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The present Phillips Memorial Baptist Church was gathered, Wednesday, February 11, 1829. The name given the organization was Mount Pleasant. It is within the degree of probability that the church was gathered in the house of Henry Yeakey on the hill that is occupied by the present meetinghouse. No one knows now as all the records were burned in the house of John K. Ditto, for many years the efficient church clerk.
Simeon Buchanan was the first pastor. Brandenburg was a busy river town of over 300 inhabitants. From the town and country twenty-six members were reported to the association that year. Among these were Simeon Buchanan, Henry Yeakey and his wife, Caroline M. Isler, (Geo. L. Rogers makes the notation on the marriage license. “Both of age and married before. Executed the within, August 31, 1824”) Addison B. McGehee, William L. McGehee, Thomas Phillips, R. Stith, Mentor A. Shanks, Isabel Yeakey, (Mentor A. Shanks and Isabel Yeakey were married, November 19, 1829, by Simeon Buchanan), W. Burkheart and William Ditto. William Haynes, Senior, Christopher Hall and wife, Eleanor Hall and Julia Phillips, wife of Thomas Phillips were among the probable members at the organization. Of the other members all record has been lost. It is probable that this first church had some slave members.
Of the successes and failures of the congregation little is known until Friday, October 20, 1837. On that date Mentor A. Shanks was a messenger from the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Brandenburg, to a general meeting at Louisville for the purpose of forming a General Association of Baptists in Kentucky. At that meeting Squire Larue Helm was present as the only licensed preacher in the body of fifty-seven members.
Squire Larue Helm soon after was called to the pastorate of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church at Brandenburg. He was ordained at that church, April 7, 1838, by John L. Burrows, pastor of Severn’s Valley, F. F. Seig of Friendship, Green County, and Wm. Vaughan, Bloomfield, Nelson County.
Squire Larue Helm and Miss Sarah Ellen Atwill, daughter of Joseph Atwill, were married at Elizabeth-town March 8, 1838, by the venerable John L. Burrows.
Monday, June 4, 1838, Squire Larne Helm, an ordained minister of the gospel, was granted a license by the Meade County Court to celebrate the rites of matrimony and his bond was fixed at five hundred pounds.
Until 1838 the services of the Baptist Church were held in the homes of the members and under trees. January 6, 1838, Christopher Hall, Mentor A. Shanks and Josiah E. Haynes, trustees of the Mount Pleasant Church of United Baptists, bought lot 26 on West Hill for $350 from Urijah Hunter and Mary, his wife, of Breckinridge County. On June 23, 1838, John Lender-man and his wife, Roxina, sold to the same trustees lot 27 for $100. An old wooden residence on the first lot was the first Baptist meeting house owned by the Mount. Pleasant congregation.
Very soon after acquiring this property, it was voted to build a brick meeting house. It was probable that J. B. Woolfolk superintended the building. The old meeting house was built after the plans of the early Virginia Baptist meeting houses. A gallery was built for the slaves, many of whom were members of the church. A stairway from the outside led to the gallery. The pulpit was called the stand, which was three steps from the floor. It was great sport for the children to sit on the wide steps of the preacher’s stand. However, the children could have more comfort on these steps than they could have on the high stiff backed benches. Federal soldiers used the meeting house for a barracks during the Civil War. Soon after the war the old house was considered unfit for further use because of the many portholes made in the walls by the soldiers. On this old brick meeting house William Haynes, Senior, gave the first $600 and Addison B. McGehee, the second $600.
Mentor A. Shanks and Henry Yeakey were the leading men in the early organization. A school for Bible study was organized very early in the church’s history. It is probable even before the gathering of the church that Baptists in Brandenburg and the vicinity had Bible classes. It is true that by 1838 the Mount Pleasant Baptist church had a Sunday school. Henry Haynes at his home down the river had a Sunday school in his community. At the slave quarters in winter the slaves worshipped while in summer they held their services in the woods.
In the minute book of the Stuart Fountain of the Y. B. of Temperance which met at the courthouse in 1852 there is a reference to Sunday school in the town. “On motion it was ordered that the young ladies and Sunday school scholars of the town be invited to join a procession” on the second Saturday in September. Later the young male Sunday school scholars were denied the privileges of the procession.
It was a time when the membership were sticklers for certain doctrinal rights. Doctrines were emphasized. The church members knew when the preacher was well grounded in doctrine. Church discipline was rigorous. At each business meeting the moderator called for the peace of the church. On one occasion at Brandenburg after calling for the peace of the church the minute book recites:
“It appears as if all are not in peace, but nothing special has been determined.”
For a Baptist to use the words altar, pulpit, pew, church house, sacrament, quarterage, and to recite the Apostles’ Creed was an offence that received prompt attention when the moderator called for the peace of the church at the monthly business meeting. Baptists demanded discrimination. The preacher mounted the stand, preached to the congregation seated on the benches, administered the ordinances, read the Scriptures and lined out the hymns. The congregation assembled at the stand in a meetinghouse or a meeting place. Every church circulated subscriptions to compensate the ministry in the bounds of the congregation. Usually this was paid in produce but the Mount Pleasant Church paid the ministry in, round coin or commonwealth’s paper. Every member was expected to make a subscription. To refuse to do so was against the peace of the church and the member was dealt with accordingly.
Mount Pleasant church members took their duties and obligations seriously. The associational year of 1838 was a great ingathering. Twenty-nine were received by baptism. The venerable John L. Waller of Elizabethtown probably held the meeting. Most of the congregation was made up of Virginians whose early Baptist preachers had upon their backs scars received at the whipping-post and in’ the stocks for the crime of preaching the gospel.