Monday, March 4, 2013


The first denomination to reach Kentucky was the Baptist. The first Baptist preacher was Rev. William Hickman, who came to Kentucky in 1776, and the first Baptist organization in Kentucky occurred in 1781. The first Methodist minister to preach in Kentucky was Rev. Francis Clark in 1783. The first Presbyterian minister to preach in Kentucky was Rev. David Rice in 1783 and the Presbyterians first organized in Kentucky in 1786. The foregoing ministers preached in the central and eastern parts of the state, as that part was first populated.

The first Baptist Church (and the first church of any denomination) in Ohio County was started at Beaver Dam, this church being founded March 10, 1798. The first Methodist church in Ohio County was started at Goshen in 1804 (two miles south of Hartford); and shortly afterwards, also in 1804, Methodist churches were started at the communities of No Creek and Bethel (seven miles northeast of Hartford). These churches were called Methodist M. E. churches, with the M. E. standing for Methodist Episcopal, an organization officially formed in 1784 in Baltimore. Other denominations did not start churches in Ohio County for several decades following the Baptists and Methodists.

     There are forty Baptist churches (Southern Baptist) currently located in Ohio County, many of which are historic. These churches are located at: 

Adaburg, Barnetts Creek, Beaver Dam, Bells Run, Centertown, Central Grove, Clear Run, Concord, Cool Springs, Deanefield, Dundee, East Fork, East Hartford, Fairview, Fordsville, Green River, Hartford, Independence, McGrady Creek, McHenry, Mount Carmel, Mount Zion, Narrows, New Panther Creek, New Zion, Olaton, Pleasant Grove, Pleasant Hill, Pond Run, Providence, Ridgecrest, Rockport, Second Hartford, Slaty Creek, Smallhous, Waltons Creek, West Point, West Providence, Woodwards Valley, and Zion

     Also, there is Friendship Freewill Baptist Church located in Fordsville;  eight General Baptist churches named Broadway, Cedar Grove, East Fairview, Echols, Humble Valley, Leach Chapel, Longview, and Mount Olive.; seven Independent Baptist churches named Bethesda, Bible, Emmanuel, Faith Temple, Hopewell, Newton Springs, and Sugar Grove; four Missionary Baptist churches named Fordsville, Living Faith, Pathway, and Rosine; and two United Baptist churches named Calvary Hill and Taylor Mine.

     Many thanks to Tom Shelton, Ohio County Baptist Association, for this interesting information.
History of Beaver Dam Baptist Church. Source: A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer; Chapter 22. 1885

BEAVER DAM church is located in Ohio county, about four miles south of Hartford, the country-seat. It takes its name from a small tributary of Muddy creek, near which it is situated. It is, by several years, the oldest church between the Green and Ohio rivers, west of Elizabethtown, and is the mother of a large family of similar organizations in that region of the State. There was a very early settlement at Hartford, probably not far from the year 1780. Among these early settlers was a German family, bearing the name that is now spelt Coleman. After spending some time in the fort, near the present town of Hartford, Mr. Coleman moved his family about five miles south, and located on a small stream, to which he gave the name "Beaver Dam," in consequence of the beavers having built darns across it to raise the water over the entrance to their subterranean houses. "The first religious awakening of which we have any account," J. S. Coleman informs us, in his very interesting history of Beaver Dam church, "was produced in the mind of Mrs. Coleman through reading Luther's translation of the New Testament, a copy of which she had brought with her from Germany. After some time spent in reading, weeping and praying, this German woman found peace and great joy in trusting in Jesus for salvation. But now she saw that the same book, that had led her to the Savior, commanded her to be dipped in the name of the Holy Trinity; for such is the meaning of the word for baptism in Luther's translation. This much perplexed her, for there was no minister of the Gospel in all that region of country. Her conscience could not be at rest till she should have obeyed her beloved Lord. Finally, her course was resolved upon. She walked down to the little stream of Beaver Dam, and dipped herself beneath its waters. Coming up out of the water rejoicing, she met her little son who had followed her to the baptismal stream. He asked her why she dipped herself in the water. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, she preached Jesus to her little son. There the lad received his first religious impressions, and was afterwards, for many years, a valuable member of old Beaver Dam church." This little boy was the grandfather of the widely known J. S. Coleman, long the efficient pastor of Beaver Dam church.

Beaver Dam church was constituted on the 5th of March, 1798, of the following five persons: John Atherton, Sr., and his wife Sally, Aaron Atherton and his wife Christina, and James Keel. The latter was a preacher, and for a short time served the young church as pastor. But, in 1803, moved back to Mercer county, from whence he had come to this region, and was succeeded in the pastoral office at Beaver Dam by the famous old pioneer Ben Talbot. Mr. Talbot served the church with great acceptance nearly thirty years. During the year 1804, the church enjoyed a precious revival, during which fifty-two were added to her membership by baptism. During this revival, Mrs. Coleman, who had baptized herself many years before, as related above, was baptized by Mr. Talbot and received into the church. Another incident occurred just at the beginning of this revival, which J. S. Coleman relates as follows:

"The preacher arrived at the water's edge a little in advance of the Dutchman, and began preparing for the baptismal service, when, hearing a splash in the water behind him, he looked just in time to see his candidate disappear under the wave, but momentarily emerging from the water, and facing the preacher, exclaimed, in the full use of his German brogue, 'Mr. Bracher, vill dot do?' Talbot, rather abashed, hesitated to reply for a moment, when plunge went his Dutchman under again. When coming again to a perpendicular, he exclaimed, with increasing vehemence, "Mr. Bracher, me shay vill dot do?' This time Mr. Talbot made haste to reply, and was just in time to save John Inglebright from the third plunge. Coming up out of the water, he stood shivering until Talbot sang a hymn and offered prayer, and then submitting himself into the hands of the administrator, received the ordinance in due form."

The second revival which occurred in this church, was during the period of the alarming earthquakes which prevailed in the Mississippi Valley, in 1811-12. A large number was added to the church, 51 being approved for baptism, in a single day. At the close of this revival, the church numbered 175 members.

She now began to establish "arms" at different points in her extensive territory. These "arms" were small bodies of brethren, belonging to the mother church, who met statedly for worship, and were watched over by the pastor, and a committee of brethren appointed for the purpose. They exercised some of the functions of a church, but all their transactions were subject to revision by the mother church. When one of these arms was deemed competent "to keep house," or was "ripe for constitution," it was constituted in due form, and became an independent church. If an arm did not prosper, or failed to conduct itself properly, it was dissolved. The following record shows how the church dealt with an inefficient arm:

"Bro. R. Render and Henry Coleman met our arm at Vienna Falls, and found several of the members living scandalous lives. Whereupon they turned out the bad ones and brought the good ones home with them."

By this means of church extension, Beaver Dam dotted a large expanse of country with numerous churches, several of which are now among the largest and most efficient country churches in the State. This old church probably first joined Mero District Association, then Cumberland, then Union, then Green River, then Gasper River, and, finally, Daviess County Association. It continued to be a very prosperous church, until the last few years, when it fell into the pernicious habit of frequently changing pastors. Since which it has been unhappy, and appears to be in a decline. Of James Keel and Benjamin Talbot, the first and second pastors of this old mother church, something has been said elsewhere.

From: A History of Kentucky Baptists
By J. H. Spencer
 - 1885 

Goshen Association. In 1817 the following Baptist churches left the Salem Association and joined (or formed) the Goshen Association: Panther Creek; Rough Creek; and Mt. Pleasant.  The entire (Goshen) association included eleven churches from Western Kentucky and included about 300 members.  The history of Rough Creek church is unknown. It was located in Ohio county, and was received into Salem Association in 1813. It was in the constitution of Goshen Association; but early disappeared from her records.

Panther Creek, in Ohio county was constituted of 18 members by Benjamin Kelley and Ancil Hall, Sep. 23, 1815. Mt. Pleasant, in Ohio county, was constituted, about 1815, and was probably gathered by Benjamin Kelley, who appears to have been its first pastor. D. J. Kelley, son of the above, was the second pastor. His son, C. J. Kelley, also served the church a short time.

Benjamin Kelley was born in Bedford county, Virginia, not far from 1763. At about the age of fifteen years, he came to Kentucky, and sheltered himself from Indian fury, with the first settlers of the country, at Boonesboro. In January 1778, while with a party of 27, headed by Daniel Boone, engaged in making salt at Blue Lick, he, with the whole party, was taken prisoner, by the Indians. He fell into the hands of the tribe of which the notorious white renegade, Simon Girty, was the Chief. An old squaw adopted him as her son, and he remained with the Indians about six years. At the expiration of this time, aided by his foster mother and an old Indian, he made his escape, and returned to his parents, in Virginia. Here he married the daughter of David Jerrell, and afterwards emigrated with his father-in-law, to Kentucky. The next information we have of him, he was pastor of Mt. Pleasant church, in Ohio county. He probably gathered this church, which was constituted in 1814, and ministered to it about ten years. His labors were greatly blessed in bringing sinners to Christ. His last sermon was preached in the midst of a great revival, during the continuance of which, about too had been added to the church. After baptizing some converts, he went home, and was taken down with a violent fever. He finally recovered from the fever, but he was bereft of reason, and so remained till about two hours before his death, which occurred, about 1824. After his reason returned, he talked freely of his hope in Christ, and departed in joyous triumph.

David Jerrell Kelley, oldest son of Elder Benjamin Kelley, was born in Amherst county, Va., Mar. 22, 1791. He was raised by his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named. His grandfather being wealthy, young Kelley was raised up in idleness and self-indulgence, and became a wayward, self-willed boy. At the age of fifteen, he left his grandfather's home, in Mercer county, Ky., to visit his father in Ohio county. Arriving at Louisville, then a small village, he engaged as a laborer, in well digging. After a while, he engaged to go as a hand, on a perogue, loaded with whisky. This vessel descended the Ohio river to its mouth, and then ascended the Mississippi, to Cape Girardeau. From this point, he traveled on foot, through the territories of Illinois and Indiana, to Louisville, and thence to his grandfather's, without having visited his father. He remained with his grandfather, till his marriage to Fannie, daughter of William Carter of Ohio county, Feb. 10, 1810. After living in Ohio county a short time, he moved to Mercer county. Here he and his wife professed hope in Christ, and were baptized by Richard Shackleford, in 1812. Soon after this, he moved back to Ohio county, where he united with Mt. Pleasant church. Some years later, he became dissatisfied with the practice of "close communion," and was excluded from the church. After a time, becoming convinced of his error, he was restored to the fellowship of the church.

He was ordained to the ministry, by Thomas Downs, Ancil Hall and Simeon Buchanan, Jan. 25, 1825, and almost immediately called to the care of Mt. Pleasant church. To this congregation he administered, the remainder of his earthly life. He was also pastor of Beaver Dam, Waltons Creek, and Cane Run churches, all in Ohio county.

In 1834, he and J. H. L. Moorman were appointed collecting agents for the Executive Board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. They assumed the duties of that office, about the first of March, and sometimes together, and sometimes apart, prosecuted their labors, till the 17th of June, when Mr. Moorman suddenly died. Mr. Kelley continued his labors, till about the 20th of July, when he was attacked with fever. This was followed by a fatal flux, of which he and six of his family died, between the 13th of August and the 5th of September, 1834.

Carter Jerrell Kelley, oldest son of Elder David J. Kelley, was born in Ohio Co., Ky., Dec. 18, 1810. He was raised on his father’s farm, and received a fair English education. On the 11th of January, 1832, he was married to Paulina, daughter of Josiah Haynes. He studied medicine, after his marriage, and commenced the practice of physic, in 1839. After practicing medicine about ten years, he was ordained to the ministry, at Mt. Pleasant church, by Simeon Buchanan, Joseph P. Ellis and J.R. Gillaspy, in July, 1849. After laboring a few years in his native county, he moved to Illinois, and settled in White county, where the Lord abundantly blessed his labors, till the Master called him home, about the beginning of the year 1883.

Hardin Haynes Ellis was born in Shelby county, Kentucky, April, 1813. In 1829, he went with his parents to Daviess county, where he grew up to manhood, and obtained a fair English education. In 1834, he united with Panther Creek church, in Ohio county; and was baptized by Ancil Hall. 

James D. Philips was a native of Ohio county, and exercised a brief ministry in Goshen Association. He was ordained to the ministry, in early manhood, about the year 1856, and was soon afterwards called to the pastoral care of a small church in the mining village of Bennettsville, in Hancock county. 

Thomas W. Pierce was an active and useful minister in this fraternity. He was a native of Ohio county, where he was born, July 30, 1842, and was raised up to the ministry, in Cane Run church. He was licensed to preach, about 1858. At the breaking out of the Civil War, he entered the Confederate Army, and shared its fortunes, till the return of peace. He was ordained to the ministry, in 1866, and soon afterwards took charge of the church at Litchfield. About 1873, he moved to Uptonsville in Hardin county, after which he was pastor of several other churches in Lynn Association. He labored with great zeal, not only in his pastoral work, but especially in protracted meetings, in which he was extraordinarily successful. He was a good preacher, and his undoubted piety gave him great influence. But his valuable labors were cut short in the noontide of his life. After lingering several months, he died of consumption, at his home near Buffalo, La Rue county, August 16, 1883. 

Andrew Jackson Miller was one of the ablest and most useful preachers that have labored in this region of the State. He was the youngest of four sons of Andrew Miller, a poor but intelligent, pious farmer, and was born in Hardin (now LaRue county), Kentucky, January 7, 1839. While he was a small boy, his parents moved to Ohio county, where they brought up their children in the nuture and admonition of the Lord. Of their four sons, William, the oldest, was an efficient deacon, Richard H., the second, was an earnest, faithful preacher in Gasper River Association, Allen B., the third, is the well known Dr. Miller of Little Rock, Ark, and A. J., the fourth, was the earnest talented and consecrated subject of this sketch.

J. Miller was raised upon a small farm in what was then regarded the backwoods of Ohio county, and, at the age of 20 years, was much better skilled in the art of hunting than in the use of books. He was converted under the preaching of his brother, A.B. Miller, then a licentiate, about 1856, and was baptized by Alfred Taylor. In 1858, he was licensed to preach by Mt. Zion church in Ohio county. Immediately after this, his brother, A B. Miller, then pastor of the church at Hickman, Kentucky, assumed the charge of his education, and, after keeping him in school for a time, sent him to Madison College in West Tennessee. On his return from College, he was ordained to the pastoral care of Cool Spring church in Ohio county, in 1861.

James B. Haynes may be regarded the father of this fraternity. He has served it as moderator from its constitution, and has generally been pastor of four of its prominent churches. He is a native of Ohio county, Ky., and a descendant of an old French Huguenot family, which settled, early, in that region of the State. His father was, early, a member of old Beaver Dam church, and was accustomed to walk twenty-five miles to his church meeting, when his was the only church in the Ohio Valley, below the mouth of Salt River. The subject of this sketch is a son of his old age, and was born, probably, about the year 1825. His early education was very limited, being obtained in the common schools of his neighborhood. At an early age, he united with Panther Creek church in his native county, where he, with David Whittinghill and D. J. Philips, was licensed to preach, in January, 1856. At the call of Bethabara church, he was ordained to the ministry, by J. P. Ellis, J. S. Taylor and J. R. Gillespie, in February, 1857. One year later, he was called to the care of Panther Creek church, to which, and to some others, he ministered, till 1861, when he was arrested by the "Home Guards," and committed to a military prison. After his release, he moved to Henderson county, where he labored, both as a missionary and a pastor, till his final settlement in Union county, not far from 1870. Since that period, he has labored with great zeal and diligence to build up the Redeemer’s Kingdom in his adopted county, and his efforts have been much blessed. It is regretted that his health has recently become feeble.

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