentucky. It is a rich heritage that has fallen to us. Under the banner that they carried will we "carry on" until every Baptist home from "Mills Point to the Big Sandy" and every loyal son and daughter will say:
"We've learned the lesson you have taught;
The torch you threw to us we caught."
[From The Gospel Trail in Kentucky, 1939, chapter 1, pp.8-21; via SBTS Archives, Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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