Baptist History Homepage
Rev. Asbel S. Petrey

     Rev. Asbel S. Petrey was president of the Hazard Baptist Institute, founder of the Three Forks Baptist Association, one of four to found the Hazard Wholesale and Retail Hardware Company, and one of the leaders in the Baptist denomination in this part of the state, is one of the men of his cloth who has known how to combine religious faith with practical Christianity in such a manner as to exert a lasting influence on his community and win the approval and high regard of all with whom he is associated. He was born on a "farm at Boston," Whitley County, Kentucky, not far from Jellico, Tennessee, December 5, 1866, a son of Adam and Sentha (Monroe) Petrey and grandson of Samuel and Elizabeth (Bryant) Petrey.

[From W. E. Connelley and E. M. Coulter, History of Kentucky, Volume 5, 1922, p. 589. Document from Google Books on-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

      James D. Bolin writes:
      [A]nother individual labored for over fifty years in yet another pioneering area of Kentucky Baptist work. Called 'the prophet of Little Cane Creek," Asbel S. Petrey founded twelve churches in Letcher, Perry, Leslie, and Whitley Counties in eastern Kentucky. Born in 1866 in Whitley County, the eldest of eight children, Petrey early accepted the value of co-operation. "We learned," he stated, "in such an aggregation of children, how to share what we had. We learned the lessons of organization and co-operation." Petrey learned his lessons well at home and later as a student at Cora College, a two-year school at Pleasant View, and at Cumberland College in Williamsburg where he was awarded an A.B. degree as a member of the first graduating class of 1893. Following graduation from Cumberland, Petrey attended Southern Seminary "in prepartion" for his "life's work."

      Petrey's "life's work" was to be varied and productive. He acknowledged that from his ordination in 1891 until hias retirement from the active ministry in 1943 he had served as "preacher, pastor, evangelist, missionary, and religious teacher all at the same time." Sporting a mustache, wearing a suit and white fedora and with Bible in hand, Petrey proved to be highly effective in his organizational efforts in eastern Kentucky. One writer recalled that his "voice was deep and whispery except in places where he spoke of desperate need" and "low and trembling as it dealt with sacred memories." One touched by his ministry simply remembered that "he just loved his God and he loved the mountain people. The mountain people loved him."

      In addition to organizing twelve churches, Petrey also founded Hazard Baptist Institute, an institution that at one time provided 75 percent of the public school teachers of Perry County. His biographer asserted that "the story of A. S. Petrey is the story of Hazard Baptist Institute." The school was organized in 1903, and Petrey served as the instituion's president until 1929. In the depression years when the school was unable to meet the accreditation standards of the Southern Association and Secondary Schools, the seventy-year-old Petrey appealed to the Baptist Education Society of Kentucky for continued funding. When his plea failed, the trustees were forced to close the school in 1938. Although he saw "his dreams turn to ashes," the aging Petrey continued with his life's work in mountain missions. [p. 18-19]

      A. S. Petrey founded twelve [churches] himself and earned the title "the Prophet of Little Cane Creek." .... Despite the efforts of Petrey and others, Baptist growth in eastern Kentucky lagged behind the rest of the state. [p. 59]

      The work of such far-sighted individuals as E. Y. Mullins, Eliza S. Broadus, A. S. Petrey, H. Boyce Taylor, and George E. Hays provided a solid foundation on which to build the commonwealth's Baptist work in the future. [p. 60]

[From James D. Bolin, Kentucky Baptists 1925-2000 - A Story of Cooperation, 2000. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More Baptist Bios
Baptist History Homepage