Elder Henry Thornton Lampton
A Valiant Soldier of the Cross –
Founder of Many Kentucky Baptist Churches
– A Winner of Many Souls
By W. H. Dawson
The subject of this historical sketch was born in Nelson county, Ky., four miles west of Bardstown, January 20, 1814. His parents were of a sturdy class of Puritan descent, well cultivated, and lived to an advanced age. His grand parents, on both sides were of great longevity. In 1815 Thomas and Mildred moved from Nelson county to the southeast corner of Breckinridge county and settled on Rough Creek. Here the elder Lampton purchased land and opened a farm. But he engaged much in brick laying and plastering, and finally went into milling business, which resulted financially disasterously. The country being newly and sparsely settled; there were neither school-houses nor churches. At long intervals, schools of three months, and very inferior order were taught. All the education received in school by the subject of this notice did not exceed three months. His parents taught him to read and write. He had a great thirst for knowledge, and availed himself of every opportunity for self-improvement. The early struggles for an education were long and hard, but at the last, amply rewarded by a well trained mind and rich stores of knowledge. His father had a good library, and every good book in reach was borrowed and read.
In his early years, his parents were irreligious, and he did not have access to the Bible until about twelve years of age. In this year, a Methodist minister, John James, came into the community and a considerable religious interest was awakened. From an early age young Lampton’s mind was greatly exercised on the subject of religion. But he was twenty-two years old before he was converted. He united with the Methodist denomination in 1839, and remained in that connection about twelve years. In the meantime he was licensed to preach and attended a Conference in Hardinsburg in 1847. His talent and pulpit ability was [sic] quickly recognized and he was regarded as a rising minister among the Methodist people.
On the 8th of March, 1836, he married Miss Lucretia Oldridge. She died in 1852, leaving six children.
Brother Lampton's early reading of the Scriptures lead him to doubt the Bible authority for infant baptism. Later, he was lead to doubt the authority for sprinkling and pouring for baptism.
Being convinced that many of the Methodist doctrines and practices were unscriptural, and being satisfied that the doctrines and practices of the Baptist churches are Scriptural and Apostolic, he severed his connection with the former in 1851. He was now much associated with Elder D. Dowden, who was of great assistance to him in becoming acquainted with the principles and practices of the Baptists. He united with Constantine Baptist church and was baptized by Elder E. Hickerson. He was ordained as a minister in the Methodist church by Bishop Capers. His second marriage was to Mrs. Mary C. Elliott in 1852.
In 1853 a council was called by Constantine church to consider the propriety of his ordination to the work of the ministry. It was composed, in part, of Elders D. Dowden, J. Armstrong and A. L. Dye. After the most satisfactory examination, he was duly set apart to the work of the ministry in the Baptist denomination. He was immediately called to the pastoral care of the Constantine church, of which he was a member, and served acceptably for four years. He received a salary of from $15 to $35 a year.
Having moved into Grayson county he resigned the care of Constantine and accepted the care of Hanging Rock church. He also labored as pastor of the church in Stephensport and for the Hopewell church. He had marked success in building up these churches and in adding many by experience and baptism. In 1857 he became pastor of the church in Millerstown, and served here until the beginning of the war. He labored with great success for two years during the war as missionary of Goshen Association. In 1864 he was called to the care of the church in Leitchfield and remained one year. His labor was much blessed in this church. In 1865 he moved to Ohio county and served Panther Creek church for five years, adding more than one hundred members by baptism.
In the fall of 1865 he held, in Whitesville, Daviess county, Ky., a public debate with a Campbellite by the name of Tandy, from Lexington, Ky. By agreement it was to last five days. But at the end of four days Tandy said he was a long ways from home, begged quarters, positively refused to debate longer, and made straight tracks for other parts. Elder Lampton's victory was complete, as the Campbellites themselves acknowledged. He proved himself an able debater. In following years he was pastor of Bethlehem and Union churches in Hancock county, and of Pleasant Grove, Mount Pleasant and Zion churches in Ohio county. He was greatly honored as pastor in all these churches and they all prospered under his fostering care.
In 1870 he moved to Yelvington, in Daviess county. He took the care of the church here for four years. He had, at the same time, the care of Chestnut Grove church where he labored for five years. He was pastor of Macedonia for four years and of Oak Grove church two years.
In 1874 he was stricken with apoplexy and thought, for a time, to be dead. He finally recovered, but was never as well again. He assisted in the organization of a Baptist church in Rockport, Indiana June 24, 1874. He was chosen pastor and moved there in January, 1875, where he continued to reside until his death, a period of more than twenty-two years. During this time he served many of the best country churches in the Evansville Association. He was the founder of the Baptist church in Rockport and devoted to its welfare as long as he lived. He contributed greatly to the prosperity of our denominational work in Southern Indiana. He traveled in many of the states and was personally acquainted with many of the leading ministers of the nation. He was a close student of the Word of God, a deep thinker, a constant reader, and meditated much on the works of nature and the providences of God. He studied men and things and utilized all his observations to greater effectiveness in preaching the Gospel.
After spending a delightful season in travel and recreation, combined with special services for his own Association, he came with his wife and daughter, Mrs. Allen, to Owensboro, to visit his step-son, Brother R. N. Elliott. The fragrance of this last visit, to his native heath, can never die. It echoes and re-echoes from the lips of all with whom he mingled. He spoke like one from God, full of grace and glory. He felt that he was on the brink and that the earth would soon recede.
On Thursday evening, of August 26th, he ate his usual supper. At four o'clock Friday morning, August 27th, he calmly passed to that rest that remains to the people of God. The last battle of his life was as fierce as the raging storm. He fell, but conquered death and wore the victor's crown, as he entered the Celestial City. Brief memorial exercises were held in Owensboro the evening of his decease, conducted by Elders W. H, Dawson and J. T. Barrow.
His remains were conveyed to Rockport, Ind. During Saturday and Sunday they were viewed by hundreds of admiring friends and acquaintances.
His last sermon on the fourth Sabbath night in August was in his own church in Rockport, Ind. He spoke from I Corinthians 15:57. Many who heard him thought it was the crowning effort of his life. In speaking of victory over death and the grave, he was as one inspired of the Lord. On the next Sabbath evening he was borne from the same church to his last resting place. The attendance at the funeral was one of the largest ever held in Southern Indiana. was conducted by W. H. Dawson, of Kentucky, who spoke from II Samuel 3:38. Elders F. G. Ellis, the pastor of the church, and J. T. Ratcliff, J. E. Covert, J. F. Winchell and J. M. Floyd, assisting.
The Masonic fraternity bore a prominent part in the final ceremonies. His physical nature failed, and he grew old and frail, but in mind and soul he retained the vigor of youth down to old age. While, as God's embassador [sic], he was expecting a summons from the courts above, he was busily engaged in collecting the offerings of the churches for the furtherance of the Gospel.
Trained for more than sixty years in the school of Christ, developed in the graces of the Holy Spirit, mature in the experience of a faithful servant in the cause of his Master, he needed only to hear the trumpet call and lay his armor down. He had very decided convictions on every important subject. He had the highest reverence for the truth and was always exact and precise in all he said. In the study of God's Word he constantly sought the mind of the Spirit. He was a beautiful singer and fervent and eloquent in prayer. In his flights in pulpit ministrations, there was a happy commingling of art and science, of music and poetry, of history and philosophy, of reason and emotion, all founded on the Gospel of Christ. He loved his friends and diligently sought them out. He had great fondness for his brethren in the ministry, and attended many associations every year that he might mingle with them. Two states claim him as their own, and the homage of a grateful people rear a monument more durable than the polished stone.
"Servant of Christ, well done!
Rest from thy loved employ;
Thy battle's fought, the victory's won,
Enter thy Master's joy."
[From The Baptist Argus, February 3, 1898, p. 3; via Baylor U. digitized documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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