The history of this church has been twice written heretofore: in 1876 by Rev. J. M. Coleman, then pastor, to be read before the Nelson Association, and printed in the minutes of that year; in 1894 by J. C. Samuels, and read before the church at Its roll call, and preserved in abstract in the church minutes. Neither of these sought to cover the subject with the completeness here attempted.
The minutes of the church are available for its entire history, except for breaks here and there, the longest being two years and six months, and amounting in all to near ten years. The minutes of the first ten years are not the original, but a copy prepared by order of the church and examined for approval by a special committee, though there is internal evidence that this committee did not examine the work thoroughly.
These church minutes; the complete file of the Nelson Association minutes; the minutes of the Salem Association, summarized up to 1811, copied from that date to 1840, and printed after 1840; Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists, and the oral reminiscences of our oldest members and citizens constitute the sources from which the history must be compiled. Most of the church minutes have been recorded and kept with a good degree of care, though the membership rolls are far from satisfactory, except for the period 1842 to 1864, during which a new roll was annually made in September. None of the clerks ever consciously recorded history, but rather made memoranda for temporary use.
I. Constitution.— The church was an indirect product of the "great revival of 1801." On November 28, 1801, Edmund Polke, William Chenoweth, Mary Chenoweth, Thomas Polke, Lucy Polke, Lucy French, Thomas Polke, Jr., and Mary McNeal assembled, apparently in some private house, and entered into an organization. Whether any presbytery aided and endorsed the new organization cannot be known, as the only account of this original meeting that is preserved is the following:"The Church covenant We whose names are under written being desirous to be constituted a church of Jesus Christ at this place, and having due knowledge of one another in point of work of grace on our hearts, religious principals and moral character, and being desirous of enjoying the priviledges that appertain to the people of God in a church relation, do in the name of the lord Jesus, voluntarily and freely give ourselves up to each other and the Lord, according to his word to be one body under one head Jointly to exist and
[p. 4]act by the bond and rule of the gospel and do promise and engage to do all things by divine assistance In our different capacities and relations that the lord has commanded us and requires us.The records show nothing of the previous church relations of these constituent members, and no tradition is found among our members concerning this. They would quite likely have been members of Cox's Creek Church.
Patiently to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow christ keep the faith, assemble ourselves together, love the Brethren submit one to another in the lord, care for one another bear, one another's burthens and Endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in bonds of peace, and this is the covenant we solelmly enter into in the fear of God humbly imploring his divine assistance and Beleaving that we may be built and Established to the glory of God the advancement of the redeemer's kingdom and to the comfort and Edification of our souls Through the Infinite riches of free grace which is in Jesus Christ our lord and now to the only wise god father son and holy Spirit be Be honor power Glory dominion and obedience now and for evermore Amen Done in the State of kentucky, Nelson county on the head of wilsons creek on the 28th November, 1801.
constituted on eight members."
The following card from Rev. J. R. Johnson, the present pastor of Cox's Creek, gives the best information now available:Of these eight members four were subsequently dismissed by letter; four, William Chenoweth, Mary Chenoweth, Thomas Polke and Mary McNeal died in the fellowship of the church. By the kindness of Bro. T. P. Samuels, a decorated scroll with the names of the constituent members was hung in the church on the day of the centennial celebration. In the old church yard of the original meeting-house, which was built on land given by William Chenoweth, there still stand the tombstones over the graves of William Chenoweth and his wife, Mary, with these inscriptions:
"Cox's creek, Ky., Aug. 20, 1902.
"Dear Bro. Carver:
"I have made a search for the names which you made mention of, but we can find none of our church records back of 1836. Two of our books were misplaced during Bro. _____'s ministry and we have been unable to find them. Some of my oldest members say they have understood all along that Wilson's Creek Church was formed from this.
"Yours truly, "J. R. Johnson."
"This marble Stone Stands at the head
of Wm. Chenoweth, who is dead.
He died in friendship with mankind,
and left a faithful wife behind.
Died August 16, 1828. age 68 years."
"Sacred to the memory of
Died June 29, 1832, age 75 years 4 mo. 18 days."
In September, 1802, a committee was appointed to draw up a set of rules for the church, and these were duly reported and adopted and from time to time modified. The original rules had to do chiefly with the conduct of the business meetings. Among them is a rule requiring a motion to be made to take up and pass each item of business before it can be considered — a form still extensively observed. In September, 1839, the church adopted a declaration of faith, the first of which any account is found, mildly Calvinistic, but vigorous on distinctive Baptist doctrine. At the same time a new covenant was adopted much more mature and comprehensive than the original. This declaration of faith and covenant have remained unmodified.
New rules of discipline were formulated and changes made at various times.
3. Officers. — The church at its first business session, in December, 1801, chose Edmund Polke "moderator to conduct the business of the church," and Thomas Polke "writing clk and Deacon;" and appointed a committee '"to give Brother Cash an invitation to attend with us at our stated Meetings to preach to us and administer the ordinances of the Gospel amongst us." By the acceptance of this invitation, the next March, Rev. Warren Cash became the first pastsr of the church. In January, 1803, Edmund Able [Abel] was elected deacon, and he and Thomas Polke were ordained to this office. For a long period the church had only two deacons at a time, and not until September, 1877, did they make the number seven.
Early we find mention of "elders," and in August, 1840, Pastor Smith Thomas "explained the duties of elders," and the explanation was ordered to record. The 1839 articles of faith clearly announce that pastors and deacons are the only Scriptural officers, but still we find the elders continuing until 1849, when they were formally dispensed with, although in 1867 there is a resolution assigning the duties of the elders to deacons, which seems to indicate that the action of 1849 was not put into effect. Rules of discipline adopted in 1841 define the duties of elders to be "to cite members to appear before the church who in their opinion should be dealt with by her." This rule must be subject to a modification of August, 1840, requiring the elders first to seek to right matters privately.
The office of Treasurer was a development of the years 1840 to 1850. Bro. John Samuels was elected "Treasurer for the pastor's salary" in 1840, but the office was not certainly continuous for a number of years yet. Frequently we find different Treasurers for separate funds. In November, 1890, the functions of the Treasurer were united in the offficer, T. P. Samuels.
Trustees appear in 1831, when four were appointed to have the house repaired. In May, 1839, four members and P. B. Samuels (not then a member) were elected. Later, we find three, the present number.
3. Name and Location — For very many years the only name appearing on the books is the Wilson's Creek Church, which was located on the head of Wilson's creek, on a farm now owned by Mr. Menah. In 1827 the Salem Association passed a resolution requiring all churches in its fellowship to style themselves the "United Church of Jesus Christ at . . . " Thereafter the church minutes begin "The Baptist Church of Christ at Wilson's creek met," and so on, until 1831, when once appears the title "The United Baptist Church of Christ at Wilson's Creek," and once "The United Baptist Church at Wilson's Creek," the name officially recognized September, 1839. The exact form required by the Association appears in a minute of March, 1839.
In May, 1839, "the following trustees (to-wit) Brethren John Overall, J. Barger, L. B. Magruder, & William Newbolt and P. B. Samuels were appointed Trustees, endowed with full power to erect a meeting house on the waters of the west fork of coxes Creek on the lands of Wm. Newbolt and N. Landers, which land has been surveyed and deeded to sd trustees for the sole use and benefit of Wilsons creek Church." In January, 1840, a special committee reported the sale of the old house for $50.30. It now stands as the barn at old T. W. Samuels homestead. In May, 1840, the new house was dedicated with a sermon by "the beloved pastor," Smith Thomas, and a lecture by him on the duty of a church. The name was changed to New Salem, and
three elders were appointed "to do the business of elders." In July, 1840, the trustees, reported the entire cost of the new house "just $1231.00." The church has owned but these two houses, but worshiped in the homes of various members for about a year at the beginning and for several months in transition from the old to the new location. For some time in the earlier months of their history the place of meeting is called Harrison's meeting house. From the best information available, this seems to be only another name for the original place of worship, a house previously occupied as a residence by one Harrison, a rather notorious character. This house was enlarged or substituted in the first few years. The present house has been several times repaired, and in 1885 it was "enlarged and remodeled at a cost of about $2500.00," this work having been first undertaken in 1882. This renovation resulted in practically a new house.
Beginning with eight members, the church grew by frequent additions by letter, baptism and relation. Exact figures are not obtainable until 1811, when 54 were reported to the Association, a number not again equaled until 1815, when 59 were reported, which is the highest until 1829. In that year 60 were reported, and another decline set in, until in 1839 there were 70 and in 1840, 116. The number has been greater than this ever since.
From 1841 to 1851 the numbers ranged from 117 to 176.
From 1852 to 1861 the numbers ranged from 153 (157) to 238.
From 1862 to 1871 the numbers ranged from 225 to 365.
From 1872 to 1881 the numbers ranged from 372 to 420 (1872).
From 1882 to 1891 the numbers ranged from 280 (1890) to 403 (1882).
From 1892 to 1901 the numbers ranged from 300 (1894) to 344 (1901).
It will be seen that the greatest membership was in 1872. A loss of 96 was sustained in 1883, chiefly due to dropping names of unknown or indifferent members. Since the first few weeks at the beginning the ladies have been in the majority. In the first year of our history Negroes began to be received. Except for about half the time, it is impossible to determine at all accurately the number of Negro members, though they are included in the numbers given above. They were most numerous from 1850 to 1880, the greatest number discovered being 47, in 1864. They were encouraged to leave by letter and discouraged from joining after 1880, and in April, 1892, a committee was appointed to advise all the remaining ones to get letters and unite with the negro churches. The minutes do not record the accomplishment of this purpose, and it is likely that two or three still have formal membership in the church.
So far as the sources provide statistics, the total membership of the church has been 1,457; received by baptism, 1,180; by letter, 199; by relation, 24; by restoration, 54. Of these, 256 have died in the fellowship of the church, 313 have been excluded, 472 dismissed by letter, 344 are now on our rolls, and 72 are unaccounted for. These figures cannot be relied on for strict accuracy, but are approximately correct.
Some interesting items should be recorded of our membership. In point of continuous membership, Bro. J. C. Samuels is our patriarch, having been baptized in September, 1851. Bro. Vardeman Crenshaw joined two years earlier, but his membership has not been continuous.
Several sisters, however, who are still with us, anticipated these brethren as
children of the church. Sister Mahala Brown Bectol was baptized in March, 1839, and her sister, Rachel Brown Duval, a month later, while a third sister of the same family, Sister Malvina Barber, entered September, 1842. Sister Delilah Downs entered by letter in 1839, and was already a woman of mature years at the time, her life lacking but a few years of being synchronous with the last century. Sister Rachel Brashear Davis is another mother in our Israel who finds in Smith Thomas her spiritual father, having been baptized before September, 1842. Sister Sarah E. Hall entered more than a half century ago, 1849, but has not held continuous membership. Sister Lucy Overall Thixton's membership is now in Louisville, but celebrated our centennial with us, and became a child of the church by baptism in 1851. Mrs. Hester Brown Marshall is another who joined us a half century ago, now in the fellowship of the Lebanon Junction Church. "Aunt" Sophia Grant came to us by letter with her worthy husband and daughter, Elizabeth (Davis), in 1854.
Certain names are important throughout a great part of the church's history, the children and children's children following in the ways of the Lord. May it be ever and increasingly so. Some of the names once so prominent for service now appear among us less often and less prominently. We would see them restored to their former places.
1. Pastors. — (i) Warren Cash was called to the pastorate December, 1801, accepted in March, 1802, to attend the business meetings and preach once a month. How long he continued in the pastorate cannot be determined, except that the manner of his mention in the minutes December, 1805, seems to imply that he was not at that time pastor. He was a traveling preacher from Virginia, where he was born April 4, 1760. At 25 he did not know the alphabet. His wife, the daughter of a Baptist minister, was a woman of some culture, and soon taught him to read in the Scriptures, with which he became very familiar. He was a preacher of ordinary ability, but a man of much usefulness. He died in Hardin county in 1850.
(2) Daniel Walker — a multitude of whose kinsmen remain with us — united with the church by letter in February, 1805. The church asked the advice of the Association as to ordaining Bro. Walker, and on this advice, in December, 1805, appointed Friday before the January, 1806, meeting for that purpose, and voted "that the day be kept as a day of fast and prayer, and that ministering brethren William Taylor, Warren Cash and Joshua Harris be called upon to ordain him." The ordination was to take place "at Brother William Keith's." In March, 1806, Bro. Walker was called to preach on the second and fourth Sundays in each month. He accepted and continued as pastor until his death, June 3, 1831. He was a man of modest gifts and education, but of deep piety and great personal influence.
(3) No mention of pastor occurs from 1831 to August, 1836. For intervals amounting to about one-third of that time there seem to have been no meetings, though the church was each year represented at the Association and kept up a vigorous discipline. There were but four baptisms in this period, and the membership declined from 51 to 36. The decline had, however, commenced a year before Bro. Walker's death. Smith Thomas was called in August, 1836, and continued until the close of 1843.
During his pastorate the membership rose from 38 to 120 and many valuable additions were among his converts, some
of them remaining unto this day. The following account is by Bro. J. C. Samuels:"Bro. Thomas was one of the great men of his generation. He was a good orator, over six feet in height, well proportioned,(4) V. E. Kirtley was called December 23, 1843, for one year, at $100. But this stipulation of specific compensation seems to have caused a pause, and the matter was referred to a committee, which reported favorably. In February, following, the time of meeting was changed to the fourth Sunday and Saturday before. Spencer's History has an appreciative sketch of Bro. Kirtley, but his brief pastorate was not of special note in the history of this church.
SMITH THOMAS. Pastor 1837-1843.
fair complexion, large mouth, not a handsome face, but made a fine appearance in the pulpit, and his voice was full and clear. He was a man of excellent judgment and strong intellect. He began holding meetings in private houses, which resulted in the conversion of great numbers, and the church began to prosper. He could reach all classes, and was one of the most successful preachers we have ever had in our association."
(5) P. B. Samuels was called December, 1844. He was born August 3, 1816; had served as trustee in 1839; was converted under the ministry of Smith Thomas in 1840, and elected Clerk in April, 1841. In February, 1842, he was "authorized to exercise a publick gift in the bounds of this church by taking a text, preaching and commenting on the word of God as may comport with his fealings and sense of duty," and in August, 1842, was "unanimously" "licensed by this church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever his lot may be cast in the Providence of God." Arrangements were made and a presbytery invited to be present for his ordination on Friday before the first Sunday in May, 1843, but so few of the presbyters were
P. B. SAMUELS. Pastor 1845-1872.
present as to cause a postponement until the regular May business meeting. Then only Smith Thomas and Henson Thomas were present, but by unanimous vote the
ordination proceeded, Bro. Smith Thomas being the chief speaker. When he was called to the pastorate, in December, 1844, there was some opposition to him, and he took a month to answer. He then accepted and entered upon the pastorate which continued, with several re-elections, until his death, January 1, 1872 — twenty-seven years, the longest pastorate in the history of the church. The membership grew from 117 to 365.
Many now in the church made their acquaintance with Jesus under his introduction and grew efficient under his training. From 1860 the church had preaching twice a month.
Preston B. Samuels was a giant in power and influence. He had a good intellect, fair education, genial spirit, vigorous will, sound judgment, and was a good student. His sermons were prepared with care and delivered with energy. He was "a gentleman of the old school," and commanded universal respect.
The church was not always unanimous in his support, and he frequently gave his opponents opportunity, by resigning, to supplant him, but always he was re-elected, and the church continued to prosper.
He was one of the movers in the founding of the Nelson Association, was its first Clerk, and re-elected for fifteen years, until, in 1865, he was made Moderator and re-elected until his death. He labored extensively beyond his own field and baptized great numbers.
"He was a great favorite in marriage ceremonies, and during his ministry married about 950 couples."
At the next meeting after his death the church appointed a committee to act with a similar committee from Cox's Creek, of which he was pastor at the time of his death, in the erection of a suitable monument over his grave. The tall shaft of white marble still marks his grave in our cemetery, and records the love of an admiring flock whom he led as a good shepherd.
(6) J. M. Coleman was called before the end of the month in which P. B. Samuels died, and continued as pastor a little more than eleven years, until May 1, 1883. His salary was fixed at $250, but $25 were added, making $275 for this part of a year, and in January, 1873, the salary was raised to $400 and several mission stations opened. "A good preacher, noted for great piety and loved by all. The church
J. M. COLEMAN. Pastor 1872-1883.
prospered under his pastorate." This simple tribute does scant justice to this faithful and godly pastor. The present pastor has been told by an old citizen that the church has had no good preacher since "Jimmie Coleman." He was a tireless worker and sought souls in all the highways and byways. The policy pursued during his pastorate of having preaching once a month at some school-house and and holding meetings in these stations won great numbers of converts, but added little,
if anything, to the church's strength, spiritually or financially. The people came to demand and expect to have the services brought to them, and seemed to feel next to no responsibility for the support of the work. New converts were received at the mission meetings and baptized, and seldom or never went to the church or aided in its support. By carrying the preaching to these outlying points the home congregation was weakened and has never been so great as before. Perhaps the policy was more generous than wise. Certainly the people for whom this godly pastor thus wore out his frail body should pay to his memory a more worthy tribute of faithfulness than their conduct has shown.
It is of doubtful propriety to receive any well and strong member into the church who does not come to the church home for admission into its fellowship.
In October, 1883, J. M. Coleman was elected for one Saturday and Sunday by ballot, and the election made unanimous, at a salary of $250.00, but he declined, and in December a committee was appointed to correspond and see who could be had, and the following January was set for election. But at the January meeting the election was indefinitely postponed.
J. R. MOFFETT. Pastor 1884-1885.
(7) In February, 1884, J. R. Moffett was chosen pastor for the remainder of the year, "at $200.00 to be paid monthly," and was re-elected in January, 1885. He was a man of tireless energy, a great mixer, and a fine worker. He was assassinated by a lawyer in Danville, Va., on account of his vigorous contention for temperance.
G. W. HURT. Pastor 1885-1887.
(8) George W. Hurt was elected pastor in April, 1885, and began his work in July, continuing until about the end of 1887. His brief pastorate was marked by the faithfulness with which he has continued his successful career at other places. He would have been present at the Centennial celebration but for the sudden paralysis of a deacon in his present pastorate at Onancock, Va.
(9) The next pastor was A. C. Caperton, D.D. J. A. Booth was elected April, 1888, but declined. Bro. Caperton's pastorate was for only a little more than a year. His sermons were scholarly and profound, but as they were long and always written and read with close attention to the manuscript, many found him an uninteresting preacher. He deserves great credit, however, for having put the church on a firm financial basis and for inaugurating business principles in the financial affairs, which have ever since secured an orderly conduct of the church's business. His eminent services to the denomination need not be told here. In October, 1889, it was decided to have a new election of all officers of the church. In November, J. M. Sallee was elected pastor, but declined, and in December the deacons were made a committee on pulpit supply and pastor. In February, 1890, W. M. Kuykendall was elected, at $350.00, but declined. Then W. H. Purdom was elected, the days of meeting having been changed to accommodate him, but for some unexplained reason he failed to come.
A. C. CAPERTON, D. D. Pastor 1888-1889.
(10) In December, 1890, Prof. A. T. Robertson, D. D., of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached "a very instructive and, interesting lesson in regard to a successful church," and was unanimously elected at a salary of $450, the only pastor whose salary has been so much. He served as pastor until May, 1896, when his duties at the Seminary compelled his resignation. The simplicity, directness and vigorous strength of his sermons, his straightforward business methods, his faithful, courageous and wise leadership
A. T. ROBERTSON, D. D., Pastor 1890-1896.
and discipline all made him a most admirable and successful pastor. It was a joy and profit to have him participate in the exercises of the Centennial.
(11) The present pastor, W. O. Carver, Th.D., was invited to supply for the months of June and July, 1896, at $25.00 a month, and was then called to the pastorate at a salary of $400.00 for two Sundays each month. During this period there has been a small, but steady growth in membership, though the discipline has been less rigid, and, possibly, less successful than in the preceding pastorate.
The growth in spirituality has been gratifying, and the growth in mission interest and contributions phenomenal. The cash contributions to missions have increased from $160 to $409, and during the centennial year a mission box of the value of $91 was sent to Texas. An especially gratifying development in this pastorate has been the active, harmonious and efficient Woman's Missionary Union.
2. Ministerial Helpers. — In its meetings the church has had a long list of able and some illustrious helpers. The celebrated and erratic Thos. J. Fisher assisted Smith Thomas once or more.
Andrew Broadus assisted in meetings and preached. Dr. J. H. Spencer, in the power of his prime, was a favorite with the church; he and P. B. Samuels were close friends and held some great meetings together.
Among others in the earlier days were Bros. Loveless, Siegg, Brown, Isaac Taylor, Gi[a]lbreath, Henson Thomas, J. T. Hedger, J. M. Harrington. In later times F. W. Taylor, J. H. Purdom, W. L. Pickard, D. D., B. H. Dement, Th.D., and M. B. Adams have done excellent service in special meetings.
3. Missionary and benevolent agents came often and found kindly treatment. In 1815 the famous Luther Rice attended the meetings of Salem Association at Wilson's Creek Church.
Dr. R. L. Thurman was frequently present to present the Foreign Mission cause.
4. Other Ministers in the Church. — Besides Pastor Walker, the first ministerial product of the church was "Bro. Wm. Irwin," who in 1822 was "leaved to exercise a bublick gift for two months." The next January he was licensed, and in September, 1823, given a letter of dismission. Of his career nothing has been learned.
In June, 1845, Raphael Dunn was granted "the liberty of exercising his gift" "within the bounds of this church." He shortly afterward left the church, but appears in 1848 assisting P. B. Samuels in a meeting.
Bro. Thomas Foxworthy was "liberated" in January, 1846, and his liberty extended to include the precincts of Georgetown College in November, 1846, and extended further in August, 1847. He died while still a college student.
In January, 1874, Rev. A. D. Marion, from Texas, joined by letter. The records show nothing else concerning him.
In August, 1890, Bro. P. B. Grant was recommended to Bethel College as a student for the ministry, licensed in October, 1893, and ordained April 26, 1896, Drs. A. T. Robertson, E. C. Dargan, W. J. McGlothlin. and Revs. E. W. Marshall and W. F. Yarborough constituting the ordaining
council. Bro. Grant has held pastorates at Guyton, Ga., Blackwell, Okla., Simpsonville, S. C., and Johnston, S. C., where he now has a successful and happy work.
In November, 1897, Bro. F. W. Bennett was indorsed by the church as a student with the ministry in prospect. In February, 1900, he was granted a letter of dismission. He has not yet found it practicable to undertake ministerial work.
1. Clerks. — We have seen that Thomas Polke was the first Clerk. He was succeeded in 1807 by Edmund Abell. Thence the succession has been:
Samuel Abell, 1811-1817. William Irwin, 1817-1823. Hardin Hawkins, 1823-1826. Joshua Brown, 1826-1839. W. W. Wise, 1839-1843. Ben Flanders, 1843-1849. Geo. M. Barger, 1849-1851. J. C. Samuels, 1851-1855. J. A. McCormick, 1855-1863. R. J. Stone, 1863-1868. W. I. Samuels, 1868-1877. T. P. Samuels, 1877-1901.
From 1868 till about 1880 the church had also a "deputy" Clerk, and in 1898 Bro. D. B. Grant was elected Assistant Clerk.
The Clerks have usually done faithful work.
2. Treasurers. — John Samuels was the first Treasurer, 1843. John Overall was for a time Treasurer. But the records do not show the succession in this office. From about the close of the civil war, J. C. Samuels was Treasurer until 1889, when T. P. Samuels was made Treasurer.
Moderators. — It has been the policy of this church from the beginning to have a layman for Moderator. The pastors have occasionally served temporarily, but never for long at a time.
Edmund Polke was the first Moderator, serving with a few exceptions, due probably to absence, until 1809, when he had been drunk and the church "agreed to race out the rule of standing moderator and appoint one every church day of business." For a time then several names appear in this office, and after a few years the election settles regularly on Bro. Polke.
In 1817 Wm. Chenoweth was elected permanent moderator, and upon his death was succeeded in 1825 by Jeremiah Barger, who held the office for thirty years. On his death there were tempore elections for a few months, until July, 1855, J. C. Samuels was chosen, and has been kept in the office continuously until now. In 1861, upon his election to the deaconate, the question was raised as to the eligibility of
ED. HEFLEY. Trustee since 1892.
a deacon for the office of moderator. It was resolved in the affirmative, and Bro. Samuels held both offices. The treasurer-ship seems never to have raised such a question, and Bro. Samuels held the three offices besides that of Superintendent of the Sunday-school for a considerable period.
4. Elders, mentioned elsewhere, were never more than a standing committee on discipline, and it is difficult to determine how many served in this capacity.
5. Trustees have been elected upon the occurrence of vacancies since 1840, the number usually being three. At present two of the trustees are also deacons; the third is Bro. Ed Hefley, who was elected in October, 1892.
6. Deacons. — Thomas Polke was elected deacon shortly after the organization. In December, 1802, Edmund Abell was elected, and he and Polke ordained to this office. William Overall was elected in 1834. Others were certainly deacons during the early history, but only these names occur. The chief function of a deacon in those days was to bear the elements in the Lord's Supper. The number was, therefore, small, and, aside from its dignity, the office unimportant. We find record of the election of Joseph Greathouse in 1861; of P. B. Grant, Geo. M. Barger and J. A. McCormick in 1866; of J. V. Crenshaw in 1867. In 1877 all the officers resigned and there was a new election, and at the next meeting an ordination of deacons, although several of them had been re-elected. At this time the number was first made seven. The deacons elected at this time were G. M. Barger, J. C. Samuels, P. D. Grant, A. F. Magruder, Gabriel Duval, M. Miller, and J. A. McCormick. G. M. Barger and J. A. McCormick were later relieved of duty on account of the infirmities of age, and both were called from earth before the centennial celebration, Bro. McCormick passing over just a few weeks before; Bro. Grant died in office to be succeeded by his son, W. H. Grant, in 1887, and he in turn by D. B. Grant in 1898, an honorable succession of faithful servants. J. C. Samuels remains, our nestor. Brethren Magruder and Duval remain in our midst, but, unfortunately, no longer members with us on account of trouble over the use of an organ in the church. We hope they may yet pass into the gates of glory from the fellowship of New Salem Church. Bro. Miller was excluded, but later restored and granted a letter. He, too, has gone to the other world.
Bro. T. G. Hefley was made deacon in 1891, but after just a year in the office left by letter. His efficient labors, missed here, bless another church.
In October, 1891, all officers resigned, but, with one exception, were re-elected, A. B. Overall being the new deacon.
This leaves us to speak briefly of the present Board of Deacons.
J. C. Samuels, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit," leads us "in the way the fathers trod." Converted at 21, he at once entered the active work of his church. In 1851 he was made Clerk, in 1854 Sunday-school Superintendent, in 1855 Moderator, in 1861 deacon. Through all the years he has lived without reproach, has been the friend of all, the adviser of many, the peacemaker often, the helper of all in distress who came to him. He is now in the midst of his best service, and we pray God he may serve on earth yet many days.
J. C. SAMUELS. Deacon from 1861.
Deacon Louis G. Mobley came to us by letter from Mill Creek in 1866. His godly walk, kindly manner, and business worth insured his call to the office in 1887. The nature of his work, and, more recently, the confining affliction of his family, hinder his attendance at the business meetings, but he does promptly and well all work assigned him, and his children and church must always bless his name.
J. C. Hewitt is another gift from abroad, coming to us from Louisville, whence he had come from Maryland, in 1884. His character and conduct marked him for official service, and he was called to the deaconate in 1887, where he serves with that gentleness and faithfulness which win our love and confidence.
A. B. Overall was reared in the church, so to speak, his father, John (Jack) Overall being one of the pillars for many years in the middle of the century. He was converted in October, 1857. They tell a good story about Brother Overall, with a fine moral.
They tell, also, of a Sunday when his wheat seemed about to be lost, and, as it was in a secluded place, he cut it to save it. But at the next church meeting he averred that the machine with which he did the work, although a new one, was the noisiest ever run. He was elected in 1891, and has been remarkably faithful and valuable.
Thomas Preston Samuels is a nephew of the great pastor, Preston B. Samuels, whose name and that of Smith Thomas he bears. He was converted in his youth and joined the church in 1864 in a meeting conducted by P. B. Samuels and J. H. Spencer. Conscientious and painstaking, he was called upon for frequent service, as already seen, and in 1887 was put into the board of deacons.
L. G. MOBLEY. Deacon since 1887.
John E. Head bears a name long honored and honorable on our rolls. In spite of much sickness and infirmity he holds a
J. C. HEWITT. Deacon from 1887.
tight grip on life and labor. He has served in the office of deacon since 1892. There should be a long life of usefulness yet before him.
Drummond B. Grant succeeded his father, so suddenly snatched from us by an untimely death — as human eyes see — in 1898. He is the youngest of our officers, and has a stalwart manhood that gives promise of long and arduous labors in the Lord.
A. B. OVERALL. Deacon from 1891.
7. There are no other church officers, but it would be unfair to omit mention of Miss Alma Samuels, the organist; Miss Sallie Bukey, librarian, and C. W. Davis, assistant librarian, who quietly do faithfully the important duties of their positions.
Discipline has been one of the strong points of this church's life. It has usually been wisely, lovingly and fearlessly administered, except for the fear of God. True
there are traces of hesitation and even a want of directness at times, as in dealing with some sharp-tongued sister or some irate pair of sisters. But a church that has excluded at least three deacons and some of its wealthiest njembers, and some from the most prominent families, cannot be said to have been cowardly. It is inevitable in human nature that some mistakes should have been made, but these were generally on the side of undue leniency; and it is commendable that when once an
T. P. SAMUELS. Deacon from 1887.
arraigned brother, not denying his own guilt, charged partiality in that some others were worse than he and not arraigned, he was promptly excluded.
Great forbearance has nearly always been shown with the weakness of brethren and with the young who yield to the facinations of the world, so strong with young people. Drunkenness has been a terrible curse in our community, and very many pages of the church's history bear testimony to the ravages which whisky make on the happiness and usefulness of professing Christians. Dancing and profanity are also frequently recurring causes for discipline. One brother was excluded only when it was known that he was in the penitentiary for grand larceny. The grosser sins of lust have caused many a prolonged church session and excommunication. Contentions between brethren over the weak and beggarly elements of the world, the mammon of unrighteousness, have been the occasion of many a committee's appointment. Will we never learn honestly and generously to share the things of this vain world? Alas, that men will mar the Kingdom of Jesus with strifes about the things of earth!
The church adopted rules of discipline from the beginning, and modified them from time to time, and at times sought to check certain evils by special resolution, as against theaters, dancing, etc., without specific action. For a time the rules of the church were regularly read. Ever and anon the Covenant has been read to recall the vows of our brotherhood. With all the care of discipline, it became necessary frequently to revise the church roll, as many as 98 names being lost in a single year, most of them by exclusion and erasure.
Members who move away and neither unite with another church nor keep in touch with that left behind have ever been a source of annoyance.
Many amusing, quaint and informing cases of discipline are preserved in the records. Only a few can here find place.
The first case was in the first year of a Bro. Wells for quarreling with a neighbor.
It was from the beginning a requirement that male members attend the business meetings, and at various times discipline, even to the extent of exclusion, has been applied for failure to attend. The first example of this was in 1814, when four were cited "to appear and show cause why they
had not filled their seats on days of business." Two were excused on satisfactory explanation, one the church agreed to bear with, and the fourth was excluded after some two months' effort to bring him into line.
Upon a time a brother was "charged with attending places of vain amusement and participating in dancing." Singularly enough, according to the minutes, a committee was appointed to "see him and try to induce him to retrace his steps.
In the olden days the church did not grant letters to avoid discipline. When letters had already been granted to Bro. Jeremiah Barger and wife the church learned that they were not at peace with some of the members. At the next meeting the letters were reconsidered and refused and a committee appointed to try to settle matters. Settlement was effected and "no letters required," and a few months later Bro. Barger began his long and useful career as moderator.
Since 1870 the use of a letter to escape church responsibility is prohibited by a six-months' limit on letters, and since 1897 by vote, and in practice for a longer period, letters are granted only to a specific church, which must be named in the application for letter of dismission.
In later times many things formerly presented in church meetings are dealt with privately by the pastor and deacons. But always the end has been the same — to save the honor and efficiency of the church and to keep the members in the way of life.
The mistaken ideas with which many come into church and the seductive power of sin are all too loudly proclaimed in the fact that more than one-fifth of the total membership has been excluded — 313 in all.
CHURCH ORDER AND ORTHODOXY.
In the main, our church has pursued a course of calm and dignified fidelity to orthodox principles and practices. The pastors have been able and true teachers of the common faith. The church has been one of action, rather than of doctrinal vehemence. The stress being thus rightly laid, no serious defection from the faith has ever occurred.
The Campbellite agitation of 1825 to 1850 has left absolutely no trace in the church records. That movement was never strong in this immediate community, but that can hardly have been, because no efforts were exerted here by the agitators. The steadfastness of the church is the more remarkable that from 1831 to 1836 they had no pastor. There was during this period a decline, but Campbellism can have been only a small factor in this. The fundamental Baptist doctrine of regenerate membership has been emphasized by discipline, but if it had been more consistently urged at the door of entrance, the door of exit might have been opened less frequently. The Catholic idea of salvation for all within the church, and damnation for all without, it is feared, has not been perfectly eradicated from all who have sought membership.
The relation of baptism to church membership is indicated in a minute of 1804, which records that three told their experiences and were "baptized to be received into the church," and it is an honored custom to give the hand of church fellowship to newly baptized members, the church often going from the water to the house for a meeting formally to receive the new converts.
An exaggerated idea of the function of the deacon and of the ceremonial in the Lord's Supper is shown by the facts that in 1821; the ordinance was deferred on account
of the absence of any deacon, and that in 1828, on one occasion, the pastor was chosen deacon pro tempore so as to celebrate the Lord's Supper.
As to baptism, the church several times, about 1868, received members on certificate of some evangelist who had baptized them in meetings held not very far from the church.
On the other hand, in August, 1859, the pastor was formally requested to preach on the difference between Campbellite and Baptist baptism. In 1859 also, after a month's consideration, a resolution, introduced by J. C. Samuels, against the reception of alien immersions, was adopted, and in 1878 "the following preamble and resolution were adopted and ordered to record and a copy to be sent to Elder A. C. Caperton, viz:WHEREAS, A controversy has been in progress for some time in the Western Recorder on alien immersion and the proper qualifications of an Administrator of baptism, etc., between Elders J. L. Burrows and J. M. Weaver on the one side, and Elder A. C. Caperton on the other; andThese formal resolutions have a counterpart in an action of April, 1810, whereby John Warman, who had apparently been received by letter and once honored with the moderatorship, was excluded because he "came into the Baptist church without being baptized in the Baptist faith and order."
WHEREAS, In the opinion of this church the two former have failed to establish the positions they have assumed, and the latter having to our satisfaction proven the position he has taken on the subject to be correct, sound and tenable according to the sacred Scriptures,
Resolved, therefore, That it is the sense of this church that it is necessary for an Administrator of baptism, in addition to other necessary qualifications, to be regularly authorized and set apart by a regular Gospel church of immersed believers, and that it is unsound and unsafe for a Baptist church to accept the baptism of any other administrator."
The use of the term "Baptist church" in the record of this ultra orthodox action is certainly loose, but the declaration of faith approved in 1839 rightly defines "a Gospel church," and by designating it a "visible" church commits itself to the common Baptist acceptance of the idea of the spiritual church, which is invisible in the physical sense.
In general denominational relations the church has always been progressive. It has failed of representation in the Association no year since its organization. It held membership in the Salem Association until the formation of the Nelson, in 1849. It has furnished an officer of this latter Association almost continuously from its founding.
The church's representatives in the Association appear indifferently as "delegates" or "messengers." On one or two occasions the delegates were instructed how to vote on certain questions. Of course, this was done when the Association sent to the churches questions as to policy or procedure as when the Association asked the opinion of the churches concerning the formation of the General Association, but the evidence does not show that instructions were limited to such requests. In the earlier days the churches used, also, to send questions of doctrine and policy to the Association for answer. This church asked the advice of the Association as to ordaining Bro. Walker, and the ordination was almost the act of the Association. Except twice, when two ladies were messengers, the church was represented in the Associations by male members.
The church has always been glad to take its turn in entertaining the Association, and
for the last half century has had it about every decade.
The church's interest in sister churches is usually cordial. It must be confessed, however, that there is a suggestion of too much unsanctified human nature in the contrast of an action of April, 1812, with one of July the same year. Mill Creek, Hardin county, asked the church to participate in the ordination of Shadrach Brown, and the reply was that "we will if convenient." But Nolin asks for help in settling a difficulty with Rolling Fork, and at once five were appointed, including the pastor.
In November, 1879, at the request of the church at Versailles, Pastor Coleman was sent to Mt. Moriah to investigate some slanderous charges against Bro. R. G. Scott, obviously a member or pastor of the Versailles church. He reported the charges without foundation. This is an interesting example of church comity.
WORSHIP AND SPIRITUAL LIFE.
The monthly business meetings are a part of the church's life from the beginning, and except for a few months at a time the Saturday before the second Sunday of each month has been the time for that meeting.
In 1806 the change was made from one to two Sunday morning services. This custom was not continuous, but the records fail to show definitely the practice in this respect. It was kept up a part of the time up to the end of 1859, and almost continuously since then. The sermon was always the chief factor of the Sunday service.
The celebration of the Lord's Supper was appointed by vote, and usually preceded by a day of prayer and fasting, until 1813, when the second Sundays in May and October were fixed for the ordinance. This continued the rule until 1894, since which time it is observed quarterly.
Baptism has been performed in the creeks except for one year, when a pool, erected at considerable cost, was used, but it was unsatisfactory.
In February, 1848, William Stone was elected chorister.
In 1859 the pastor was "instructed to line out his hymns during public worship."
In June, 1878, David Jenkins was voted permission "to exhibit his organ at the close of service and use it in church tomorrow."
In December the church votes to decide at the next meeting whether the organ shall be used in the church. At the appointed time Pastor Coleman speaks and cites Scripture on the organ question, and the vote was in favor of its use. But out of this vote grew the most serious dissension in the church's history. A goodly number thought they had conscientious scruples against the use of an organ in the Lord's house. Some carried these convictions to the extent of preferring no church life to life in a church so degenerate from the faith. Among the rest two deacons absented themselves, until the body, finding them inflexible, withdrew fellowship from them.
In 1884 we find a "penny collection" set apart to buy song books.
Music books have been bought repeatedly, and efforts made to popularize this part of our worship.
The organ now in use was a gift from Mr. T. W. Samuels in 1892.
In April, 1854, Dr. J. M. Weaver, then an embryonic preacher with the zeal of the Lord, obtained permission to organize a Sunday-school. This was done the next day. J. C. Samuels was elected Superintendent, and has held the position ever since, except for two years, when Bro. Samuels insisted on an active Lutheran worker being made Superintendent and
himself assistant. Fifteen dollars were raised at the organization for a library, and books have been added several times since, the chief addition being by gift from Mr. Geo. W. Swearingen in 1891. The most flourishing period of the Sunday-school belongs to the pastorate of A. T. Robertson.
In 1880 we find the church defraying the expenses of the Sunday-school, but for the most part the school has been self governing and self-supporting.
From the founding of the Nelson Sunday-school Convention this Sunday-school has had prominent part in its meetings, for some time designating delegates and later following the custom of representation by all members of the school in attendance. Bro. ]. C. Samuels has been the President of the Convention from its beginning, except on the rare occasions of his absence.
The church has never been addicted to the prayer-meeting habit. Indeed, the greatest weakness of the church's life lies just at this point. Only twice do the minutes show the existence of a prayer-meeting, and then for only a few weeks or days preceding a series of meetings. Special days were set apart in the earlier history for prayer, and sometimes for fasting, also. A prayer-meeting existed for a year or so about 1895, and no doubt there are other periods when it existed, but no traces are left in the records. Whatever may be true of the former times, for the last quarter of a century there has been a dearth of men in the church gifted in public prayer. It must not be supposed that the spiritual life has been low, for in spite of lack of stated meetings for prayer and of remarkable gifts at prayer the church has had a high degree of spiritual life, sufficient to triumph over many a severe trial. Personal quarrels were all too frequent and extremely difficult cases of discipline occurred, but through it all the religious life of the church asserted itself and no serious divisions ever occurred. Loyalty to Christ has dominated the church's life throughout.
In 1899 a Woman's Missionary Union was bora in the church and has flourished until now. It came about manifestly as the work of the Spirit, and grew into organization rather than being designedly formed.
The church has, like nearly all country churches, depended very largely on protracted meetings for conversions and ingatherings. These meetings have been held usually biennially, though this custom has not been inflexible by any means. Sometimes two and once three meetings a year were held, and again two years would pass without a meeting. The greatest ingathering was in a meeting in 1868, conducted for sixteen days by P. B. Samuels and J. M. Harrington, when 95 were added by experience and baptism, one by relation, and one restored.
It may be of interest to preserve here, as far as ascertainable, the names of members now living in the church who joined in this greatest meeting in the church's history: Mrs. Mollie Hoffman, Taylor Lutes, W. A. Weller, Mrs. Richard Younger, Mrs. Isabella Hessey, Miss Alice Magruder, Walter Evans.
It is greatly to be desired that such meetings be continued, but that less exclusive reliance be placed on them for the harvest of souls.
Since the present house was built the church has always shown decided interest in keeping neat, comfortable and attractive the Lord's house. The minutes leave abundant evidence of paintings, roofings and other repairs, besides the complete renovation mentioned in Chapter I.
In 1860 an old high pulpit was removed and a platform built instead. At the same time a resolution of thanks to the ladies was passed for newly carpeting the church. The present enlarged house was renewed inside with an excellent and
tasteful carpet and fine paper in 1899. For the suggestion and accomplishment of this work we are indebted to Bro. Clayton W. Davis, who has frequently rendered most efficient service in raising special funds.
Our God's-acre, where lie the remains of heaven-claimed ones, has been enlarged by gift and purchase on two occasions, and has been kept with a good degree of care, few country cemeteries being comparable to it.
The financial history falls into three stages. Up to 1840 the church had no financial problems or difficulties, finances being the least part of the church's work or thought. For the next fifty years the church had financial difficulties almost continuously. Since 1889 the church has had a good deal of finances, but no financial worries or embarrassments.
There is no word about salary or compensation for the first two pastors, nor at the first call of Smith Thomas. The first financial item occurs in September, 1819, when it was agreed by the church that each male member pay into the hands of the Moderator annually, in October, fifty cents "as a deposit for the use of the church and that the moderater give anuly and account monies Received and Expended agreed the minister be Exempt. Manifestly there was no Treasurer or treasury up to this time, and none appears until 1840. In January of this year, on motion of Bro. Jeremiah Barger, it was voted "that Bro. John Samuels be treasurer for our Pastor to collect and pay over any money that shall be subscribed for his support." In December, 1840, the church appointed a committee of three "to confer with Bro. Smith Thomas for procuring his services for the year 1841." This committee "accomplished the same and agreed to give him one hundred dollars for his services for the year 1841." Nothing appears further about compensation for Bro. Thomas, but presumably his salary continued with each re-election to the end of his pastorate.
At the December meeting, 1843, the following Saturday was "appointed as a day to select a pasture to Break the bread of eternal life for us." Bro. V. E. Kirtley was elected and a committee appointed to confer with him. They reported that he would serve one Saturday and Sunday each month for one hundred dollars. A special meeting was appointed to consider this, when the report was adopted.
Bro. Samuels was first elected for one year, with no mention of salary, then "as regular pastor until otherwise directed by the church," still with no mention of compensation. But in April following, 1846, the Clerk was appointed "to prepare a subscription to raise money to compensate Bro. Samuels." A similar committee was appointed a year later, and required to report at the end of the year. The next February one of the collectors reported $34.77 collected and paid, with $6.23 subscribed and yet to be collected. In March the other collector reported $35.75 collected and paid to Bro. Samuels.
In January, 1849, a committee was appointed to apportion $100 to be paid by the members "according to their several abilities" for church expenses. The Treasurer's report for 1849 is preserved, showing all givers with the amounts. The largest contribution was $13 by Wm. Newbolt; John Samuels and John Overall $10 each. One name appears then of a sister still living, Rachel Davis. The apportionment plan was a great success. The total amount raised was $99.30. The church paid $75 to the pastor, $9 to the housekeeper (and $1.25 for extra housekeeping), $1 for Association minutes, and
70 cents for communion expenses, leaving a balance in the treasury of $12.35.
In 1850 the pastor's salary is fixed at $75 and a committee appointed to make a new apportionment of expenses. The next year it was resolved th,at subscriptions be paid semi-annually; two collectors were appointed, but no apportionment made so far as shown.
In August, 1851, Bro. Barger was appointed to assist the treasurer in making out a report of the treasury. The report was made in October, but apparently is for the year 1849. At any rate the report was satisfactory, and showed a balance of $1.25 turned over by Wm. Stone to the new treasurer, John Samuels. In November one more month is given before the treasurer is to present a list of delinquents; then another month; then another; then an indefinite continuance. Finally in March, 1852, there is a lengthy report of Treasurer Wm. Stone and assistant, John Overall, but no mention of delinquents. The report shows Bro. Samuels paid up to the end of 1851 at the rate of $75 a year.
The finances of the church, now getting to be so troublesome, are "placed in the hands of the deacons, John Overall and John Bukey."
In July, 1852, $15 is paid to Bro. Wm. Newbolt, "which is to be in full of all claims which he has against the church incurred by her in building her present house of worship."
In 1854 a committee ''appointed to revise our system of raising funds for the support of the church report what each member shall pay," and the report is adopted.
In December a committee is "appointed to make a settlement with the deacons and also to report some better plan to raise funds to defray the expenses of the church." This committee reports in January, 1855, for the year 1853, and an immediate collection was taken for the balance due the pastor for that year. The committee also report that they know of no better system than the present for raising funds.
In December, 1855, recourse is again had to publishing a list of delinquents, but the report is postponed until May, and it is not certain that it was made even then. The church always shrank from this when the time came.
In December, 1856, Bro. Samuels resigned. At the next meeting he was unanimously re-elected and his salary fixed at $100. A year later a committee is appointed to apportion the expenses among the members, and the deacons were instructed to collect accordingly. For the next two years committees to raise church expenses occur.
In January, 1862, the pastor's salary, which for at least two years has been $200, is fixed at $175, and the housekeeping is let to the lowest bidder, at $15.
In the beginning of 1865 every member was requested to pay $1 for that year, and a committee reported balances due the pastor from 1860, amounting in all to $133.
In January, 1869, a similar committee reports a balance due the pastor up to the end of 1865 of $153.25, and this committee reckons the salary for 1860 at $175, whereas the former committee had reckoned it at $200.
Financial items become less numerous, and it would seem that finances were easier, for after granting Bro. Samuels' request to release him from the fourth Sunday service for 1869, in April he is employed for half time at $250.00.
In February, 1871, the church took hold of its financial problem in the following resolutions:"Whereas, the present system of collection for church expenses has proved unsatisfactory and it is the cause of continual trouble in the church and
Whereas, from these and other causes it is found necessary to adopt some new plan for meeting the current expenses of the church
[p. 24]Therefore, Resolved [that] a committee of — members to be well distributed over the bounds of the church be appointed to make an assessmeat upon each member according to their ability;When Bro. Samuels died there was a balance due him of $45.25, and due the house-keeper $35.00. The minutes nowhere show how much of the arrearages of his salary Bro. Samuels gave the church, but it is learned that this was considerable.
And be it further resolved that if any member shall object to the amount assessed him he shall present his case to the said committee and after a careful consideration of the case their decision shall be binding;
It is further Resolved tiat for the collection of the amounts assessed — collectors shall be appointed whose duty it shall be to call on each member in their respective districts;
And be it further Resolved that any member failing to comply with the foregoing resolutions will subject himself to the discipline of the church."
For the first fraction of a year, beginning in March, the church agreed to pay Bro. Coleman $250.00, but really paid him $275.00, and in January, 1873, fixed his salary at $400.00. Assessments were made and collectors appointed. In March, 1874, we find a debt of $43.70. The most troublesome feature seems to have been the expenses for house-keeping, andm 1876 house-keeping was done by volunteers, in monthly turns, the whole list being arranged in January or December. This custom was continued until 1880, when a house-keeper is again employed. In March, 1876, the debt is $119.85, $37.70 being on salary for 1874.
In May, 1878, the treasurer read all names, indicating who had and who had not paid their assessments for 1877, and showed a balance of $81.20 due the pastor for 1877. The collectors were instructed to ascertain from delinquents their reasons for not paying.
In 1879 assessment was abolished and voluntary contributions asked. At the same time collectors were to see delinquents, ascertain the causes for their delinquency, and notify them that if they do not pay they will be dealt with for cov-etousness. Accordingly in April one brother was excluded "for not showing a willingness to do his duty in defraying the expenses of the church."
In January, 1883, a report of delinquents is again ordered, but was continued from time to time, and after four months indefinitely and not again mentioned.
When the resignation of Bro. Coleman was accepted in April, 1883, the collectors were instructed to continue their work just as if there were a pastor, an assessment having already been made for that year.
Bro. Coleman was recalled for one Saturday and Sunday at $250, but declined. Rev. J. R. Moffettwas then called at $200.
In 1885 the church went again to the voluntary subscription plan, and at the end of that year a financial committee is appointed. For 1886 the pastor's salary is raised $100.00, and during this year for the first, and only, time we find a lecture for the benefit of the church. Dr. J. C. Hiden was the lecturer. It was about this time, also, that a lawn festival was given at the home of Bro. J. C. Samuels for raising money for the extensive church repairs. The church now had its second successive Virginia pastor, and in that State such devices for raising religious funds were by no means uncommon among our Baptist churches.
In January, 1887, the Treasurer reported collections for the preceding year, $309.25. In this year strenuous efforts are being made to pay for the church improvements.
In 1888 Bro. Hurt has left and his salary is still being collected. Dr. A. C. Caperton is called at a salary of $350.00. He was the financial Moses of the church, for in January, 1890, the Treasurer reported
an expenditure of $411.00, with a balance of $39.69, and the finances were put upon so firm a basis that there has never been any serious trouble since. Dr. Caperton introduced the envelope collections, put the responsibilijy for seeing delinquents on the deacons, and somehow inspired a business principle into the Lord's work that has left a balance in the treasury every year since.
In December, 1890, Prof. Robertson was called to the pastorate at the largest salary ever paid, $450.00. On some account there was a slight retrenchment at the close of Dr. Robertson's pastorate. His successor was first called as supply for two months at $25.00 a month, and then pastor at $400.00, but there has been no difficulty at any time about the finances during this pastorate.
While the financial condition of the church has come into so gratifying a state, there remains the discouraging fact that a very large number of our people have never felt personal responsibility or concern for the expenses of the church. The number who do their part is relatively small. Assessments are no longer made, and the voluntary principle is given free course, but much remains to be done until all accept a working share in the church's life.
Since May, 1897, no member is regarded in good standing and full fellowship who, if able, does not share the expenses of the church's maintenance and work. The clerk and treasurer being one renders the rule not to give letters to delinquents easily applicable. While this rule has not always been enforced as rigidly as it might, it has been applied with a good degree of consistency.
The minister who aids in a meeting is always well compensated for his time and service, the people being quite generally willing to contribute to this fund.
There appears in the annals of the hundred years but one bequest to the church. Bro. David Jenkins willed her the sum of $75. Why not more?
MISSIONS AND OTHER BENEVOLENCES..
While never doing its full duty in discharge of Christ's command to disciple the world, this church has been abreast of the best mission sentiment throughout its century, and of late years has advanced rapidly in this grace. The records are incomplete, but from the Association minutes and the church records account has been found of some $5,000 given to missions in the hundred years. At the present rate, however, as much will be given in a decade now.
We have already seen that Luther Rice stood in the Wilson's Creek house in 1817, visiting the Salem Association in the interest of the just beginning work of Foreign Missions. The church's messengers to the Association from year to year got the benefit of the stirring and informing letters of Dr. William Staughton, of Philadelphia. He had been present at the organization of Wm. Carey's English Baptist Missionary Society in 1792, had come to Philadelphia to live, and became a leader in the new missionary movement and secretary to the Board of the Triennial Convention. The minutes of Salem Association preserve his letters which were read before that body, and which our fathers heard.
Bro. Samuels' historical sketch tells us that after the death of Bro. Walker "dissention arose about mission and anti-mission, which caused the church to decline until only a few were left." Bro. Samuels lived near enough to this period to bring us reliable tradition about this dissension, but no trace of it found its way into the church's minutes.
Moreover, other causes for this decline, which set in before Bro. Walker's death, are assigned. It seems pretty clear that
the majority of the active element in the church were at least not unfriendly to the cause of missions, and no split in the church occurred as in so many places.
By 1839 we find record testimony to the church's interest in missions, a Bro. Matthews, missionary, preaching in that year.
In 1840 the church in July took up a question sent by the Association, inquiring whether the churches would favor the General Association. One month was taken for consideration and the question then answered "unanimously in the affirmative."
In September two items of business appear: "W. W. Wise and Bro, Jno. Samuels volunteered to go to the General Association as representatives from this church," and "took up a contribution and raised the sum of $10 to assist in carrying out the objects of ths General Association. Done by order of the church."
By May, 1844, the church is taking "under consideration the utility of some sistem formed to contribet to the missionary cause," and appoints a committee of six, including the pastor, on the subject. At the next meeting the committee "to draw a constitution or draft for the benefit of the heathen presented it and it was read to the church" and laid over to the next meeting for action, when it was adopted. How we wish we could get a copy of it! At any rate it involved a special mission treasurer, and the honor fell on the pastor, V. E. Kirtley.
In October,- 1845, the public Sunday collection for the Indian Mission Association is ordered and Bro. P. B. Samuels appointed to prepare a letter to that body and deliver the church's gift. The next year similar action provides for $5 for this fund.
Early in 1847 two brethren were sent by the church to Cox's Creek to aid in the formation of a Bible Society, and the church had paid in several missionary organizations about this time.
July, 1851, marks an epoch. A committee, previously "appointed to report some plan to raise funds for benevolent purposes made the following report which was adopted * * * : Upon the first day of the week let every one of us lay by in store as God hath prospered us, the amount we are willing to give, which amount we will give into the treasury of the Lord regularly on our church session day, if convenient, and, if not, at least annually on the second Sabbath in September when it shall be the duty of our pastor to preach an appropriate sermon and take a public collection for benevolent purposes, all of which shall be held by the treasurer subject to the order of the church." Bro. John Samuels was forthwith "appointed treasurer for benevolent objects."
So might we continue to multiply items about missions showing that the church regarded favorably every mission movement presented to it, having share in supporting all classes of missions in general, and occasionally some individual missionary, especially Bro. Roberts, of China.
The church welcomed the agents of all these causes. In the case of Bro. R. L. Thurman, so long the peripatetic agent of Foreign Missions, the minutes show an interesting evolution, all the more significant that it was unconscious. First he was "permitted" to present his work, later we find him "invited" to speak of his work and take collection; later still he is "requested" to do this. So the work has grown until now our church is doing nobly in the great cause so near the heart of our Christ.
If all our members did as well as the relatively few who are profoundly interested, what might we not accomplish?
In June, 1879, the pastor is serving as collector, but is instructed by the church to solicit and take public collections. He reports at this time $26.35 already paid over for State Missions.
In October, 1884, the church by vote adopts the plan of quarterly mission collections, and already there is a mission committee, two ladies and two men, to collect for all missions. By 1886 the mission contributions have passed $100.00, anti have steadily grown to $500.00.
Since the days of Pastor Caperton, mission funds are contributed, like church expense funds, at each Sunday service through envelopes. Then at the end of the Association year delinquents are visited.
J. E. HEAD, Deacon since 1892.
In April, 1875, Rev. A. B. Miller preached, and made an appeal in behalf of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with what results we cannot ascertain. The Seminary does not again appear in the minutes until 1891, when $25.00 of the balance in the treasury was voted for the Students' Fund of the Seminary, which since this is one of the objects of our annual gifts.
The Baptist Orphans' Home has had a share in the church's benefactions from its beginning. We find days set for this offering, and in 1880 it is spoken of as the "regular yearly donation."
The Ministers' Aid Fund, for aged and dependent ministers, has never had just sympathy among our people. Some years ago they learned some displeasing things about its management, and have since not been so ready as they ought to support a cause so worthy.
The church has always had a care for its very poor, though no systematic method of dealing with them has been adopted. At intervals of 51 years the church has helped one invalid sister. On numerous other occasions has help been given. This is a difficult matter to manage so as to help only and not injure with the gift.
CONCLUSION.The celebration of this hundred years of God's guidance was duly celebrated on the 28th of November, 1901, appropriately Thanksgiving Day. A great crowd assembled for an all-day service. Among the audience were a number of former members who came back to shed tears of joy and reminiscence at the mother's jubilee. Many friends of sister churches came to congratulate. If so it may be, many spirits of our departed workers who have gone up to God out of this dear church shared in our praises for the multiplied mercies of a century.
At the morning service a letter was read frond Rev. G. W. Hurt, who could not be present; hymns were sung, prayers offered, the Scriptures read, and selections read from the church's history.
In the afternoon, besides the devotional service, our patriarch, Bro. J. C. Samuels, spoke; Rev. J. R. Johnston, of Cox's Creek, brought the congratulation of that old mother church; Rev. I. P. Trotter, of Bardstown, spoke of the blessings of unity in a church, and Dr. A. T. Robertson preached a characteristic and greatly helpful sermon from Heb. 10:23-25.
The services closed in solemn joy.
[From History of New Salem Baptist Church, 1801-1901, by W. O. Carver, 1902. — jrd]
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