Editor's note: This history appeared in the The Boone County Banner, a Lutheran monthy published at Florence, KY, in the 1890s. T. L. Utz was a church clerk at Big Bone and later a Baptist pastor in the county; he was invited to write this history which appeared serially in four issues. These documents are available at the Boone County Public Library, Union, KY. — jrd
History of Big Bone Baptist Church
Boone County, Kentucky
By T. L. Utz
Rev. T. L. Utz
On the 25th of May, 1843, a number of persons living mainly between Gunpowder Creek and Big Bone Springs, most of whom were members of Middle Creek (now Belleview) Baptist Church; met at the Wallace School-house, where the Big Bone church now stands, for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church.
A council of delegates from other Baptist churches were present, and after due consideration the afroresaid body were duly recognized as [a] gospel church to be known as Big Bone Baptist Church.
The following persons were the constituent members. Males: John Mason, Robt. Huey, William Mason, G. W. Huey, Dr. R. J. Hawkins, Samuel Mason, Jacob Hardesty, Thomas Huey, Richard Johnson, Thomas Mason, Samuel Huey, Oscar W. Huey, Robert M. Fowler, J. Q. Johnson, J. T. Mason, G. W. Johnson, John C. Riley, Henderson Davis, Elisha Wells, John McHatton and Robert, a colored brother.
Females: Martha E. Allen, Maltilda Huey, Elizabeth Davis, Sarah A. Hawkins, Mary J. Huey, Elizabeth Allen, Nancy Keenan, Nancy Mason, Elvira Johnson, Jane Huey, Caroline McManama, Nancy McHatton, Lucinda Mason, Emma McHatton, Elvira Huey, Henrietta huey, Mary J. Mason, Cynthia Johnson, Sarah Mason Nancy Mason, Isabella Allen, Jane and Marguarette, colored sisters.
Of these 44 persons only four are now living viz: Dr. R. J. Hawkins, of Frankford [sic], Ky.; Mrs. Matilda Huey, of Grant, Ky.; Mrs. Caroline McManama, of Big Bone, Ky.; and Robt. M. Fowler, of Missouri.
At the first business meeting of the church the following officers were elected: Robt. Huey, Moderator, and Dr. Hawkins, Clerk. The fourth Saturday and Sunday of each month were agreed upon as the days for regular meetings. Also a call was extended to Elder Robert Kirtley, Sr., to serve them as pastor. The call was accepted and he entered upon his labors at one.
At the first regular meeting one was received for baptism. Also trustees were appointed, viz: Robert Huey, Dr. Hawkins, Samuel Mason, Jacob Hardesty and John Q. Johnson. Peace and harmony prevailed, and there were accessions to the church at almost every meeting during the year.
Big Bone church was received into the North Bend Association, August the 18th, 1843. Thos. Huey and John C. Riley were the first deacons, being ordained November the 26th, 1843.
One of the early customs of the church was to have her deacons, who were the recognized treasurers of the church, to submit their financial report at the last monthly meeting of each year, and if a deficit is reported to settle it at once by voluntary contribution. This custom is still in vogue.
In the year 1844 the church procured some land from Gen. John Wallace upon which the present meeting-house was built at a cost of $1,200. When the building committee reported the completion of the house, they also reported that it was paid for in full. There were only two accessions to the church during the next four years, viz: Eliza Garrison and Annie Rice.
The association convened here in 1845. The subject of supporting the mnistry was acted upon, and it was agreed that at each annual meeting in May, an effort be made to raise funds, to turn them over to the deacons to be used by them as the church may direct. The church, also, voted to raise funds for missions, report the amount through her letter to the association, and through that body forward it to its destination
In 1848, Bro. Geo. H. Scott and wife were received, by lettters, from Burlington church. Bro. Scott, having been granted license to preach the gospel, by said church, was ordained by this church in December of this year. Immediately following the day of ordaination, a series of meetings were held, conducted by the pastor, Robert Kirtley, Geo. H. Scott and Periander Scott. During this meeting 18 persons were received and baptized. Seven others were received during the year.
In 1851, Bro. M. McHatton resigned the office of clerk, and John C. Riley was chosen to fill the office. Elder Geo. H. Scott preached for the church on the first Sunday in each month during the years 1849-50, and the first half of 51, when he was taken ill and died on the 24th day of August, 1851. Elder Robert Kirtley had preached for the church regularly on the fourth Saturday and Sunday since its organization. In January, 1852, Elder J. A. Kirtley was called as associated pastor with his father, he preaching on the first Sunday in each month. During the first decade, 37 persons had been received by baptism, and 15 by letter. Dismissed by letter, 16, excluded 2, died, 5. Present membership, May, 1853, 73. A net gain of 29. During the ten years that have passed, peace and good fellowship have prevailed, and the church seems to have a flattering future before her of which we will give an account in the next issue. [March, 1897, p. 6.]
During the first year of this second decade there was a gracious revival of religion in the church. J. A. Kirtley, was aided in a series of meetings by Elders John Lee and Paschal Todd. The result of these meetings was the acession of thirty-nine persons to the church. Eight others were received during the year, and nine during the year 1854. In 1855 the present cemetery was laid off.
By judicious management the church has accumulated a fund of about $1000.00 besides having built a few years ago one of the best vaults in the county. Only a few members were received during this year and only one in 1856.
It was during this year that an indefinite call was extended to Bro. J. A. Kirtley as pastor which position he still maintains. In 1857 B. M. Allen was chosen assistant moderator.
During this year and the subsequent year, greater prosperity was enjoyed, many having been received into the church. In 1859 Elder Robert Kirtley, Sr., withdrew from active labor here on account of advanced age. The church was now approaching the most critical period in her history. Soon dark clouds of civil war began to arise above the peaceful horizon with a divided political sentiment in the church. But by the wise counsel of the pastor and the broad spirit of Christian forbearance on the part of the church, she passed through this ordeal more than conqueror with a fellowship warm and pure. Bro. Joseph Ambrose was called to supply for the church on the first Sunday during the year 1859, but owing to the great inconvenience to him he soon retired from this labor.
Received during this second decade by baptism 75. By letter 9. By relation 4.
Dismissed by letter 35; excluded 8; died 15. Total membership 103. Net gain 39.
In January 1864, the pastor was assisted in a meeting by Elder F. German,, and the church received during these meetings 24 persons, all by baptism. About this time the church established missions and Hamilton and Union.
In 1867 the meeting house was repaired at a cost of $300.00. In October, 1868 Elder R. E. Kirtley aided the pastor in special meeting during which time several were added to the church.
In 1872, Brethren J. C. Riley, B. M. Allen, W. O. Huey, and C. T. Rice were appointed to fill vacancies in the Boaard of Trustees. In September of this year, C. T. Rice was elected Deacon.
During the decade the church sustained a loss of several of her prominent members.
Statistics from May 1863 to May 1873. Received by baptism 68, by letter 27, by relation 2. Dismissed by letter 39, excluded 9, died 15. Total membership 137.
Nothing of especial interest transpired during the next five years. The most notable event which occurred during this period was the building of a neat house of worship in the town of Union.
In July 1878, Dr. C. G. Skillman assisted the pastor in a series of meetings which resulted in several valuable accessions to the church.
In 1880, a meeting was again held. Elder A. M. Vardeman doing the preaching. During the meeting and at subsequent meetings during the year, a goodly number were received. During this year, Bro. Kirtley induced the church at Burlington, to release him from the pastoral office so that he might give more time to Big Bone, and since that time he has preached regularly here the second and fourth Sundays in each month. During this period she suffered the loss a large number of her useful members. Among the number being Robt. Huey, Thos. Huey, Oscar W. Huey, Wm. S. Huey, Oscar Chrisler and others.
Sister Martha Weaver died in 1879 leaving an endowment of $200.00 to the church to be used for chuch work. Truly can it be said of Sister Weaver, being dead she yet speaketh through him whom the Lord has called to preach his word at this place.
In November 1882, the most notable meeting in all the history of the church was held. Bro. E. N. Dicken doing the preaching.
Beside a most gracious revival of religion in the hearts of all Christian people of the community irrespective of church connection, there were 44 conversions all of whom were baptized into the fellowship. These were soon followed by 9 others, making 53 in all. Of this number 29 were males and 24 females.
At the baptism, which was administered in the Ohio River at Hamilton, Ky., it was noticed that there were among the candidates for baptism 18 heads of families, and two entire households. Truly can it be said that Bro. Johnson and Bro. Ryle were baptized and all their house. Since that time two of that number have been elected to the office of church clerk, two have been ordained as deacons and three are now preaching the gospel. This meeting left an impression upon the community which it never felt before. Persons felt its impress and realized its great good.
Soon after this gracious revival, the church re-organized her prayer-meeting which had been dead for years. Two neighborhood prayer-meetings were also started as were two mission Sunday Schools. During this associational year besides contributing to all the general objects of the denomination, the church gave $380.00 to missions.
In July 1883, B. M. Allen, G. W. Huey, and David Clements were ordained to the office of Deacon. In March of this year, Bro. J. C. Riley, who had been clerk of the church for more than a quarter of a century, died, and T. L. Utz was elected in his stead.
During this decade the statistics show a large increase in the visible prosperity of the church. One hundred have been received by baptism, 21 by letter, and one by relation. Thirty-eight have been dismissed by letter, 20 died,and 8 excluded. Leaving a total membership of 187, a net gain of 59. [April, 1897, p. 6.]
We have now gone over a period of forty years, giving but brief sketches of this historic church. We now note some of the recent events.
During the remaining months of '83, there was a continued revival, and there were ingatherings at almost every meeting. This continued through the year 1884. In the fall of this year, the pastor secured the service of L. Johnson in a two week' meeting, preaching in the forenoon at the meeting, and at the Hamilton schoolhouse at night. Twenty-seven persons were received into the fellowship of the church as a result of this meeting, and several others came in during the remaining months of the year.
In 1885, Bro. J. J. Weaver, one of the honored members of the church, gave as an endowment $400 for supplying in the pulpit. One of the business meetings of this year was made especially interesting by G. W. Huey submitting the query: "Is it wrong for a church member to sell intoxicating liquors?" After a lengthy discussion the church voted in the affirmitive. In 1886, a meeting of great interest was held at Big Bone Grange Hall, conducted by Ira Phythian, evangelist. Many of the members of Big Bone church, together with other Christian people of the vicinity, took an active part in the meeting, and as a result, many persons were converted, most of whom took membership with the Baptist church. During the spring and summer of this year, about thirty persons were received into the chruch. In October of this year, Elder W. H. Williams assisted the pastor in a series of meetings. Though the faith was strong on the part of the church, yet it was not generally supposed that there would be any great ingathering, as it seemed that almost every person in the community was already a member of a church. But the faithful preaching of Bro. Williams, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, found and converted thirty-six sinners, all of whom were added unto the church.
In 1887, letters were granted to about thirty-five members living in the vicinity of Union, a desire having been expressed by them of organizing a Baptist church at that place. They were duly organized, and at the following meeting of Big Bone church, she conveyed all of her church property in the town of Union to her new offspring. Following the disposition of property, the church purchased the upper story of Big Bone Grange Hall for missionary purposes. An arm of the church was extended there, a Sunday School was organized and regular religious work at that place was inaguarated.
In February, 1888, O. M. Huey, S. M. Adams. and T. L. Utz, were granted license to preach. In December of this year, East Bend church, to which T. L. Utz had been called to pastor, asked for his ordaination, which took place at his home church, Jan. 25, 1889.
About this time the church sustained the loss of G. W. Huey, one of her most honored and useful members.
There continued a spirit of Christian zeal in the hearts of the members, yet there seemed to be on the part of a certain element a spirit of worldly-mindedness. The sin of drunkenness found its way into the church, and for several months there were one of more cases to report at almost every meeting. Finally, as a remedy for the evil, the following resolutions were adopted:
WHEREAS: We, the members of Big Bone church, influenced by the teachings of the Word of God, believe that drunkenness is a sin of a grevious and damaging character, and when committed by any member of our church, demands prompt and decisive action. Therefore be it
RESOLVED, That when a report of this character reaches the church, we make it our duty to investigate and ascertain whether the charge be true. If, on investigation, the charge be found true, be it further
RESOLVED, That we grant the guilty parties one time in which to come before the church and make their acknowledgement. If they fail to come of their own accord during this limit of time, that the church promptly proceed to excommunicate them. Be it further
RESOLVED, That the object of the foregoing is to reclaim our erring brethren, and to maintain the honor and dignity of the church.
Bro. Utz announced last month that he expected to conclude the history of Big Bone church in this issue, and he has prepared all the manuscript, but as it would make a lengthy article, we have divided. Next month, therefore, will bring the history to a close, after which there will other historical articles. [May, 1897, p. 6.]
Bro. S. M. Adams having been called to Beaver Lick church, a communication was received from that body asking for his ordination. On July 26, 1889, a council was called and Bro. Adams was duly ordained to the full work of the gsopel ministry.
In October of this year Elder W. H. Williams again assisted the pastor in special meetings which resulted in much good to the church, and the conversion of more than twenty persons, all of whom were added to the church.
Bro. O. M. Huey having accepted the pastorate of Rising Sun [IN] church, it was desired by that body that he be ordained. So, on the 25th day of July, 1890, Bro. Huey was set apart by ordaination to the full work of the gospel ministry.
Following these events of rejoicing an unseen cloud suddenly fell over the entire church, the cause of which is too painful to mention. It resulted in several of the leading members leaving the church, but under the ruling providence of God that cloud has been dispelled, and peace once more reigns supreme.
In October of this year Bro. O. M. Huey assisted in a series of meetings which proved a general revival, and over 30 persons were gathered into the church. Nothing of special interest characterized the church the following year.
In July '92, this church was called upon to assist in the ordaination of another of her sons, Bro. J. L. Presser, who had become a member of Union church, but was now preaching for Rising Sun. In October Dr. M. M. Riley assisted in a special meeting, and a few persons were added to the church.Statistics for 1883 to 1893:
Received by baptism 181 " " letter 37 " " restoration 3 " " relation 7 Total number received 228 Dismissed by letter 87 Excluded 25 Died 33 Present membership 270 Recapitulated statistics: Church organized in 1843 with 44 members. Rec'd during her existence up to 1893: By baptism 462 By letter 109 By relation 14 By restoration 3 Total number received 588 Dismissed by letter 218 " " exclusion 52 Died 94
Since the publication of these sketches began, one of the four charter members whom we reported living has died: Dr. Hawkins of Frankfort, Ky. After leaving Big Bone Dr. Hawkins was appointed clerk of the State Senate, which position he filled with distinction till old age came upon him.
There remaining but few persons in the church who had a voice in calling the present pastor to preach, Dr. Kirtley thought it wise to oppose the wish of his church and offer his resignation which he did in 1894. But the church unanimously refused to accept his resignation, and prevailed upon her pastor to continue his labor with them. An annual call had become an obsolete form with them. Dr. Kirtley has been the pastor for nearly 50 years, and during that time the most pleasant relations have always existed between pastor and church. As a reward for this relationship and to encourage it more in the Baptist denomination, Dr. W. H. Whitsitt a few years ago presented to pastor and church a handsome pulpit Bible. The church now has the honor of having continued her relations with her pastor longer than any other church of any denomination in the state, and we believe that the prayer of all who know her and her noble pastor is, that this sacred and fruitful relationship may yet be long continued. [June, 1897, p. 6]
[Taken from H. Max Lentz, editor, The Boone County Banner, 1897, March-June issues. — jrd]
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