Baptist History Homepage

African-American Baptists in Early Kentucky
A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer, 1885

As has already been noted, the colored people emigrated to Kentucky with their owners, and the Baptists among them entered into the constitution of the first churches that were formed in the wilderness of the great West. There were few early churches that did not have a greater or less number of black members, and the colored Baptists generally lived in the same churches with their white brethren, till they were freed from slavery during the Civil War. They, however, had among them many preachers and exhorters of their own race, some of whom were regularly ordained, and, in some of the larger towns, they formed independent churches. At the beginning of the Civil War there were 17 such churches in the State, aggregating 5,737 members, and ministered to by pastors of their own color. These churches were located at the following points: Maysville, Mayslick, Danville, Harrodsburg, First, Green Street, and York Street, in Louisville, Frankfort, Tates Creek, in Madison county, Stamping Ground, in Scott, Hillsboro, in Woodford, First and Pleasant Green, in Lexington, Paris, Versailles, Nicholasville, and Paducah. Besides these, there were large bodies of colored members, known as the colored branches of white churches, at Hopkinsville, Henderson, Georgetown, and, perhaps, other points, which also had preachers and exhorters of their own race.

The first colored church organized in Kentucky, was composed of Separate Baptists, and was gathered at Lexington by a colored man named Captain. The exact date is not known, as it kept no records; nor is it likely that the church was constituted with much formality, or in very strict accord with Baptist usage.

Old Captain, as he was usually called, was a native of Caroline county, Virginia, and was born the property of Capt. Durrett, about 1733. At the age of 25, he was pungently convicted of sin, and was brought almost to the point of despair. But he finally obtained hope in Christ, and experienced great joy. His heart now deeply felt for the situation of his fellowservants, and, immediately after he was baptized and received into a Baptist church, he began to exhort from house to house. Several years after this, the man who owned his wife, being
[p. 654]
a pious Christian, determined to emigrate to what was then the wilderness of Kentucky, and being unwilling to part man and wife, he exchanged another slave for Captain, by which means the latter was brought to the new country.

Soon after his arrival in Kentucky, Captain went into the organization of a small Separate Baptist church, which was constituted on the "Head of Boone's Creek," in Fayette county, in 1785. In a few years this little church was dissolved, and about the same time, Captain hired himself and his wife of their master, and moved to Lexington. Here he was kindly received, and John Maxwell allowed him space on his land for a cabin, aided him in building one, and continued to be his friend as long as he (Maxwell) lived. As soon as he was settled, he began to hold meetings in his cabin, and to visit from house to house, exhorting the colored people to repent and turn to God. Soon a number professed conversion, and desired him to baptize them. This request he declined at first, because he had not been ordained. But finally he went to South Kentucky Association, accompanied by 50 of his converts, and applied for ordination. "The fathers and brethren, after having taken the matter into consideration, did not consider it proper to ordain him, in form; but, being fully informed of his character and labors, they gave him the right hand of Christian affection, and directed him to go on in the name of their common Master."*

After this, he examined such as applied to him, and, if satisfied of their conversion, immersed them. When a sufficient number had been baptized, hegathered them into a church, about the year 1801. But he seems either to have misunderstood the design of 'the fathers and brethren," or to have ignored it, for South Kentucky Association, at its meeting in 1801, which was the last it ever held, passed the following order: "Bro. Captain, a black man, who was a member of our Society, and who is now preaching and baptizing without having been ordained, is advised to join some convenient church, together with those he has baptized." It is not known that Captain was ever formally ordained. He probably regarded the giving of him the right hand and directing him to go on in the name of the Master, a sufficiently solemn ordination.
* Memoirs of David Rice, p. 232.
[p. 655]
However, this may be, he continued to watch over the church he had gathered, and it greatly prospered. It is said to have numbered, at one time during his ministry, upwards of 300 members. He continued to hire the time of himself and his faithful helpmeet till they were too old to be of any value as slaves, and to labor in the gospel, till his strength failed. He died at his cabin near Lexington, in the summer of 1823, at the age of 90 years.

London Ferrill, the second pastor of this church, was born the property of Mrs. Ann Winston in Hanover county, Va., about 1789. At about the age of nine years, his owner having died, he was sold to Col. Samuel Overton for $600. He was taught the trade of a house carpenter, and, at the age of 20, was baptized on a profession of his faith, by Absalom Waller. Some time after his baptism, he began to exercise in public, and soon became a popular preacher. The law of Virginia forbade slaves to baptize, and, as a consequence, they were not ordained to the gospel ministry. But Ferrill's brethren solemnly authorized him, as far as their power extended, "to go forth and preach the gospel" wherever the Lord might cast his lot, and a door should be open to him. Soon, about fifty persons professed conversion under his ministry, and were baptized by a white preacher of the name of Bowles. His master perceived his remarkable natural gifts, and resolved to educate him, but died before he could execute this purpose.

Soon after the death of his master, having been freed from slavery, he moved to Kentucky, and settled near Lexington. Old Captain having become too feeble to discharge the duties of a pastor, the colored church desired Ferrill to unite with it, and become its pastor. This he declined to do on account of that organization's not being in fellowship with the Baptist denomination, although holding to the faith and general practice of the Baptists, but, instead, entered into the constitution of the First [white] Baptist church, in 1817. He preached extensively among those of his own race, and made so favorable an impression, that the trustees of the town of Lexington engaged him to preach to the colored people of that corporation. In order to secure his membership andpastoral services, the African congregation applied to the white church to be received as a branch of that organization. On receiving this application,
[p. 656]
the 1st church sent to Elkhorn Association, in 1821, the following queries:

"1st. Can persons baptized on a profession of faith by an administrator not ordained, be received into our churches under any circumstances whatever, without being again baptized?
"2d. Is it admissible by the Association to ordain free men of color ministers of the gospel?"

The queries were taken up by the Association, and a committee, consisting of Jeremiah Vardeman, James Fishback, John Edwards, Edmund Waller, and Jacob Creath, was appointed to consider the matter, and report to the Association at its next annual meeting. The committee reported, in answer to the first query, "that it is not regular to receive such members;” in answer to the second, “that they know of no reason why free men of color may not be ordained ministers of the gospel, the gospel qualifications being possessed by them."

In accordance with the latter opinion, adopted by the Association, London Ferrill was regularly ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry by the 1st church at Lexington, and, notwithstanding the irregularity of the baptism administered by Old Captain, a compromise was effected by which the African congregation, which had now been constituted upon a written covenant (July 1822), was admitted to fellowship by the 1st Baptist church in Lexington, and, in 1824, received into Elkhorn Association. London Ferrill now took regular charge of this church, on its new foundation, and served it 32 years, during which it increased from 280, to 1,820 members, and became the largest church in Kentucky. On the 12th of October, 1854, the faithful and venerable pastor was called to his final reward. The funeral procession which followed his corpse to its burial, was said to be the largest that ever passed through the streets of Lexington, except that which attended the remains of Henry Clay.

London Ferrill was a remarkable man. He was descended from a royal family in Africa, born a slave in Virginia, and was without scholastic training. Yet, Dr. Wm. Pratt says of him: "He had the manner of authority and command, and was the most thorough disciplinarian I ever saw. He was respected by the whole white population [of Lexington], and his influence was more potent to keep order among the blacks than the police
[p. 657]
force of the city." His moral courage was dauntless, and his Christian integrity unwavering. When the cholera visited Lexington in 1833, he was the only minister that remained in the city. The scourge was terrible, as many as 60 dying in a singleday. He remained at his post, burying the dead, white and black, including his own wife, until the fearful plague subsided in the city, after which he went forth to aid and comfort the sick and bereaved in the surrounding country. As a preacher, he was clear, strong, and remarkably effective. He baptized at one time 220 persons in 85 minutes, and, at another time, 60 in 45 minutes. During his ministry, he baptized over 5,000. In marrying slaves, he pronounced them 'united until death or distance did them part."

Frederick Braxton succeeded Elder Ferrill in the pastoral charge of the old 1st African church. Under his ministry, it continued to prosper, and, at the beginning of the War in 1861, numbered 2,223 members. Since the War, it has somewhat diminished, but is still a large and prosperous body. Elder Braxton continued to enjoy the confidence of his brethren till his death, which occurred Jan. 31, 1876.

The First Colored Church in Louisville was the second organization of the kind in the State. It was formed an independent body by a separation of the colored members from the 1st Baptist church in Louisville in 1842, and united with Long Run Association the same year. At the time of its formal separation from the mother church, it numbered 475 members.

Henry Adams was the first pastor, as well as the chief originator of this church as an independent body. He was a native of Franklin county, Georgia, and was born Dec. 17, 1802. At an early age he gave indications of extraordinary sprightliness of mind, and, being converted and baptized at the age of 18 years, was licensed to exercise his gift within the bounds of his church the same year. In 1823, his license was extended without limit, and, in 1825, he was ordained to the full work of the ministry. After preaching a few years in Georgia and South Carolina he emigrated to Kentucky, and was settled as, pastor of the colored branch of the 1st Baptist church in Louisville, in 1829. In his new field, he was active and zealous in his labors among the colored people of the city, and his ministry was much blessed. He devoted himself to study,
[p. 658]
and not only improved rapidly in preaching, but also advanced in literary knowledge till he became a good English scholar and made considerable proficiency in some of the dead languages. His conduct was so uniformly exemplary, and his Christian meekness and humility so manifest, that he gained the respect and confidence of the white as well as the colored people of the city, and numbered among his friends and counsellors those eminent ministers of Christ, A. D. Sears, Wm. C. Buck, Thos. S. Malcolm, and John L. Waller.

In April, 1842, the colored members of the 1st Baptist church in Louisville, to the number of 475, were constituted a separate organization, with Henry Adams as its pastor. This faithful overseer continued in its service, after itsindependent organization, about thirty years. During the first twenty years of this period, he baptized for its fellowship over 1,300 persons. Meanwhile, the congregation now called Green Street Church, which became a separate body in 1846, grew up under the care of George Wells, first, and R. Sneathen, afterwards, to a mnembership of 725: and York Street church, constituted Dec. 7, 1857, numbered 46 members. During the progress of the War, these churches did not grow much; but after the return of peace, they again became prosperous, and, at the time of Elder Adams' death, which occurred on the 3d of November, 1872, there were seven colored churches in Louisville, with an aggregate membership of more than 3,000.

After the colored people were freed, Elder Adams manifested a deep interest for the welfare of his brethren. He aided them in organizing churches, associations, conventions, and such other institutions as he hoped would promote their temporal and spiritual prosperity, and was especially solicitous that they should build up schools and educate their children. His heart was much set on seeing a school established in Louisville for the literary and theological training of preachers. He did not live to see this object accomplished; but his brethren did not forget his counsel, and such a school is now in existence, and quite prosperous.

Of the other churches that existed before the War, and their pastors, no particulars have been ascertained. The colored members of the 17 independent churches, and those connected with the white churches belonging to South District, Long
[p. 659]
Run, Russells Creek, Lynn, Elkhorn, Bethel, Little River, Daviess county, and Goshorn Associations, at the beginning of the War, aggregated 11,659. Those connected with the remaining churches of the State, it is believed, would aggregate a somewhat larger number. It is estimated, therefore, that the colored Baptists in the State numbered about 25,000. During the succeeding five years, the number was much diminished by a large emigration to the free States, the fall of colored soldiers in the War, and other causes. The number that remained in the State, and retained the character of worthy church members, at the close of the War, could scarcely be estimated, with fairness, at more than 15,000. Most of these had virtually, if not formally, separated from the white churches, and were, therefore, without church membership. But many of them were true and earnest Christians; they had among them some pious and worthy preachers, and a few ministers of strong native intellect and fair acquirements. Prominent among the latter were Henry Adams, of Louisville, G. W. Dupee, of Paducah, E. W. Green, of Maysville, and J. F. Thomas, of Bowling Green. These, with others, began to gather their people into churches, and to encourage them to walk in the good way of the Lord. Recently freed from slavery, they were almost destitute of property; but their religious zeal amounted to a continuous enthusiasm. They met together in their churches, not only on Sabbath days, but in many cases, especially in cities and villages, where nearly all their early churches were formed, almost every night in the week for months together. Multitudes were converted and brought into their churches, and many backsliders were reclaimed. At the time of their associational meetings, in 1870, they were as well organized as could reasonably have been expected of a people almost entirely illiterate and wholly destitute of experience in conducting the affairs of deliberative bodies. They had, at that time, a General Association and at least six District Associations; and, although exact statistics have not been preserved, it may be fairly estimated that they had fully regained, in numbers, what they had lost by the War, and had, therefore, a total membership of 25,000.

George W. Dupee deserves especial remembrance in connection with the organizing of the colored Baptists of Kentucky, after their liberation from slavery. Although not so well
[p. 660]
educated as Henry Adams, he possessed an equally strong intellect, was probably a more popular preacher, and was, at the period under consideration, much more vigorous and active. He was born the property of Elder Joseph Taylor, in Gallatin county, Ky., about the year 1826, and was raised in Franklin and Woodford counties. He professed religion and was baptized for the fellowship of Buck Run church, in Franklin county, by Peter Kenney, on the third Sunday in August, 1842. Three years later, he began to exercise in public exhortation, was licensed to preach in 1846, and in 1851, was ordained to the care of the colored Baptist church in Georgetown, by J. M. Frost and J. L. Reynolds. He continued to serve this church till the 1st of January, 1856, on which day he was sold at public auction at the courthouse door. Elder Wm. Pratt and some others bought him, and allowed him to purchase his freedom. In the spring previous to this transaction, he had accepted a call to Pleasant Green church in Lexington, where he continued to minister, till 1864, giving a portion of his time to the church at Versailles. In 1861, he called together, at Versailles, Elders Armstead Steel, James Monroe, Robert Martin, Stephen Breckinridge, and John Oliver, and organized the first ministers' and deacons' meeting among the colored Baptists of the State. While living at Georgetown and Lexington, he gathered the colored churches in Covington and Paris.

In 1865, he moved to the west end of the State, and took charge of Washington street church in Paducah, where he has continued to minister to the present time, occasionally devoting a portion of his labors to the church at Owensboro, and to serving some other congregations. In 1871, he reorganized Fair View church at Mayfield, and established that at Jenkins’ Chapel, both in Graves county. In 1867, he invited the churches at Elkton, Mayfield, Franklin, Henderson, and Paducah to send messengers to the last named place, where the First District Association of Colored Baptists was constituted, in September ofthat year. Of this body, now much the largest district association in the State, he has been moderator from its constitution to the present time. He was also moderator of the General Association of Colored Baptists from 1871 to 1882. On the 10th of November, 1873, he brought out the first number of the
[p. 661]
Baptist Herald, a monthly journal, which he continued to edit and publish five years and one month.

Elder Dupee has been one of the most active, laborious, and successful preachers that have ever lived in Kentucky. In addition to his labors in organizing churches, associations and other societies, and discharging the duties of a pastor, he has preached extensively among the churches in the State, and, in February, 1883, had baptized 7,000 persons - a greater number, perhaps, than any other minister in the State has baptized.

The first association of churches formed by the colored Baptists in the State, was a Baptist State Convention. It was constituted in 1865, and its object was kindred to that of a similar organization instituted by their white brethren in 1832. But the former, like the latter, failed to give satisfaction, and, at its third anniversary, in 1868, after passing a resolution in favor of forming a general association, it was dissolved.

On the 3d of August, 1869, a meeting of messengers from such churches as desired to enter into the new organization, convened at Lexington. Messengers were present from 55 churches, which aggregated 12,620 members. The venerable Henry Adams, of Louisville, was chosen Moderator, and R. T. W. James, of Paducah, Clerk. A permanent organization was effected, and the body adopted the name of "The Kentucky General Association of Colored Baptist Churches." The object of the organization, as set forth in its constitution, is to promote purity of doctrine, union, fellowship, and co-operation in promoting Sabbath-schools, and missionary operations. The advancement of education, though not directly expressed in its constitution, has been one of the leading objects of the body. Indeed, the colored Baptists, in all their meetings, whether in their General Association, their conventions, or their district associations, have manifested a commendable zeal for the education of their children, and especially for the better education of their ministers.

Their efforts to build up a school for the literary and theological training of their preachers, has been untiring. They opened a school for this purpose in the Olivet meeting-house in Louisville, on the 24th of November, 1874, under the superintendence of Elder A. Barry. But, after a session of five months, during which 18 students were in attendance, they
[p. 662]
were compelled to abandon the enterprise for the present for want of means to meet expenses. They, therefore, recommended their young men to attend the Normal Institute, at Nashville,Tenn., until they could establish a suitable school for their accommodation in their own State; and several young preachers were sent by the different associations to that institution. Meanwhile, the effort to establish a college in Louisville was continued with unabated zeal, until it was crowned with success. A suitable lot and buildings were purchased by the General Association, which had been incorporated by the Kentucky Legislature for that purpose, and the school was opened Nov. 23, 1879, under the charge of Elder E. P. Marrs. In its report to the General Association in 1880, the Executive Board says: "The Theological Seminary is a very handsome piece of property. It is located in the city of Louisville, on the south side of Kentucky street, between Seventh and Eighth streets. The lot is 217 feet by 375 feet, extending through the whole square to Zane street." This property was purchased at a cost of about $13,000. In the fall of 1880, "Rev. Wm. J. Simmons, a well-educated and very energetic colored brother," was elected President of the institution. During the succeeding session, in students were enrolled. The school is now regarded a permanent institution, and will doubtless prove of great advantage to the colored Baptists of the State.

The Sunday-school interest has been regarded from the first one of primary importance by the colored Baptists. In all their associations this cause has been constantly a principal subject of discussion and earnest commendation; and, besides a State Sunday-school convention, which was organized about 1869, district conventions have been instituted in most, or all, of the associational districts. Missionaries have been instructed to give special attention to organizing and encouraging Sundayschools, and some have been employed to devote their labors exclusively to this work. These benevolent efforts have been greatly blessed. In 1881, the First District Sunday-school convention, which occupies the west end of the State, reported 47 schools with 273 teachers and 3,392 scholars. The General Association reported, the same year, in the churches it repreresented, 147 schools with 8,761 scholars.

The ministers’ meetings, connected with the associations, and
[p. 663]
held at various times and places, all over the State, though too frequently occupied in discussing speculative and impractical questions, have been of incalculable benefit. They have been a species of theological schools, in which the illiterate preachers have been instructed by their more learned and gifted brethren, in the doctrines of the Bible and the principles of good morals. These teachings have been adopted by the churches and associations, to such an extent, that it would be difficult to discriminate, unfavorably to the illiterate colored Baptists, between them and their white brethren, as to soundness in doctrine, purity in moral sentiment, and practical wisdom in propagating the gospel. Somespecimens of associational utterances on these subjects are worthy of serious attention. The General Association, at its first meeting, recorded these sentiments: All regular Baptist churches acknowledge the Bible as their guide in faith and discipline. The same law, therefore, that governs one Baptist church, governs all others; hence, the law which disqualifies a person for membership in one church, disqualifies him for membership in any other. Therefore, we deem it wrong, and highly injurious to the cause of Christ, to recognize the reception of any justly excluded person from a regular Baptist church, by any church of the same faith and order. We present this item of vital interest, hoping it may be carried out so as to preserve our christian fellowship inviolate. During the same session, this body "resolved, that this Association will consider the high advantages arising from industry and economy, which are so calculated to promote our future success and happiness," and, "that we will, in our several localities, oppose the use of spirituous liquors as a beverage." In 1872, the Ministers and Deacons' meeting associated with this body, advised, that none of the ministers nor churches receive Pedobaptist or Campbellite immersion, "nor any other immersion, unless performed by a legal administrator." About 1877, chartering railroad cars and making Sunday excursions for the benefit of benevolent causes, became quite common. At that date, the General Association adopted the following: "Whereas, There is a disposition on the part of a number of our pastors to encourage and engage in Sunday excursions, and since it has been practiced, to a great extent, it is becoming destructive to the interests of good morals and a thorough religious sentiment; therefore, be it Resolved,
[p. 664]
That it is the sense of this Association, that said Sunday excursions are wicked, and in direct violation of the command of God, when He says, 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'" The First District Association adopted similar resolutions, the same year, and also took a position on alien baptism, similar to that expressed by the State Ministers' and Deacons' Meeting. About this period, there were numerous disensions in the churches in various parts of the State, which the General Association supposed to have originated from a "lack of knowledge of Baptist church government and discipline." That body recommended the churches to procure Hiscox's Baptist Church Directory, and study it; and, in 1879, advised, that no aspirant for ministerial honors be licensed, unless he possessed "at least a limited knowledge of the fundamental principles of an English education." In 1881, the Association insisted very emphatically, that license to preach should be granted to no one who could not read intelligently and without blundering, any portion of the Bible, and pass an examination in Arithmetic, through fractions, spell and parse fairly, and show a knowledge of the outlines of Geography; and that acandidate should not be ordained, except for a special work — such as a pastoral charge, the work of a missionary under appointment, &c. It also resolved not to countenance any brother who should "change from one council to another, apparently with the idea of slipping into the ministry without solid acquirements."

First District Association Of colored Baptists is the oldest, as well as much the largest organization of the kind in the State. It was constituted of the churches at Elkton, Franklin, May field, Henderson and Paducah, at the last named place, in September, 1867. The next year, it received nine new churches, and in 1869, eight more. At the latter date, it numbered 22 churches with 3,228 members. Its preachers were G. W. Dupee, Lewis Norris, S. Underwood, Wm. Jones, A. Chapman, Wm. Hubbard, Malachi Dunn, Peter Bronough and Wm. Lee.

This Association includes the churches at Franklin, Bowling Green and Cloverport, and occupies all that portion of the State lying west of those towns, except portions of Trigg and some of the adjoining counties, which are occupied by Little River and Cumberland Valley Associations. It has been, from the
[p. 665]
beginning, a prosperous and enterprising body. A Ministers' meeting, and a Sunday-school convention are located on its territory, and are, in some sense, under its fostering care. By its request, the Baptist Herald, the first religious periodical edited by a colored Baptist in Kentucky, was published at Paducah by G. W. Dupee, the first number being issued in September, 1873. The growth of the Association has been unusually rapid. In 1870, it numbered 45 churches with 4,611 members, and, in 1880, 106 churches with 13,336 members, of which 1,650 had been baptized during the year.

Elkhorn Association was constituted, in 1868, and occupied the territory of the white Baptist Association of the same name, but extended considerably beyond the borders of the latter fraternity. It had the advantage of a large membership, to begin with, the churches of Elkhorn Association of white Baptists having contained 4,853 colored members, at die beginning of the War. The body under consideration was not as prosperous as might have been expected. It favored the benevolent enterprises of the time, however, and accomplished something in the causes of missions, education and Sundayschools. In 1877, it numbered 30 churches, 21 of which aggregated 5,303 members, the other 9 having failed to report their statistics. In 1880, it consolidated with the Mt. Zion fraternity in forming the Educational Association.

Mt. Zion Association was constituted about the same time with the last named. It included in its territory Bracken, Mason and Lewis counties. Noparticulars of its history have come to hand. It united with Elkhorn in forming the Educational Association, in 1880.

Liberty Association was constituted, in 1868, and is located in Barren, Hart, and some of the adjacant counties. Among its preachers are Peter Murrell, J. W. Harlow, N. Gassaway, D. Wilson, Isaac Owen, S. W. Crenshaw, J. F. and Elijah Lewis, J. W. Page, Wm. Rowlett, R. Harston and G. Buford. Of its doings, little has been learned. In 1877, it reported 30 churches with 2,236 members.

South District Association is located in Washington, Boyle, Lincoln and other counties, and was constituted in 1869. Among its ministers are Isaac Slaughter, M. Broadus, S. Shearer, J. C. Harrison, A. G. Graves, W. Fisher, G. R. Gaddie, S.
[p. 666]
Carter, P. Durrett and J. Reid. Little has been learned of its history. It reported 31 churches, with 2,716 members, in 1876.

Central District Association was constituted in 1871, and includes some of the churches in Louisville, together with those of several counties east of that city. It is a large and prosperous fraternity, and has exhibited a commendable zeal in promoting the causes of missions, Sunday-schools, and education. It has been especially earnest in its endeavors to establish and maintain the Louisville Normal and Theological Institute. When the General Association became discouraged, and had almost abandoned the hope of establishing such an institution, in the near future, this body, in 1877, appointed a special agent to solicit means to build up the school, and, although the agent accomplished but little, the interest was kept up until the enterprise finally succeeded. A ministers' meeting and a Sundayschool convention are fostered by the churches of this body. This fraternity and at least one other district association, in the State, have one feature that is not according to Baptist usage viz, the admission of annual and life members on the payment of a specified sum of money. This has been practiced, with at least doubtful propriety, by general associations, Baptist State conventions, and other societies organized purely for the promotion of benevolent enterprises. But a district association is an association of churches, and its deliberative body is rightly composed only of a specified number of messengers from each church. Such a body is not merely a missionary society. Despite any number of theories to the contrary, it gives advice, decides questions of doctrine and fellowship, and performs many other acts that affect the peace and union of the churches represented in it. Central District Association admits an annual member on the payment of one dollar. In 1880, the time this principle was engrafted in the constitution, there was less than an average of one messenger from each church. One dollar, therefore, had a more potent representation in the body than one church. This does not accord with the democratic principle of Baptist church government. The practice maynot result in serious injury but it is a grave violation of principle, and is liable to produce disastrous effects.

The Association has had a rapid increase, and is now one of the large and influential fraternities in the State. In 1873, it
[p. 667]
reported 15 churches with 3,140 members; in 1880, 38 churches, 20 of which reported 4,922 members, the remaining 18 churches failing to give their statistics; in 1882, 47 churches were reported, 39 of which numbered 7,310 members, the other 8 churches failing to report their numbers.

Among the early ministers of this body were C. Clark, S. Grigsby, A. Taylor, W. Lewis, W. J. Brown, S. Mack, and J. M. Harris.

Mt. Vernon Association was a small fraternity located in Trigg and some of the adjoining counties. It was constituted in 1871. There were only two or three preachers connected with its churches, and it did not prosper. After four or five annual meetings, it was dissolved, and its churches united with the neighboring fraternities.

Little River And Cumberland Valley Association was constituted of 15 small churches, at Cadiz, Trigg county, July 19, 1876. These churches aggregated 438 members. Their preachers were S. Buckner, Wm. Waddle, Thomas Ladd, A. Chapman, R. Carr, and S. Jones. The Association, as soon as it was organized, began to make endeavor to correct some evil habits that prevailed among the preachers and other church members. The first report it adopted, after earnestly commending abstinence from intoxicating drinks, continues: "We commend ministers especially to stop all evil practices - visiting saloons, groceries, shops, &c., and sitting with the worldly, using all kinds of language." The report on destitution calls attention to several points at which there was no preaching, and adds: "Whereas a number of preachers are hanging around certain churches, making disturbance with the pastors, we urge them to go into these fields of labor," and, upon failing to do so, that they be published in the Baptist Herald, as being "no longer preachers." The next year it was d recommended that churches which had preachers, who would not preach, should recall their credentials. This body has a custom which is not common. In addition to an introductory discourse at the opening of its annual meeting, it has a valedictory sermon at its close. The fraternity has been generally peaceful and moderately prosperous. In 1880, it numbered 21 churches with 1,295 members, and, in 1882, 24 churches with 1,370 members.

Aid Association was constituted at Little Flock meeting house
[p. 668]
in Louisville, October 24, 1877, of the following five churches Little Flock, Limerick, First Corinthian, Mission, and Forest. The first four were located in Louisville, the other, at Newburg, in Jefferson county. They aggregated 278 members. Their ministers were C. Oldham, Elisha Clay, Ross Gofney, W. Harris, and John Hix. The constitution admits orderly Baptists to seats in the Association upon the payment of 50 cents each, and to membership for life, on the payment of $2.50. The body has had a rapid growth. In 1879, it numbered 11 churches, with 1,350 members.

Educational Association was formed by the consolidation of the Elkhorn and Mt. Zion fraternities. It held its first session in Covington, July 14-21, 1880. It reported at that date 43 churches with 7,301 members, and was the largest district association in the State, except First District. It has about 25 preachers, a number of whom are men of good ability and fair acquirements.

Of Cumberland River And South Kentucky And Mt. Pleasant Associations no account has been received.

All the colored Baptists in Kentucky are missionary in sentiment, and, in proportion to their ability, accomplished much more in the work of home missions, during the decade under consideration, than their white brethren. They used comparatively little money, because they possessed but little; yet they were very liberal with the little they had. Their preachers, nearly all of whom were home missionaries, to a greater or less extent, were men inured to hardships and accustomed to frugal living, and labored for a very small pecuniary compensation. They endured hardness like good soldiers, and their labors were abundantly blessed. During a period of ten years, extending from 1870 to 1880, the number of colored Baptist church members in the State increased about one hundred per cent. At the former date, they numbered about 25,000, at the latter, about 50,000. The General Association reported, in 1880, 210 churches, aggregating 39,138 members. Nine district associations reported 133 churches, aggregating 8,435 members, which churches did not report to the General Association. This gives, including the General Association, 10 associations, 343 churches, and 47,573 members. But in these associations, there were 35 churches that did not report their statistics, besides
[p. 669]
two associations which have not been heard from. If we estimate these two associations as numbering 15 churches each, we shall have 65 churches from which no statistics have been received. Suppose these churches to average 43 members each, which would be a low estimate. This would give an aggregate of 2,795. Add these to the numbers officially reported, and we have a total of 12 associations, 408 churches, and 50,368 members, as the numerical strength of the colored Baptists in Kentucky, in 1880.

[J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885, Volume 2; rpt. 1988, pp. 653-669. The title is changed; the original is "Colored Baptists." Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Kentucky Baptist Church Histories
Baptiist History Homepage