Corn Creek Church
A History of Ten Baptist Churches
By John Taylor, 1823
I had gotten a flat bottom, boat to move my household furniture, and year's provision down the river, sixty or seventy miles to Mount Byrd - this provision seemed needful, as I was going into the woods, my boat sunk in the river, with chief of my effects in it, and though the clear loss was only about a hundred dollars, yet many of my things were much injured by getting wet. We had some rough cabins prepared to go into, but surrounded by one of the heaviest forests I ever saw - it was now late in March, and our bread to get the next year, only about four acres cleared and no fence around it, was our beginning at Mount Byrd. I had acquired some acquaintance with the people from my visits there, but my wife was a perfect stranger to all, a young church of perhaps twenty members, had been constituted not long before I moved, and was called Corn Creek Church, the place of worship was about four miles from Mount Byrd. The opposite shore of the Ohio was Indian title, and the Indians hunting on their own land about a mile from my house, but they were at peace. At the first monthly meeting of the little church (Corn Creek,) after our arrival at Mount Byrd, myself and family, gave our membership to the church. After I was received by the church, I informed them that I had joined them as a member, and with no office authority among them, that, though I had been long a preacher, it was not by their sanction as a church, that I was now at their disposal as one of their members, that, if they required any ministerial service from me, I expected them to signify it, otherwise I should not make free among them in that way. Perhaps what myself said, brought on the same day, a request to take the Pastoral care of the
church. Perhaps I had Baptized more than half the members that were in the church, at the times of my visits there before I moved. The older brethren did not hesitate at that request, as they had no other preacher in the church but myself. I then opened up my own views of particular pastorship, that myself was never calculated for it, that I was ready to do any service I was capable [of], without that particular charge. With which the church was perfectly content - and has had no particular pastor since.
As to our earthly concerns, we had never seen such heavy labour before us, to obtain support, as now. We had no time to pause and think, but go right on to work, the timber quite green and standing very thick - consisting of various sorts, as Poplar, Beach [sic], Walnut, Ash, and other kinds, with the largest kind of Buck-eye, three or four feet through, with their trunks an hundred feet long. It was usual to get from three and four, to seven and eight cuts of rails from a tree - many of the poplars were six or seven feet through, and their length an hundred feet without a limb. The looks of the soil encouraged us to rush on, in hopes of future reward - I had at that time three strong black men, and a boy, and as many black women, who could help us burn brush, and roll logs. My two sons, one eighteen, and the other sixteen years old, and myself, now in a manner in the prime of life, though upwards of fifty years old. The sound of our axes made entertaining musick [sic] in this mighty forest. My wife and daughters, with a black woman or two in the house, made the wheels roar in our large cabins, with also the use of a loom there, made it probable that we should get food and raimant. Another thing in our favour, though for several years, we had been afflicted with sickness, the sweet air and water of the lofty bluff of Mount Byrd, restored us all to good health again. We first enclosed twenty-five acres of land in two apartments, thirteen of which we planted in corn, and two in flax and vegetables.
We had ten barrels of corn per acre that year, that, with the help of a good beach mast [sic], made us bread enough and to spare. After laying by our corn, we cleared our ten acres we had enclosed, and put it in wheat - we then enclosed twenty five acres with a design to clear it next winter - and twenty acres more we enclosed for the use of a pasture. After we had cleared our intended ground the next winter, we had taken down so much timber, that we found the log rolling prodigious heavy. I took notice that we spent thirty days in log rolling - and after which it was more trouble to burn up this green timber than to roll it. However, after we had planted our corn, we concluded to go to building. We did but little at brick making till after harvest, when we moved on with rapidity - we made about an hundred thousand bricks, put up a house seventy feet by twenty-two, a stone cellar under the whole of it, and forty feet of it two stories above the cellor [sic] - before Christmas had it all covered in, and moved into one end of it in February. We then cleared the ground we had enclosed, and enclosed twenty acres more for pasture - so that when we had been at Mount Byrd two years we had seventy acres of cleared land, twenty more enclosed, living in the house I have described, and a very great orchard of apple, peach, and other kinds of fruit, so that in Gallatin county, I was a little like Job when he lived in the east, in the early days of his prosperity. It is probable, I was the richest man in the county, where I lived - but wise Providence has found a way, to put me in different circumstances, since that time. I do not recollect paying one dollar for labour in making all this improvement, except to mechanics. Should it be asked if our labour was not too severe, I should no doubt answer in the affmnative - but it was all done with great pleasantness, for I have found both by experience and observation, that when master goes, all the rest goes cheerfully to business.
Through the course of this two years, I preached but little, except on Saturdays and Sundays or of nights. I was commonly at Church meetings on those days somewhere - and in the time of the year for associations, I commonly went to a number of them, the settlement in which I lived did not admit of much preaching, fifty families perhaps were the amount of all the people, and they had much to do to get their living in this heavy timbered country. - The settlement however, increased, and the church at Corn-creek grew, though but slowly - there had been a revival in the place, as I have named, before I moved there. And perhaps in two or three years after I joined the church, at different times, I Baptized about twenty people, the church being then about sixty in number. And I think she never grew higher than about eighty till I moved from the place. A year or two after I moved to Mount Byrd, Philemon Vawter moved from Bullittsburg and joined Corn Creek Church. He was a respectable preacher, and one of the best of men; his example preached loud to the world. Soon after his arrival at Corn Creek, the church thought proper to ordain him - this gave me great pleasure, to have a fellow-labourer in the Lord; and in the church he was of great usefulness, till he moved to Indiana - something of his biography I have given elsewhere.
Corn-creek church, though they treated with all their members according to the eighteenth of Matthew, so far as was practicable, and though their final exclusions were by unanimity of voices, yet there was not that harmony of sentiment as might be wished for; they often differed as to the mode of doing church business, this at times brought about bickerings between the members, in harsh speeches and sulky looks; and though it did not come to tumults, yet their forerunners were sometimes seen, which Paul calls swellings, which is another word for poutings; which is a very unbecoming thing among
the followers of the meek and lowly Saviour. Methodist influence began in Corn-creek settlement soon after Baptist worship was set up there; this divided the people at large, and the contest between the parties was the warmer as the strength of members was about equal on each side; with all my attachment to my fine Mount Byrd, some things began to turn up to embitter the place to me; in the first place Vawter moved away, which was a great draw back on my peace and happiness. I had built a great barn, first of brick and added to it with timber, so that it was very spacious; I had filled it with the greatest crop of small grain I had ever raised; soon after I had housed it, the same kind of fire that killed Jobs sheep and servants, destroyed my barn, a flash of lightning as in a moment burnt it down; perhaps a thousand bushels of grain were burnt with the barn, the whole loss at least a thousand dollars; this was done when I was on a tour of preaching, from one association to another, this bespoke to me that the author of this fire, would have me leave the place, so that if I was a little like Job in one case, I was also a little like him in another, and though my children were not all dead, yet two of them had died at Mount Byrd. Another strong reason for leaving the place, the town of Madison sprung up opposite to where I lived, and its inhabitants trafficking with the negroes for all that they brought to market, and my absence from home, and always on Sundays placed everything I had in jeopardy; but the greatest reason of all was, a partial loss of my repute among the people; this thing worked like the spreading of leaven, and a number of the people seemed to have the strongest malice against me; I was presented to the grand jury as having committed a trespass on the public good; a school house had been built at the meeting house for which I had paid my quota of money, and where we often preached in the winter, the door was locked and I had reasons to think it was to keep me from
preaching in it. I often thought of what the Lord said to Ezekiel 2d. 6th verse, about dwelling among Scorpions; some of the church I found was prejudiced against me; it was some time before I could conjecture what root of bitterness all this had sprung from, but be it what it would, my mind was made up to leave the place, and that from the Saviour's direction, where if they persecute you in one city, flee to another; I knew that some of the best friends I had in the world, were in Corn-creek church who from the storm of vengeance they saw among some of the people, gave it as their opinion, that it would be best for me to move away; the origin of all this mighty spleen came from one single circumstance.
A member of the church, and a man of considerable influence had joined the Free Masons; about forty miles from home, and was in that connection some time before the church had any knowledge of it - a complaint being brought into the church against him for that act, the business for a decision was laid over till their next meeting; knowing that I as one should have to give my voice in the church on this affair - I procured the constitution of the Lodge at Shelbyville and gave it a reading, for my own information. A large gathering of people came to the next meeting, to hear a trial in the church about Free Masomy; I took the liberty to make a pretty long speech on the mysteries of that subject, in the hearing of a number of the Masonic brethren, for they were increasing fast at this time in our settlement; I confessed as they claimed, its great antiquity, that it probably existed before any of the scriptures were written, that it was an excellent institution when first introduced among men, to bring them from barbarism to some degree of civilization, and unite one man to another and a number of men into a kind of civilized community, and by their compact they were bound to do each other good, and moralize their own
behaviour, all of which was very good, and had been of great use to ancient beings of our race, but that it was of as little use now, as the moon and stars are when the sun is shining; and that their modes of tuition, even in their Lodges, were so dark and figurative, that weak minds could not easily get into it. If the pupil looked at an Operative Mason, with his apron on, his hammer in his hand, his compass, his trowel, his square, or all this figure on paper, for his contemplation, he studies the hammer, by which the uneven parts of the stone is taken off, and with the square shaped off at right angles to fit it for the building - so the schollar [sic] must moralize himself by smoothing in his conduct, as the Operative Mason did the rock - again, the square, with exactly as many inches as hours in a whole day, and then going off with an exact square, so all his conduct must be regular to fit him for society - when he studied the compass with its exact circles, or the trowel in using the molter [sic] or cement to unite one rock to another, teaching the consolidating of affection, and interest between man and man, and smoothed off as with the trowel in brotherly friendship. - As morality was the highest object of the whole establishment, the author of our being has given us a more excellent way in the Bible, and especially in the new testament, in which the brightest morality and spirituality of heart is made known in the most explicit style - and moreover, Free Masons in general, with all their fine system of morality, were not the most moralized men as to their actions.
I consider it a very weak thing, for a christian to give up his privileges in the church of Christ, for the half handed morality that was found in a Masonic Lodge. Though I professed no knowledge of any of their bye-laws, yet the doctrine I had propagated was a natural deduction from their constitution; I know not whether I ever had a more attentive assembly of hearers in my life. I then made a proposition
which was agreed to by a majority of the church; to give the man in question, two months to give an answer, whether he would finally leave the Masonic Lodge, or lose his place in the church; to this a number of the church objected, saying he ought to repent for the sin he had committed - of this proposition at the given time he affected to comply; but was not as good as his word afterwards. I knew of no Masonic man present that was offended at my remarks in the church, but their progress was rather with friendly overtures - to these I made but little reply, till at length a judge of a court, from the opposite side of the river, waited on me with overtures so explicit, that I was compelled to be plain; this friendly judge was very zealous in the cause, and no doubt had friendship for me, such as it was. After illustrating the utility, advantages, and excellency of Masonry, plainly importuned me to cast my lot among them; the only short reply I made was about as follows: "that it would by no means suit me to be a Mason, that if it was a good thing, I would not keep the secret, and if it was a bad thing I would not keep the secret, but would warn the people against it; and if there was neither good nor harm in it, of course it was not worth having." Finding a number of the church dissatisfied about the man who had joined the Masons, and he being a deacon of the church, they could not receive the ministration [of the Lord's Supper] from his hands.
I made a proposition in the church, to dismiss him from his office under existing circumstances; this the church immediately accorded in - this I soon found stung him to the quick - esteeming me the instrument of his degradation in the church, seemed determined to be revenged, if we judge from his actions afterwards - and the generality of his Masonic brethren co-operated with him, which brought forward the whole sweep of vengeance spoken of above, for though he had given his word to the church to
forsake the Lodge, he did not do it. The influence of the man may be known, by his being twice elected after this by the county, to the Legislature of Kentucky - others who united with him for my destruction, were men of much influence. With deep concerted and secret council, the presentment was laid before the grand jury, while to my face they were fair and mild; I was at the court, and in friendly conversation with the men the day that this transaction took place - but I had left the courthouse before the presentment was made; I understood it was brought forward by a harmless, old Dutchman - these cunning men made him think though they were on the grand jury themselves, that he would be forsworn if he did not bring on this kind of indictment. The great crime committed against the commonwealth - a man who lived with me, in taking in a bit of new ground had run a corner of his fence over an old forsaken road, which they called a public one; I was of course legally called on to answer for the crime - it soon spread through my neighborhood and perhaps through the county; some said I was indicted, others, that I was presented; the magnitude of the crime was hardly known, but it would come forward next term in all its glowing colours. The attorney for the commonwealth and the judge himself, neither of whom had ever been at my house before, came about six miles out of their way on Saturday night before the court [assembled]; their object I presume was to see the spot themselves where the trespass was committed - they passed by the place in the morning myself with them, going to a meeting I had; when the business came on, a respectable man of the bar of my acquaintance who knew the whole affair of this trespass, volunteered his services to make a short statement to the court, to which the commonwealth's attorney scarcely replied, and the charge dismissed by the judge, in perhaps ten minutes after it was taken up, to the great mortification of those vengeful
men. This as might be looked for, was very far from curing their malicious fever, which I might give in many more instances, but time would fail. I have no doubt that thousands among the most honorable men in our nation are what is called Free Masons, but it did not happen to be of that kind into whose hands I fell, neither have I ever known a Baptist, who joined that order of people, that was ever of much use in a church afterwards - the man spoken of is a striking instance. In this mighty blast some of the church became prejudiced against me, for those active men, were very influential, and some of their kindred belonged to the church - one of the members said to another, who was prejudiced, that it was the same spirit, that was working against me in the neighborhood, that had put Jesus Christ to death long ago. I had now been a preacher upwards of forty years, and had never been in the same situation I now was; being in less credit as a preacher at home than abroad - being now in the habit of travelling the greater part of my time, on long tours, and by visiting many associations, acquired an extensive acquaintance with the Baptists; had a stranger attended our meetings at Corn-creek, he would have thought that I was popular in the place, for even those who disliked me frequently came to meetings, though perhaps from no better motive than the Pharisees followed the Saviour. Not long before I left the place, at one of our Sunday meetings, I took this text, "The harvest is great but the labourers are few, pray ye the Lord of the harvest &c." My own soul was enlarged with prayerful desire, that the Lord would send preaching there, that would be more useful to the people than mine had been, and also urged the people to thus pray - it was soon reported, that I got so mad with the people that I even wept when I was preaching. The reader has seen already that the origin of all this storm seemed to be from Free Masonry, but it may be remembered that
only a few men of that order was at the bottom of the whole of it, for others of the same connection treated me with the affection of a brother, holding those others in contempt for their conduct - one instance was the gentleman of the bar already spoken of, who volunteered my case in court, and would afterwards receive no compensation.
When I reflect soberly, my own opinion is, that the root of all those difficulties was with God himself, as a just visitation for my sins. I esteem the deceitfulness of sin, in its subter[r]aneous and serpentine windings, an overmatch for any man on earth, where the fear of God is but little removed from his heart, a jealous God will not admit a rival. When we moved from Bullittsburg to Mount Byrd, we soon emerged from great family affliction, into a state of great health, and though we did a great deal of hard labour, yet prosperity attended our efforts for a number of years, till with my fine Mount Byrd, and two thousand acres of valuable land on the River connected with it, besides other valuable lands at a distance, I owned about twenty slaves, clear of debt and had a considerable amount of stock in different banks; my children growing up, and bid fair to recommend themselves to the world. Putting all together no doubt became a thief on my heart, though unperceived by myself or others - for I do not know that any person considered me in any other light than a zealous man in religion, for I do not recollect that worldly business ever prevented my attending one of my thousands of meetings that I have appointed, for near fifty years past - but a holy God does not see as man sees, three times He was displeased with holy Moses. First, for not circumcising his son, and sought to slay him at the inn - secondly, for pleading an excuse, desiring Aaron to be sent to Pharaoh instead of himself, and for which it is probable God deprived him of an eloquent tongue as long as he lived - and thirdly, his intemperate spirit and unadvised
lips at the waters of Meribah, for which he was forbidso going into the promised land - all of which might seem innocent in the eyes of men; with many other instances in the scriptures confirming this saying - "I the Lord, your God, am a jealous God."
For David's sin of pride unperceived by himself in numbering the people, which was a very common thing in Israel, seventy thousand men lost their lives; and for another sin of his, the son of his own loins stole the hearts of the people, and God bid Shimei to curse him. For the idolatry of Solomon and the folly of his son Rehoboam, God raised up a Jeroboam, by whom ten tribes were rent from the house of David. So true is that saying of Solomon that "when a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh his enemies to be at peace with him" - David, in the 17th psalm 13th verse, speaks of the wicked as God's sword, and hand or rod of correction, and though I felt as if I dwelt among scorpions; and though as to my course among men, I could with all my examination see nothing of which I could accuse myself, yet from the apostacy of my affections from the Lord, I concluded that God's own way of chastising was the best, and was almost ready to excuse these men, and pray the Lord to pardon their folly and sin.
I left Corn-creek in March 1815 after living at Mount Byrd thirteen years - the church at Corn-creek while I lived there had grown but slowly; I had Baptized while there, perhaps about thirty people; I think they were about eighty in number when I left them, after which they invited supplies from abroad for a year or two; a young speaker moving into the bounds of the church was licensed to preach among them, his name was [John] Wallace; a George Kendall who was Baptized at Corn-creek, began also to speak in public and was licensed by the church, but by what I could learn, the people at large, as also some of the church, paid but little attention to those young preachers for some time, till at length a William
Buckley was invited to attend them, and from appearances of success, he moved and lived among them two or three years.
Under his labours, and the zealous efforts of the younger preachers, a considerable revival took place, so that in one year Mr. Buckley Baptized upwards of a hundred people. Mr. Buckley attended several other churches about this time, and was successful at them all, but at length moved his family to the lower end of the state, and like my poor self, left the church in less credit as a preacher than when he came to it.
The church was again left with their two young preachers, but they had grown, so that public worship was kept up with respectability - however, they soon contemplated a new church for the sake of convenience; they constituted a church called Hunters Bottom, on the River, this new establishment included Mr. [John] Wallace, whom the new church has ordained since their constitution.
Corn-creek, has only George Kendall as a preacher among them - his correctness of opinion in Gospel doctrines, his orderly deportment in general, his zeal for the cause of gospel religion, and his aptitude to explain the Bible, (which is almost the only book he reads) than he was to receive it. Corn-creek has existed as a church upwards of twenty years, perhaps their number at present is an hundred and thirty or forty. When I left Corn-creek the sensation with myself was entirely of a new stamp; when I left any other place before, the solicitous voice of the people was for me to stay, and this gave me pain of mind. The thing was quite reversed, and this gave me greater pain, for I knew not whether I had a friend under existing circumstances that wished me to stay longer. ===========
[John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823; reprint, 1968, pp. 115-127. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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