"O memory, thou choicest blessing, on thy speedy wing bear us back to the time when our country was young; and thou, Description, show us the scenes which met the vision of our heroic ancestors."
In the year 1770 we find Squire Boone, a Baptist preacher on Kentucky soil; and so far as records show the only Baptist in that, then vast wilderness, now known as Kentucky. The first settlers of Kentucky beheld at the base of the great forests and rich herbage a soil as fertile as that of the Nile valley of Egypt, and in marked contrast with the sterile country of the settlements in the East from which they had come. Amid these scenes of natural beauty roamed the fleet-footed deer, the stately elk, the surly bear, the cunning wolf, the sly fox, the crafty panther, the majestic buffalo, the graceful swan, the shy turkey, the timid goose, the clumsy duck, and other game without number. The flowing springs, cool and refreshing, sprang out of the ground, and coursed their way amid banks of grass and flowers, or under hanging vines, to the creeks and rivers. No wonder that Daniel Boone said that he had "found a paradise in the great wilds beyond the mountains." Roosevelt says ("The Winning of the West," Vol. II, p. 37) "Lord Dunmore's war waged by Americans for the good of America was the opening act in the drama whereof the closing scene was played at Yorktown.
It made possible the two-fold character of the Revolutionary War, wherein on the one hand the Americans won by conquest and colonization new lands for their children, and on the other wrought out their national independence of the British king. Save for Lord Dunmore's war we could not have settled beyond the mountains until after we had ended our quarrel with our kinsfolk across the sea. It so cowed the northern Indians that for two or three years they made no further organized effort to check the white advance. In consequence, the Kentucky pioneers had only to contend with small parties of enemies until time had been given them to become so firmly rooted in the land that it proved impossible to oust them."
The population, at the close of the third decade of the nineteenth century, of all that portion of the United States lying between the Alleghany Mountains and Mississippi River was estimated at three millions.
But sixty years before this we find Daniel Boone and his brother Squire exploring the wilderness of Kentucky. About the year 1778-9 a young Virginian, George Rogers Clark, hearing of an attempt on the part of Colonel Hamilton then in command of the British forces at Detroit, to stir up all the western tribes of Indians to a concerted attack upon the frontier, undertook to prevent the frightful consequences which such an attack, should it be successful, would produce. Clark in two short and brilliant campaigns conquered and captured Hamilton at Vincennes and concluded his enterprise by capturing and holding all the territory north of the Ohio River and extending from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi. The restless pioneers yearning for the Great West inspired by the daring of such champions as Boone and Robertson, and encouraged by the victories of Clark to hope for reasonable exemption from Indian attacks now began the westward march. Long wagon trains and strings of pack-horses could frequently be seen dragging their
tedious lengths across the mountain passes, and ere long the rude log cabins and the well-tilled farms gave unmistakable evidence of the presence of the hardy and prosperous pioneer. Soon, however, the second war with England engaged the attention of all on both sides of the mountains, and in consequence, the Indian depredations in the Northwest and Southwest were poor inducements with which to lure would-be emigrants from the other side. The conflict between America and the mother country happily proved of short duration, the latter acquiescing in all the demands which the victorious nation imposed upon her, thereby strengthening the American feeling of nationality and showing her power. Moreover during the war General Harrison completely annihilated the combined British and Indian forces in the battle of the Thames and so presently recovered the Northwest territory, while Andrew Jackson at the head of a few United States regulars in a bloody campaign of six or seven months, which was brought to a successful termination by the battle of Tallapoosa in March, 1814, delivered a crushing blow to the Indian forces in the Southwest. Thus from the mountains to the Mississippi the settlers were again relieved of the fear of attack from the cruel red man. Shortly before the breaking out of the war a steamboat was launched on the Ohio at Pittsburgh and it was not long thereafter until the Ohio, with its tributaries, was provided with many such vessels bearing a constantly increasing stream of emigrants to their western homes. The successful termination of the war which begat a feeling of safety, and the introduction of steamboat travel, which greatly facilitated means of communication, undoubtedly had much to do with the westward expansion which now is only necessary to recall the fact that each year for four consecutive years, a new state in the Mississippi valley was added to the Union. This was a marvelous growth. The integrity of our possessions being now assured, and immunity from the aggressions of Indians guaranteed, the tide of
population temporarily held back, now set in again from the East with increased volume and momentum, and there was accordingly ushered in for "the next fifty years a material growth without a parallel in history." The people who came West were inclined to be religious. Theodore Roosevelt ("Winning of the West," Vol. I, p. 69) says in speaking of the character of these pioneers, "At the bottom they were deeply religious in their tendencies; and although ministers and meeting houses were rare, yet. the backwoods cabins often contained Bibles and the mothers used to instill into the minds of their children reverence for Sunday."
It is a great error, however, to suppose that representatives of the other Christian faiths were not found among the great numbers that now poured into the Middle West. There were many of all denominations, especially Presbyterians, who were second to the Baptists in establishing churches in Kentucky, and quite valiantly did they bear themselves in the struggle to improve not only their material, but the moral conditions in their new homes. It is not our purpose nor desire to derogate a tithe from the praise due to other denominations for their contribution to the moral enlightenment of the new territory, and yet to the Baptists is due the credit. of first proclaiming the story of the cross in this great western wilderness.
It. appears that Daniel Boone was not a Baptist, but several members of his family were, and a brother, Squire Boone, was a Baptist preacher before coming to Kentucky. Many of the first settlers in Kentucky were Baptists.
"As in Kentucky so in Ohio. The first church organized in the Northwest territory was the Columbia Baptist, whose date is January 20,1790. The Columbia Township was then about five miles from what is now the site of Cincinnati -- the growth of the latter city having brought Columbia within her corporate limits. In 1889 a monument commemorative of this event was erected on the site of the first house of worship
built by the church. Two inscriptions recite the date of the coming of the Baptist pioneers, the date of organization, the name of the constituent members and the purchase of two acres of ground as a building lot from Maj. Benjamin Stites, who was at the head of the first band of pioneers that settled on Ohio soil and who later became a prominent member of this church."
The same is true of Illinois. In Illinois territory in 1786, thirty-two years before its admission as a state, the Lemen family had founded the first church, organized the first association and were the leaders in the anti-slavery movement before the days of Parker, Phillips and Garrison who led the later "abolition" crusade. In the region beyond the Mississippi the word of the Lord sounded forth, and here again, according to Newman, the Baptists were the first to proclaim it, and so the above facts would seem to indicate that it would not be difficult to prove that the Baptists were the first to preach the Gospel in the valley of the Mississippi; and in reading the record of those days of toil and privation it is interesting indeed to meet with the names of those who became the noble progenitors of sons and daughters who today in secular and religious pursuits are bearing themselves worthily and, by their devotion to the cause for which their fathers suffered, and for which many of them died, show that they are not insensible to the high source from which they sprang. The period of preparation for our Baptist hosts of Kentucky was a period of heroic struggle and grand achievements.
[William D. Nowlin, Kentucky Baptist History, 1922, pp. 17-21. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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