Doctrinal Statement ·
Church Covenant ·
Driving Directions ·
Charter members of Olmstead Baptist Church
Preachers and deacons present
Olmstead Baptist Church was organized August 25, 1957 under the scriptural authority of the Fatherland Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee.
Contending for the Faith
The Forerunners of Olmstead Baptist Church
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)
From the very beginning, the brethren of the Lord's churches have found it necessary to carefully guard the beliefs and practices originally entrusted to them by Christ. The humble unity of the believers gathered by Jesus during his earthly ministry reached its climax in the triumphant glory of Pentecost. This church being afterward scattered by bitter persecution, the unison of former days soon gave way to error, strife, and division.
The apostles themselves were obliged to rebuke a burgeoning crop of heretical doctrines which sprang up throughout the churches. A faction of Jews began to teach Gentile believers that circumcision was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1). Some denied there was a resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12), while others said that it was past already (2 Tim. 2:18). Still more false teachers turned the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). Before long, apostates forged an unholy alliance with the Roman government, and a thousand years of darkness descended upon the faithful churches. Today's convoluted religious landscape is largely the fallout of these events.
Nevertheless, the promise of the Savior remains steadfast. "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mat. 16:18). Throughout the long antichristian night, the Lord has preserved a faithful remnant to continue the plan he set in motion on the shores of Galilee—baptized believers holding forth the word of life, baptizing those saved, and teaching them to observe all things whatsoever he commanded. We are persuaded that one name among the Lord's assemblies is that of the Olmstead Baptist Church.
The author hopes this study will shed a bit of light on our place in God's marvelous work amongst men in the present age. May we be found still earnestly contending for the faith when the Lord returns.
August 8, 2012
Forerunners of Olmstead Baptist Church
||Newport, Rhode Island|
||Bucks County, Pennsylvania|
||Piscataway, New Jersey|
||Scotch Plains, New Jersey|
||Berkeley County, Virginia|
||Randolph County, North Carolina|
||Davidson County, North Carolina|
||Pittsylvania County, Virginia|
||Pittsylvania County, Virginia|
||Caswell County, North Carolina|
||Head of Sulphur Fork
||Robertson County, Tennessee|
Churches Organized by the Authority of Olmstead Baptist Church
||São Paulo, Brazil|
||Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea|
Olmstead Baptist Church
Constituted August 25, 1957
The organization of Olmstead Baptist Church as an independent body was a result of growing dissatisfaction with the Southern Baptist Convention among Landmark Baptists in the late 1950s. By this time, Landmark concerns had been simmering within the Convention for over a century.
Shortly after the Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845, several leading Baptists began to criticize unscriptural practices that were becoming common in Convention churches. In their warnings against these harmful innovations, one verse often cited was Proverbs 22:28—"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." The principles these men defended came to be collectively known as Landmarkism.
These early Landmarkers rejected the universal church concept, observing that the scriptures exclusively hold forth a local church. They refuted the suggestion that Baptists were merely another Protestant daughter of the church of Rome, insisting that modern Baptists descended from true churches preserved ever since the days of Christ. They urged Southern Baptists to reject alien immersion, open communion, and pulpit affiliation with non-Baptists. Opponents of Landmark principles were equally loud, and a bitter political struggle ensued. Ultimately, the anti-Landmark party secured control of the Convention.
By this time, some Landmarkers had come to believe that the centralized denominational structure of the Southern Baptist Convention was itself unscriptural. Among other things, they believed missionaries should be commissioned and supported directly by individual churches rather than by a man-made convention. Numerous Landmark churches left the Convention, and many of these united in what would become the American Baptist Association.
In 1957, concerns about the Southern Baptist Convention generally and its Cooperative Program in particular surfaced in Dripping Spring Baptist Church in Olmstead, Kentucky.1 About half of the church's membership wanted to leave the Convention, and the other half wanted to stay in. Ultimately, pastor Tom Hart and forty-two others left Dripping Spring to form a new church not affiliated with the Convention. On August 25, 1957, Olmstead Baptist Church was organized under the authority of the Fatherland Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee. The minutes from the organizational service read:
On Sunday August 25th, 1957, a group of 46 people, ministers, and deacons of the Fatherland Baptist Church met in Olmstead, Kentucky for the purpose of organizing an Independent Baptist Church. Bro. W.W. Miles served as Moderator and Elizabeth Burton, clerk of the Fatherland Baptist Church, served as Clerk. Motion was made and carried that the following become members of the Fatherland Baptist Church by statement:
|Mr. & Mrs. O.G. Traughber||Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Blick|
|Mr. & Mrs. Ira Dixon||Robert Blick|
|Patricia Faye Dixon||Mr. & Mrs. Hershel Blick|
|Mrs. Owen Dixon||Mr. & Mrs. Layton Blick|
|Mr. & Mrs. Bert Robinson||Layton Blick, Jr.|
|Freeda Anne Dixon||Charles Blick|
|Glenn Robinson||Donnie Blick|
|Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Arnold||Danny Blick|
|Larry Arnold||Mr. & Mrs. Claude Blick|
|Joe Arnold||Sue Blick|
|Lois Arnold||Glenn Blick|
|Mr. & Mrs. Harold Hankins||Tommy Farthing|
|Ben Ferguson||Don Farthing|
|John Ferguson||Mrs. J. Boyd Stratton|
|Connie Ferguson||Mrs. Katherine Brake|
|Mrs. Lucille Farthing||Nancy Scarbrough|
|Theda York||Bro. Thomas Hart|
The Constitution and Articles of Faith were discussed by Bro. W.W. Miles and motion made and carried that they be adopted. The New Hampshire Articles and Church Covenant were adopted. The Church voted to affiliate with the American Baptist Association. Motion was made and carried that the members listed above become a separate Independent Baptist Church known as the Olmstead Baptist Church, Olmstead, Kentucky, and that their names be taken from the roll of the Fatherland Baptist Church.
|The following ministers were present:||Deacons:|
|Bro. W.W. Miles||Clifford Robinson|
|Bro. Eddie Holland||Lee Young|
|Bro. B. Orange||Shelby McCulley|
|Bro. Henderson Phillips|
|Bro. Thomas Hart|
After the hand of fellowship was given the new members, we were dismissed by Bro. Orange.
|W.W. Miles, Moderator|
|Elizabeth Burton, Clerk2||
The church voted on June 24, 1959 to leave the American Baptist Association and has since that time had no affiliation with any convention or association.3
Fatherland Baptist Church
Constituted August 8, 1940
In the spring of 1939, the Shelby Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee opened a mission on Fatherland Street in downtown Nashville.4 A year later, on August 8, 1940, the mission was organized as Fatherland Street Baptist Church, with forty-two members. From its inception, the church was affiliated with the Nashville Baptist Association, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. After the church voted to withdraw from these organizations in 1949, they soon faced a lawsuit from the Southern Baptist Convention over the proceeds from the church's fire insurance policies:
In Nashville, Tennessee, on November 30, 1949, the Fatherland Street Baptist Church of that city, by an overwhelming majority vote, agreed to withdraw from the Nashville Baptist Association, the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention, because after several years of active service with the convention system, both the pastor, W.W. Miles, and the church had become thoroughly disgusted with their methods, believing them to be unscriptural.
Within a very short time after this action was taken the buildings of the church were burned to the ground and the congregation was forced to meet anywhere it could for regular services. Immediately after this tragedy, Feb. 13, 1950, to be exact, a bill was filed in Chancery Court against this church asking, "Among other things, for an injunction to restrain the defendants, Miles, et al., from receiving, collecting, etc., as trustees, or otherwise, the proceeds of certain fire insurance policies," and tied up the land on which the church building had stood. Under these conditions, with the majority of the church standing by their action to withdraw from the Conventions, their property and insurance money tied up by a lawsuit entered by the Convention forces, and trying to find a place to worship in the dead of winter, the Convention's elements went to work. They worked day and night pulling members away from the church under these conditions and brought untold pressure to bear upon the pastor in many other ways.5
The court ultimately ruled against the Convention. The church went on to affiliate with the American Baptist Association.6 Fatherland Baptist Church eventually relocated to Madison, Tennessee, where they still meet as of this writing.
Shelby Avenue Baptist Church
Constituted November 20, 1910
In August 1909, a mission Sunday School of Edgefield Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee began meeting in the home of Mrs. Alice Little Reynolds at 511 South 12th Street.7 Soon, the group was meeting as Rust Memorial Mission in a temporary building on 12th Street. On November 20, 1910, the mission was organized as the Rust Memorial Baptist Church with forty-six charter members.8 In 1916, the church purchased a lot on Shelby Avenue at 11th Street, and the name of the church was changed to Shelby Avenue Baptist Church.
Shelby Avenue Baptist Church continues to meet as of this writing. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Edgefield Baptist Church
Constituted April 14, 1867
During the Civil War, several members of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee who lived in the independent municipality of Edgefield began to meet together to worship in private homes due to restrictions on crossing the Cumberland River into Nashville.9 In 1866, a mission Sunday School of First Baptist was organized in Edgefield, with Captain M.B. Pilcher named superintendent. On April 5, 1867, twenty members of First Baptist Church requested letters of dismission for the purpose of organizing a church in Edgefield:
We the undersigned, believing that we can best promote the glory of God by the organization of a Baptist Church in Edgefield, respectfully ask from the First Baptist Church in Nashville, letters of dismission that we may enter into such an organization.10
The church unanimously granted the request, and on April 14, Edgefield Baptist Church was formally organized with a total of thirty-one charter members. Edgefield Baptist Church continues to meet as of this writing. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
First Baptist Church
Constituted July 22, 1820
A fascinating account of the history of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee is preserved in copies of a manuscript written by R.B.C. Howell, its former pastor, while he was shut up in Nashville during its occupancy by Union forces in 1862. He describes Nashville as it was in 1820:
It was extending and growing up in all directions; had become the seat of a flourishing University, and a still more flourishing Female Academy; was already the centre of a large, increasing, and profitable commerce, and had begun to be remarkable for the intelligence, refinement, and wealth of the people. These considerations had impressed themselves deeply upon the mind of Jeremiah Vardeman, of Kentucky, and created in him an irrepressible desire to visit the city, and preach the gospel to its inhabitants. Mr. Vardeman was a man of great piety and ability. His ministry was everywhere attended with the most extraordinary success. He determined to hold "A Protracted Meeting" in Nashville. With that view he arrived in the city about the last of May, 1820. A suitable place was procured, and he commenced his labors, and continued them for several weeks. In many respects, he was peculiarly fitted for enterprises of this kind. If his literary advantages were limited, they were equal to those of most of his hearers. His general learning was not inferior to that of the Governors, Judges, Lawyers, Physicians, and civilians of the city. He was endowed with a fine person, dignified manners, a mind of extraordinary power, and fertility, great self-possession, and a magnificent elocution. Above all, his soul was glowing intensely with the love of Christ; he sympathized deeply with the lost condition of miserable sinners; and he estimated fully the excellency of the gospel, and in the hands of the Holy Spirit, its power to sanctify, and save them. God was with him. The assemblies in daily attendance upon his ministrations were very large, and his appeals were resistless. A revival of religion was the result, which continued several months. Mr. Vardeman was assisted in these labors mainly by James Whitsitt. The converts were themselves, however, remarkably active, and efficient. Not a few of them were among the most intelligent, and influential persons in the city. They were able therefore to do much in every way, for this glorious cause. As the meeting progressed, those who desired it were baptized, and by a suitable arrangement, were received as members of the church at Mill Creek. This church was situated three miles south of the city, and was under the pastorship of Mr. Whitsitt, Mr. Vardeman's coadjutor in this great work. It cannot now be ascertained what proportion of the converts joined other denominations, and how many united with the Baptists. It is believed that much the smaller part of them were baptized.
The meeting closed and the brethren, after mature consultation, determined to organize at once an independent Baptist church in Nashville. The 22nd day of [July], 1820, was set for the proposed solemnity. The church at Mill Creek by formal vote, approved the design, and gave to as many as desired to unite with it, testimonials as Baptists in full fellowship, for that purpose. On the day appointed a large congregation assembled; the usual religious services were conducted by Mr. Whitsitt, and Mr. Vardeman, the Presbytery on this occasion, nineteen persons presented the necessary letters; and with the letters, "The Constitution, and Rules of Order," which they desired to adopt as a church. These papers were read, and approved. The members named were then, by prayer, and the other usual rites, solemnly constituted "The Baptist Church in Nashville;" the formal signatures of all the members, and this fact was attested by the signatures of the Presbytery officiating. The church then adjourned, and the congregation was dismissed with the usual benediction.
The constitution of the church is as follows:
The Baptists of Nashville, and its vicinity, belonging to Mill Creek Church, are this day, with the consent of that body, constituted a church, to be denominated the Baptist Church of Nashville, upon the following principles:
First. We give ourselves to each other in the Lord, to watch over and perform each relative duty, to keep and maintain a regular government, and to keep the ordinances as delivered by our Lord, and his apostles.
Secondly. We agree to maintain as a church, the truths of the gospel that follow: The fall of man in his first parent as a federal head, and representation of his seed; The condemned state of his person in consequence of his fall; and his utter inability either to will or to do anything that is spiritually good, only under the influence of grace.
Concerning the mediation of Jesus Christ, as the second Adam, it is the sole meritorious cause, of the effectual calling, justification, and sanctification of all that are made meet for glory.
Baptism to be administered by immersion, and to none but penitent believers by professions, and the Lord's Supper to be administered to orderly Christians only.
The perseverance of the saints in grace, a doctrine received, is by the intercession of Jesus Christ.
Finally, It is not the duty of the church to bind the consciences of the weak, but to receive the weak with the strong, and to keep up, and do, whatsoever is agreeable to sound doctrine.
Two years after the adoption of this constitution – "In conference, on Saturday preceding the 4th Lord's day in December, 1822," the following was appended:
It was unanimously agreed by the members present that the following article be added as an amendment to the Constitution of the church, to wit: – That there is one God, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, who exists in the mode of three persons, namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, an undivided essence.
A spirit of liberality prevailed among the people; a very eligible locality was selected on Spring Street, between High and Vine Streets, and a spacious house of worship was at once built, and paid for. In size, architectural taste, and finish, this house was then greatly superior to any other place of worship in the city, and compares favorably even now with the present ecclesiastical structures which adorn this metropolis. It is at present occupied by Rev. P.S. Fall, and his congregation, known as "The Christian Church." The land was donated by Nathan Ewing, Esq., a member of the church and the whole property as secured by deed, now in the Register's office in this city, to "The United Baptist Church in Nashville."
Thus came into being the church of which I write. Few churches have anywhere ever been organized under more favorable auspices. It had the respect, not to say the warm sympathy, of all the better classes of the people. Of the persons composing it, it was justly said by a distinguished contemporary; "As a general truth, a more eligible collection of individuals would not have been found in the community, for the formation of a church, nor more rich in all the elements of prosperity, such as piety, intelligence, wealth, social position, and influence." With the blessing of God, nothing was wanting to its continued advancement, but the spirituality, zeal, diligence, and fidelity of its members.11
Only a few short years after it was founded, the rapidly growing heresy of Campbellism was introduced to First Baptist Church by its second pastor, Philip S. Fall:
During this period Mr. Fall was appointed by the Trustees a member of the faculty of the Nashville Female Academy. He accepted the appointment; removed with his family to the city, and in January 1826, entered upon the duties assigned him as Academical teacher. Soon after his settlement here he united with the church as a member, and in the absence of an under-shepherd, courteously performed most of the ministerial duties required by the congregation. He was, perhaps in April, again elected pastor of the church. He now accepted the call, and on the first Lord's day in May, 1826, preached his "Inaugural Discourse."
Never had any man a finer field in which to build up, and establish the cause of Christ, than had Mr. Fall in the city of Nashville. He was a young man of unusual attainments in literature, and especially in the sciences, and arts. As a teacher he was unsurpassed. Polished in his manners, courteous in his intercourse, and amiable in his temper, he was an exceedingly pleasant associate. In the pulpit he was slow, somewhat heavy, and in his elocution not in any respect remarkable. His discourses were always carefully prepared, and as compositions scrupulously neat and correct. As an orator he had no powers. As a scholar he was always admired. His theology was not orthodox, and probably never had been such as our Baptist Fathers would have received. Until now, however, this feature had not been distinctly apparent. It is not thought that Mr. Fall designed to conceal his sentiments; to such a measure it presumed that he would not have condescended; but they were not known, probably because no occasion had before occurred to call them prominently forth before the public mind. It began very soon to appear with certainty, that the doctrines taught by Mr. Fall and those taught by Mr. Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, were identical. These were in many vital articles the opposites of the doctrines inculcated by Vardeman and Dabbs, Whitsitt, the Atkinsons, McConnico, and the rest. The principles maintained by the one, and those maintained by the other of these classes of ministers, were two systems of religion that never could harmonize with each other. The brethren now saw that they were in a painful dilemma from which it might be difficult to extricate themselves, and of the results of which they had the most melancholy forebodings.
These doctrines, and even forms of language, Mr. Fall cautiously, but industriously, and persistently pressed upon his church. To gain his purpose he had many and peculiar facilities. Mr. Campbell himself spent much time, and preached very often in Nashville. In this way he had acquired personally the respect, and esteem of many of the congregation. The people had become somewhat familiar with his singular technicalities, which rendered them less offensive when repeated by Mr. Fall. One of his daughters had married a young gentleman of the church, who belonged to a numerous, wealthy, and influential family, all of whom were Baptists. His books and periodicals were read by all the reading members of the church. To engraft therefore his doctrines upon the church, and especially when the design was managed, and constantly directed, by the extraordinary skill of Mr. Fall, and with no minister in the city to oppose it, would seem to have been a matter of easy accomplishment. The task however proved to be one of great difficulty. His preaching and administration produced continued dissatisfaction, excitement, and discussion. Very great unhappiness prevailed in the church.
The ministers, and churches in the country, were extremely desirous to save, if possible, the church in Nashville. Nor was this the only church now in danger. Mr. Campbell's doctrines were rapidly gaining ground throughout Middle Tennessee. Ministers and congregations were falling into them on every hand. Upon consultation it was decided that as many leading brethren as could be assembled ought to meet at some central point, and prayerfully consider what could be done to avert the threatened calamity. It was determined to hold such a meeting. The time was appointed to include the fourth Lord's day in July, 1826, and the place Big Harpeth – McConnico's – in Williamson County. The church at Mill Creek, then the largest, and ablest in Tennessee, the mother of the church in Nashville, and up to this time in some sense the guardian, was requested to take the initiative, and write to all the churches, requesting them to send messengers to the proposed meeting at Big-Harpeth.
The meeting assembled at Big-Harpeth at the time appointed. Numerous churches, of several associations, had sent messengers. The number present was very large. The church in Nashville was not represented. As a spectator merely, however, Mr. Fall was himself in attendance. What form of organization, if any, it assumed, or whether any regular proceedings were recorded, does not now appear. The whole design, as stated in the invitation was "To detect error, discover truth, and establish friendship." Mr. Fall was personally the embodiment and exponent, not only in Nashville, but throughout Middle Tennessee, of the Reformation inaugurated by Mr. Campbell. In talents, learning, and influence, he was incomparably superior to any other, perhaps to all others, of the representatives in this state. The doctrines of Mr. Fall were all assured, might be confidently relied upon as a correct exposition of the doctrines of the reformation. The meeting therefore unanimously requested Mr. Fall to preach, as the best method of placing before all present, the whole subject. He consented, and occupied the pulpit in extended discourses, on both Saturday and Sunday. His sermon on Saturday was on "The Abrogation of the Law." That on Sunday was on "The Introduction of the Gospel." He was fully aware of the responsibility resting upon him, and in these sermons gave, designedly, a full and elaborate statement and defence of his principles on all the most important subjects in controversy. The brethren heard him patiently, and with unremitted attention. Some excitement was produced, and not a little irritation, by one or two brethren, who not quite certain that Mr. Fall's explanations were understood, ventured to propose to him several inquiries. The meeting arrived at two conclusions, both of which were most melancholy and painful. The members were in the first place fully convinced that whatever Mr. Fall, and the brethren, and churches that agreed with him might formerly have been, they were not now Baptists, in either doctrine, or practice; and they were in the second place satisfied from the confidence evinced by them in the correctness of their own conclusions, and their manifest want of respect for the deductions of others, that any attempts to bring them back to the true principles of the gospel, would be fruitless. A feeling of enthusiasm almost amounting to fanaticism had taken possession of the minds of the Reformers. All hope of preserving the desired union was now utterly abandoned.
In melancholy sadness the messengers returned to their homes and reported the results of their consultation to their respective churches, each one of which for itself, adopted such measures on the subject as in the wisdom, seemed most expedient, and proper. They were all fully alive to the importance of the crisis, and prepared to meet it as successfully as possible. An immediate separation occurred, of all the Baptists churches from the churches of "The Disciples." Nor was there afterwards any further affiliation between Baptist preachers, and the preachers of the Reformation.12
A majority of the membership of First Baptist Church followed their pastor into the errors of Campbellism, repudiating the Baptist name and nullifying the church's constitution. Only a small minority desired to remain faithful to Baptist principles:
A dark black night had settled upon the Baptist Church in Nashville. Its prospects seemed to an ordinary observer, to be hopeless. There were those however who, fully conscious that their cause was the cause of Christ, and exercising strong faith in the assurance that he would, in his own way win and defend it, did not despair. In the record traced in the preceding chapter, two facts are constantly before us. One is, that there was always present in the church, a respectable minority persistently opposing every innovation that was sought to be introduced. The other is that the members of this minority, refused either to be silent, or to receive when offered their letters of dismission, or letters of withdrawal from the church. We may refer briefly to the motives by which in these respects their conduct was influenced. They acted not without mature judgment. The majority of the church having, as we have seen, publicly and formally renounced their Baptist name, and character; rescinded its Constitution and Rules of Order, which pledged it to the doctrine and polity received by Baptists as taught in the word of God; and having under the plea of rejecting "men-made creeds," and being "governed by the word of God alone," introduced another doctrine and polity; the minority determined to maintain such a position as might enable them at a proper time, to save the church from utter extinction. They for the present, therefore, regularly filled their seats in all the meetings of the "congregation," and scrupulously avoided every act which according to the recognized rules, might subject them to the least censure of any kind.
The time, in the estimation of the brethren, for a decisive movement had arrived. A notice was published, requesting all those members of the church who adhered to their original principles and desired still to maintain them, to meet for consultation at the Court House, on the 10th day of October. At the time and place designated the brethren assembled. Appropriate religious services were conducted by Mr. Whitsitt. Of their proceedings the following record is found in the books of the church:
Pursuant to notice given, we whose names are hereunto subscribed, met at the Court House in Nashville, on the second Lord's day in October 1830 (being the tenth day of the month) and denying Campbellism, did with the advice of our beloved brother, James Whitsitt, agree to assume the character and constitution of the original Baptist church in Nashville.
The original Constitution with its amendment and the Rules of Decorum before recinded by the majority, were once again adopted and together with these proceedings, signed but by five members only! Why the number of subscribers was so very small, needs some explanation, and which must here be offered. Many others besides these still adhered most firmly to their original Baptist principles and sincerely desired to maintain them. This is proved conclusively by the fact that at various times and within three or four years more than fifty came forward, and enrolled their names as members. The reasons that held them back at the time, some of which were influential with one class and some with another, were numerous. A few of them may be briefly mentioned:
1. Many entertained strong hopes that the original faith and order would yet be restored in the church which had repudiated them, while not a few professedly remained in it that they might be in a position to bring about this result; and in case of their success a reorganization would be unnecessary.
2. That the church had a very handsome and pleasant house of worship, of which they were all proud, and which should they go with their brethren, they would be obliged to abandon, and worship in an unsightly hovel.
3. Not a few were held back by social and family influences which were brought to bear upon them with great power.
4. A still larger number believed that the property measure, if attempted, would prove an abortion, since many of the most liberal and wealthy among them were satisfied to remain where they were. How could a handful of members, comparatively poor, without a house of worship, or the means to build one; without a minister, or the ability to sustain him if they had; support themselves as a church? They saw no prospect of success.
5. Others, were down and utterly disgusted with the endless agitations, controversies, and maneuverings, they had witnessed, had ceased to attend the services of the church, and had attached themselves permanently to Pedobaptist congregations. For their return to the fold no one now hoped.
On these, and other similar accounts, five persons only were found of sufficient faith and courage, to undertake the apparently desperate enterprise of reviving the church in Nashville. These with their families and a few friends, met for worship at the regular hour to which they had been accustomed, for a while at the Court House, after that in the City School House, on High Street, between Spring and Broad Streets, and then in a commodious room in the Masonic Hall on Spring Street, between Cherry and Sumner Streets. When practicable they procured the services of ministers to preach for them, and when that could not be done, the time was occupied with devotional exercises conducted by the members themselves. Mr. Whitsitt, as he had done ten years before, again gave them, as much pastoral attention as his other engagements would permit, and especially administered the ordinances among them. Thus, in feebleness, but animated by strong hope, did the First Baptist Church in Nashville emerge from the clouds in which for several years it had been involved. The trial was one of great severity, but it was only the first of several like character, through which it has since passed and all of which it has triumphantly sustained.13
First Baptist Church continues to meet as of this writing. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mill Creek Baptist Church
Constituted April 15, 1797
The constitution of Mill Creek Baptist Church is given in an original minutes book held in the Tennessee State Library and Archives:
At a General Church meeting of [the] body of Baptists on Mill Creak at James Menees's Davidson County, Saturday Apr. the 15th 1797, This Church was constituted the members whereof giving themselves each to other in the Lord, to watch over and perform each relative duty to keep up and maintain a regular Gospel government, to keep the ordinances as delivered by our Lord and his Apostles to maintain the truths of the Gospel Viz. --- The fall of Man in his first parent as a federal head and representative of his seed. --- The condemned State of his person in consequences of the fall --- His utter Inability either to will or do any thing that is Spiritually Good --- Of the mediation of Jesus Christ as the Second Adam, that it is the sole meritorious cause of the effectual calling Justifying and Sanctifying all that is made meet for Glory. --- that Baptism is to be administered by Immersion and to none but penitent believers by profession. --- That the Lords Supper is also to be administered to orderly Christians only. --- The perseverance of the Saints in Grace is by the Intercession of Jesus Christ. --- that it is not the duty of the church to bind the consciences of the weak, but to receive the weak with the Strong and to keep up and do whatsoever is agreeable to sound doctrine, The Same being publickly declared in presence of
The same day it was constituted, the church ordained James Whitsitt, and he became its first pastor.15 Whitsitt had come to Tennessee from Henry County, Virginia, where he had been a licensed minister of the Baptist church on Beaver Creek.16 He went on to become one of the most influential Baptists in Middle Tennessee.
Little historical information can be ascertained about the three ordained ministers who formed the presbytery to constitute Mill Creek Baptist Church. Nevertheless, it is evident that Nathan Arnett belonged to a church of about one hundred members which had traveled together from North Carolina and settled a few miles from Springfield, Tennessee.17 This church became known as the Baptist church on the head of Sulphur Fork of Red River.
Mill Creek Baptist Church enjoyed a continuous existence until its membership began to rapidly decline after 1900.18 By 1915, the church had shut its doors, and its building was torn down.
Head of Sulphur Fork Baptist Church
Robertson County, Tennessee
Constituted c. 1791
In 1795, a group of families left North Carolina to settle in Nashville, Tennessee, led by a man named Joseph Dorris. Many of the pioneers were members of a Baptist church traveling together in church capacity. For them, Dorris was more than just the leader of their party—he was also their pastor. William Blount, governor of the Southwest Territory, wrote to Dorris assuring him and his party safety from Indian attacks on their journey to Nashville:
Tellico Block House, October 11th, 1795
North Bank of Tennessee.
You with the families with you on your way to Nashville, may pass the wilderness from South West point to Bledsoe's lick without any military escort, without the least apprehension of injuries at the hands of the Cherokees or Creeks. This assurance to you is founded upon the pacific conduct of those two nations for upwards of six months past, for their repeated assurances of peace and general good conduct during the period, and lastly upon the assurance given me since my arrival at this place yesterday by the Lower Cherokees at the head of whom, and here present, are John Watts, the Bloody Fellow, The Glass, Dick Justice, Double Head, Taloiriska, the Otter Lifter and others. . . .
Your obedient Servant,
[To] The Reverend Joseph Dorris, at Knoxville on his way with many families to Nashville.19
Ultimately, Dorris and the church he pastored settled a few miles from Springfield, Tennessee. The church became known as the Baptist church on the head of Sulphur Fork of Red River.20
The church had come from Caswell and Orange counties in North Carolina.21 As early as 1772, an arm of the Fall Creek Baptist Church met near Country Line Creek in Caswell County.22 The congregation at Country Line appears to have been formally constituted in 1783.23 In November 1791, an arm of the Country Line church inquired about being constituted an independent church:
Brethren Hensley and Graves presented a letter from the arm at Country Line requesting us to send them answer by letter whether we could appropriate their becoming a Constitution. The church answered them and chose Brethren Mullins, Cockrill, Basten, and Bethel to attend their next meeting to act on their petition.24
The new congregation became known as South Country Line, and its mother church was for some time thereafter referred to as North Country Line. Both churches were affiliated with the Roanoak District Association through 1794,25 in which year North Country Line was dismissed with several other churches to form the Flat River Association.26
South Country Line removed to Robertson County, Tennessee in 1795, where it became known as the church on the head of Sulphur Fork. Since no mention of the church can be found later than 1803,27 it appears the church was dissolved a few years after arriving in Tennessee.
Country Line Baptist Church
Caswell County, North Carolina
As early as 1772, an arm of the Fall Creek Baptist Church met near Country Line Creek in Caswell County, North Carolina.28 Fall Creek was pastored by Samuel Harris, and in 1772, Harris' ministerial assistants at Country Line were John Oakes and Thomas Mullins. The congregation at Country Line appears to have been formally constituted as an independent church in 1783.29 When the Roanoak District Association was formed in 1788, Country Line was a charter member. At the June 1790 association meeting, Country Line reported 160 members with Thomas Mullins as pastor.
In 1832, influenced by James Osbourn of Baltimore and John Stadler, the church's pastor, Country Line became antimissionary, or "hardshell", in doctrine.30 Several members in favor of mission work left the church and founded First Baptist Church in nearby Yanceyville in 1833.31,32
Country Line came to be known as Country Line Primitive Baptist Church, and it continued to meet as late as 1986.33 However, it appears the church is no longer in existence today.34
Fall Creek Baptist Church
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Constituted July 27, 1770
Historian John S. Moore has done much to illuminate the history of Fall Creek Baptist Church in an article published in the Virginia Baptist Register in 1971. He writes:
Fall Creek Baptist Church of Pittsylvania County played a strategic role in the phenomenal growth of the Separate Baptists. Though it had the distinguished Samuel Harris as its founder and only pastor, its story was largely forgotten soon after his death.
When Harris became a Baptist in 1758, Semple tells us: "He had begun a large new dwelling house, suitable to his former dignity; which, as soon as it was covered in, he appropriated to the use of public worship; continuing to live in the old one." The dwelling was probably "covered in" by 1759, and preaching began there about that time. Morgan Edwards states: "From the beginning to 1771 these people met at Mr. Harris's house, where they were all entertained at his expence; he killing beeves and opening his cellars against the times of meeting; these entertainments he called his love feasts." For more than ten years the Baptists worshipped there. James Ireland received baptism and ordination at this place in 1769.
The new Harris' home was six-tenths of a mile north of Fall Creek crossing on the Danville-Chatham road. Constructed of hewn logs with a high pitched roof, it was the largest of its kind in the area. Built on a rock foundation the main section had two large downstairs rooms with low ceilings and exposed beams. In the attic there was a large room which was entered by a closed staircase from the front room below. This upper space had a fireplace but only one very small window in the west gable. Two large rock chimneys graced the east side of the house. The kitchen was joined to the west side by an open breezeway. A chimney on the west end of the kitchen provided for cooking needs. It was said that cooking odors never entered the main part of the house.
By today's standards the house was primitive, but at the time it was begin in 1758, it was doubtless one of the best homes on the Virginia frontier. Furnished with only a few small windows it faced south to give protection from the cold of winter. Approaching from the Danville-Chatham road one travelled only fifteen-hundredths of a mile west to reach the house, and the first glimpse of the structure revealed twin chimneys on the east side. Seventy-five yards down the north slope from the house site is a bold spring, one of the finest to be found in the county, which still supplies an abundance of excellent drinking water. A small cemetery was located some distance in front of the house.
The Harris' home stood until 1930 when it was pulled down due to its dilapidated condition. The sound timbers were used to build a small dwelling which still stands on part of the old site. After more than 200 years many of these hewn logs are still in good condition.
When the Fall Creek Meeting House was completed in 1771, the Harris family must have occupied the entire mansion house which until that time had been used at least in part for public worship. The front downstairs room was most likely the place of meeting.
Samuel Harris was a charter member of the Dan River Church when it was formed in 1760. Located in the southwestern corner of Pittsylvania, Dan River Church was over 14 miles from the Harris' home in a straight line and almost 20 miles distant as the roads meandered. This made attendance difficult for the members who lived in the Fall Creek area.
As meetings continued to be held in the Harris' home, the Baptists grew in sufficient numbers to constitute a church at Fall Creek on July 27, 1770, with 37 members dismissed from the Dan River Church. Fall Creek joined the Sandy Creek Association in the year of its organization. On May 11, 1771, it was one of the constituents of the newly-organized Separate Baptist Association of Virginia. At this meeting Fall Creek reported 32 baptisms and one addition by letter since October, 1770, with a total membership of 62. In 1772 Edwards tells us that James McDaniel and William Barker were assistants to Harris at Fall Creek, and by that time the membership had increased to 120 baptized members with about 400 families represented.
The Fall Creek congregation built a meeting house near the Lawless branch of Fall Creek in 1771 on the land of one of the members, Thomas Ayres. This land lay east of Lawless Creek and was a central location for most of the membership. The site was slightly more than one mile southeast of the Harris' home. The exact spot for the meeting house has not been located, but it was probably near the place where Lawless empties into Fall Creek. Morgan Edwards gives the dimensions of the building as 32 by 28 feet. It was most likely of log construction.
The charter members are listed by Edwards: "Rev. Sam. Harris and wife, Rob. Walters and wife, Thos. Wynn, Ambross Haley and wife, Tallman Harbour, Wm. Barker, Thos. Ayres and wife, Sam. Pruit, Joseph Metcalf, Philip Denham, Wm. Pearman, George Cato, George Reeves, Sam. Tindal, Lewis Haley, Wm. Tweedwell and wife, James McDannel, Joel Sertin, Mary Lawless, Eliz. Linch, Eliz. Sertin, Susanna Fellon, Mary Brown, Abby Macky, Frances McMahany, Ann Seal, Sarah Roach, Mrs. Roebuch, with 4 negroes, Robert & Hannibal and their wives." The four negroes were slaves belonging to Samuel Harris who seems to have been the only slave holder in the church at that time.
Most of the Fall Creek members must have been rather poor. Edwards states that this group met with great opposition before its organization into a church. This was part of a movement by magistrates and mobs to check the growth of the Separate Baptists. Since Harris was a prominent citizen and a large land owner, he was never molested in his own county.35
Following Harris' death in 1799, the church soon dissolved.
Dan River Baptist Church
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Constituted August 22, 1760
Morgan Edwards gives a detailed account of the rise of Dan River Baptist Church from the labors of Daniel Marshall of Abbott's Creek Baptist Church in North Carolina in materials for a Baptist history he prepared in 1772:
They had their beginning in the following manner. About the year 1758 some of the separate ministers preached in the neighbourhood not far from the Sawras, but southward of the line dividing Virginia from Northcarolina. Mr. Dutton Lane became their proselyte, and soon began to preach northward of Danriver, which alarmed the whole neighbourhood. Mr. Marshall and other separate ministers came over and baptized the following persons viz. Sam. Harris and wife, John Mullen and wife, Thos. Mullen, Denson Rogers and wife, James Cox and wife, Wm. Edwards and wife, James Edwards, Robert Hutchinson and wife, Thos. Grissom and wife, Thos. Calaway and wife and daughter, John Hardiman and wife, John Langford and wife, Joseph Cotton, Robin Hooker and wife, Mary Duncan, Lewis Green and wife, Isaac Middlebrook and wife, Eliz. Roberts, Richard Elkin and wife, Ralph Elkin, Thos. Hargate and wife, Sarah and Jaen Witt, Jonathan Woodson and wife, Thos. Ayres and wife, Mary Brown, Lawrence Barker, Wm. Barker, Tillman Harbour, Jacob Sertin and wife, Jael Sertin and wife, Peter Greenstreet and wife, Ambrass Haly wife and son, Jacob Metcalf, Thos. Wynn, James Hogan, Shedreek Turner, with about eleven negroes; these 42 persons, with Dutton Lane and wife, were (the 4th Friday in Aug. 1760) constituted into a church by means of Rev. mes. Daniel Marshal and Philip Mulkey.36
Dan River Baptist Church is no longer in existence.
Abbott's Creek Baptist Church
Davidson County, North Carolina
Constituted c. 1756
Baptist historian George W. Paschal describes the rise of Abbott's Creek Baptist Church in present Davidson County, North Carolina from Sandy Creek Baptist Church:
It is definitely known that shortly after the arrival of the Separate Baptists at Sandy Creek in November 1755, and before the constitution of the Abbott's Creek Church, both Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall were preaching, making and baptizing converts in the Abbott's Creek section ...
Though the exact date of the constitution of the Baptist Church at Abbott's Creek is not known, it was doubtless from the beginning the place of meeting for those of that region baptized by Stearns, early in the year 1756, and since it was the first of the Separate Baptist churches, after Sandy Creek, in North Carolina, the date of its organization must have been earlier than October 1757, when the next Separate Baptist church in the Province, Deep River in Chatham County, was organized. Very probably Abbott's Creek was organized late in 1756. Semple's account is:
At Abbott's Creek, about thirty miles from Sandy Creek, the gospel prospered so largely, that they petitioned the mother church for a constitution, and for the ordination of Mr. Marshall as their pastor. The church was constituted; Mr. Marshall accepted the call, and went to live among them. Marshall was indefatigable in his labors. He sallied out into the adjacent neighborhoods, and planted the Redeemer's standard in many of the strongholds of Satan.
Such is Semple's description of the character of Marshall's labors both before and after his ordination.37
It appears the church eventually adopted antimissionary doctrine as it became known as Abbott's Creek Primitive Baptist Church. The church built a new brick building about 1980, but it is unclear if they continue to meet as of this writing.38
Sandy Creek Baptist Church
Randolph County, North Carolina
Constituted November 22, 1755
Morgan Edwards describes the beginning of Sandy Creek Baptist Church in present Randolph County, North Carolina:
The fall after Braddock's Defeat, Nov. 22, 1755, the following persons came from Opekon in Virginia and settled in the neighborhood of Sandy Creek, viz.: Rev. Shubal Stearns and wife, Daniel Marshall and wife, Joseph Breed and wife, Shubal Stearns, Senr. and his wife, Ebenezer Stearns and wife, Enis Stinson and wife, Peter Stearns and wife, Jonathan Polk and wife: the same year they built a little meeting house near the present, where they administered the Lord's Supper. Soon after the neighborhood was alarmed and the Spirit of God listed to blow as a mighty rushing wind in so much that in three years' time they had increased to three churches and upwards of 900 communicants, viz: Sandy Creek, Abbot's Creek, Deep River ... It is a mother church, nay a grandmother and a great grandmother. All the Separate Baptists sprang hence: not only eastward towards the sea, but westward towards the great river Mississippi, but northward to Virginia and southward to South Carolina and Georgia. The word went forth from this Sion, and great was the company of them who published it, in so much that her converts were as drops of morning dew.39
Baptist historian David Benedict relates how Stearns and others came to be called Separate Baptists:
The appellation of Separates first began to be given to a set of Pedobaptist reformers, whose evangelical zeal was produced by the instrumentality of the famous George Whitefield, and other eminent itinerant preachers of that day, and who began their extraordinary career about the year 1740. Soon after these reformers, who were at first called New-Lights, and afterwards Separates, were organized into distinct Societies, they were joined by Shubael Stearns, a native of Boston, (Mass.) who, becoming a preacher, laboured among them until 1751, when he embraced the sentiments of the Baptists, as many others of the Pedobaptist Separates did about this time, and soon after was baptized by Rev. Wait Palmer. Mr. Stearns was ordained the same year in Tolland, (Conn.) the town in which he was baptized, by the said Wait Palmer and Joshua Morse, the former being pastor of the church in Stonington, and the latter of New-London, in Connecticut.40
Sandy Creek Baptist Church continues to meet as of this writing. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.41
Opequon Creek Baptist Church
Berkeley County, Virginia
Benedict describes the rise of the Opequon Creek Baptist Church in Virginia:
In the year 1743, a number of the members of a General Baptist church at Chestnut Ridge, in Maryland, removed to Virginia, and settled in this place; the most noted of whom were Edward Hays and Thomas Yates. Soon after their removal, their minister, Henry Loveall, followed them, and baptized about fifteen persons, whom he formed into a church on the Arminian plan. Mr. Loveall, becoming licentious in his life, was turned out of the church, and returned to Maryland; and the church was broken up, or rather transformed into a church of Particular Baptists, in 1751, by the advice and assistance of Messrs. James Miller, David Thomas, and John Gano, who was, at that time, very young. Mr. Miller had visited this church in some of his former journies, and had been instrumental of much good among them; and when they, in their troubles occasioned by Loveall's misconduct, petitioned the Philadelphia Association for some assistance, he and Mr. Thomas were appointed by the Association for the purpose. Mr. Gano, though not appointed, chose to accompany them. The account of this transaction is thus given by Mr. Gano:
We examined them and found that they were not a regular church. We then examined those who offered themselves for the purpose, and those who gave us satisfaction, we received, and constituted a new church. Out of the whole who offered themselves, there were only three received. Some openly declared, they knew they could not give an account of experiencing a work of grace, and therefore need not offer. Others stood ready to offer, if a church was formed. The three beforementioned were constituted, and six more were baptized and joined with them. After the meeting ended, a number of old members went aside and sent for me. They expressed their deplorable state, and asked me if I would meet with them that evening, and try to instruct them. They were afraid the ministers blamed them. They had been misled, but it was not their fault, and they hoped I would pity them. I told them I would with all my heart, and endeavoured to remove their suspicion of the ministers. They met, and I spoke to them from these words, "They, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." I hope I was assisted to speak to them in an impressive manner; and they to hear, at least some of them, so as to live. They afterwards professed, and became zealous members, and remained so, I believe, until their deaths.
It was in the bounds of this church, that Stearns and Marshal met on their way to North-Carolina. At this time, Samuel Heaton was their pastor, and acted in that capacity until 1754, when he removed to Konolowa, Pennsylvania, and was succeeded by Mr. John Garrard, who is supposed to have been a native of Pennsylvania, and who became the most distinguished pastor the church had hitherto enjoyed. The Opeckon church united with the Philadelphia Association, soon after its renovation in 1751. They became very warm and animated in their religious exercises, and more particularly so, after Mr. Marshal and the zealous Separates came amongst them; and they soon went to such lengths in their New-Light career, that some of the less engaged members lodged a complaint against them in the Association to which they belonged. Mr. Miller was again sent for the purpose of adjusting their difficulties. When he came, he was highly delighted with the exercises, joined them cordially, and said, if he had such warmhearted christians in his church, he would not take gold for them. He charged those who had complained, rather to nourish than complain of such gifts. The work of God revived among them, and considerable additions were made to the church. The country, in which they had settled, was but thinly inhabited, and was subject to the inroads of the Indians. Some of these savage eruptions took place not long after Mr. Garrard had settled among them; in consequence of which, he and many of the church removed below the Blue Ridge, and resided for some time in Loudon county, on Ketockton creek. This evil was overruled for good; for by the labours of Mr. Garrard in his new residence, to which, by the barbarous intruders, he was obliged to repair, many were brought to a knowledge of salvation, and a church was formed, which was called Ketockton, in 1756, and Mr. Garrard became their pastor.42
When he assisted in the constitution of the church at Opequon Creek, Benjamin Miller was pastor of Scotch Plains Baptist Church in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.43
It appears Opequon Creek Baptist Church is no longer in existence.
Scotch Plains Baptist Church
Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Constituted September 8, 1747
The records of the Philadelphia Baptist Association furnish an account of the beginning of the Baptist church in Scotch Plains, New Jersey:
Several members of the church at Piscataqua, living at Scotch Plains, in the county of Essex, finding it difficult to travel to keep their places there, requested dismission from that church, in order to be incorporated a distinct church by themselves; and accordingly they of Piscataqua did grant it; and being dismissed thence, they appointed to come together on the 8th day of September, 1747, and having Abel Morgan and James Mott, from Middletown, for their assistance, they spent the fore part of the day in prayer and fasting, and afterwards they gave themselves in a solemn manner to the Lord, and to one another, by the will of God, and after the usual solemnity, were owned as a sister church; and on the 13th day of February following, Benjamin Miller was ordained to be their minister: Mr. Benjamin Stelle, of Piscataqua, and Mr. Abel Morgan, or Middletown, assisting at the ordination. Their number, when constituted, fourteen; their number, on the 10th of July, 1750, when the above narrative was dated, seventy-five.44
Scotch Plains Baptist Church continues to meet as of this writing.45 The church is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA.46
First Baptist Church
Piscataway, New Jersey
A book published on the occasion of its bicentennial relates the rise of the First Baptist Church of Piscataway, New Jersey:
It is a deplorable fact that no records or minutes of the Church exist prior to the month of August, 1781. They were destroyed during the Revolutionary war, either by marauding bands of British soldiers when their army was in possession of New Brunswick, or—which is more probable—they were carried off or destroyed by the Clerk of the Church at that time who, according to tradition, was a Tory. From whence, then, are our sources of history? – From Colonial documents, township records, the researches of Morgan Edwards and Dr. Benedict, the Century Minutes of the Philadelphia Association and fragmentary papers on early Baptist history. From such sources we learn that this Church was constituted in the year 1689, the very year following that of the great revolution in England which secured the overthrow of the last of the Stuart Dynasty, and led to the elevation of William and Mary to the throne.
We know not in what month of the year 1689 this Church was constituted, nor is it indispensable that we should know, however gratifying it would be to our curiosity to know not only the month, but the day, and the time of day, and all the circumstances attending so memorable an event. Reliable records inform us that of the settlers up to 1689, (the names of some of whom have already been given), and the larger part of whom were doubtless Baptists in sentiment, only six men formed the constituency of the Church. Their names were:
|Hugh Dunn,||John Drake|
|Edmund Dunham,||Nicholas Bonham,|
|John Smalley,||John Randolph.|
... The six brethren named above were constituted a Baptist Church some time in the Spring of 1689, according to Edwards, through the official ministrations of Rev. Thomas Killingsworth, the same brother who had performed a like service for the brethren at Middletown.47
It is believed the church at Piscataway is a descendant of the Pennepack Baptist Church in Philadelphia.48 The church continues to meet as of this writing and is now known as Stelton Baptist Church.49 It is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA.50
Pennepack Baptist Church
Constituted January 1688
The records of Pennepack Baptist Church provide the following account of its constitution:
Sometime after, about the 11th month [January 1688, New Style], by the advice of Elias Keach and with the aforesaid Baptized persons consent, a day was set apart to seek God by fasting and prayer, in order to form ourselves into a Church state. Whereupon Elias Keach was accepted and received for our Pastor and we sat down in communion at the Lord's table. Also at the same time Samuel Vaus was chosen and by Elias Keach with the laying on of hands, ordained to be a Deacon.51
Morgan Edwards gives a detailed history of the church:
The history of this church will lead us back to the year 1686, when one John Eaton, George Eaton, and Jane his wife, Sarah Eaton, and Samuel Jones, members of a Baptist church residing in Llanddewi and Nautmel, in Radnorshire, whereof Rev. Henry Gregory was pastor; also, John Baker, member of a church in Kilkenny, in Ireland, under the pastoral care of Rev. Christopher Blackwell, and one Samuel Vaus, from England, arrived and settled on the banks of Pennepek, formerly written Pemmapeka. In the year 1687, Rev. Elias Keach, of London, came among them, and baptized one Joseph Ashton and Jane his wife, William Fisher and John Watts, which increased their number to 12 souls, including the minister. These 12 did, by mutual consent, form themselves into a church in the month of January, 1688, choosing Mr. Keach to be their minister, and Samuel Vaus to be deacon. Soon after, the few emigrated Baptists in this province and West Jersey joined them; also those, whom Mr. Keach baptized at the Falls, Coldspring, Burlington, Cohansey, Salem, Penn's-Neck, Chester, Philadelphia, &c. They were all one church, and Pennepek the centre of union, where, as many as could, met to celebrate the Lord's Supper; and for the sake of distant members, they administered the ordinance quarterly at Burlington, Cohansey, Chester, and Philadelphia; which quarterly meetings have since been transformed into three yearly meetings and an Association. Thus, for some time, continued their Zion with lengthened cords, till the brethren in remote parts set about forming themselves into distinct churches, which began in 1699. By these detachments it was reduced to narrow bounds, but continued among the churches, as a mother in the midst of many daughters. At their settlement, and during the administration of Mr. Keach, they were the same as they are now, with respect to faith and order; but when their number increased, and emigrants, from differing churches in Europe, incorporated with them, divisions began to take place about various things, such as absolute predestination, laying-on-of-hands, distributing the elements, singing psalms, seventh-day Sabbath, &c. which threw the body ecclesiastic into a fever. In the year 1747, a tumult arose about the choice of a minister, which issued in a separation. But this, and the other maladies were healed, when the peccant humours had been purged off, and the design of Providence accomplished, which designed is expressed in these notable words, There must be divisions among you, that they who are approved may be made manifest. 1 Cor. xi. 19.
The first minister they had was the Rev. Elias Keach. He was son of the famous Benjamin Keach, of London; arrived in this country a very wild youth, about the year 1686. On his landing, he dressed in black, and wore a band, in order to pass for a minister. The project succeeded to his wishes, and many people resorted to hear the young London Divine. He performed well enough, till he had advanced pretty far in the sermon; then stopping short, he looked like a man astonished. The audience concluded he had been seized with a sudden disorder; but on asking what the matter was, received from him a confession of the imposture, with tears in his eyes, and much trembling. Great was his distress, though it ended happily; for from this time he dated his conversion. He heard of Mr. [Thomas] Dungan. To him he repaired to seek counsel and comfort, and by him he was baptized and ordained. From Coldspring, Mr. Keach came to Pennepek, and settled a church there as before related; and thence traveled through Pennsylvania and the Jersies, preaching the Gospel in the wilderness with great success, insomuch that he may be considered the chief apostle of the Baptists in these parts of America. He and his family embarked for England, early in the spring of the year 1692, and afterwards became a very famous and successful minister in London.52
Pennepack Baptist Church continues to meet as of this writing.53 The church is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA.54
Cold Spring Baptist Church
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Constituted c. 1684
About the year 1684, Thomas Dungan, a Baptist minister and member of the First Baptist Church in Newport, Rhode Island,55 settled at Cold Spring in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and gathered a church. Edwards says of Dungan:
Of this venerable father, I can learn no more than that he came from Rhode-Island about the year 1684; that he and his family settled at Coldspring, where he gathered a church, of which nothing remains but a grave-yard and the names of the families which belonged to it, viz the Dungans, Gardners, Woods, Doyles, &c. that he died in 1688, and was buried in said grave-yard ... Rev. Thomas Dungan, the first Baptist minister in the province, now existeth in a progeny of between six and seven hundred.56
The church is no longer in existence.
First Baptist Church
Newport, Rhode Island
Constituted c. 1644
The traditional date for the founding of the First Baptist Church in Newport, Rhode Island by John Clarke is 1644, but it was certainly in existence by 1648:
In November, 1637, John Clarke, an educated man, and a man of some property, arrived at Boston. It is believed that he was a Baptist before leaving England. When he reached Boston, the Antinomian controversy, which had attracted general attention, was approaching its culmination, and several of the leaders were about to be banished from the colony. Clarke was not drawn into this controversy, and in the interests of peace, he suggested the establishment of a new colony. With two others he first visited New Hampshire, but finding the climate too severe, he made his way to Providence, and, as the result of a conference with Roger Williams, Mr. Clarke and his company, in March, 1638, settled at Aquidneck, now the island of Rhode Island. The first settlement was at the northern part of the island; but in April following, several of the families, including the government officials, removed to the southern part of the island, which they called Newport. Preaching services were held from the beginning. "Mr. John Clarke, who was a man of letters, carried on public worship." A church, at some time, was organized, and this church disclaimed fellowship with the Congregational church in Boston, with which some of its members had formerly been connected. Gov. Winthrop says that in 1640-41 there were "professed Anabaptists" on the island. A Mr. Lechford, in a small book, to which he added an address to the reader dated January 1641, says there was a church on the island in 1640, of which Mr. Clarke was elder or pastor, but he had heard that it was dissolved. On the other hand, Rev. John Comer, the fifth pastor of the Newport Church, about ninety years after the settlement of the island, in searching for facts concerning the organization of the church, found the private record of Mr. Samuel Hubbard, who united with the Newport Church November 3, 1648; and by information received from other sources he learned that the church "was constituted about 1644." In a manuscript said to be in the possession of the Backus Historical Society, Mr. Comer repeated the statement that "the church was first gathered by Mr. Clarke about 1644." Moreover, Rev. John Callendar, who succeeded Mr. Comer as pastor of the Newport Church, in his Century Sermon, says: "It is said that in 1644, Mr. John Clarke and some others formed a church on the scheme and principles of the Baptists." The most that can be said then, as to the date at which the Newport Church was formed, is that its organization took place at an early period, "perhaps within the very first year of the settlement of the island."57
How Clarke became a Baptist is unclear, but the church in Newport certainly had connections to Particular Baptists in England. Mark Lukar was a Baptist in England no later than 1642.58 Lukar later came to Rhode Island and became an elder in the Baptist church at Newport.59 In 1652, Clarke published an account of religious persecution in the colonies entitled Ill Newes From New-England in London. The book contains a copy of a letter sent by Obadiah Holmes, also a member of the Newport church, to "the well beloved Brethren John Spilsbury, William Kiffin, and the rest that in London stand fast in that Faith, and continue to walk steadfastly in that Order of the Gospell which was once delivered unto the Saints by Jesus Christ".60 Holmes relates how he came to be publicly whipped in Massachusetts Bay Colony for preaching Baptist doctrine:
It pleased the Father of Light, after a long continuance of mine in death, and darknesse, to cause life and immortality to be brought to light in my soul, and also to cause me to see that this life was by the death of his Son, in that hour, and power of darknesse procured, which wrought in my heart a restless desire to know what that Lord, who had so dearly bought me, would have me to do, and finding that it was his last will (to which none is to adde, and from which none is to detract) that they which had faith in his death for life, should yeeld up themselves to hold forth a lively consimilitude, or likenesse unto his death, buriall, and resurrection by that Ordinance of Baptisme; I readily yeelded thereto being by love constrained to follow that Lamb (that takes away the sins of the World) whither soever he goes;
I had no sooner separated from their assemblies, and from Communion with them in their worship of God and thus visibly put on Christ, being resolved alone to attend upon him, and to submit to his will, but immediately the adversary cast out a flood against us, and stirred up the spirits of men to present my self and two more to Plymouth Court, where we met with 4 Petitions against our whole company to take some speedy course to suppress us, one from our own Plantation with 35 hands to it, one fro the Church (as they call it) at Tanton, one from all the Ministers in our Colony, except two, if I mistake not, and one from the Court at Boston in the Mathatusets under their Secretaries hand; whereupon the Court straitly chargeth us to desist, and neither to ordain Officers, nor to Baptize, nor to break bread together, nor yet to meet upon the first day of the week, and having received these strait charges one of the three discovers the sandy foundation upon which he, stood, who when the flood came, and the wind blew, fell, yet it pleased the Father of mercies (to whom be the praise) to give us strength to stand, & to tell them it was better to obey God, rather than man, and such was the grace of our God to us-ward that though we were had from Court to Court, yet were we firmly resolved to keep close to the rule and to obey the voyce of our Lord, come what will come;
Not long after these troubles I came upon occasion of businesse into the Colony of the Mathatusets, with two other Brethren, as Brother Clark, being one of the two, can inform you, where we three were apprehended, carried to the prison at Boston, and so to the Court, and were all sentenced; what they laid to my charge, you may here read in my sentence: Upon the pronouncing of which as I went from the Bar, I exprest my self in these words; I blesse God I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus; whereupon John Wilson (their Pastor as they call him) strook me before the Judgment Seat, and cursed me, saying, The Curse of God, or Jesus goe with thee; so were we carried to the Prison, where not long after I was deprived of my two loving Friends ...
And when I heard the voyce of my Keeper come for me, even cheerfulnesse did come upon me, and taking my Testament in my hand, I went along with him to the place of execution, and after common salutation there stood; there stood by also one of the Magistrates, by name Mr. Encrease Nowell, who for a while kept silent, and spoke not a word, and so did I, expecting the Governours presence, but he came not. But after a while Mr. Nowell bad the Executioner doe his Office, then I desired to speak a few words, but Mr. Nowell answered, it is not now a time to speak, whereupon I took leave, and said, Men, Brethren, Fathers, and Countrey-men, I beseech you give me leave to speak a few words, and the rather, because here are many Spectators to see me punished, and I am to seal with my Blood, if God give strength, that which I hold and practise in reference to the Word of God, and the testimony of Jesus; that which I have to say in brief is this, Although I confesse I am no Disputant, yet seeing I am to seal what I hold with my Blood, I am ready to defend it by the Word, and to dispute that point with any that shall come forth to withstand it.
Mr. Nowell answered me, now was no time to dispute, then said I, then I desire to give an account of the Faith and Order I hold, and this I desired three times, but in comes Mr. Flint, and saith to the Executioner, Fellow, doe thine Office, for this Fellow would but make a long Speech to delude the people; so I being resolved to speak, told the people; That which I am to suffer for, is for the Word of God, and testimony of Jesus Christ; No, saith Mr. Nowell it is for your Error, and going about to seduce the people; to which I replyed, not for Error, for in all the time of my Imprisonment, wherein I was left alone (my Brethren being gone) which of all your Ministers in all that time came to convince me of Error? and when upon the Governours words a motion was made for a publick dispute, and upon fair terms so often renewed, and desired by hundreds, what was the reason it was not granted?
Mr. Nowell told me, it was his fault that went away, and would not dispute; but this the Writings will cleer at large: still Mr. Flint calls to the man to doe his Office, so before, and in the time of his pulling off my cloathes I continued speaking, telling them, That I had so learned, that for all Boston I would not give my bodie into their hands thus to be bruised upon another account, yet upon this I would not give the hundredth part of a Wampon Peague to free it out of their hands, and I made as much Conscience of unbuttoning one button, as I did of paying the 30l. in reference thereunto; I told them moreover, the Lord having manifested his love towards me, in giving me repentance towards God, and Faith in Jesus Christ, and so to be baptized in water by a Messenger of Jesus into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, wherein I have fellowship with him in his death, buriall, and resurrection, I am now come to be baptized in afflictions by your hands, that so I may have further fellowship with my Lord, and am not ashamed of his sufferings, for by his stripes am I healed;
And as the man began to lay the stroaks upon my back, I said to the people, though my Flesh should fail, and my Spirit should fail, yet God would not fail; so it pleased the Lord to come in, and so to fill my heart and tongue as a vessell full, and with an audible voyce I brake forth, praying unto the Lord not to lay this Sin to their charge, and telling the people, That now I found he did not fail me, and therefore now I should trust him for ever who failed me not; for in truth, as the stroaks fell upon me, I had such a spirituall manifestation of Gods presence, as the like thereunto I never had, nor felt, nor can with fleshly tongue expresse, and the outward pain was so removed from me, that indeed I am not able to declare it to you, it was so easie to me, that I could well bear it, yea and in a manner felt it not, although it was grievous, as the Spectators said, the Man striking with all his strength (yea spitting on his hand three times, as many affirmed) with a three-coarded whip, giving me therewith thirty stroaks; when he had loosed me from the Post, having joyfulnesse in my heart, and cheerfulnesse in my countenance, as the Spectators observed, I told the Magistrates, you have struck me as with Roses; and said moreover, Although the Lord hath made it easie to me, yet I pray God it may not be laid to your charge.61
First Baptist Church in Newport is now known as United Baptist Church and continues to meet as of this writing. The church is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA.62
Wapping Baptist Church
Constituted c. 1633
The congregation led by John Spilsbury in the Wapping district of London is the oldest Baptist church which can be directly linked to today's Baptist churches by historical data.
Before 1641, when the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission were abolished, any refusal to conform to the teachings and practices of the Church of England was vigorously prosecuted by the civil authorities. Proponents of believer's baptism were consistently stigmatized as "Anabaptists", or rebaptizers. Believers that desired to illegally assemble apart from the state church had to do so secretly. Such was the practice of the church under the care of John Spilsbury, members of which were arrested for holding unlawful assemblies in two separate incidents on April 23, 164063 and September 12, 164164. For obvious reasons, few records were kept by underground churches. Based on limited source material, the date of 1633 has been traditionally assigned for the formation of the church at Wapping.
Once the persecution of nonconformists in England lightened around 1641, a flood of publications defending Baptist principles began to issue from London's presses. In 1644, a pamphlet was published entitled The Confession of Faith, of Those Churches Which Are Commonly (Though Falsly) Called Anabaptists. This document contained detailed explanations of many important Baptist doctrines. Fifteen Baptist ministers representing seven churches in London signed the confession. Among the signatories was John Spilsbury.
The Wapping church, now known as Church Hill Baptist Church, continues to meet in the Walthamstow district of London.65 It is affiliated with the Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East). The association's statement of faith upholds the doctrines of grace, the local nature of the church, and the inerrancy of scripture.66
It is commonly asserted today that Spilsbury and the early English Baptists practiced baptism by immersion for the first time around 1641 and that before this time, they were in the practice of sprinkling or pouring. However, the evidence to support this audacious claim is totally lacking. The truth is we know very little about Baptists before the mid-seventeenth century because prior to that time, they were actively avoiding detection by persecuting authorities. A conspicuous absence of historical data concerning their beliefs and practices during this era should therefore come as no surprise. It certainly does not imply that Baptists across England suddenly and unanimously adopted their most distinctive practice in 1641.
Historical evidence which proves that modern Baptists have descended in an unbroken succession from the church founded by Christ in Jerusalem does not exist. Nevertheless, we are humbly persuaded that this must have been the true course of history, if the promise of the Savior, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," is to stand firm.
1. duBarry, Mark. "History of Olmstead Baptist Church". http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/olmstead.baptist.history.html. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
2. Olmstead Baptist Church. Minutes. August 26, 1957.
3. Olmstead Baptist Church. Minutes. June 24, 1959.
4. Miles, W.W. "Church History". http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/tn.fatherland.b.c.history.html. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
5. Cross, I.K. The Truth About Conventionism. Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005. p. 33-34.
6. American Baptist Association. Yearbook – 1952. p. 45.
7. Nashville Baptist Association. Acorns to Oaks: the Story of Nashville Baptist Association and It's [sic] Affiliated Churches. p. 198.
8. Tennessee Historical Records Survey Project. Inventory of the Church Archives of Tennessee. 1939. p. 39.
9. Edgefield Baptist Church. "Building and History". http://edgefieldbaptist.org/Building%20&%20History.htm. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
10. First Baptist Church. Minutes. April 5, 1867.
11. Howell, R.B.C. A Memorial of the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee. 1942. p. 21-34.
12. Howell, R.B.C. A Memorial of the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee. 1942. p. 42-55.
13. Howell, R.B.C. A Memorial of the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee. 1942. p. 64-68.
14. Mill Creek Baptist Church. A Book containing the Conferrence business of the Baptist Church under the care of James Whitsitt, on Mill Creak Davidson County.
15. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 2. Boston, 1813. p. 221.
16. Whitsitt, William H. "Annals of a Scotch-Irish Family: The Whitsitts of Nashville, Tenn.". American Historical Magazine. Vol. 9. No. 2. p. 138.
17. Rone, Wendell Holmes, Sr. A Sesquicentennial History of the Green River Missionary Baptist Church. Wendell Sandefur, 1987. p. 14.
18. Tennessee Historical Records Survey Project. Inventory of the Church Archives of Tennessee. 1939. p. 17.
19. Potter, Dorothy Williams. Passports of Southeastern Pioneers, 1770-1823. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982. p. 129.
20. Rone, Wendell Holmes, Sr. A Sesquicentennial History of the Green River Missionary Baptist Church. Wendell Sandefur, 1987. p. 14.
21. Asplund, John. The Universal Register of the Baptist Denomination in North America. Boston, 1794. p. 38.
22. Moore, John S. "The Forgotten Story of Fall Creek Church". Virginia Baptist Register. No. 10. 1971. p. 447.
23. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 2. Boston, 1813. p. 527.
24. Lick Fork Primitive Baptist Church (Rockingham County, North Carolina). Minutes. November 1791. This assumes that since Lick Fork is listed in Benedict's General History as constituted in 1792 and does not appear in the Roanoak District Association minutes until May 1793, pastored by Thomas Mullins, earlier entries in the Lick Fork minutes book reflect the business of Country Line, when it was pastored by Mullins.
25. Roanoak District Association. Minutes. October 1794.
26. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 2. Boston, 1813. p. 88.
27. J.W. Untitled. The Baptist. Vol. 4. Nashville, 1838. p. 309-310.
28. Moore, John S. "The Forgotten Story of Fall Creek Church". Virginia Baptist Register. No. 10. 1971. p. 447.
29. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 2. Boston, 1813. p. 527.
30. Paschal, George Washington. "Country Line Church". Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists. Vol. 1. Broadman Press, 1958. p. 326.
31. Caswell County Historical Association. Caswell County. Arcadia Publishing, 2009. p. 35.
32. First Baptist Church. "The Church". http://fbcyanceyville.embarqspace.com/#/about-us/4536593307. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
33. Primitive Baptist Library. "A Brief Sketch of Elder W.J. Berry". http://www.carthage.lib.il.us/community/churches/primbap/WJBerry.html. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
34. Find A Grave. "Country Line Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery". http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2366114. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
35. Moore, John S. "The Forgotten Story of Fall Creek Church". Virginia Baptist Register. No. 10. 1971. p. 435-440.
36. Edwards, Morgan. Materials Towards a History of the Baptists in the Provinces of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Unpublished manuscript at Furman University Library. 1772. p. 51-53.
37. Paschal, George Washington. History of North Carolina Baptists. Vol. 2. Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005. p. 108-109.
38. Find A Grave. "Abbotts Creek Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery". http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2386134. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
39. Paschal, George Washington. History of North Carolina Baptists. Vol. 1. Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005. p. 173.
40. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 2. Boston, 1813. p. 37.
41. Sandy Creek Baptist Church. "Our Affiliations". http://www.sandycreekbaptistchurch.org/tp40/page.asp?ID=260169. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
42. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 2. Boston, 1813. p. 26-28.
43. Gano, John. Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John Gano. Southwick and Hardcastle, 1806. p. 39.
44. Gillette, A.D., ed. Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. American Baptist Publication Society, 1851. p. 22.
45. Scotch Plains Baptist Church. http://www.spbc1747.org/Home.php. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
46. American Baptist Churches USA. "Church Search". http://www.abc-usa.org/FindaChurch/tabid/429/Default.aspx. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
47. Brown, J.F. "History of the First Baptist Church of Piscataway, N.J.". History of the First Baptist Church of Piscataway. Stelton, 1889. p. 11-19.
48. Jones, Horatio Gates. Historical Sketch of the Lower Dublin (or Pennepek) Baptist Church. Morrisania, 1869. p. 12.
49. Stelton Baptist Church. http://www.steltonbaptistchurch.blogspot.com/. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
50. American Baptist Churches USA. "Church Search". http://www.abc-usa.org/FindaChurch/tabid/429/Default.aspx. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
51. Jones, Horatio Gates. Historical Sketch of the Lower Dublin (or Pennepek) Baptist Church. Morrisania, 1869. p. 6.
52. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 1. Boston, 1813. p. 580-582.
53. Pennepack Baptist Church. http://www.pennepackbaptist.org/. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
54. American Baptist Churches USA. "Church Search". http://www.abc-usa.org/FindaChurch/tabid/429/Default.aspx. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
55. Backus, Isaac. A History of New-England, With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists. Vol. 1. Boston, 1777. p. 274. n.
56. Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Vol. 1. Boston, 1813. p. 580. n.
57. Burrage, Henry S. A History of the Baptists in New England. American Baptist Publication Society, 1894. p. 24-26.
58. White, B.R. "Baptist Beginnings and the Kiffin Manuscript". Baptist History and Heritage. Vol. 1. No. 4. 1967.
59. Newman, A.H. A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States. Christian Literature Co., 1894. p. 50.
60. Massachusetts Historical Society. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Vol. 2. Crosby, Nichols, and Company, 1854. p. 45.
61. Massachusetts Historical Society. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Vol. 2. Crosby, Nichols, and Company, 1854. p. 46-51.
62. American Baptist Churches USA. "Church Search". http://www.abc-usa.org/FindaChurch/tabid/429/Default.aspx. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
63. Hamilton, William Douglas, ed. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles I. Vol 16. Longmans & Co., 1880. p. 406.
64. Wright, Stephen. Early English Baptists, 1603-1649. Boyndell Press, 2006. p. 92-93.
65. Church Hill Baptist Church. http://www.chbc.org.uk/1.php. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
66. Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East). "Statement of Faith". http://www.agbcse.org.uk/page3/page3.html. Retrieved August 15, 2012.