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Early History of Kentucky Baptists
By Albert M. Newman, 1894

     THE planting of Baptist churches in Kentucky and Tennessee was virtually an extension of the field of the Baptists of Virginia and North Carolina. As these new and fertile regions were opened up for settlement thousands of Baptists from the older communities were among the pioneers. Naturally they formed churches wherever enough Baptists were within reach of one another.1 Among the earliest explorers of Kentucky were Daniel Boone and his brother, Squire Boone. The latter was a Baptist, as were also several members of the great pioneer's family. Boonesborough was settled in 1775, the Boones having been joined by Colonel Richard Calloway and his family, likewise Baptists. Early in 1776 Thomas Tinsley and William Hickman, Baptist ministers, settled at Harrodsburg. Within the next few years a large number of Baptists came into this land of promise, among them General Henry Crist, General A. Whitaker, General Joseph Lewis, Colonel Robert Johnson, Colonel William Bush, Hon. James Garrard, Gabriel Slaughter, and the Clays. Most of these titles were probably gained at a later date. Several other Baptist ministers settled in the new territory in 1779-80, among them William Marshall, John Whitaker,
1 Cf. Benedict; "Baptist Memorial" (various articles, especially those by J. M. Peck and Duncan.)
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Benjamin Lynn, John Garrard, and Joseph Barnett. Garrard is the minister who came to Virginia from the Philadelphia Association about 1755 and who was so largely useful in building up the churches of the Ketokton Association. A number of other Virginia ministers visited Kentucky at this time and sought to awaken the people to a sense of their obligation to attend to the gathering of churches and the evangelization of the country. But the people were so taken up with clearing the ground and protecting themselves from Indians that they were little disposed to enter upon aggressive Christian work. The first Baptist church organized was that still known as Severn's Valley (June, 1781). Joseph Barnett and John Garrard were the ministers present. In July following the same ministers constituted the Cedar Creek church, forty miles southeast of Louisville. In the autumn of the same year a church, with its pastor, Lewis Craig, removed from Spottsylvania County. Va., and settled on Gilbert's Creek. The Forks of Dix Creek church was organized in 1782; Providence, South Elkhorn, and Gilbert's Greek (Separate Baptist) in 1783; and Beargrass in 1784. In 1785 there was a revival which resulted in the formation of nine additional churches. Most of the Baptist immigrants were from Virginia, but a few families came from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Carolinas. Three Associations were formed in 1785 - two of Regular Baptists, Elkhorn and Salem; and one of Separate Baptists, the South Kentucky. From this time onward the growth of the denomination, like the growth of the population of the territory, was exceedingly rapid. About a fourth of the Baptists of Virginia found new homes in Kentucky. In 1793 an effort was made to bring about an amalgamation of Regular and Separate Baptists, such as had already
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taken place in Virginia and North Carolina. But the Regulars were probably rather extreme in their Calvinism and inclined to lay too much stress on the acceptance of the Confession of Faith, while the Separates had an aversion for confessions and some of them a leaning toward Arminianism. Those churches of both parties that were eager for union withdrew and formed an Association of "United Baptists" (the Tate's Creek).

     From 1793 to the end of the century was a period of spiritual dearth. Infidelity and immorality increased at an alarming rate. But in 1800 and the following years the entire State was stirred by the greatest revival in its history. Presbyterians and Methodists were by this time on the field, and these participated in the Great Awakening. Phenomena of the most distressing kind attended the revival meetings of all denominations. Peculiar nervous conditions accompanied strong religious conviction. What was known as the "jerks" was common, and those awakened sometimes barked and sometimes danced. The Baptist membership in the State was doubled by this awakening.

     As Regulars and Separates alike participated in this movement they were naturally drawn nearer to each other in sympathy and love, and terms of union were finally agreed upon in 1801. The short confession that formed the basis of union asserts the final perseverance of the saints and allows the preaching of the doctrine that Christ tasted death for every man. Most of the articles are so general that Arminians and Calvinists might agree in accepting them. Freedom is allowed to each party to continue its association and church arrangements. John Gano, who in his early ministry had labored with such zeal and success in the Carolina and Virginia, and since 1762 had been pastor of the First Church, New York,

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removed to Kentucky in 1788, somewhat broken in health, but ready for years of noble service. He died in 1804. In 1784 there were only 6 churches in the State, with a membership of something over 400; by 1792 the number of churches had increased to 42 and that of members to 3095; by 1812 the churches numbered 285 and the members 22,694. The population, which in 1775 was almost nothing, had increased to 73,677 by 1790, and by 1810 to 406,511. The early Baptists of Kentucky were, as a rule, thoroughly imbued with prejudice against educated and salaried ministers. The experience of early Virginia Baptists in being taxed for the support of irreligious and vicious clergymen, whose only recommendation was that they had received a university education, led them to look with suspicion upon the highly educated and to prefer a ministry from the ranks of the people earning a support by following secular pursuits. These sentiments became intensified in Kentucky, where for a long time educational facilities were almost wanting.

[From Albert M. Newman, A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States, 1894, pp. 333-336 Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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