The first church of any denomination in Ohio, or the Northwestern Territory, as it was originally called, was a Baptist church. This was organized at Columbia, then five miles above Cincinnati, and now a part of that city, in 1790. A year and a half previous to this twenty-five personsfrom Pennsylvania and New Jersey had come down the Ohio River to this point. Six of these were Baptists. This number had increased to nine, when Rev. Stephen Gano, subsequently pastor of the First church of Providence, R. I., who was then visiting the colony, one Saturday at the house of Benjamin Davis, presided over their organization, and the next day baptized three believers. The first pastor of the church was Rev. John Smith, who afterwards became a member of the Senate of the United States. A meeting-house -- the first Protestant place of worship in Ohio -- was built in 1793.
From this point Baptists soon began to scatter through lower Ohio. After Wayne's victory over the Indians, in 1794, it was safer to leave the river, and the Miami valley rapidly became settled. A Baptist church was formed at Staunton, near Troy, in 1804. About the same time the King's Creek and Union churches were organized, as were also the churches at Middletown and Lebanon. In 1808 the Columbia church removed to Duck Creek, and has ever since borne the name of the Duck Creek church. The Miami Association, containing originally but four churches, was formed in 1797, and for several years included all the Baptist churches in Ohio.
The origin of Baptist churches in other parts of the State was somewhat later. One of the oldest of the churches is that at Marietta. The First church, Dayton, O., was constituted and recognized in 1824, though as early as 1806 there are traces of Baptists in the place, and for some time there had been preaching by traveling ministers. The First church in Cleveland was organized in 1833, the First church in Columbus three or four years earlier, and the First church, Toledo, not until 1853. The oldest Association after the Miami is the Scioto, and the next oldest the Mad River.
The progress of the denomination in Ohio was greatly retarded by what is known as the Campbellite schism in 1827-30, which divided a number of churches and carried away some prominent ministers, notably Rev. D, S. Burnett, of Dayton. In the reaction following this movement, Old-School or Anti-Mission tendencies were developed, which produced divisions and resulted in loss of numbers and power.
In later years, however, there has been great progress. The largest contributors to this have been the State Convention, established in May, 1826, Granville College, opened for students December, 1831, and the Education Society, organized in 1834. At present the Baptists in Ohio number 49,950. There are 633 churches and 469 ordained ministers. Connected with the churches there are 645 Sunday-schools, with 6800 officers and teachers, and 58,500 scholars. Granville, Licking Co., is the literary centre of the denomination, being the seat of Denison University, of which Rev. A. Owen, D.D., is president, and of a young ladies' institute, under the charge of Rev. D. Shepardson, D.D. There are other schools in the State also in which Baptists have a controlling interest, notably the Mount Auburn Young Ladies' Institute, Cincinnati, O., and Clermont Academy, in Clermont County.
[William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; reprint, 1988, p. 867. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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