THIS State hes west of Virginia, which it joins, and to which it formerly belonged. It was admitted into the Union as an independent State in 1792.
Kentucky was well known to the Indian traders long before its settlement.
James Macbride, with some others, explored it as early as 1754. Colonel Daniel Boon visited it in 1769; and four years after, he and his family, with five other families, who were joined by forty men from Powel’s Valley, began the settlement of this fertile region. I do not learn that any of these first settlers were Baptists; but they soon after began to flock to this western wilderness.
The first settlers of Kentucky, and indeed of all the western States, were for a long time much harassed by the aboriginal proprietors of the soil, and against the united opposition of all the western Indians their settlements were made. The Indians were always jealous of the encroachments of the white people on the territories which the God of nature had given them; and in this case their resentment was the more enraged, because these settlements were made in violation of the treaty of Fort Stanwix, in 1768, which expressly stipulated that this tract of country should be reserved for the western nations to hunt upon, etc. With these provocations to revenge, the red men of the wilderness were most troublesome neighbors to the first adventurers into the western country. Many lost their lives either on their way hither, or after they had settled. Excited by a thirst for blood and the hope of plunder, and encouraged by the traders from Detroit and Niagara, these barbarous people continued almost without intermission to harass the frontier settlers, until Wayne’s Treaty in 1795.
From that period until lately, they have been peaceably disposed, and very few depredations have been committed.
A number of Baptist ministers visited Kentucky about 1779; and among them were John Taylor, who is yet living in it, and Lewis Lunsford, who died in Virginia, who was at that time called The Wonderful Boy. The object of these ministers, says Mr. Taylor, was more to look than to preach. They found a few of their brethren in the country; but they were in an uncomfortable state in every respect, being very cold as to their religious enjoyments, and much exposed to danger on every side. These ministers had a few meetings at the stations; they found the country destitute of almost every thing except grass for their horses, and meat from the woods, which was procured at the risk of their lives. They could do but little more than feast their eyes with the luxuriant soil, which the Indians had determined they should not cultivate. They I believe, all returned to Virginia; but some of them afterwards went out and settled in the country.
About 1781, some Baptist preachers and many Baptist members began to settle in Kentucky. From that period the emigration became very rapid, so that by the year 1786, the following ministers, viz. Lewis Craig, Joseph Bledsoe, George S. Smith, Richard Cave, James Smith, James Rucker, Robert Elkin, John Taylor, William Taylor, John Tanner, John Bailey, Joseph Craig, Ambrose Dudley, and probably some others, had taken up their residence in different parts of the Kentucky woods, some on the north and others on the south side of the Kentucky river.
A flood of Baptist emigrants, mostly from Virginia, poured into this country at the close of the American war, and by them a considerable number of churches were soon established and as early as 1785, three Associations were organized, which were called Elkhorn, Salem, and the Separate or South Kentucky Association.
The emigration from Virginia to this western region was a hazardous business, and was conducted in a somewhat singular manner. They had a vast tract of wilderness to go through, in which they were constantly exposed to the assaults of the Indians. Their safety consisted in traveling in as large companies as they could collect. There were, on the frontiers of the old settlements, a number of places of rendezvous, which were called stations. Here the first families which arrived would tarry until others came up, and after a sufficient number had collected, the whole would move off like a caravan through the wilderness. I have been informed, if I mistake not, that some of the companies amounted to three hundred men, women and children. In some instances the Baptist emigrants would form themselves into a church before they set out, and in that capacity they settled in Kentucky. While on the way, as one of their ministers humorously observes, they might, like the children of Israel, be styled the church in the wilderness. By this rapid emigration, Kentucky soon abounded with Baptists; and they have been from the first, and I conclude now are, the most numerous denomination in the State.
In 1790, according to Asplund’s Register, there were in Kentucky fortytwo churches, forty ordained and twenty-one unordained ministers, and a little more than three thousand members. Since that time, the number has greatly increased, so that there are now over two hundred and fifty churches, and somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand members.
The whole statement will be given, so far as it can be ascertained in the general table. There are now eleven Associations in this State in professed fellowship with each other, besides three other establishments of the kind, which for different reasons are not in fellowship with the main body of their brethren. A brief account of these respective Associations, will form the substance of the history of the Baptists in Kentucky.
ELKHORN ASSOCIATION THIS body, at its constitution, contained only the three churches of Tate’s Creek, Clear Creek, and South Elkhorn, all of which were formed in 1785, the same year in which they associated. Some churches were gathered the same year, and a number shortly after, which united with this establishment; so that in seven years from its constitution, it had increased to twenty-three churches and 1700 members. The bounds of this Association were for a number of years very extensive, as it comprehended all the churches north of the Kentucky River, and some of those which were south of it; the church at Columbia, in the North- Western Territory, now the State of Ohio, and a church in the Cumberland settlements in the State of Tennessee. It has also contained from the first a number of very large and flourishing churches, which have sent forth many preachers, and many surrounding branches. The churches of South Elkhorn, Clear Creek, Bryan’s Station, and the Great Crossing, are among those which have been the most distinguished for numbers and prosperity.
During the great revival, these four churches together, received in one year the addition of 1378 members. This Association has, at different times, comprehended a number of laborious and successful ministers. A number of the preachers who emigrated from Virginia were men of the above description. And in 1738, when there were not more than twenty churches in the State, and but twelve in the Elkhorn Association, Mr. John Gano, a man famous both for counsel and war, moved from the city of New-York, and became the pastor of the Town Fork church, in the neighborhood of Lexington, belonging to this body. Possessed of these advantages, this Association was much resorted to in difficult cases for counsel and assistance. Under these prosperous circumstances, it continued to progress with great harmony and order for about twenty years, receiving yearly additions of churches gathered within its extensive boundaries. In the happy days of the great revival, many of the churches in this body experienced refreshing seasons of an uncommon nature, and shared largely in that powerful work, which prevailed in such a rapid and astonishing manner in different parts of the State. At its annual meeting in 1801, it received the addition of 3011 members. In 1802, twelve churches more were added, which made its whole number of members 5310. But these joyful scenes were of short duration: very gloomy and perilous times have succeeded; and the course of this body, from the close of this remarkable enlargement to the present time, has been generally difficult and unprosperous. It has been often and almost annually diminished, by dismissing churches to unite with the neighboring Associations. But as their brethren were dismissed in harmony, and still continued in fellowship, though these things have diminished their number, yet they did not constitute their trials: these arose from other quarters and the zeal produced by the great revival had hardly abated before they began; and the intervals of tranquillity have been but short from that to the present time.
About the year 1802, the Reverend Augustin Easton, a preacher of considerable eminence, and the pastor of a respectable church at Cooper’s Run, in the county of Bourbon, and His Excellency James Gerrard, a member of the same church, formerly a preacher in the Elkhorn Association, but then Governor of the State of Kentucky, began to disclose some speculations of an Arian or Socinian cast, and led their brethren to suspect that they were dangerously inclined, if not fully established in these sentiments. For some time, the minds of many were much agitated by these new subjects of speculation; and the eminence and ability of the men by whom they were propagated, excited fearful apprehensions of their extensive prevalence. The majority of the church at Cooper’s Run, of which Mr. Easton was pastor, and to which the Governor belonged, had already espoused their sentiments, and three other smaller neighboring churches had done the same. Anxious to make every proper exertion to reclaim their brethren, and prevent the progress of what they supposed a growing heresy, the Association held an occasional session in April, 1803, and appointed the five following ministering brethren, viz. David Barrow, John Price, Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding, and Carter Tarrant, a committee to visit these four churches, and endeavor to convince them of their error. But the attempt proving unsuccessful, they were dropped from the Association, and no extensive effects were produced by this new scheme of doctrine.
About two years after this difficulty had subsided, another was introduced into the Association on the subject of slavery, which arose to a very serious and distressing affair. For several years, there had been a number of preachers and members of churches in this and the neighboring Associations, who were in plinciple and practice opposed to the holding of slaves, in the manner in which such multitudes are held by the Baptists in this and many other States; but they had hitherto made the circumstance a matter of burden and forbearance. But a resolution of the Association, at its annual session in August, 1805, expressing their disapprobation of ministers, churches, or Associations meddling with the subject of emancipation from slavery, gave great offense to the emancipators: a number immediately left the assembly; and being previously matured for a separation, some slight attempts, which were afterwards made for a reconciliation, served only to extend the breach, and an open and painful rupture ensued.
The subject of emancipation was about the same time agitated in the Bracken and North District Associations, where it produced similar divisions. The emancipators, being thus separated from the communion of their slave-holding brethren in three Associations, collected from different parts, and in 1807 formed an Association of their own, and Messrs.
Barrow and Tarrant, two members of the committee in the Arian affair, were the principal leaders in this new separation.
The difficulties of this unhappy community, which seemed destined to suffer internal trouble and commotion, followed each other in quick succession. At the same time that the controversy about emancipation was agitated, a dispute had begun between two individuals, which, after going through a number of trials in different forms, was introduced into the Association in 1806, where it was improperly and unsuccessfully tampered with about four years, when it divided into two contending parties this once flourishing and harmonious body. The unpleasant dispute which has been the cause of so much evil, was at first very small and inconsiderable, and originated between Elder Jacob Creath and Mr. Thomas Lewis, in a bargain respecting the exchange of two poor slaves.
Mr. Creath was the pastor, and Mr. Lewis one of the principal members of the Town Fork church, in the neighborhood of Lexington. This church was under the pastoral care of Mr. Gano, a number of years after his removal to Kentucky. But this eminent servant of the Lord, and skillful arbitrator in religious disputes, had been taken from the evil to come before this painful contest commenced.
As it may appear strange that a personal disagreement should be the cause of such extensive divisions, the reader ought to be informed, that the opponents of Mr. Creath soon lost sight of the firt subject of dispute, in the midst of a number of grievous allegations of various kinds, which at every stage of the difficulty were brought against him. Amongst other things, a pamphlet, entitled “A Portrait of Jacob Creath,” containing fourteen charges, some of them of a very weighty and a number of a frivolous nature, was published by Elder Elijah Craig, one of the oldest, but we cannot say best, ministers in the Association. In consequence of this pamphlet, the church in which the difficulty begun, proceeded to call a committee or council from sixteen of the neighboring churches, to investigate the charges exhibited against their pastor. Forty-two delegates assembled, and after four days’ investigation of the business, this numerous convention voted Mr. Creath an unanimous acquittal of all the charges, which Mr. Craig in his Portrait had exhibited against him. But notwithstanding this, an influential minority of the Association still continued dissatisfied with Mr. Creath, and by this time they had also conceived many grievances against their brethren, who had acted in the affair. The controversy now became a subject of general concern, and was altercated by the Association when collected, by most of the churches of which it was composed when at home, and by a number of families of very considerable influence. The prospect of an accommodation appeared still farther removed, and the affair became more embarrassing at every stage. The Association had imprudently intermeddled with a dispute, which it could not consistently decide, and after a lengthy and painful attention to it, its division appeared inevitable. Mr. Creath had sustained a number of trials in different forms for nearly the same things, in all of which he had been acquitted, and many were desirous that these decisions should terminate the dispute. The Association progressed as usual, but the minor party still continued their dissatisfaction, and in 1809 they declined attending its annual session. Mr. Lewis, with whom the contest began, died about this time, but this event had no apparent effect on the minds of his advocates. They were now prepared for the unhappy result, which had long been expected; but being unwilling to appear as a secedding faction, they alleged that the majority had departed from the original constitution of the Association; and at a meeting of consultation for the purpose, they adopted the singular resolution of meeting in a different place at the same time with them, and to claim the name and prerogatives of the Elkhorn Association. Such was the conduct of a number of aged ministers, who had always before been highly esteemed for their wisdom and prudence; but they afterwards concluded to give up the name of Elkhorn, which they had absurdly assumed, and call their new establishment the Licking Association.
These measures were peculiarly distressing to the friends of Zion throughout an extensive circle. The ministers, who promoted them, were John Price, Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding, Lewis Corben, Absalom Bainbridge, and some others, whose influence was not so great. These ministers were among the oldest and most respectable in the State; they had long borne the burden and heat of the day, and their names were every where mentioned with respect. Considering their age and experience, none could suppose they would contend for trifles, and yet it was difficult for any to discover sufficient reason for their dividing measures. The most active among them was John Price, a man of an unpleasant temper, of great asperity of manners, and whose zeal, on all occasions, has partaken too much of the nature of party spirit. Mr. Creath, against whom their united efforts were directed, is in the meridian of life, of popular talents, but not the most amiable in his manners, nor conciliating in his address. He evidently in many cases displayed too much of the air of triumph towards his aggrieved brethren. While I was in Kentucky in the winter of 1809-10, these disputes were warm, and engaged the attention of almost every individual minister and member throughout an extensive circle. This circumstance made my visit peculiarly unpleasant. I saw much to admire in my brethren on both sides, but I could not approve their treatment of each other. I was grieved to see a number of aged ministers, whom I had been taught to respect a thousand miles off, and who now appeared to be men of wisdom and men of God, so deeply engaged in a frivolous dispute.
The major party appeared more bent on conquest than reconciliation. On the whole, I was led to think there must be bad leaven somewhere, to produce such a sour fermentation.
In the end, the Association was divided in a most painful manner, and a number of churches which took different sides were torn to pieces. All attempts at reconciliation have proved ineffectual, and nothing but the obliterating hand of time seems capable of healing the breach. The Elkhorn Association has in a good degree recovered from the distressing shock, and the new one appears to be rising to a degree of consistency and respect.
BRACKEN ASSOCIATION THIS body was organized in 1798. Most of the churches, of which it was at first composed, were dismissed from the Elkhorn Association. The church at Washington was constituted in 1785. It is not only the largest and the oldest in this Association, but is also one of the oldest in Kentucky. It was for some time under the care of Mr. William Wood, who lost his fortune and character by land speculation. It was principally by the solicitation of Mr. Wood, and by his encouraging proposals of worldly advantage, that Mr. John Gano was influenced to leave the city of New- York, and remove to the wilds of Kentucky. He landed June, 1787, at Lymestone on the Ohio River; and at Washington, which is only four miles from it, he tarried two years before he removed to the place of his final settlement. The Washington church united with the Elkhorn Association soon after that body was formed, in which connection it continued till dismissed to form the Bracken. This Association was small at its beginning, and has never had any great increase; and in 1805, its harmony suffered a temporary interruption, by the dispute which then prevailed in many parts of Kentucky respecting the emancipation of slaves. This controversy issued in the final separation of a number of ministers and churches from the Association, who united with the emancipating party. The churches are in the counties of Mason, Bracken, and Fleming, in the north-east part of the State.
NORTH BEND ASSOCIATION THIS Association is also on the north side of the State, to the west and south-west of the Bracken. It was formed, in 1802, of churches which were mostly dismissed for the purpose from the Elkhorn Association, and it received its name from that of a distinguished place in the Ohio River, about twenty miles below the town of Cincinnati. It is a small establishment, which has traveled from its beginning in harmony and love The churches are in the counties of Campbell, Pendleton, and Boone, along the Licking and Ohio Rivers. The first beginning of that powerful and extensive work, which has been generally denominated the great revival, began in 1799, in what are now the bounds of this Association, and in 1810 and 1811, a refreshing season was again granted to some of the churches in this connection, and to the one at Bulletsburg 130 were added in the course of a few months. This church is the largest and most distinguished in this Association. It now (1812) contains 270 members, and is under the care of Absalom Graves. The late William Cave, who was a very distinguished character, was a member of this body. Mr. John Taylor, who preached to this church a number of years, gives it a very pleasing character for skillful discipline, and also for harmony and brotherly love. From it have proceeded a number of other churches, the names of which I am not able to give.
SEPARATE OR SOUTH KENTUCKY ASSOCIATION THIS name was given to an Association, which was formed in 1785, on the south side of Kentucky River, and which remained on its first foundation about sixteen years. Robert Elkin, Joseph Bledsoe, and James Smith,were some of the principal instruments of gathering the churches of which it was composed. The preachers as well as the first members, emigrated principally from Virginia, and were amongst the earhest Baptist adventurers to the attracting wilderness of Kentucky. The Baptists in Virginia, at the time they began to send forth such populous colonies of their brethren to the western country, were divided into Regulars and Separates, although the Separates were much the most numerous. The Regulars were professedly and some of them very highly Calvinistic; but the Separates were far from being unanimous in their doctrinal sentiments.
A majority of them, however, were Calvinists, and of the rest a part were much inclined to the Arminian side of the controversy; and some of the most distinguished among them in opposing the high strains of Calvinism, which were incessantly and in many instances dogmatically sounded by their orthodox brethren, had gone nearly the full length of the doctrine of Arminius. Others, with different modifications of the objectionable articles of both systems, were endeavoring to pursue a middle course. Such was the state of the Virginia Baptists, with regard to doctrine, at the period under consideration, and some of all these different classes were amongst the early emigrants to the fertile regions of the west; but a majority of them were Separates in their native State. But the same people who had traveled together before their removal, so far at least as it respected their associational connection, pursued a different course when settled in Kentucky. The Calvinistick Separates united with the few Regular Baptists amongst them, and established the Elkhorn Association, which, at its commencement, adopted the Philadelphia confession of faith; while those, who inclined to the firminian system, as well as those who adopted some of the Calvinistic creed in a qualified sense, united with the Association whose history we now have under consideration.
Thus the names of Regular and Separate were transported beyond the mountains, and two separate interests were established in the neighborhood of each other.
This Association, like the rest in the country, was small in its beginning, but its course was generally prosperous, and no special event occurred until 1789, four years from its commencement, when there was an unsuccessful attempt to abolish the names of Regular and Separate, and effect an union and correspondence between this and the Elkhorn Association. This measure was attempted in consequence of recommendations of the United Baptists in Virginia, whose advice the Kentucky brethren were generally inclined to receive, and whose examples they generaby imitated. The Regulars and Separates in North and South Carolina had united before, and in 1787, a happy reconciliation was effected between these two parties in Virginia, both of which had at that time become very numerous. And having found that a reconciliation was practicable and pleasant, the United Baptists in Virginia sent letters to the Elkhorn and Separate Associations, informing them of the successful steps they had taken, and recommending the same to them, with earnest desires that their endeavors might prove successful. But the set time for this desirable event was not yet come. The union was ardently desired by many individuals of both parties, and the bodies at large appeared favourably disposed towards the attempt; but they knew not by what means to accomplish it, nor could they agree on the terms on which they should unite. The Separates were afraid of being bound and hampered by Articles and Confessions, and the Regulars were unwilling to unite with them, without something of the kind. A general convention of delegates met on the business, and overtures were made on both sides; but both parties being too tenacious of their favourite maxims to make sufficient abatements, their endeavors at that time proved unsuccessful.
A similar attempt was made in 1793, which, like the other, terminated without accomplishing the desirable object. In this year, five churches being dissatisfied with the Separate Association, respecting their proceedings in this affair, and also in some other matters, withdrew, and formed the Tate’s Creek Association.
But in the time of the great revival, the out-pourings of the Divine Spirit, and its softening influence on the minds of the saints, prepared the way for that reconciliation and union, which all their weighty arguments and assiduous endeavors had not been able to accomplish. This astonishing work, in the year 1800 and following, prevailed most powerfully amongst the Separates as well as the Regulars. The churches and members were now much intermixed. All were visited and refreshed by the copious and abundant rain of righteousness which was poured upon the land; and, regardless of names, they unitedly engaged in enjoying and forwarding the precious and powerful work. By this means, those little party asperities, which had unhappily prevailed, were much modified and diminished; their cold and indifferent charity for each other was inflamed; and with most of them their notions of doctrine were found to be not so different as they had supposed. An union was now proposed in earnest, and soon effected with ease. Both Associations had become large, containing together between seven and eight thousand members. Committees were appointed by both bodies to confer on the subject of an union, who, after mature deliberation, agreed to the following terms: “Terms of Union between the Elkhorn and South Kentucky or Separate Associations. “We the committees of the Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations, do agree to unite on the following plan. “1st. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the infallible word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice. 2d.
That there is one only true God, and in the Godhead or divine essence, there are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 3d. That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures. 4th. That salvation, regeneration, sanctification, and justification, are by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. 5th. That the saints will finally persevere through grace to glory. 6th. That believers’ baptism by immersion is necessary to receiving the Lord’s supper. 7th. That the salvation of the righteous, and punishment of the wicked will be eternal. 8th. That it is our duty to be tender and affectionate to each other, and study the happiness of the children of God in general; to be engaged singly to promote the honor of God. 9th. And that the preaching Christ tasted death for every man, shall be no bar to communion. 10th. And that each may keep up their associational and church government as to them may seem best. 11th. That a free correspondence and communion be kept up between the churches thus united. “Unanimously agreed to by the joint committee. “Ambrose Dudley, Daniel Ramey, John Price, Thomas J. Chilton, Joseph Redding, Moses Bledsoe, David Barrow, Robert Elkin, Samuel Johnson.” Matters being thus prepared, a general convention, composed of delegates from all the churches in both Associations, met October, 1801, at Howard’s Creek meeting-house, in the county of Clark, when they unanimously acceded to the terms of union, which their cormmittees had prepared, and agreed to lay aside the names of Regular and Separate, and to travel together in future in communion and fellowship as united brethren.
This was the last body of the Separate Baptists, which relinquished the appellation by which they had been distinguished for almost fifty years.
In 1802, the year after this union took place, the Association having become very extensive in its boundaries, found it convenient to make a division; and as nearly an equal number of the churches were situated on both sides of the Kentucky River, this river was fixed upon as the dividing line, and the two divisions were called the North and South District Associations. These names were assumed merely for the purpose of distinction, as there were no geographical or civil departments of the country to which they referred.
The North District Association has moved on in fellowship with the neighboring Associations, and has also enjoyed internal harmony from its commencement to the present time, except that it sustained a temporary interruption, when David Barrow and some other brethren, openly espoused the side of the Emancipators. The Association is now one of the largest in Kentucky.
But the South District Association has experienced great trials and changes; and was most miserably torn asunder by religious discords, shortly after it was organized. It soon appeared that in the southern department of the old Separate community, there were a number who had gone far into doctrinal errors. Some were decided Arminians, and others had adopted Winchester’s chimerical notion of universal restoration. But they had all acceded to the terms of union, etc. lately mentioned. But it soon appeared that they did it with much mental reservation. When these things came to be known in the Association, they produced much confusion and distress. Mr. John Bayley was one who had propagated the doctrine of universal restoration. It was plead that “though he had preached this doctrine, yet he had done it in such a manner as not to give offense to the most delicate ear.” The Association soon became divided into two contending parties, and what was still worse, the greater part appeared on the side of error. At its session in 1803 some ministers publicly declared themselves no more of the Association, and withdrew.
This is the mode of dissolving fellowship in Kentucky. Others followed their example; but after all, the erroneous party retained about two thirds of the Association. The minor seceding party formed themselves into an Association by the name of South District, or rather they claimed the right of being considered the original body,and the neighboring Associations admitted them to correspondence as such. This Association is not large, but it comprises a number of very respectable churches, which are situated mostly in the counties of Mercer and Lincoln: some are scattered in Gerrard, Washington, and Nelson. Gabriel Slaughter, Esq. late Heutenant- Governor of Kentucky, belongs to one of the churches in this connection.
The other party also claimed the name and prerogatives of the South District Association, and if the majority ought to govern, this claim was well founded: but the other Associations have never admitted them to fellowship. This body is situated in a part of Kentucky which I did not visit. I have taken much pains to learn its history, and have written many letters for the purpose, but nothing has been communicated. The last account I had of it was in 1804, when, according to their minutes, they had twenty-two churches, about thirty ministers, and upwards of eight hundred members. I conclude that many of these churches and members, like the followers of Elias Smith, would have done much better, with better leaders, or with less leading. It is highly probable, that the number of this body has greatly declined since 1804, and I know not but it has by this time become extinct.
TATE’S CREEK ASSOCIATION IT has already been observed that this Association originated in 1793, when five churches withdrew from the old Separate party, and embodied by themselves. They united without any definite Articles of Faith, but in general assented to those of the Elkhorn Association. This Association received its name from that of a small water-course, which empties into Kentucky River from the south. The most remarkable circumstance in the history of this body is, that in the year 1801, it received by baptism members.
SALEM ASSOCIATION THIS Association was formed of four churches in 1785. The first settlers in this region were from Virginia; but they were soon joined by a considerable company from the Redstone country, in the back part of Pennsylvania. Among this company was that worthy minister William Taylor, whose praise is in all the churches in this quarter. This part of Kentucky settled slowly for a number of years. The first settlers were often molested by the Indians, and Elder John Gerrard and a number of his brethren fell victims to their rage. The Salem Association was formed on Cox’s Creek, a small distance below the Salt River, about fifty miles south of Frankfort, and not far from the place where Bairdstown now stands. Its ministers at first were William Taylor, Joseph Barnet, and John Whitaker; the names of the first four churches were Severn Valley, Cedar Creek, Cox’s Creek, and Bear Grass. They did not all contain but about a hundred and thirty members. And so slow was its progress, that fourteen years after, its number was a little less than five hundred. But the great revival, which began here about 1800, prevailed in a most astonishing manner. This Association in the course of three years received the addition of upwards of two thousand members, and became so large that it was necessary to divide it.
This Association, at its beginning, adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, and for a few years corresponded by letter with that body, as it did also with the Charleston Association in South-Carolina, and the Ketocton in Virginia. The churches of which it was composed were for a number of years principally in the county of Nelson; but by the subdivisions of that county, and the enlargement of the Association, they are now in the counties of Hardin, Brackenridge, Washington, Bullet, and Ohio.
William Taylor was a very diligent and successful laborer in this part of the vineyard, and was esteemed a father in this Association from its beginning till his death, in 1807. He was born in New-Jersey in 1744.
While he was young his parents moved to Virginia, and settled near Winchester, where he was brought up. Having arrived at manhood, he went back to his native State, where he tarried a short time, married, and then returned to Virginia, and began to preach in the early part of his life.
From Virginia, he went to the Redstone country, where he continued eight years, and then went down the Ohio River, and settled in Kentucky in 1784. Mr. Taylor was one of those ministers whose private life gave the most conclusive evidence of the sincerity of his public ministrations; his gifts were not considered great, but they were employed with unwearied diligence, and to great advantage.
LONG RUN ASSOCIATION THE remarkable increase of the Salem Association has been mentioned. In the progress of that great work by which it was so much enlarged, a number of churches were gathered north of the Salt River; and when its division was proposed, that river was fixed upon as the dividing line. All the churches north of it were dismissed to form a new Association, which was organized in 1807, and was called Long Run, from a small watercourse near to which its first session was held. This Association has experienced some refreshing seasons since it was formed, particularly in 1809 and 1810. It is now a large and very respectable body, and is situated mostly between the Salt and Kentucky Rivers, and extends westward as far as the Ohio River; and a few of its churches are over in the Indiana Territory.
GREEN RIVER ASSOCIATION THE terms Green River Settlements, and Green River Country, are generally apphed by the people in Kentucky to all that part of the State which hes south of the Green River. The settlements here were begun about 1793, when the whole territory was comprehended in the county of Logan; but as early as 1809, it was divided into fourteen counties. What divisions have taken place since, I have not learnt.
The Association, whose history we are about to relate, was formed in 1800, and contained at first nine churches, eight ministers, and about members. This was about the beginning of the great revival, which had already extended to this region; and so rapidly did it prevail here, that this body at its next session contained upwards of a thousand members, and in 1804 it had increased to thirty-eight churches, which embraced communicants.
This Association had now become so extensive in its boundaries, that it was thought proper to divide it; but it being scattered over such a wide extent of country, they found it the most convenient to divide it into three, and accordingly the Russell’s Creek and Stockton’s Valley were formed from it. By this measure the original body was much reduced, and the two which were formed from it were smaller still.
The churches in the Russell’s Creek Association are mostly in the counties of Green and Adair; those of the Stockton’s Valley are mostly in Tennessee; those in Kentucky are in the counties of Cumberland and Barren. Both of these Associations remain small.
The Green River has again become large; partly by revivals, and partly by the following circumstance. There was an Association formed in the southwest part of this State, in 1806, which was called the Union. But its name was not altogether descriptive of its character; for not long since, it was divided and dissolved, and most of the churches united with the Association whose history we have under consideration.
Carter Tarrant, who has since been considerably famous amongst the Emancipators in the northern counties in Kentucky, was one of the most active and successful ministers in raising up the churches in this body, and organizing them into an Associalion. Robert Stockton, a native of Culpepper county, Virginia, who was highly esteemed in his native State, from which he removed to Kentucky about 1800, has, from the beginning of this Association, been its Moderator, and is esteemed a father among the churches. The late John Hall, Esq. one of the Judges for Barren county, who finished his earthly course in a most joyful manner in 1809, was a member of this Association; and his son, Michael W. Hall, who succeeds his father on the bench, now serves it as Clerk.
EMANCIPATING SOCIETY THIS society is composed of ministers and churches, who have separated from their former connection on account of slavery, and who differ in nothing except this article from the main body of the Calvinistic Baptists.
They denominate themselves “Friends to Humanity; ” but they are generally known by the name of “Emancipators,” which name they are by no means unwilling to receive. The people, who composed this body, belonged formerly to the Elkhorn, the North District, and Bracken Associations, from which they separated in the year 1805; some of their own choice, and others by the expulsory measures of the respective churches and associations to which they belonged.
The people whose history we now have in view, have taken a decided stand against slavery, in every branch of it, both in principle and practice, as being a sinful and abominable system, fraught with peculiar evils and misteries, which every good man ought to abandon and bear his testimony against. These are, in substance, their sentiments respecting slavery; and their desires and endeavors are, to effect, as soon as it can be done, and in the most prudent and advantageous manner both to the slaves and their owners, the general and complete emancipation of this numerous race of enslaved, ignorant, and degraded beings, who are now, by the laws and customs of the land, exposed to hereditary and perpetual bondage. And with sentiments so noble and humane, one would think they must certainly meet the approbation of every benevolent man. But truth may be unskilfully defended, and the noblest sentiments may become suspicious, by the unseasonable and intemperate zeal with which they are propagated.
To declaim against slavery and slave-holders, in the hearing of a multitude of ignorant negroes, who will pervert the most proper reasonings to improper purposes, is certainly an imprudent couduct. Of this, the Emancipators were continually accused, and not without some grounds; and the perversion of their discourses by the negroes was laid to their charge as a peculiar evil. It is altogether probable that in this thing the Emancipators were much to blame. Some of them, however, ought to be excused from these charges. They have not dwelt upon slavery in their public discourses, but their principal object has been to devise plans in a prudent way for the execution of their noble purposes. The advocates for slavery oppose the Emancipators with such arguments as these: What can a few individuals do in this business? Government has sanctioned the holding of slaves; and unless they interpose their influence, nothing effectual can be done towards setting them free. This may be true; but “what measure of great public utility was ever executed by church or State, which was not first proposed by individuals? which was not first resisted by the great body, and perhaps defeated for a time?
According to Tarrant’s History of the Emancipators, Elders Dodge and Carmen with their congregations, were the first who separated from the Baptists in Kentucky, on account of slavery. These men were settledin Nelson county, the next minister who made much noise in Kentucky on this subject, was Elder John Sutton, a native of New-Jersey. In the course of a few years, Donold Holmes, David Barrow, Carter Tarrant,Jacob Grigg, George Smith, and a number of other minister’s, some Europeans and some native Americans, moved into the State, and propagated the doctrine of the emancipation of slaves. Most, if not all these ministers, officiated as pastors of churches where slavery was tolerated; and the Emancipators generally, who were scattered throughout the State, traveled in fellowship and communion with their brethren who held slaves, until the year 1805. The occasion of their separating from them and uniting in a body by themselves, has been related in the history of the Elkhorn Association. The first meeting of the Emancipators as a body, was in August, 1807, when they convened in conference, to deliberate on the mode of their future proceedings. At this meeting, eleven ministers and nineteen private brethren entered their names as advocates for emancipating principles. Eleven queries were presented to this Conference, and most of their time appears to have been taken up in discussing and resolving them. One query was, Can any person be admitted a member of this meeting, whose practice appears friendly to perpetual slavery?
Answer. We think not. Another was, Is there any case in which persons holding slaves may be admitted to membership into a church of Christ?
Answer. No; except in the following, viz. — lst. In the case of a person holding young slaves, and recording a deed of their emancipation at such an age as the church to which they offer may agree to. — 2d. In the case of persons who have purchased in their ignorance, and are willing that the church shall say when the slaves or slave shall be free. — 3d. In the case of women, whose husbands are opposed to emancipation. — 4th. In the case of a widow, who has it not in her power to liberate them. — 6th In the case of idiots, old age, or any debility of body that prevents such slave from procuring a sufficient support; and some other cases, which we would wish the churches to be at liberty to judge of, agreeably to the principles of humanity. The 5th query was, Shall members in union with us be at liberty in any case to purchase slaves? Answer. No, except it be with a view to ransom them from perpetual slavery, in such a way as the church may approve of. The last query which we shall notice, was, Have our ideas of slavery occasioned any alteration in our view, of the doctrine of the gospel? Answer. No.
The September following, these people met, and reduced their fraternity into an organized body, under the name of “The Baptized Licking-Locust Association, Friend to Humanity.” The Association received its name from that of a church called Licking-Locust, which is in the north part of the State, near the Ohio River, and is considered a mother establishment to the emancipating interest in Kentucky.
At the next meeting of the Emancipators, they resolved, “That the present mode of Associations or confederation of churches was unscriptural, and ought to be laid aside.” They then proceeded to form themselves into an Abolition Society. This was innovation without improvement. It would be as difficult to find Abolition Societies in the Scriptures, as Associations.
The reasons for this change are not stated in the Minutes; it is probable, however, that they had become disgusted with Associations, on account of the rough manner in which many had been handled by them.
About this time David Barrow published a pamphlet with this title-page, “Involuntary, Unmerited, Perpetual, Absolute, Hereditary Slavery, examined, on the principles of Nature, Reason, Justice, Policy, and Scripture.” This piece is written in a grave and manly style, and with those nice discriminauons, those candid and weighty reasons, which certainly deserve the attention of all who are concerned in slavery, and is worth the perusal of those who are desirous of making inquiries on the subject. Mr. Barrow is doubtless the most distinguished minister amongst the Emancipators. The pamphlet above mentioned shows him to be a man by no means deficient in abilities, either natural or acquired. He is a native of Virginia, where he commenced his ministry in 1771; in the early part of which he suffered muchby the insolence and persecuting rage of his rude countrymen. 1 He also early imbibed his emancipating principles, and in consequence of which freed a considerable number of slaves. Having long been distinguished in his native State for piety and abilities, he removed to Kentucky in 1798, and settled in Montgomery county. In Virginia and Kentucky, until the stir about emancipation, Mr. Barrow traveled in fellowship with his brethren, who were the holders of slaves. When this dispute came on, they appear to have fixed on him as the object of their peculiar resentment, and carried their opposition to him to such an extreme, that the North-District Association to which he belonged, and which professes to be nothing more than “An Advisory Council,” put forth its horns, and publicly expelled their brother from his seat “for preaching emancipation, and sent a committee to take him under dealings in the church at Mount Sterling, of which he was a member.” How ardent and blind must have been that zeal, which hurried a large and respectable body into such overbearing and inconsistent measures! The reader will discover from this circumstance the spirit with which the emancipating dispute was conducted. But for the honor of this Association, we are happy to be able to state, that at their next session they “voted to reconsider and revoke all the acts, which they had passed respecting Mr. Barrow.” But he had now united with the Emancipators, and chose not to return.
The zeal of the Emancipators has in some measure abated, and of course they are less opposed; and it is hardly probable that any lasting effects will be produced by their means. Their leading maxims are approved of by many who have not united with them, but who still hold slaves with many scruples respecting its propriety. But there is such a strong current against the emancipation of slaves, and custom, covetousness, indolence, and ambition, find so many arguments in favor of slavery, that there seems but little prospect, that any material change will at present be effected, in the condition of this numerous race of enslaved and degraded beings. From the preceding accounts, we see that the Baptists have become numerous in Kentucky. The Lord has truly done great things for this State; revivals have followed each other in quick succession, and many thousands have hopefully been born into the kingdom of God. The Baptist churches in Kentucky have, in many cases, been built up, and in others greatly enlarged by emigrants from other parts. They have also been greatly diminished, by multitudes removing to remoter regions. As religion is left wholly free from civil control, our brethren in this State have met with no difficulties, except what have arisen from among themselves, and these, we are sorry to say, have been considerably numerous. The churches were made up of people from different parts; their notions of gospel doctrine were essentially alike, but in smaller matters they could not always agree.
The Kentuckians, whether saints or sinners, are rather inclined to a fretful impatience and undue resentment of opposition, in matters of no great moment. From this spirit have produced painful disputes about trifling concerns. Many of the ministers, who settled in this country from other parts, had acquired considerable fame before their removal; and it is painful to relate, that in some cases they have discovered a censurable ambition for applause and pre-eminence. But notwithstanding these things, there is in Kentucky a very large body of our brethren, who travel together in harmony and love, and who adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
The churches do but little for their preachers; very few receive to the amount of a hundred dollars a year for their ministerial services; but few of them however are very poor. They have from necessity found the means of supporting themselves. Many of those who settled early in the country have become wealthy.
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE GREAT REVIVAL IN KENTUCKY AND OTHER PARTS.
As this peculiar work prevailed to a greater extent in Kentucky than elsewhere, it seems proper under this head to give some account of it.
From 1799 to 1803, there were, in most parts of the United States, remarkable out-pourings of the Divine Spirit, among different denominations; multitudes became the subjects of religious concern, and were made to rejoice in the salvation of God. The revival among the Baptists in the southern and western States, has already been frequently referred to, and accounts of the astonishing additions to their churches have been given. This great revival in Kentucky began in Boone county on the Ohio River, and in its progress extended up the Ohio, Licking, and Kentucky Rivers, branching out into the settlements adjoining them. It spread fast in different directions, and in a short time almost every part of the State was affected by its influence. It was computed that about ten thousand were baptized and added to the Baptist churches in the course of two or three years. This great work progressed among the Baptists in a much more regular manner than people abroad have generally supposed.
They were indeed zealously affected, and much engaged. Many of their ministers baptized in a number of neighboring churches from two to four hundred each. And two of them baptized about five hundred a-piece in the course of the work. But throughout the whole, they preserved a good degree of decorum and order. Those camp-meetings, those great parades, and sacramental seasons, those extraordinary exercises of falling down, rolling, shouting, jerking, dancing, barking, etc. were but little known among the Baptists in Kentucky, nor encouraged by them. They, it is true, prevailed among some of them in the Green River country; but generally speaking, they were among the Presbyterians and Methodists, and in the end by a seceding party from them both, which denominated themselves Christians, but which were generally distinguished by their opposers by the name of New-Lights and Schismatics, These strange expressions of zeal, which have made so much noise abroad, came in at the close of the revival, and were, in the judgment of many, the chaff of the work. There was a precious ingathering of souls among the Presbyterians and Methodists, at which they rejoiced; but when the work arose to an enthusiastic height, many different opinions were expressed respecting it.
The Methodists had no scruples of its being genuine; but among the Presbyterians some doubted — some opposed — but a considerable number overleaped all the bounds of formality, fanned the flame as fire from heaven, bid up camp-meetings, and sacramental seasons, and finally run religious frenzy into its wildest shapes. Soon a number of these ministers separated from the rest, formed a new Presbytery, called the Springfield, upon New-Light principles, soon dissolved that, and five or six of them in a few years became Shaking Quakers 3 .
The great camp-meetings and sacramental feasts, described in a book, called “Surprising Accounts,” etc. were promoted mostly by these zealous Presbyterians. The Methodists were a party concerned, but very few Baptists attended them, except as spectators. At these great meetings, astonishing crowds assembled; they encamped upon the ground, and kept together three or four days, and sometimes a week. In the course of the meeting the Lord’s supper was administered, and all Christians of every denomination were invited to partake of it. The Methodists and Presbyterians communed together, but the Baptists could not consistently unite with them. These meetings were sometimes bid up a month beforehand; great preparations were made for them, and all went expecting to hear much crying out, see much falling down, etc. In these meetings there assembled, in the opinion of spectators, from four to ten or twelve thousand, and at one of them eight hundred fell down under religious impressions, and five hundred communicated. The falling down exercise needs no description, as it is presumed every reader will understand what is meant by it. There was also in these meetings, what was called the rolling exercise, which consisted in a person’s being cast down in a violent manner, turned over swiftly like a log, etc. These rolling disciples often met with mud in their way, and got up from their devotions in a sorrowful plight. Dancing was a very common practice; many pleaded they could not help it, and others justified themselves from David’s dancing before the ark, and other passages of scripture. The most singular exercise of all was the jerks. “Nothing in nature could better represent this strange and unaccountable operation, than for one to goad another, alternately on every side, with a piece of red-hot iron. The exercise commonly began in the head, which would fly backward and forward, and from side to side, with a quick jolt, which the person would naturally labor to suppress, but in vain; and the more any one labored to stay himself, and be sober, the more he staggered, and the more rapidly his twitches increased. He must necessarily go as he was stimulated, whether with a violent dash on the ground, and bounce from place to place like a foot-ball; or hop round, with head, limbs, and trunk, twitching and jolting in every direction, as if they must inevitably fly asunder. And how such could escape without injury, was no small wonder to spectators. By this strange operation, the human frame was commonly so transformed and disfigured, as to lose every trace of its natural appearance. Sometimes the head would be twitched right and left, to a half round, with such velocity that not a feature could be discovered, but the face appear as much behind as before; and in the quick progressive jerk, it would seem as if the person was transmuted into some other species of creature. Head dresses were of but little account among the female jerkers. Even handkerchiefs bound tight round the head, would be flirted off almost with the first twitch, and the hair put into the utmost confusion,” etc. There was something altogether unaccountable in this jerking exercise. At first it was experienced only by those under religious concern; but in the end it became a nervous affection, which was sympathetically communicated from one to another. A Presbyterian minister heard that a congregation of his brethren, which he highly esteemed, had got to jerking.
He went to persuade them out of the frantic exercise, but in conversing with them he got the jerks himself. On his return home, his people assembled to hear the result of his visit. While he was describing how people appeared with the jerks, he was suddenly taken with them, and the whole assembly soon caught the distemper.
Wicked men were often taken with these strange exercises, and many would curse the jerks, while they were under their singular operation.
Some were taken at the tavern with a glass of liquor in their hands, which they would suddenly toss over their heads, or to a distant part of the room. Others were taken with them at the card-table, and at other places of dissipation, and would, by a violent and unaffected jerk, throw a handful of cards all over the room.
These accounts were taken from people of unquestionable veracity, and no doubt can be entertained of their correctness. These jerking exercises were rather a curse than a blessing. None were benefited by them. They left sinners without reformation, and Christians without advantage. Some had periodical fits of them seven or eight years after they were first taken; and I know not as they have got over jerking yet.
There was among these enthusiastic people one more exercise of a most degrading nature, called the barks, which frequently accompanied the jerks. Many persons of considerable distinction, in spite of all the efforts of nature, as it was said, were “forced to personate that animal, whose name, appropriated to a human creature, is counted the most vulgar stigma. These people would take the position of a canine beast, move about on all fours, growl, snap the teeth, and bark in so personating a manner, as to set the eyes and ears of the spectator at variance.” Some might be forced to these degrading exercises, but it is certain that many turned dogs in a voluntary manner. A minister in the lower parts of Kentucky informed me, that it was common to hear people barking like a flock of spaniels on their way to meeting. There they would start up suddenly in a fit of barking, rush out, roam around, and in a short time come barking and foaming back. But enough has been said of these frantic scenes. The above accounts are not fabulous tales, but they are real and melancholy facts. In the upper counties in Kentucky, where the revival was the greatest among the Baptists, they were not at all affected with these delirious exercises. In the Green River country and in East- Tennessee, they prevailed considerably amongst them. With the Methodists they prevailed generally. The Presbyterians were divided respecting them; some opposed, while others encouraged them. Some of these exercises seemed really forced upon the subjects of them by some invisible power, whether good or bad the reader must judge for himself; but dancing, barking, rolling, shouting, and so on, were undoubtedly, for the most part, works of choice and imitation, which were hypocritically played off by a set of deluded, mistaken people. Where these fantastic exercises were opposed, they were the least prevalent. Those ministers who encouraged them, had enough of them to attend to.
In West-Tennessee the Baptists were not troubled with these works of delusion, but they prevailed here among the Presbyterians and Methodists; and some, who came from other parts, attempted to introduce them in the Baptist meetings. A Baptist minister by the name of Mr. Connico, was once preaching where one of the jerkers began his motions.
The preacher made a pause, and with a loud and solemn tone, said, “In the name of the Lord, I command all unclean spirits to leave this place.” The jerker immediately became still, and the report was spread abroad, that Mr. Connico cast out devils.
On the whole, it appears there was in Kentucky in 1799 and for two or three succceding years, a precious work of grace, Towards the close of it, a set of men arose, who attempted to carry the work farther than the Lord had done; and among them were exhibited those astonishing scenes of fanaticism we have described. Some of the promoters of these scenes became convinced of their delusion, and returned to a sober course of piety; but many went off into errors of different kinds, and not a few of them became Shaking Quakers. Richard M’Nemar, formerly a Presbyterian minister of great celebrity, was one of the principal promoters of these extraordinary exercises; he was also one of the first who embraced the principles of the Shakers. After he had joined the dancing fraternity, he reproached his brethren for stopping short of perfection. These exercises, he said, led on to Shakerism; and most people, who had seen them, were of his mind.