The First Cedar Creek Baptist Church
By Bob Compton
The invitation to write this history of The First Cedar Creek Baptist Church made it possible for me to fulfill a dream that I have had, ever since I served the church as pastor in the mid-1960s. It has been a dream because of my background and training in history. More important though is that the stop of this church needs to be told.
The pilgrimage of this people of God is unique because it began when Kentucky was a wilderness, and there were no established churches in the state. It has continued for two hundred years, in spite of Indian raids, cold winters, war, economic crises, theological conflicts, etc. Over a century ago W. E. Chambliss wrote, "In weakness and strength, in cloud and sunshine, she (the Cedar Creek Church) has stood-built upon a rock, the gates of hell have not prevailed against her." The same testimony can be restated today.
The story also needs to be told because it has never really been told before, at least not in any depth nor in any detail. The church has presented some short skits or discourses from time to time at its anniversaries. None of these have been printed. A few other short resumes of the history have been published. In 1873, W. E. Chambliss of Bardstown presented a three page discourse on the church at the meeting of the Nelson Association. This history is published in the minutes of the Association in that year. Other one or two page articles have appeared in The Kentucky Standard (1901), The Co-Amp News (1966) and The Western Recorder (1976).
A third reason this history is important is that it has all too often been overlooked by both religious and secular historians. This oversight may be because the church is second instead of first. Or it may be because the story has never been told adequately.
There is some difficulty in telling the story sufficiently. For years the church has never had a complete set of its minutes. As early as 1873, Chambliss lamented that there were very few records available from 1781 to 1803. Up until just a few years ago, the church had none of its minutes prior to 1885. Due to the graciousness of someone who discovered the records from 1849 to 1885, the church now has these documents in hand. If other minute books are discovered, the history for the early years will be greatly enriched.
The story is now told in as complete a form as possible largely due to the investigations made by Miss Lucille Siegrist and Mrs. Lucille Keeling, both members of Cedar Creek Church. Neither of these ladies is a trained historian, yet their research has been superior. In so far as church and associational minutes and court records are concerned, I have been completely dependent upon the information provided by these people. I was able to do some general research in published histories, but this book would never have been possible without the diligent work of these two persons.
Gratitude also needs to be expressed to John Talbott, Rhonda Vittitow Mason, and Lucille Siegrist for the sketches that appear in this publication. My family has been a constant encouragement as I have written the work, and the Costa Rica Baptist Mission has been kind in allowing me the time to complete the writing. I am also grateful to James Bray and my wife Peggy for their help in proofreading and making suggestions concerning the manuscript. I am more than thankful for Diana Bray who typed the copy which was sent to the publisher.
Writing this history has left me somewhat frustrated. I have wanted so much to tell the story of Marie Nalley's dedication as church teasurer; Eugene Sorrell who often served as my pastor; of William Siegrist, as a careful and accurate church clerk. Then there were the other Aliens, Barnes, Bodines, Brothers, Calls, Reelings, Siegrists, Sorrells and a host of some three hundred other people whom I came to love more than family. To say the least, the history would have been a bit overbalanced if I had followed my heart's desire.
This book is written primarily for the members of The First Cedar Creek Church. Without them there would be no church nor any story to tell. Hopefully it will also be useful to the historian who wants to see what God has been doing in the Bluegrass of Kentucky.
San Jose, Costa Rica
July 4, 1981
I. The Beginning From the 1760s to c. 1800
Arrival of the Baptists
The first adventurers and frontiersmen began to make their way into the Bluegrass of Kentucky in the 1760s. Some of these were on their way to other places. Others came for a short visit and returned to the East, particularly Virginia. As a result, it was several years before the white man established Harrodsburg as his first permanent settlement in Kentucky.
When the settlers first came to this area, Baptists were among them. Thomas Tinsley, a Baptist preacher, began to hold meetings in Harrodsburg shortly after it was settled in 1775. Several in the Daniel Boone family were Baptists when they came to Kentucky. Daniel's brother, Squire, was a Baptist preacher. Other Baptist preachers such as John Taylor1 and Joseph Redding came to Kentucky and preached for a few years before returning to Virginia. While Baptists were present in Kentucky from the beginning, no churches were organized during the 1770s.
First Churches Organized
In 1780 and 1781, other preachers came to Kentucky. These settled more permanently than their predecessors had. The church must have been important to them, for they lost little time in organizing their followers into churches. Two congregations were soon gathered. One was in Severn's Valley in present day Elizabethtown. The other was in Cedar Creek near Bardstown. On June 18, 1781, Elders Joseph Barnett and John Whitaker along with John Gerrard, a licensed preacher, led the eighteen Baptists in Severn's Valley to form the first Baptist church west of the Allegheny Mountains. Sixteen days later, the Baptists2 in Cedar Creek organized the second Baptist church in Kentucky and the first in Nelson County. According to J.H. Spencer, the Cedar Creek Church:Probably might as well have been constituted as early, or even earlier than that Church (Severn's Valley), had not our patriotic fathers desired to do honor to the Fourth of July, it being only five years after the Declaration of Independence, and while the old Revolutionary War was still in progress.If Spencer is correct3 patriotism was more important than the honor of being first in time. Such devotion to the Revolution and independence can be easily understood. The frontiersmen were a part of the War. The British sent weapons and other supplies to the Indians who in turn repeatedly attacked the settlers. Even after the raids became less frequent in 1778, many Whites lost their lives to the Indians. When Cedar Creek was formed in 1781, the memory of the great price Kentuckians were paying in the War was still fresh.
The First Pastor
Joseph Barnett led the organizational service for The Cedar Creek Baptist Church and became its first pastor. He was assisted in the formation of the church by John Gerrard, pastor at Severn's Valley who was later massacred by the Indians. In about 1780 Barnett came to Nelson County from Virginia where he had served as a Regular Baptist pastor. On the frontier he faithfully continued in this role. He served Cedar Creek for at least four years, probably longer.4 He also preached at Severn's Valley for a period of time.4
Barnett was appointed as a "Gentleman Justice of the Peace" for Nelson County by Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, on May 24,1785. On the same day, he was also licensed to celebrate matrimony because he was s minister of the gospel.
In 1786 or 1787, Barnett established a fort about two miles north of Fort Hartford on Rough Creek in what would later becme Hardin County. After Kentucky had become a state, in 1792 and new counties had been carved out of the already existing ones, Barnett was appointed as a justice of the peace in Hardin. Reportedly he often traveled as much as 75 miles to sit in court. He was still a Baptist
preacher, and it may be that he traveled an even longer distance to serve Cedar Creek Church after he had moved to his own fort.
By his death in 1797, Barnett had accumulated some wealth. Most of it was in land. Unfortunately, when he died he did not have his affairs in order. The State of Kentucky appointed three men as commissioners of the estate, and ultimately almost everything was lost in litigations.5
Important Charter Members
Several of the fust members at Cedar Creek were important in the community as well as in the church.
James Rogers, born to Irish parents in 1742, came to Kentucky in 1780. He and some of his brothers soon built Roger's Fort at a location not far from the Beech Fork River and about four miles west of today's Bardstown. Like Elder Barnett, Rogers became a justice of the peace in 1785. At the same time, he was also appointed along with one Benjamin Pope "to direct the place" where stocks, pillory and whipping post were to be erected for the use of the Court.6 In 1785 he attended the Danville Convention which sought to form a government for Kentucky. He may have attended the Constitution Convention of 1792 which also convened in Danville.7
Rogers practiced the gift of preaching from time to time. In this role he was not eloquent, but he was sound in doctrine. He was also an author. Backed by a good intellect and a fair education, he wrote several pamphlets that varied in themes from topics on the Holy Spirit to Closed Communion.
Evidently Rogers was strong-willed with regard to his convictions. According to Sarah Smith's History of Nelson County, Rogers and Atkinson Hill, another Cedar Creek Church member, disagreed over religion. As a result Hill moved from Roger's fort to Goodin's fort.8 He did not leave the church; eventually Rogers did. Whether the reason Rogers left the church was the conflict with Hill or not is uncertain. It could well have been. Rogers strongly opposed slavery, and apparently left the church for that reason. Since there were church members who were slaves with the last name of Hill, it is assumed that Atkinson Hill was a slave-owner.9
When Rogers left Cedar Creek in 1787, he started the Lick Creek Baptist Church. He was not able to escape the problem over slavery, for the Lick Creek Church was greatly tormented by this issue. Consequently, the church dissolved in 1812, and once again Rogers became a member of Cedar Creek.
Two other judges were also charter members at Cedar Creek. Atkinson Hill, who has already been presented in his conflict with James Rogers, was the first judge in Nelson County. In addition he was a farmer. He owned a large tract of land on the Beech Fork River and eventually lived in a spacious, three story house built of native stone.
Judge James Slaughter was an outstanding citizen and a leader in Nelson County, as a perusal of the early Nelson County records will show. He owned a large parcel of land which was located along the Cedar Creek. In addition to his other activities, he managed to rear four sons who became prominent in their own right. One was a medical doctor, one was a farmer, and two were merchants.
For the settlers in the Bluegrass, the years 1782-1784 were difficult ones. The people were often terrorized by Indian raids. During most of the summer of 1782 it was unsafe to venture outside of the forts. As a result very little food was produced, and the settlers suffered from heartache, loneliness and hunger during the winter.
The succeeding summer was not so dangerous, but it was followed by a severe winter. Snow, accompanied by piercing winds, covered the area for weeks. The people again suffered
physically. And according to Spencer,The religious affairs of the people were in no better condition than their temporal concerns . . . There were ministers enough to supply the people with preaching, if they could have given themselves wholly to their sacred calling. But they were compelled to support their families, just as did the other settlers . . . There had been nothing like a religious revival, of which we have any authentic account, in any one of the settlements. The churches had been built up exclusively of persons who had been church members before their emigration to the West. It is not known that a single baptism had been administered in any of the waters of Kentucky. . . 10In spite of everything, the church at Cedar Creek perservered. By 1785 it had 41 members.
The year 1785 was a monumental year for Kentucky Baptists, and Cedar Creek was a part of the action. On Saturday, October 29, Cedar Creek joined in with Severn's Valley, Bear Grass, and Cox's Creek Regular Baptist Churches to form the Salem Baptist Association. Cox's Creek Church hosted the meeting, and Joseph Barnett, Cedar Creek pastor, preached the opening sermon. His text was John 1:17. Barnett was elected as the moderator shortly thereafter. 11
The History of the Salem Baptist Association, from its constitution to the present period, 1826,
On Saturday, the twenty-ninth of October, seventeen hundred and eighty-five, four regular Baptist Churches met at Cox's Creek, Nelson County, Ky. by their delegates, in order to form an Association, and after a suitable sermon on the occasion, preached by our brother Joseph Barnet, from the first chapter of John and 17 verse, proceeded to business. Brother Joseph Bamet being chosen Moderator, and brother Andrew Paul, Clerk.
I. Letters from four churches were read, viz Severn's Valley, constituted June, eighteen, seventeen hundred and eight-one, number of members, thirty-seven: No Pastor. Cedar Creek, constituted July fourth, seventeen hundred and eighty-one. Members forty-one. Joseph Barnet, Pastor. Bear Grass, constituted January, seventeen hundred and eighty-four, number nineteen. John Whitacre, Pastor. Cox's Creek, constituted April, seventeen and eighty-five, members twenty-six.
* * * * *
The churches of the Salem Association, second Regular Baptist association in Kentucky and the first west of Frankfort,12 were bound together by their agreement with "the Philadelphia Confession of Faith and the Treatise of Discipline." Indeed, it was their conviction concerning this confession of faith that made them Regular Baptist. As such they patterned their new association after the Philadelphia Association and considered themselves to be in full fellowship with the other Regular Baptist associations they knew about, namely Philadelphia, Ketocton and Monogolia Associations.
The purpose of Salem Association must have been very much the same as those of the other associations. In this case, the churches associated together to share in fellowship and to hear inspirational messages. The association could serve in an advisory capacity when help was asked for by the churches, but it could,never practice discipline or otherwise usurp the authority of the local congregation. One evidence of the supremacy of the local church over the association was
the rule adopted by the Salem Association "that no Queries be received in this Association, but such as have been debated in the churches, and come inserted at the bottom of their letter."13
Cedar Creek in its concern for doctrinal purity and practice made frequent use of queries directed to the Association. In the first meeting of the Salem Association, Cedar Creek asked, "How is a church to proceed with a member, who has withdrawn from them and joined a Separate Baptist body of a different faith and order?" 14 One who studies the minutes of the Association will find that Cedar Creek continued to seek advise from this body for years.
The Second Pastor
Little is known of the Cedar Creek Church and its activities from 1785 until 1793. It was probably sometime during these years that Joshua Morris became pastor. Morris had come to Kentucky from Virginia where he had been born in approximately 1750. Even as a child he was not a stranger to hardships, for he was the son of a Baptist preacher in Virginia when persecution of anyone who was not an Anglican was so harsh there.
Young Morris began preaching in Virginia shortly after his conversion in about 1773. He traveled widely and preached in many different places in Virginia. His most notable accomplishment as a preacher in this state was the establishment of the First Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia in 1780.
Eight years later, Morris left his native state and came to Kentucky. He soon became the pastor of Brashears Creek Baptist Church in what is now Shelby County. Some years later he moved to Nelson County, settled at Cedar Creek and became pastor of the church there. He gave stability to the work through his many years of service with this congregation. It appears that during this tune the church had preaching once a month and extended an annual call to its pastors. At least W. E. Chambliss of Bardstown indicated that this was the practice. He wrote that in "January, 1804, Elder Warren Cash was invited to fill the pulpit once a month, and remained in the service of the church one year - until January, 1805, when Elder Joshua Morris again became pastor."15
Both the annual call and the monthly preaching service help explain Spencer's observation that "he (Morris) preached to Mill Creek in Nelson county, and Severn's Valley in Hardin, and perhaps in some other churches, at different periods, while he lived on Cedar Creek."16
The First Meeting House
There were no houses of worship in Kentucky until about 1785. At Cedar Creek the first building was not built until sometime after the fall of 1793. Just where the congregation met prior to this time is anyone's guess. It may have worshipped under a brush arbor, in homes, or in a public meeting place at one of the forts. No one knows for sure.
On September 14, 1793, the church acquired its first piece of property. On that day William and Nellie Abel deeded eight acres to Evan Williams and Anthony Foster, trustees for the Regular Baptist Society of the Cedar Creek Church. The cost was five shillings. The land was on the Beech Fork River and was bounded on one side by trees. Another survey point was a spring. This deed description does not provide enough information to determine the exact location of the property.17
According to Mrs. Chester Keeling,18 a log meeting house was built on this site. Her source of information was her grandfather Reason Barnes, an adult member of the church in the 1850s. He recalled that the church building on this location burned. Other details concerning the log structure are unknown.
Thus the Cedar Creek Church entered into the nineteenth century. It had evidently prospered under the leadership of Elders Barnett and Morris. It was now established in its own place of worship. It could look to the future with anticipation.
[A copy of a hand-written document is on page 10; copies of the first page of the Minutes of the Salem Association of Baptists for the years 1804, 1812, 1816 and 1826 are on pages 11-14 and are not included.]
II. Years of Prosperity and Growth Frame. 1800 to c. 1855
During this 55 year period, the Cedar Creek Church lived through days of dismay and enjoyed times of victory. The difficulties it encountered often made the age look like one of despair. In spite of these experiences though, effective revival meetings, some outstanding preachers, doctrinal purity, and new church buildings helped the church to reach a zenith in both prosperity and growth.
Revival swept through Kentucky in the latter part of the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth centuries. From 1800 to 1803, Baptists in Kentucky saw their ranks grow from 108 churches to 219 and their membership increase by about 10,380 persons. Under the leadership of Joshua Morris, the Severn's Valley Church added 101 members in 1801. During this same time, the churches in the Salem Association had an increase of more than 2,000 members. 1
Cedar Creek also felt the impact of this revival movement. In the associational year 1801-1802, the church reported 51 baptisms, 3 restorations, and 2 receptions by letter. At this time there were some 111 members in the church. Some five months later, on February 26, 1803, the number of members had increased to 126. 2
This kind of revival continued to occur at Cedar Creek throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. In September 1816 the church moderator James Rogers wrote the Salem Association and reported:Beloved Brethren, It is with pleasure that we are able to say, the Lord of late has visited us with a happy revival of religion, for which we wish to be truly thankful. Since our last Association we have Baptised 42 - Received by Letter 7 - Excluded 2 - Dismissed by Letters - Restored one. so that our number in fellowship is 106 . . . .3Other years of outstanding growth were reported in 1829, 1838 and 1850. Perhaps the most outstanding of these revivals occurred in 1838. In a letter dated February 26 of that year, Issac Taylor wrote the Baptist Banner that "the happy revival of religion is still progressing at Mount Morrick. . . The good work is spreading. We have received five at Cedar Creek . . ."4 By the end of the year 30 baptisms were recorded and 3 persons were received into the church by letter. It is true that the church had had more baptisms during other revivals, but other significant happenings made this revival an extraordinary one. The lives of the church members must have been affected, for no one was excluded during the year-an exception for Cedar Creek in its early history. Also the church continued to report baptisms each year for the next six years. In contrast they went several years without any baptisms after most of the other revivals.
In spite of the several revivals that were reported, Cedar Creek had periods of weakness and difficulty. The membership often declined when there was no revival. It even dropped as low as 35 in 1837. The church was also hampered by what Frank M. Masters called "many changes of pastors and many struggles for existence."5
Campbellism also created problems for Cedar Creek. By 1830 this movement had made inroads into Kentucky through its leader, Alexander Campbell, who had first visited this state in 1823. The movement had actuall begun much earlier. In 1809 Thomas Campbell, father of Alexander, organized "The Christian Association of Washington" which operated on this principle: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where they are silent, we are silent." This
organization sought to join the Presbyterian Synod of Pittsburgh but was rejected in 1811. Campbell and his followers then formed the Brush Run Church. Soon they accepted immersion as the only scriptural form of baptism, and in 1813 became a part of the Redstone Baptist Association. The Campbellites remained Baptists, at least in name, until 1830.
In the early 1820s, Alexander began to propagate his own views. He agreed with Baptists concerning the baptism of adult believers, congregational church government and the supremacy of the New Testament. At the same time, he was suspect of the associationalism of Baptists, opposed many organizational structures such as missionary societies and talked about baptism as if it was necessary for salvation.
Alexander and his followers soon became known as the "Reformers," and by 1826, they had begun to separate from Baptist churches and form their own congregations. It has been estimated that in Kentucky alone more than 10,000 Baptists separated from their churches to form Campbellite (Disciple) congregations. Occasionally entire congregations switched from Baptists to Disciples.6
By 1833, the movement had begun to affect the churches in the Salem Association. In that year, the Association responded to queies from the Cedar Creek and Rolling Fork churches by declaring that the baptism of the Reformers was not valid. At the same meeting Abner King, a messenger from Cox's Creek Church, offered the following resolution to the Association:Resolved: that the churches composing this association be advised not to open their meeting houses for preaching by any person holding the doctrines of Alexander Campbell or who call themselves Reformers or of the Christian order commonly called New Lights.The resolution was adopted but evidently not fully accepted by the churches. Samuel Carpenter, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Bardstown and a convert to the Reformers, wrote the Millennial Harbinger to say,The messengers from Bardstown, Mill Creek and Bloomfield Churches, as also some from other churches were dissatisfied with the arbitrary decisions of the Association. . . At Cedar Creek, 5 miles west of Bardstown, they excluded two of the most intelligent brethren in the church for what they call "heresy" but what Peter and Paul called "Truth."7The Cedar Creek Church thus adhered to the Baptist faith and practice as it had in the past and in accord with the agreement reached by the Salem Association. As W. E. Chambliss would observe some 40 years later, the church, when assailed by Campbellism, "withstood the shock, and maintained her allegiance to the truth in Jesus."8
Just what extent the slavery issue had on the church is unknown. The only fact that can be ascertained is that the church continued to have slaveholders and slaves as members of the church during this time. The slaves sat in the back of the meeting house while their masters and other Whites sat nearer the front of the building.
When Frank M. Masters said that part of Cedar Creek's problems were due to many changes of pastors, he was also correct. The church had at least twelve, perhaps fourteen, pastors during this 55 year period.9
Daniel Walker was typical of many of the pastors who served the congregation during this
time. He was pastor at Cedar Creek from 1823 to 1827. Meanwhile, he was also pastor at Wilson's Creek. His ministry at Cedar Creek was secondary to his work at Wilson Creek. For instance, during the four years at Cedar Creek, he never attended an associations! meeting as a messenger from that church. He always represented Wilson's Creek Church. Walker is not to be blamed for this fact. After all, he lived on Wilson's Creek and served the church there for 25 years. Still, his action reflects the role Cedar Creek often had to play during these years.
Other preachers performed an outstanding service. William Taylor was one of these. Prior to coming to Kentucky in 1784, Taylor had served as pastor In New Jersey (the place of his birth), Virginia and Ohio. Upon his arrival in Kentucky, he immediately became a leader among the Regular Baptists, and within a year he had organized Cox's Creek Baptist Church. He became its first pastor. In addition to Cox's Creek, he began or had a part in beginning churches at Simpson's Creek and Mill Creek in Nelson County and Brashears Creek near Shelbyville. He preached at Cedar Creek for only one year (1803). The great frontier revival was then sweeping through Kentucky, and although Taylor only preached once a month at Cedar Creek, his ministry reflected this revival movement.
Several years later, William's son Issac Taylor became pastor of the church..10 He had been born in Pennsylvania in 1772 and was twelve years old when the family moved to Kentucky. During his early years, he enjoyed dancing and gambling. He was not converted until 1801. Afterwards the change was so great that his reputation was above reproach.
Twelve years after his conversion, Issac was ordained to preach. He had not received a formal education, as was the case with most frontier preachers. Even so he had learned to read and write, and he enjoyed the use of his father's library. Several of the churches he served were Mill Creek, Mt. Moriah, Cox's Creek, Simpson's Creek and Cedar Creek in Nelson County and Newhope in Washington County. The last ten years of his life were spent as preacher at both Cox's Creek and Cedar Creek churches. In fact he preached his last sermon at Cedar Creek on Sunday, March 13,1842. After the religious service, he went to the house of James Rogers. He ate, spent the afternoon in conversation and reading, and then died about dusk.
Isaac Taylor had lived to be almost 70 years old. For 32 years he had been a preacher. During this rather short tenure of service, he reportedly baptized more people than any other preacher who had worked with the churches of the Salem Association up to that time. In addition he purportedly married some 2,000 couples.11
Colmore Lovelace first preached at Cedar Creek from 1828 until 1832. He became pastor again in 1851 and served until 1856-57. His family moved to Kentucky from Maryland when Colmore was five years old. In this new atmosphere, Colmore had little opportunity to receive a formal education. His consciousness of this fact caused him to be a very timid person. He did have the privilege of being reared in a Christian home. At the age of fourteen he became a Christian. In spite of his shyness, Lovelace had a great desire to see persons accept Christ as Lord, and this concern became the driving force of his life. As a result he was ordained in the Severn's Valley Church in 1822. Some six years later he was Cedar Creek's preacher. During his first years there, the revival of 1829 occurred. During his second stint, the church built its present sanctuary. 12
[Pages 18 and 19 are missing; it is believed these are misnumbered as the footnotes for this chapter are in numberical order. - Jim Duvall]
The church was diligent in carrying out church discipline, just as it was in maintaining a pure doctrine. Hardly a year passed but what at least one and sometimes as many as five persons were excluded from the church. The reasons varied. Some were expelled for dancing; others for non-attendance at public worship; still others for violation of business contracts, disorderly conduct, gossiping, advocation of infant sprinkling, or keeping profane company. To the credit of the church, almost every year persons who had been excluded from the membership were also restored into the fellowship of the church.
Church Property and Buildings
In 1827 while Daniel W alker was preacher, the Cedar Creek Church moved from its location on Beech Fork River to another site just across the road from the present building. On August 24, 1827, Polly Bissett deeded two and three-fourth acres of land, more or less, to William Abel, James Rogers and Daniel Brown who were the trustees of Cedar Creek at this time. A log church building was built on this property shortly thereafter.
This second log meeting house was used by the church until the 1850s at which time the present church building was built. The move from the log structure to the present sanctuary went smoothly. On September 10, 1852, the church named B. Summers and John Troutman to superintend the building of the projected meeting house along with the trustees-Samuel Ross, Peter Abel and Reason Barnes. A few months later on April 8, 1853, the church voted to start a subscription paper for the purpose of building the new edifice.[The following is a copy of the hand-written minutes from the churchbook.]On September 16, 1853, the church prepared another subscription paper which was to be put into the hands of John Troutman and he, the said John Troutman, is to hand over to Matthew Jupin and James M. Brown enough of the Subscription papers to pay them for the brick work don (sic) by them and collect the remainder and pay out for lumber and work now contracted.13
Thursday August 28th 1828
the church met and after Prais and preaching by Brother Lovelace was redy to enter on business
1st by motion and Second the church unanimously request Gideon Barney and Robt Wortham to act with the trustees in a building commity previously appointed by this church
nothing more coming before the church dismissed
Samuel Ross Modera
Robt Wortham Clk
On January 13, 1855, the church minutes implied that the building had been completed.
The walls of this thud meeting house were brick and were sixteen inches thick. The plaster used on the walls was held together by hog's hair. The beams that supported the roof were of hewn white oak and four by twelve inches. The seating capacity for this durable structure was approximately 300. Interestingly, the church did not yet own the land where the new building stood. The property
belonged to John Troutman. The church recorded in its minutes of September 4, 1854, that it was "satisfied with the sale of the old meeting house" and "the exchange of land with Brother John Troutman."14 Yet another two years passed before the deed was actually in the name of the church.
Another fascinating fact about the new building is that it was built with two entrances. The reason for these was that the men and women did not sit together in worship. While husband and wife' may have arrived for services and left for home together, they could not sit together in the meeting house. In reality, they did not even enter the building together; hence, the need for the two entrances.
As the church moved into the decade of 1850, it began to show some concern over its financial needs. In its business session on September 10, 1852, the church asked that "each mail (sic) member of this church give 40 cents per year, 20 cents at the experation (sic) of each six months, for the common expences of the church.15 H. C. Pennebaker was named treasurer. Then on May 14, 1853, the church agreed "to have no treasurer and to make the deacons receivers of the money for the common expences of the church." 16 The reason behind this decision was not recorded.
The church also raised money through the use of subscription papers. These papers were prepared for various purposes. Most often they were used to secure the salary of the pastor. According to Chambliss, the practice dated back to at least 1844 when Elder G.H. Hicks was called to preach at the church.17
The subscription paper was a type of pledge or commitment by the church members and was designed to provide a certain quantity of money or goods for the purpose stipulated in the paper. The subscription might well have included the contribution of grain, meat, sugar, tallow and even whiskey.
The use of the subscription paper had its problems. Often those who signed their name to the pledge did not keep their promise. Collecting whatever was promised was almost always a problem, whether the responsibility for doing so was given to the pastor or some other person in the church.18
Cooperation with Other Christians
From 1785 until 1854, the Cedar Creek Church was a member of the Salem Association. The record indicates that the church was generally active in this organization. The relationship seems to have been of mutual benefit to both parties. When Cedar Creek requested its letter of dismissal from this Association, it did so to join with the Nelson Association. Nelson had organized in 1849 and was composed of the neighboring churches of Cedar Creek. The move was a logical one.
By 1855 the General Association of Kentucky Baptists had been organized, the Southern Baptist Convention formed and several home and foreign mission societies established. Chambliss claimed that Cedar Creek sent messengers to the organizational meeting of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists.19 That may have been, but when a list of the messengers found in the minutes of that meeting in October 1837 were checked, there was no indication that Cedar Creek was represented. Nor is it clear what action, if any, the church took with regard to its relation to the Southern Baptist Convention. The interest in missions was evident, though, because Brother Peter Abel was appointed to attend a meeting of the "Association of the Missionary Society" for home missions which was to be held on the third Sunday in October 1851 at the Rude's Creek Baptist Church in Hardin County. Such was the interest of the church in this gathering that it determined that Robert W ortham should attend the
meeting if Abel was unable to do so.
From 1800 to 1855, the Cedar Creek Baptist Church walked through the valleys and on the mountain tops. It had struggled with conflict and won. It had experienced great revival. It had buijta brick meeting house. It had joined a new association. The future was also new. Would the next several years be as exciting as the past?
This indenture made this 24th day of August, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand and eight hundred and twenty seven between Polly Bissett of the county of Nelson and the state of Kentucky. Of the one part William Abell, James Rogers, and Daniel Brown, trustees of Cedar Creek meeting house of the county and state aforesaid, of the other part, witness that said Polly Bissett hath for and in the receipt where as is hereby acknowledged, hath this day granted, bargained, and sold and by these presents doth give grant, bargain and sell unto the said William Abell, James Rogers, and Daniel Brown, trustees aforesaid and their successors, a certain tract or parcel of land suitable, being and lying in the county of Nelson and state of Kentucky, and a part of the estate of Thomas Bissett, deceased, and bounded as follows:
Beginning at a hickory sapling on the edge of the road leading from the mouth of Bealmers Lane to Hills and Rowan Mill on the Beech Fork and near the North west corner of Nathaniel Desmores old field, thence N. 60 east 20 poles to a dogwood thence N.W. 27 W. 13 poles to a beech tree, thence 10 1/2 W. 6 1/2 poles to a stone, thence south 64 1/2 degrees W. 16 3/4 poles to a stake at the edge of the road thence S. 10 1/2 E. 2 poles to the beginning containing by survey two acres and three fourths be the same more or less, with the assertainences there unto belonging unto William Abell, James Rogers, and Daniel Brown and their successors forever and the said Polly Bissett, her heirs and assigned will and warrant and forever dispend the same to said trustees as aforesaid from and against the claim or claims of all and every other person whatsoever claiming by, through, or under her, and all and every other person or persons, whatever. In testimony whereof I have here unto set my hand and affixt my seal, this day and year above written.
Polly Bissett Nelson County
I, Thomas Grayson, clerk of the county court of the said county, do certify that on the 25th day of August, 1827, Polly Bissett, party of the above Indenture did in my presence, acknowledge the same to be her act and deed which I have duly recorded.
Witness my hand, Thomas Grayson
III. Years of Weakness from c. 1855 to c. 1928
W. E. Chambliss called the years prior to 1855 "the zenith of . . . (Cedar Creek church's) prosperity and strength."1 Afterwards the congregation encountered many difficulties and often weakness prevailed. In any event, there is no evidence that Cedar Creek ever bowed its head in defeat. The story is one of struggle with reality and the march towards a better day.
Overcoming an Early Omen
Perhaps an omen towards weakness was the decision of the church on May 10, 1856, to share its pastor, Colmore Lovelace, with Nolin Baptist Church. Up until this time, the Cedar Creek Baptist Church had been quarter-time, that is, it had preaching one Sunday out of every month. With the new arrangement, Brother Lovelace now preached once every two months during the week and one Saturday and Sunday every other month.
This arrangement must not have been satisfactory for the church, for on June 27, 1857, the fellowship called Richard H. Slaughter "to take care of the church." Slaughter was a native Kentuckian born in Hopkinsville in 1823. He was better educated than most of the pastors in those days, having graduated from Georgetown College. He earned his livelihood as a schoolteacher, but such was his love for the ministry that he gave his weekends to preaching in the churches.
During Slaughter's years (1857-1859, 1861-1862) at Cedar Creek, the church membership did not suffer. In fact it actually grew, since more than 65 baptisms were reported during these years.
One crisis that Slaughter and the other pastors had to deal with was financial. To begin with, the church still owed $100 to Jupin and Brown, the brick masons who helped construct the meeting house, In November 1860, the church named John Troutman to collect as much as he could from subscription and then pay the rest from his personal funds. The congregation would then reimburse Troutman.
In January 1861, committees were named to draw up subscription papers in order to pay Troutman the money due him on the building, to pay the back salary of the present pastor, Brother J. T. Hedger, and to raise money for Brother Slaughter who was to become pastor once again. In less than a month, these committees reported back to the church that they were unable to raise the necessary money.2
This matter was one of great concern; therefore, "as a church wishing to pay its debts" the Cedar Creek congregation considered a motion "that a committee of three be appointed by the moderator to confer with the friends of the Presbyterian church and learn what amount may be realized by the sale of one-fourth of the church property."3 In spite of the urgency the congregation felt for cancelling its debts, it decided not to make a hasty decision. The action was postponed until the next business meeting and was subsequently rejected.
One month later, on April 6,1861, Peter Pennebaker was appointed as a committee of one "to take the subscription papers held by John Troutman and get the money or a due bill from all of them indebted or behind on the papers and make a report as soon as possible."3 Furthermore, each member of the church was requested to pay ten cents a month to the treasury. After struggling over a year to pay the balance on the building, the church decided to take up what may have been its first public offering to take care of this matter. Finally in 1862 the debt on the meeting house was cancelled.
In the meantime the church fell behind in its salary payments to Preacher Slaughter. The wounds of this financial crisis inflicted on the pastor were evidently deep. Slaughter reacted. When his yearly call was to be extended in 1862, he told the church he would not accept it. The congregation carried the matter over until the next day, a Sunday. Slaughter was again called to be pastor. This time he agreed to continue serving the fellowship for another year, but his acceptance speech was evidently
harsh and unkind. The church clerk recorded in the minutes that the preacher "used some remarks that were calculated to excite or wound the feelings of the members."5 As a result, the church retracted the call and delayed any action until the next business session. When this decision was made, Slaughter immediately withdrew his name from consideration as pastor and requested letters of dismission for himself and his family. The request was granted. Slaughter then moved to Hardin County where he died on January 16,1863, of typhoid fever.
While the financial problem seemed to have been alleviated somewhat after this confrontation with Brother Slaughter, such difficulties kept plaguing the congregation during the rest of the nineteenth century. Preachers often accepted the church "on condition that the church will do her duty."6 More than once the pastors had to wait for a month or more after they left the church to receive the final salary payment. The congregation conscientiously accepted its responsibility and seems to have persisted until the debts were settled.
By the time G.W. Robertson was called as pastor in 1886, the financial situation had become worse than ever. The District Board of Nelson Association reported to the Association's annual meeting thatThere are even in the bounds of this Association several destitute fields where the cause of Christ is suffering for missionary work, and souls are starving for the bread of life. Among these we would name such as Sbepherdsville, Bullitt's Lick, Mt. Carmel and Cedar Creek. These churches should receive from us a helping hand.7Two years later hi 1888, the Association had begun to appropriate funds to help these weak churches. Cedar Creek received $25 for the year "on condition that the church pay her pastor at least one hundred dollars additionally, and contribute $5 per quarter to Missions and Sunday Schools, and report to our Treasurer."8
From 1896 to 1899 the Executive Board of the Nelson Association again appropriated $4 per month to Cedar Creek providing the church would "contribute one dollar per month for missions."9 At the end of this time the church reported its financial receipts were inadequate, and in 1898 its total expenses were reported to be $62.25 for the year, or $.59 per member. The subsidy from the Association accounted for about one-third of the total expenditures.
The first change for the better financially occurred in 1904. There were still some difficult years, such as 1910 when the total expenses were reported to be $37.35, but the general trend was toward improvement. In 1928 the total expenses of the church were $755.93, or $6.13 per member.
It has been pointed out that during this time of financial difficulty, the pastors often suffered, and there were occasions when the church had to pay more on building upkeep than was given for pastoral support. As a general rule, though, the pastor received a larger percentage of the overall expenses than any other person or cause. For instance, in 1895 his salary was 90 percent of the total budget; in 1910 it was 87 percent; and in 1928 the year the church went full-time, the pastor received 63 percent of the total budget. These statistics leave little doubt that the church tried to take care of its pastors to the best of its ability.
Lack of Discipline
W. E. Chambliss said that another reason for Cedar Creek's weakness was "remissness perhaps of discipline." 10 A perusal of the church and associations! minutes sustains his claim. In 1855 the church had not excluded anyone for three years. It was to go another five years before it expelled anyone. On this occasion, in 1860, three members were reported to have been dancing. The church named a committee to talk to the three. One of the brothers, Samuel Barnes acknowledged the charge and satisfied the church. Another brother, Wickliffe Barnes, asked for the case to be continued, and it was Sister Lucy E. Bissette was the other person involved. When the committee contacted her, she
acknowledged dancing and stated she was not sorry for it. She said she would do it again and asked to be excluded from the church. She was. 11
Another three years passed before the "servant girl" of E.W. Gore, a deacon, was expelled for committing adultery.12 The fact that she was a slave made no difference. Her case was treated in the same way as all of the others.
The decrease in the number of exclusions does not mean that the congregation had entirely disregarded discipline. In 1858 the church learned that there were difficulties between Brother James Leslie and Sister Lucretia Leslie. A committee of four men was appointed and authorized "to investigate the matter and hear the testimony from both sides and report to the church at our next day of business whether settled or not." When the report was given, the parties involved in the difficulty were present in the meeting. After each one had presented his case, they were "restored to their seats with full fellowship of the church."13
In 1864 and 1865 several persons were dismissed from the congregation for such things as profanity, dancing, "drinking spiritous liquors," and non-attendance. From this time on, fewer and fewer members were excluded, and almost always the cause was non-attendance. From 1894 until 1928 only four members were excluded or erased from the membership role. Cedar Creek was not alone in this practice, for other churches in the Nelson Association were also disciplining fewer people at this time.
Sunday School and Women's Missionary Union
During the mid-nineteenth century, and more especially after the Civil War, Sunday Schools began to be established in the churches in the Midwest. The date when the first Sunday School began at Cedar Creek is unknown, but as early as March 2, 1861, the church resolved to "re-organize our Sabbath School tomorrow morning." 11 Nor is it known how this school fared for the next several years. From time to time the school was reorganized, which may have meant nothing more than that a new superintendant was elected. On other occasions it may have meant that the school had died and the church wanted to revive it. In 1876 when the Nelson Association first collected the data on the churches' Sunday Schools for its minutes, Cedar Creek reported 45 enrolled and an average attendance of 30 for the seven months the school was in session. The school also reported a library of 100 volumes. For the next 36 years, the school traveled a difficult road. In fact over 50 percent of the time, it did not even exist. At other tunes the school had teachers but no pupils. After 1912 the church's new life was once again evident. The church reported a Sunday School almost every year, and in 1922 enrollment was up to 83 persons.
A Women's Missionery Union was begun in 1915. It seemed to have had the same type of rocky beginning that the Sunday School had had earlier.
Exodus of Church Members
Another factor which no doubt served to weaken the church was the number of members who left the fellowship by letter of dismission. During the latter part of the nineteenth century and the earlier part of the twentieth, churches granted letters to individuals more often than to other churches. For this reason many people became "trunk Baptists," that is, they withdrew their membership from the church and stored the letter in a trunk or some other place in their home. There is no reason to consider that Cedar Creek's practice was any different. The unanswered question is, "How many of those who left the church by letters of dismission actually became 'trunk Baptists'?"
There is no doubt that many people left the church for another reason as well. New churches were constantly being established in the area. The Salem Association had begun with four churches. In 1854 there were 27. In 1855, thirteen churches belonged to the Nelson Association. In other words, there were now approximately 40 churches where there had only been four before. At the close of the period in 1928, Nelson Association had doubled in size. Several of
these new churches were in the vicinity of Cedar Creek; thus, it is safe to assume that some people left Cedar Creek to attend a church nearer to their homes.15
Turnover of Pastors
A cause and a result of the weakened condition of the church was the frequent turnover of pastors. In 73 years the church had at least 35 changes in the pastorate.16 More often than not the church minutes reflect despair. Quite frequently the church seemed to be asking, "Who can we get as pastor?"
The financial condition of the church and the annual call of the pastor were primary reasons for this sense of hopelessness. One other factor is worthy of note. The church forever had to adjust to the schedule of the pastor, instead of his making adjustments to meet the needs of the church. This factor had to affect the attitude of the congregation.
Vitality and Evangelism
Cedar Creek was weak but not inactive during this period. The church's persistence until it overcame its financial crisis is one evidence of its vitality. Another indication of the congregation's lif e was its evangelistic concern. Protracted meetings, as revival meetings were called in those days, were held spasmodically.17
The Western Recorder preserved the record of one such meeting, quoting a letter from Elder J. T. Hedger:On Monday, the 18th day of October, as missionary of Nelson Association, I commenced a meeting at Cedar Creek church in Nelson County. After the meeting had been carried on for several days without any ministerial aid brethren R. H. Slaughter and J. H. Brown came, and with becoming zeal and energy engaged in the work. The meeting lasted ten days, during which time thirteen persons were received for baptism and twelve were baptized by the writer. This church has no settled pastor, and has been for some time past doing really nothing for the promotion of the cause. We would hope that she will now be inspired with the disposition to come up as one man to the help of the Lord. 18An even greater meeting was held in February 1861. J. H. Spencer, the historian and missionary in Nelson Association, appeared unexpectedly in Cedar Creek to hold a protracted meeting. In spite of some opposition because it was felt that the timing was bad, 39 or 40 persons made decisions within a span of two weeks.19
In the years when there was no protracted meeting there were generally no baptisms. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, baptisms began to be reported on a more regular basis to the Association. During the Bist year the church had a full-time pastor (1928), there were more baptisms than there had been in any one year since 1861.
Concern for Pure Doctrine
Another strengthening factor was the continued concern of the church for pure doctrine. When Cedar Creek became a part of the Salem Association, it had identified with the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. Evidently, this document was used by the church until 1858 when the church named a committee to investigate the constitution and articles of faith of the church. The committee sought to write its own doctrinal statement but could not reach a consensus. Three months later the church discharged the committee and appointed two people - the moderator and Deacon Reason Barnes - to contact other churches and see if any of them had a confession of faith which Cedar Creek
might also use. Within two months the church had adopted a new confession20 When it was discovered in 1877 that some of the articles of faith and the church covenant were missing from the old minutes book, the congregation immediately took action to insure that these items would be included in the new book.21
Faithfulness In Worship
In the area of worship, the church remained faithful. Already it has been pointed out that preaching was held on one weekend each month. As a general rule, services were held on both Saturday and Sunday, and normally they were held even if no preacher was present. In 1858 the church began to partake of the Lord's Supper "on the first Sabbath in January, April, July, and October.22 instead of two times each year. Also in this same year the church began having prayer meetings twice a month. Most likely the laymen assumed the responsibility of these prayer meetings since preachers were not always available.
Concern for worship also led the fellowship to move the pulpit from the front to the rear of the church. Accordingly the pulpit was placed at the opposite end of the building from the entrances of the meeting house. The people could now enter or leave without distracting from the service.23
Music was also an important part of worship. Efforts were made to keep the organ in good repair, and a new one was bought in the early 1900s. Also the church bought hymnbooks in 1918. These may have been the first ones bought by the church since hymns were often "lined out" in most of the churches prior to the early twentieth century.
The importance of the Sabbath (Sunday) as a day of worship was well guarded. With only a few exceptions prior to 1900 even the business meetings of the church were not held on Sunday. Most of the time when Sunday sessions were held it was to take care of extraordinary matters such as the effort of the church to keep Slaughter as paster in 1862 or the resignation of J.M. Coleman as pastor to go to Mt. Moriah Baptist Church "on account of their (Mt. Moriah's) rather distressed condition.24 One Sunday a meeting was held to hire Sister Dorran to clean the church building when the church could not agree on anyone at its Saturday meeting.25
Property and Building
A great interest of the church was its building. Repeatedly the congregation sought persons to keep the building clean, start the fire in the stove and bring water to the building. Usually the job was given to the person who would do it for the least money. Sometimes the membership was to' 'keep the church" by turns. On one occasion the church decided to let the job out to the brethren on a monthly basis "and their respectful names to be posted upon the pulpit.26 Also the church was concerned that the rubbish and briars be cleaned from around the building. This work was generally done voluntarily.
The building was kept in good condition, and as early as 1884 the church had a committee on repairs. This group oversaw the work of such major repairs as replacing the windows and the roof. The second time the building was re-roofed, the church obtained the trees, cut the timber, and shaped the shingles. The entire job took about ten months.27
The church also sought to beautify the sanctuary. In 1877-1878 carpet was placed in the aisles and around the altar. The carpet cost $25.75 and the church raised that amount of money in seven months.28
The property was fenced in 1879. Either when the fence was initially installed or sometime when it was repaired, some land which did not belong to the church was fenced in. In 1898 a Brother Sherman offered to make the church a deed "to what land it has under fence and an additional acre for $25."29 Sherman made this offer in response to the church's desire to buy a "Hitch Lot" from him.
The cemetery was opened on the church property in 1891 when Nancy Lefler was buried there. The first mention of this graveyard in the minutes was made in October 1891 when Washington Leslie, T. L. Sorrell, P. A. Barnes and James Leslie were appointed as the graveyard committee. In 1915 the
care of the burying grounds was placed in the hands of the deacons.
[A hand-written copy of a document is not included.]
Cooperation and Missions
Cedar Creek did not just look inwardly during the years after moving into its new building. The church was generally active in the Nelson Association and was host church for its annual meetings in 1863, 1899 and 1918. Even though the church had problems getting its own Sunday School going, it hosted Sunday School conventions in 1873 and 1886. In 1905 the church sent its pastor, Brother C. A. Westbrook, and Sister A. M. Hall to the meeting of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists in Russellville.
The church's interest in missions during this period was manifest during the Civil War. In 1863 brethren R. A. Barnes and T. A. Cash were appointed to "raise some funds for . . . the missionary cause.30 Whether the cause was for home or foreign missions was not stated. Nor did it say which society or convention would receive the money. One fact is certain: the church helped in missions when other Baptist churches in the South were unable to do so.
Missions were promoted from time to time after the Civil W ar. Again more emphasis was given after 1900 than before. It is particularly noteworthy that the congregation gave $42.55 to the Cooperative Program shortly after this venture had been entered into by Southern Baptists. In addition to its contribution to missions, the church often gave money to the Kentucky Baptist Orphan's Home in Louisville.
The amounts given to the missionary and benevolent causes were small because of the general economic condition of the church. The important fact is the church gave. It never succumbed to the anti-missionism that was often present in the Midwest.
Cedar Creek also sought to cooperate with other denominations and in community activities. In 1861, the church voted unanimously to allow the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations to use the church building when it was not occupied by the Baptists. The full impact of this decision can only be understood when one remembers that this action was taken when the Kentucky-Tennessee area was being inundated by Landmark propaganda. Among other doctrines, Landmarkism taught that the only true churches were Baptist churches. All other churches were not true churches. They were only religious societies. Their ministers were not gospel ministers, and nothing should be done which would cause these religious organizations to be recognized as churches. In the midst of this environment, Cedar Creek Church said to the two aforementioned groups "that they are at liberty and invited to use our church for worship.31 The same spirit of cooperation was apparent again in 1894 when the Black brethren were invited to hold services "some Sunday in the near future" in the meeting house.32
One example of collaboration in community projects by the church was the agreement on November 14, 1896, which permitted the Buffalo School to hold arithmetic classes in the meeting house.
Relationships with Blacks
The period covered in this chapter includes the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Feelings ran high throughout the South, especially in areas where slave labor was dominant. Cedar Creek was such a community, and the church was such a church. There were times when at least half of its membership were slaves. How did the church react to the Civil War? How did it treat the Blacks? First with regard to the Civil War, there is no mention of it in any of the extant church records. Second, Blacks remained as members of the church throughout this period. Cedar Creek never made any effort to remove them from the fellowship. In fact in 1879 during a protracted meeting, several Blacks were received into the congregation. Then in 1903 Laura Gore, the servant girl of E. W. Gore who had been excluded from the church in 1862, died. She was a member of Cedar Creek at the time of her death.
The years from 1855 until 1928 were often difficult ones for the church. More often than not the church was weak; weak in giving, weak in growth, and weak in ministry. Even so, persons came to know Jesus as Lord. Several accepted his call to become ministers. Among the latter were A. E. Mason in 1861; Alfred H. Rogers in 1862; P. A. Barnes in 1871; and Colla Barnes in 1879.32
How could these things happen? It's hard to say. Perhaps it was because of a living faith that never gave up even in difficult times.
[From The Kentucky Baptist Heritage Journal, volume 9, number 1, 1982, pp. (scattered). Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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