South Elkhorn Church
By John Taylor
South Elkhorn was eight miles from where I lived, I seldom went there but at monthly meetings, I now became more acquainted with that old successful man in the ministry, Lewis Craig. This man's orthodoxy mainly lay in salvation through Christ by unmerited grace, with urging repentance on all to whom he preached, he had the most striking gift of exhortation that was perhaps ever in use in Kentucky — while with him in South Elkhorn, he treated me as a father would a son.
On my settlement at home I had nothing before me but hard labour, being entirely in the woods. I had
now been a housekeeper about two years, and but little done for family support, I felt great cheerfulness in laying away at work. After getting another little cabin up and fixed for winter, our first work was to make fence rails, and enclose all the land we intended to clear through the winter, I then had one negro man and three black children, I employed a young man to work with us through the winter. — The first fence that was put up on the place I did with my own hands — I will state one of my days work — I went out in a cold morning late in October or early in November — when I counted my ground work I found fifty pannels were laid — this, I thought to myself I must put up, and fifty more to day — the rails all lying where they were split at different distances, at it I went, with nimble step. I only put up the fence six rails high, but this I found a full day's work — I concluded I had often put my strength and activity to very bad purposes in my days of wickedness, but that it was a very good work to get my fence up — about sunset I finished my task, as I called it, in one day I had a hundred pannels of fence put up, with my own hands, and the newly split logs moved from one to fifty steps, through the brush and fallen timber, except the fifty pannels of ground work first laid, the rails were of a size for six of them to a pannel to make a safe fence. In this early day, their length was eleven feet — I name this days work that it may be accounted for, how I have cleared near four hundred acres of land, in the heavy forest of Kentucky, besides making other good improvements — we had about twenty two acres fenced in before Christmas, all of which we cleared and planted the next spring — by this time, in the neighborhood among my new acquaintances I had acquired the character of a very industrious man, but whether this adds to my credit as preacher is quite another question, but at this time, there were but very few people in Kentucky and but very little opening for preaching — our crop of
every kind grew finely that year, and in the fall I had about two hundred and fifty barrels of corn, the greater part of which I had to spare to new comers, at a good price, for there was plenty of cane, and other good food in the woods for stock — when I first moved I had purchased two small sows with seven or eight pigs, from which the next year I killed about a thousand weight of pork, salt was with us then about sixpence per pound.
Notwithstanding the exertions of the people in the woods to get something to sustain on, there seemed to be some heart melting move among the people — the first I recollect, was at a night meeting, at my little cabin, though the night was wet and dark and scarcely a trace to get to my house, the little cabin was pretty well filled with people, and what was best of all, I have no doubt the Lord was there — a Mrs. Cash (the wife of Warren Cash) was much affected and soon after was hopefully converted — others were also touched to the heart who afterwards obtained relief in the Lord; Warren Cash, though other ways respectable, was a bold sinner, having spent several years in the old revolutionary war, seeing his wife much affected, struck him with a great consciousness of his own guilt, they were both soon Baptized, perhaps Cash could not at this time read, I have heard his wife learned him to read; a few years after he moved to a new settlement in Shelby county, there he began to hold meetings, and Beech Creek Church was soon raised, he has moved several times and now lives in Hardin county; for upwards of thirty years he has been a laborious successful minister of the gospel. His tutoress and instrument of his conversion (his wife) is one of the most pious minded and best taught females in the religion of the heart. I was ever acquainted with. Soon after the awakening of Mrs. Cash, I had a meeting at Hillsborough, at John Whitaker's, it being in the spring of the year, I took a text from the Canticles about the winter
being past, and the flowers appearing, and the voice of the turtle [turtledove] being heard in our land — the people being affected, when I stop[p]ed speaking, two men and their wives as if they had previously consulted, rose up and with trembling came forward and asked me to pray for them — they being perfect strangers to me, and the thing so new to the people that it spread a heavenly blaze through the assembly — they all soon after obtained hope in the Lord and was baptized.
But I am hurrying too fast to clear creek, for all those persons were Baptized soon after Clear Creek became a Church — I must return to old south Elkhom. A revival soon took place there, and a number were Baptized. Old Mr. Hickman in the spring of 1785 moved from the south side of Kentucky and lived in south Elkhorn neighborhood — a number of his children joined the Church, one of whom was his son William, who is now the pastor of a respectable Church on South Benson. Under the labours of Lewis Craig, Senr. Hickman and other visitors, south Elkhorn soon grew up to a large and respectable Church, they put up a framed meeting house, not far ftom where the brick one now stands and was the first house of worship of any kind on the north side of Kentucky — Mr. Rankin, a Presbyterian minister soon after this settled in Lexington — George Stokes Smith soon became a member at [S]outh Elkhorn, of him I have said something before — Wm. Hickman, sen. though him and myself were not members at the same time at South Elkhorn, we have both had our membership there; and are now near neighbors. This man has had a great range in Kentucky — for here he has been a faithful labourer for near forty years — he is truly a '76 man, for in 76 he paid a visit to Kentucky, and here the same year he first began to preach. In early times and in the face of danger, he settled where he now lives, for a number of years at the risk of his life ftom Indian fury, he preached to the people in Shelby county, and
other ftontier settlements, so that he is one of the hardy fearless sons of '76 — for upwards of thirty years he has served the Church at the Forks of Elkhom, in which congregation he has perhaps Baptized first and last, more than five hundred people — he has statedly served a number of other Churches — perhaps no man in Kentucky has Baptized so many people as this venerable 76 man; though now about seventy six years old, he walks and stands as erect as a Palm tree — being at least six feet high, rather of a lean texture, his whole deportment solemn and grave, and like Caleb, the servant of the Lord of old, at fourscore years old was as capable to go to war as when young. This 76 veteran can yet perform a good part in the gospel vineyard, so that it is not strange that like Abram of old he should be now raising a young family by a second wife — his preaching, is in a plain and solemn style, and the sound of it like that of thunder at a distance — but when in his best gears, his sound is like thunder at home, and operates with prodigious force on the consciences of his hearers — his mode of speaking is so slow that the hearers at times get ahead of him in the subject, before they get it from him — In this his son Billy has not learned to preach from his father, but speaks as much too fast as the old gentleman speaks too slow.
But to return to South Elkhorn, Lewis Craig continued their pastor for perhaps nine years, and then moved to Bracken county near the Ohio River — Having been well acquainted with John Shackleford in Virginia, who had lately moved to Kentucky, Craig advised the Church at South Elkhom to call him to take the watchcare of the Church, which was done on Craig's moving away — I suppose Shackleford has been in the ministry at least fifty years and was one of the prisoners of the Lord, in early times in Virginia — he was a preacher of much respectability from his youth, and his labours commenced with great success before he came to Kentucky — he has been the
labourious paster [sic] of South Elkhom Church for more than thirty years, under his ministrations there have been great additions to the Church, several great revivals have been there — about the beginning of the present century several hundreds were added in one year — a few years past near two hundred were added in one winter, so that South Elkhorn has always been among the most numerous and respectable Churches in Elkhorn Association — of late the Church has suffered some devastation, a few years past, a numerous young Church was constituted from them, without the approbation of the old pastor.
The Church at South Elkhorn has existed as such for near forty years — they have only had two pastors, Craig and [John] Shackleford. Both these men have often preached through iron grates in Virginia, and with great success in Kentucky — and now both waiting to hear the applaudit of "well done thou good and faithful servants."
[John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823; rpt. 1968, pp. 44-49. — Insertions are in [ ]. Typed by Jim Duvall.]
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