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Recollections of an Early Member of the First Baptist Church
in the Northwest Territory (Columbia)

American Baptist Memorial, 1856
By Ezra Ferris
The following extract from a letter of the venerable E.[Ezra] Ferris, of Indiana, dated Nov., 1852, gives the facts in regard to the First Baptist church on the west side of the Ohio river.

My remarks were intended to be, in substance, as follows: That if I had been one of the speakers, I could have carried the minds of the hearers much farther back; that strange and almost incredible as it might appear, I had heard the first sermon preached in the Miami country, northwest of the Ohio river; or, in all that region whose first settlements of white people had spread out from the early settlements made in the Miami country. My remarks carried me back to the 12th day of December, 1789, on which day my father landed with his family a short distance below the mouth of the Little Miami, and took up his residence in an apartment assigned him in Fort Miami, built on the bank of the Ohio river by a party white people who, the preceding year, made the first settlement in the country, and had erected the fort for a residence, and in case of an attack from hostile Indians, for a defence. At that time there was in the country, including a small settlement where Cincinnati now stands, and a few families at North Bend and Dunlap's Station on the Big Miami, and Covalt's Station on the Little Miami, probably sixty or seventy families, who were not only without the gospel, also without the restraints of civil government, only as they were a law themselves; yet living together in a good degree of harmony, and always ready to help each other when attacked by their common enemy.

About the close of December, A. D. 1789, a Mr. David Jones, pastor of a Baptist church called Great Valley, in Pennsylvania, visited the new settlement and preached on the Sabbath in one of the block houses in the Fort, where, for the want of seats, the congregation had to hear standing. The writer of this article was present; but then too young to attempt a description of the sermon. The following March, 1790, Mr. Stephen Gano, then a young preacher from the city of New York, while on a visit to Kentucky to see his father, crossed over to Columbia, as it was afterwards called, to visit his brother, the late Gen. John Stiles Gano; and while there, collected the scattered Baptist professors, who were among the early pioneers, and organized them as a church. He preached for them several times, baptized three, and administered the Lord's supper. So, that in March, 1790, there was one, and but one, Baptist church in all that extent of country of which the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin are now composed; and that with one exception, the only Protestant Christian Church in all that region, and was without a pastor or a house to meet in for worship.

Of this church, in early youth, I became a member, and in her bounds and by her consent, more than half a century past, commenced my work, as a Christian minister. From my personal knowledge of the church from the beginning, and my early connection with her as a member, my claims to be a pioneer, if I have any, are founded. From this point, while listening to the addresses alluded to, I took my start in tracing the progress of the churches in the West, from the beginning up to the present time. And while in my imagination, I took a view of her present condition, and could triumphantly say with the Prophet, "What hath God wrought?" in view of the future, I could with equal confidence exclaim, "What can he not do?" Here I came to a point among the recollections of my early days where I could take a stand and relate that which, from the beginning, I had seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, and been made acquainted with by my own experience and observations; and where, were I able to wield the pen of a ready writer, I could record many thrilling accounts of circumstances connected with the labors, and toils, and disappointments, and sufferings, and sorrows, and self-denials, and sacrifices, as well as of the encouragements, successes, joys and triumphs of those agents God has been pleased to make use of in the accomplishment of his great designs of salvation.

[From Basel Manly Jr, editor, American Baptist Memorial, 1856, pp. 11-12. The title has been changed; the original title is: "The First Baptist Church in Ohio." Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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