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The History of the
Madison Avenue Baptist Church,
Covington, Ky.
Elder J. H. Butler, Pastor

     At a regular meeting of the First Baptist Church of Covington, Ky., held June 30th, 1857, the following brethren and sisters, at their own request, were granted letters of dismission for the purpose of forming a new Baptist Church in the city, namely:
John P. L. Woodward, Mary M. Woodward, Dr. T. N. Wise, Catherine B. Wise, Reuben Broaddus, Martha Broaddus, Virginia Broaddus, Andrew Broaddus, Charles Bodeker, Willentina Bodeker, Phillip S. Bush, Vicy Bush, Matilda T. Bush, Cahterine A. Bush, Richard Jordan, Mary Jordan, Thos. Jordan, John Jordan, Enoch Salt, Elizabeth Salt, Francis Smith, Caroline A. Smith, R. Pratt Smith, George W. Smith, Douglas Smith, Martha Downton, Priscilla Downton, John Lambert, Mary Lambert, Robt. H. Simpcoe, Cassie Foulke, Ann C. Watkins, Lucy R. Watkins, Cordella A. Watkins, Samuel H. Stout, Mary E. Stout, John Stout, Charles H. Carlton and Robert. T. McGill.
     A few days afterwards these brethren and sisters met in the College Building on Eleventh street, known at that time as the Western Baptist Theological Institute, and took preparatory steps at once towards organizing themselves into a regular Baptist Church. At this meeting Elder Asa Drury was chosen moderator, and Dr. T. N. Wise, clerk. The object of the meeting being stated, it was resolved that Sunday, July 19, at 3;30 o'clock, be fixed as the time to complete the organization, and that the following churches be invited to send delegates to take part and assist in the exercises, viz: The First Church, Covington; the First Church, Newport; Dry Creek, Bullittsburg, Banklick, Ludlow and Decoursey Creek. Accordingly on the day appointed, in connection with a large number of delegates from these churches, the above named brethren and sisters met again under some trees in the College yard. Their object, as stated above, was to organize themselves into a regular Baptist Church. The meeting was called to order by electing Elder S. L. Helm, Chairman, and H. Fitzburg, Secretary. After listening to their letters of dismission from the First church, their reasons for organizing a new church, together with the Articles of Faith and Covenant which they had adopted, and being fully satisfied with the whole, the Council then proceeded to recognize them as a regular Baptist Church, and the following order of exercises was adopted:
1. Reading of the Scriptures, by Elder S. L. Helm.
2. Introductory prayer, by Elder G. B. Chambers.
3. Sermon, by Elder S. L. Helm.
4. Prayer of recognition, by Elder Josiah Herbert.
5. Charge to the Church, by Elder J. A. Kirtley
6. Hand of fellowship, by Elder A. Drury.
7. Benediction, by the Moderator
     The name given to the new organization was the "John's Baptist Church of Covington." At a subsequent meeting held July 22, the following officrs were elected: P. S. Bush, F. Smith and John Lainbert, Deacons; J. P. L. Woodward, Treasurer; Richard Jordan, P. S. Bush and Reuben Broaddus, Trustees, and R. T. McGill, Clerk. The little band at once organized a Sunday-school, a weekly prayer-meeting, and resolved to hold worship every Lord's day, both morning and evening. For a few months their meetings were held in the college building, but afterwards they secured a little frame house on Madison street, just above Ninth, known as the "Pottery," where they continued to meet for some time. In the following September, this church, upon its own application, was received into the North Bend Association of which she has continued to be an honored member until the present time. From the letter written to this body at the time we gather the following facts: The church then had forty-one members, held worship each Lord's day and prayer meeting every Wednesday evening, and had a well organized Sunday-school with forty scholars and teachers. Up to this time, however, the church had been without a pastor, but had employed occasional preaching by different brethren, such as they could get. But at a meeting held September 15, 1857, Elder Asa Drury was unanimously called as their first pastor upon a salary of $800 per annum. This call was declined by Elder Drury, but he assured the church of his sympathy and promised to do what he could for them until they could get a regular pastor.

     Shortly after this at a meeting held Nov. 4th, of the same year, the church extended a unanimous call to Elder W. M. Pratt. This call was also declined to the great sorrow of the brethren. But being determined in the matter the pulpit committee was at once instructed to write to Elder Thomas Vaughn to see if arrangements could not be made with him to accept the pastorate. But receiving no encouragement from him, the church then extended a second call to Elder A. Drury. But as suitable arrangments could not be made at the time, Elder Druty again declined, but [he] continued to supply the church for some time with preaching. And by his faithful service the church was much benefitted. During the time several persons were added to the membership and the whole church better organized for Christain work. As an evidence of this, among the resolutions adopted at the January, 1858, business meeting, we find the following:

(1) This church shall always be open for the reception of members.
(2) All the meetings of the church shall be opened with prayer and praise.
(3) The deacons shall have charge of the widows and poor of the church, provide for the Lord's table and see that the pastor and his family are reasonably supplied with the necessities and comforts of life.
(4) Members absenting themselves for three months shall be visited by one or more of the deacons, and if no valid excuse is offered, shall be reported to the church.
(5) The usual time for celebrating the Lord's Supper shall be the second Sabbath in each month, after which there shall be a collection taken up for the poor of the church and to supply the Lord's table.
     Under the head of "Benevolence" we find this resolution:
     The church will aid by her prayers and contributions the objects of the denomination and will take up collections at the following times for the objects stated, viz:

First Lord's day in January, Foreign Missions.
First Lord's day in April, Domestic Missions.
First Lord's day in July, Indian Missions.
First Lord's day in Obtober, Bible distribution.
     Thus it appears from these resolutions together with some others adopted at the same time that the church was now in a healthy condition and well organized for work. In their letter to the Association for that year they furnish the following report:
Received by experience and baptism ... 		12
Received by letter ...				 9 
	Total ...				21
Lost by death ...				 2
Lost by letter ...				 1 
	Total ...				 3

Net gain ...					18

     All this it seems had been accomplished without a regular pastor. However, they had been regularly supplied with preaching by Elders Drury, Clark and others. Thus closes the first year's history of their existence as a church.

     But now they had their long repeated efforts rewarded in securing their first pastor. For at a meeting held June 21, 1858, a hearty call was extended to Elder Samuel Smith, of Parkersburg, Va., which call was accepted by Brother Smith, who entered upon his labors the first Lord's Day in the following September. His pastorate, however, continued only for a short time; about a year and two months in all; but it was entirely satisfactory to the church, as appears from the resolutions adopted upon his resigning the pastorate. During his stay the church was aided by the Home Mission Board of the Souther Baptist Convention to the amount of $150 per annum on pastor's salary. It is interesting to note also in passing that it was during Brother Smith's pastorate the fist exclusion took place, when a brother was exlcuded for the sin of intemperance. Done at the regular meeting in March, 1859.

     After Elder Smith left them the church was again left without a pastor. And being unable to secure a successor for some time, some of the brethren became very much discouraged and even talked of disbanding, but were induced by some one to hold on a while longer, only, however, to pass through sorer trials and greater discouragments. For soon after they became involved in a difficulty with one R. L. Jefferies, which came near ruining the church. Mr. Jefferies, it seems, claimed to be a Baptist minister from England. And with this understanding the church invited him to visit them, with a view to the pastorate. But the church soon discovered its mistake and at once demanded of Mr. Jefferies an explanation, which he readily gave to the satisfaction of many. And to remove every doubt from the mind of all he offered himself to the church as a candidate for baptism, was received, and on the 29th of April, 1860, was baptized in the Ohio river by Elder A. Drury. Not only so, but being a brilliant and captivating speaker, the church at once licensed him to preach, and soon afterwards called for his ordination to the full work of the gospel ministry, and in the meantime invited him to supply the pulpit until his ordaination could be effected. After his ordination he was then called to be [the] regular pastor. But evil reports kept coming to the ears of the church, until at last it was resolved to investigate the matter and see whether there was any truth in them or not. But to make a long matter short, suffice it to say this investigation led not only to the resignation of Mr. Jefferies, but also to his exlcusion from the church. Thus ended one of the longest and most serious troubles that ever afflicted a church.

     For some time after this the church seems to have had a hard time of it, having no pastor and only occasional preaching by Elders Drury, Samuel W. Lynn and others. The brethren, however, kept up their regular meetings both on Lord's Day and during the week, holding prayer meeting when there was not preaching. And for the next four or five years, things continued about this same condition, and some times even grew worse. Cruel war was now raging in the land, and the little church almost went down entirely. But few meetings seems [sic] to have been held at all during this period, at least but few records were kept, and none worthy of mention. This brings the history to the year 1866, or the close of the war, when a few of the brothers and sisters got together at a private house to appoint messengers and a committee to prepare their annual letter to the Association. From this letter we take the following which sets forth the sad condition of things: "By the forbearance of our Heavenly Father we have been spared, and we humbly trust that our preservation as a Church may redound to His honor and glory. We have no note of gladness with which to greet you, no song of victory to nerve you for the fight. We see before us the adversary marshaling his forces with more confidence and greater boldness, making fearful inroads upon our beloved Zion. We turn our eyes to look upon the armies of our Lord, and it is with aching heart and tearful eye that we are constrained to acknowledge how cold and indifferent are the soldiers of the cross. Few in number we fear that we have grown weak in faith; without a leader; without a house in which to meet; we have no Sunday School; and like the disciples of old, we meet from house to house, striving to keep our little flock together. But now that peace has again settled upon our land, we trust that we have determined to build, and to this end we ask your prayers and contributions." The number of members the church then had was not reported in this letter, but from the church records there appears to have been forty-three in all, or only two more than they began with nearly ten years before. However, in order to get their members together and see how many they really did have, at the January meeting for business in 1867, Brethren Bush and McGill were appointed a committee to look them up and also to write to Elders Robert Kirtley and John M. Roan with a view of procuring a pastor. At a subsequent meeting held February 7th, the same year, Elder John M. Roan was called to the pastorate upon a salary of $1,000 per annum, to be paid quarterly in advance. But owing to Elder Roan's failing health this call was declined and the Church was compelled to toil on for several months longer without a pastor. In the meantime the Church, still having no house of worship of their own, they held their meetings in the little Welsh church building on Lynn street. This, however, was not sufficient for the purposes, so they purshased a lot on Russell street and moved to that point, changing their name from the John's Baptist Church to the Russell street Baptist Church of Covington. In their unsettled condition they seem to have made no progress whatever, but rather went backward, reporting to the Association for that year, a loss of seven members and a membership of only thirty-six all told. But now, having settled, they made another effort to rise, but they were only to be met again with defeat. A call was then extended to Rev. George B. Taylor, of Staunton, Virginia, to become their pastor, but this was declined. And then, after several months waitng, on November 7, 1867, Rev. A. B. Woodfin was called and became the third regular pastor which the church had ever had. But as he stayed only a short time -- about four months in all -- but little was accomplished during the time. Perhaps the most important matter was the purchase of the lot where their present house of worship now stands, on the northeast of Madison and Robins avenues. In their letter also to the Association for that year they report a net gain of nine new members, with a total membership of forty-five. Becoming now somewhat encouraged, at a regular meeting held January 7, 1867, a committee was appointed, consisting of Dr. N. T. Wise, J. W. Walker, M. M. Woral, S. G. Allen and R. T. McGill, to solicit subscriptions for building a house of worship, but no subscription to be binding until the amount subscribed reaches $12,000, $8,000 of which seems to have been raised at the meeting that night. This effort appears to have been a success, as we find that shortly afterwards, at a meeting held June 24th the same year, a Building Committee was appointed and authorized to contract for said house. The following named brethren composed that committee: Dr. T. N. Wise, Samuel Craighead, J. W. Walker and R. T. McGill. The contract was at once let, and by the end of the year their first house of worship was completed and a few days after dedicated to the worship and service of God, Rev. Reuben Jefferies, of Cincinnati, preaching the sermon. Things now began to look brighter and more hopeful for the church than ever before. And now their name is again changed -- this time from the Russell-street to the Madison-street Baptist Church of Covington.

     We have now traced the history of this church from its constitution, July 19, 1857, to January 6, 1870. During this time the church, had had only three pastors, viz.: Samuel Smith, one year and two months; R. L. Jefferies, about six months, and A. B. Woodfin, a little over four months. The rest of the time they were dependent on supplies. The records also show that during this time there had been sixty-four additions to the church all told -- fifteen by experience and baptism and forty-nine by letter -- with a loss of nearly an equal number by letter, exclusion and death, leaving now a membership of forty-four -- only three more than went into the organization about thirteen years ago.

     Being now greatly encouraged by the fact of having a house of their own in which to meet, and that, too, in one of the best locations in the city, they extended a unanimous call to Elder E. McDonald, of Danville, Ky., to become their pastor. This call was accepted by Elder McDonald, who entered upon his labors April 1, 1870, but, after serving this church in a most acceptable manner for about seven months, resigned to accept the care of the church in Georgetown, in connection with the Chair of Theology in the Western Baptist Theological Institute, then located in that place. During Bro. McD's pastorate several persons were added to the membership and the church otherwise improved. After his departure the church was again left without a pastor. But this continued only for a few months, as on the 8th of February following Rev. T. J. Stevenson was called and at once took charge of the work. His pastorate also, like his predecessor's, lasted only for a short time, and closed, after a year's continuance, with a gracious revival, in which the church was greatly strengthened and a large number added to the membership. After Bro. Stevenson left, the church then called G. T. Stansberry, a young brother from Tennessee, who was only a licentiate, to supply the church with preaching until they could get a regular pastor. Bro. Stansberry accepted this invitation and served the church most acceptably for three months, and in the meantime was regularly ordained to the ministry by this church, Elders T. J. Stevenson and R. K. Graves composing the council. At the end of the three months during which Bro. Stansberry acted as supply -- or in September, 1872 --- Elder J. M. Frost, sr., of Harrodsburg, was called to the pastorate, and in the following November entered upon his labors. His pastorate continued about three years and during most of the time the church enjoyed great prosperity, reporting each year large accessions to the membership, among whom were two young brethren, Henry Simrall and A. Logan Vickers, both of whom have since been ordained and are now useful ministers of Jesus Christ, while Brother J. H. Averill, who was converted about the same time, has been licensed by the church to exercise his gifts in the same noble calling, besides acting as one of the most efficient deacons. Near the close of Elder Frost's pastorate, however, many became careless and negligent in regard to their christian duties and some had to be excluded for continued absence from church. Becoming somewhat discouraged in the work, in November, 1875, he resigned the pastorate to accept a call from the Cane Run Church, in Fayette county, this State. After Brother Frost left the church then called Rev. J. Pike Powers, of Mt. Sterling, to succeed him, but it appears that this call was declined. And then in January following a hearty and unanimous call was extended to Rev. J. M. Bent, of Millersburg, Ky. This call Bro. Bent accepted, and May 1st, 1876, entered upon his labors. About this time the church became greatly aroused upon the subject of discipline. And in order to [have] a more faithful exercise of it, at a meeting held June 7, 1876, the following resolution was adopted: "That a permanent committee of five consisting of Brothers Walker, McGill, Richards, Marshall and Vickers be appointed to recommend the discipline of the church in the case of members who are now and may be hereafter walking disorderly and to visit members who regularly and habitually absent themselves from the services of the church to correct and reprove, and to make such recommendations to the church for her action in each case, as in their judgment shall be necessary."

     And to this was added another:
     "Resolved, That when members of this church have been absent for a year continuously, and after diligent inquiry nothing is heard of them their names shall be dropped from the list, which action shall be considered as exclusion unless they afterwards show they were at the time and afterwards consistent members."

     Their report to the Association for that year was an encouraging one and gave evidence of much improvement in the spirituality of the membership. During this year also a special effort was made to get rid of a heavy debt, which the church had been carrying ever since the erection of their house of worship. Besides this but little was accomplished during that year. But this prepared the way for better things in the year following, when the church enjoyed one of the greatest revivals in its history, resulting in a large increase to the membership, forty-three of whom were by experience and baptism. It was during this revival that Brother S. O. Christian, now the esteemed pastor at Rockport, Ind., was converted and baptized. About a year after this the church again sunk into a cold and lukewarm condition and the pastor becoming discouraged after five years of faithful service, resigned to take effect April 30th, 1881, and at the regular meeting in June following Rev. A. M. Vardeman, of Boone County was called to succeed him. In entering upon his labors he found the church in a very cold and scattered condition. Some had almost forsaken the house of God entirely. In an effort to correct the list of membership, the names of ninety-three person were found and reported who had not been seen at church for several months. Their sad condition also may be seen from the letter to the Association for that year, in which they report a gain of only six members against a loss of twenty-four. But soon after Pastor Vardeman began his labors, things began to improve, and during the first year of his pastorate forty-seven were added to the church; thirty-four by experience and baptism, and thirteen by letter. The church was also quite prosperous during the second year of his pastorate, there being thirty-eight received for membership, most of whom were by experience and baptism. But in the third year things took a turn for the worst, at least were not so prosperous as they had been, and becoming discouraged after two and a half years of successful work gave up the church. Elder Vardeman accepted a call to Maysville, Bracken County, which at that time was one of the best churches in the State.

     After pastor Vardeman's removal, Rev. E. N. Dicken, was called, and in September 1884, took charge of the work. Elder Dicken served the church and most acceptably for nearly two years as pastor and then resigned to accept a call to return to his old charge in the Southern part of the State. During his pastorate, several valuable additions were made to the church, and under his faithful preaching the spirituality of the membership was greatly improved. During his pastorate, also at a regular meeting November 5, 1884, the name of the church was again changed, this time from Madison street to the Madison Avenue Baptist Church of Covington. Besides this there were also several important resolutions adopted by the church, one fixing the time for taking regular quarterly collections for missions, and several others under the head of "Rules of Decorum and Practice," which our limited space will not admit us to mention here.

     This brings our history to September 1, 1886, when Elder J. H. Butler, of Vincennes, Ind., began his pastorate. Of course, it becomes the writer to speak modestly here. But he may be permitted to state simply that during the three years which have elapsed since he took charge of the work the church has for the most part enjoyed reasonable prosperity. As an evidence of this nearly two hundred persons have been added to the membership; the house of worship is now being thoroughly repaired at a cost of several hundred dollars, and when finished will be one of the most beautiful and attractive audience rooms in the city. And besides, the church has adopted the system of making weekly offerings to the Lord, not only for home church expenses, but also for the cause of Christ abroad. And, having now a membership reaching nearly 400, we think we can safely say that the outlook for the future was never brighter and more hopeful than a present. We may be permitted to state also that the relations which have existed thus far between pastor and people have been of the most pleasant character. And now in closing this history we can be express our wish that the happy relations and great success which have thus far marked the present pastorate may continue until its close.


[From North Bend Baptist Association Minutes, 1889, pp. 13-17. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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