A history of the Salem Association of
Baptists really begins in the fall of 1779, or in the winter of
1780. At this time Captain Thomas Helm, Colonel Andrew Hynes and
Samuel Haycraft built three rude stockades forming "a triangle,
equidistant a mile apart," in the dense unexplored forest of
Somewhere near this triangle of stockades on June 18, 1781, under a
large sugar tree eighteen converted souls gathered the First Baptist
Church in Kentucky. Here came John Gerrard, not unlike Melchizedek,
priest of Salem. He was the first pastor of Severn's Valley Church.
About eleven months after becoming pastor he left his cabin to hunt
in the forest. Whence he came and whither he went no man knows. It
is supposed that he was captured by the Indians and was killed by
October 29, 1785, four Regular Baptist Churches met at Coxes Creek
by their delegates in order to form an association. Joseph Barnett
preached on John 1:17. Joseph Barnett was chosen moderator and
Andrew Paul, clerk.
Four Regular Baptist Churches reported. Severn's Valley with 37
members, no pastor, organized June 18, 1781; Cedar Creek with 41
members, Joseph Barnett
pastor, organized July 4, 1781; Bear Grass with 19 members, John
Whitaker, pastor, January, 1784; and Coxes Creek with 26 members, no
pastor, organized April, 1785.
The right of churches to associate, the character and authority of
an association opened by Brother Barnett.
Following this the constitution, principles and character of the
several churches, proposing to associate, minutely inquired into,
both in regard of doctrine and discipline, and left under
consideration till Monday morning.
After convening Monday morning, it was resolved: "That the churches
have adopted `the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, and Treatise of
Discipline,' hereto annexed, and hold ourselves in full fellowship
with the Philadelphia, Ketocton and Monongahela Associations, and
proper measures be endeavored to obtain assistance from, and
correspondence with the same." The Elkhorn Association was not
mentioned probably because it had made some exceptions to the
Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
The second session was held at Cedar Creek, September 30, 1786. At
the third session, October 6, 1787, at Coxes Creek, Elkhorn
Association sent a letter of correspondence with Merias Hansbrough,
John Tanner and Augustine Easton, as messengers. Spencer Clack says
that six or seven rules were adopted at this session. The remainder
of the twenty-nine rules were adopted in 1807.
The fourth session
was held at Coxes Creek, October 4, 1788. The total membership was
188. Joshua Corman was appointed to preach the introductory sermon.
At Coxes Creek, October 3, 1789, "The introductory sermon was
preached by the Reverend John Ganoe (John Gano) from the 6th verse
of the 15th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles."
The Rolling Fork Church sent the following query: "Is it' lawful in
the sight of God for a member of Christ to keep his fellow creatures
in perpetual slavery?" The association judged it improper "to enter
into so important and critical matter at present." Joshua Coman and
Josiah Dodge, irreconcilable emancipationists, finally broke off
from the association and gathered an emancipationist church.
Another question that came up had to do with the laying on of hands
at baptism. In speaking of this practice, Spencer Clack makes the
following notation in the original minute, book of the association:
In the western country the practice has grown into disuse in many
churches. The right hand of fellowship should be given before or
after baptism. It is, however, a question which should excite no
bickerings and controversy among the disciples of the Redeemer." The
association had a membership of 250 and had baptized 34 members.
At Cedar Creek Church in 1792 it is possible that the Lick Creek
Church with 23 members came into the union at this session of the
association. This church was divided on the question of perpetual
slavery. It was "Resolved, That Brethren Josiah Dodge, P. Phillips,
James Brown, William Taylor, William May, Josiah Lee, William
Bethel, Thomas Phlllips, Peter Cummings and Walter Stallard be
appointed a committee to attend with the brethren of Lick Creek
Church in order to confer with and afford any relief in their power
under present distress."
The slavery question would not down in the churches of the Salem
Association. At one time Severn's Valley joined the Green River
Association, which was opposed to slavery.' Joshua Corman, Josiah
Dodge and Thomas Whitman assisted by the venerable William Hickman
ably opposed perpetual slavery. The family of Abraham Lincoln was on
the side of the emancipationists. Sally Bush Lincoln, the stepmother
of President Lincoln, was familiar with the bitter controversy in
the churches of the association. The Emancipation Proclamation was
in line with bitter controversy over the question of perpetual
servitude in the Salem Association of Baptists.
Religious beginnings in the territory of Meade County suffered many
vicissitudes. The settlers along the river were engaged in the river
traffic. Back of these settlements many years were to pass before
the barrens were occupied. On account of its exposed condition:
Indian forays were more frequent and dangerous than they were in
Severn's Valley and Sinking Creek.
The first Baptist preacher in Meade County was Squire Boone. This
man from all the evidence available certainly preached at a rude
hunting camp at the Blue Spring near the head of Doe Run. Next in
order came Warren Cash, born in Virginia April 4, 1760. After
serving four years in the Revolutionary War, he and Susannah Basket,
daughter of Rev. William Basket, a Virginia Baptist preacher, were
married in November 1783. In the fall of the next year Warren Cash
came to Kentucky. His wife taught him to read and write. In 1799
William Hickman and John Penny ordained him to the gospel ministry.
He came to this section in March 1806. Under his ministry Benjamin
and Enos Keith and John Rush were called to the ministry. He adhered
to the anti-missionary party in this section. He died September 15,
In 1813 Otter Creek Church was gathered and in that year requested
admission into the Salem Association which met in that year at the
Nolin meeting house.
The messengers from Otter Creek were H my Johns, Thomas McCarty,
Thompson Kendall and Shadrach Brown.
Shadrach Brown, born in North Carolina in 1780, married Rachel, a
daughter of Rev. James Chambers. After coming to Kentucky in 1804 he
made his home in 1808 near Mlll Creek Baptist Church in Hardin
County. He was ordained by this church about 1812. The following
year he moved his membership to Otter Creek Baptist Church. He
served both churches as pastor until his death October 13, 1821. He
owned land below the mouth of Doe Run. His children were: Rebecca
(married Joshua Kelly), Asa, Nancy (married William Johns), John,
William, Katherine, James C., Elzina, Rachel and Alfred.
Isaac Veach was an early preacher in Otter Creek Church. It is
probable that he gathered the Doe Run Church. This church with a
membership of 9 was received into the Salem Association at Mill
Creek September 23, 1825. The organization was later abandoned:
Roderick R. Rockwood and Miss Eliza Stone were married by Isaac
Veach, October 24, 1824.
Simeon Buchanan, born in 1790, was the son of Alexander Buchanan,
also a Baptist preacher. Simeon Buchanan was a soldier of the United
States army from 1812 until 1815. After coming to Hardin County he
became a member of Rude's Creek Church. Here he was ordained in
1822. Soon after he moved to the Hill Grove. He became a member and
pastor of Otter Creek.
After Ohio (now Wolf Creek) was established in 1821,he was pastor
for twenty-two years. Hill Grove was established the following year.
He died June 27, 1863.
John Rush was also a member of the Otter Creek Church but was not
brought into the ministry until late in life. October 13, 1813, be
and Betsy Brandenburg were married. They lived in Buck Grove where
John Rush accumulated a large estate in land and slaves. He gave
much promise in the ministry but as he was a slave owner he was not
accorded a hearing in some of the churches. He died in 1838.
James Nall was in Meade County at intervals. He and Amanda Boone,
daughter of Enoch Boone, were married, September 23, 1822.
Enos and Benjamin Keith were sons of Alexander Keith, a Virginian,
who came to Kentucky soon after the Revolution. Enos Keith was born
in 1788. Benjamin Keith was a younger brother. While small boys
their father moved to Vertrees Creek. In 1808 Union Baptist Church
was organized under the preaching of Warren Cash. Enos and Benjamin
were baptized by Warren Cash.
Enos was ordained in 1811 and preached on Otter Creek before this
church was gathered as a result of his labors. Enos was never
married. He died in 1824 and is buried in the Baptist burying ground
Benjamin Keith began his work a little later than his brother. His
ministerial life extended over half a century. He was identified
with "Otter Creek Association of Regular Baptists" organized at the
Otter Creek meetinghouse, October 25, 1839. This association was
composed of the anti-missionary factions of the churches of Salem
Benjamin Keith was a remarkable preacher and did much good in all
this section. The original minute book of the Otter Creek Baptist
Church was in his possession.
Unfortunately the records of the church and of the Otter Creek
Association are now lost. Benjamin Keith, while visiting relatives
at Joplin, Missouri, died and is buried there.
Conditions under which these pioneer preachers labored created a
zeal for evangelism. Prayer meetings were held in the open air in
summer or in the settlers' cabins in winter. On such occasions the
formalities of worship were dispensed with and people talked about
the condition of their souls.
In 1815 Luther Rice came into the territory of the Salem Association
bearing the news of gospel triumphs in Burma. Leaven was working in
the mass even before his coming. While there were no church
organizations itinerant preachers went long distances to visit the
new settlements. John Shacklett was one of these little known
Hill Grove Baptist Church grew out of the pioneer conditions. Otter
Creek, Union and Wolf Creek were the nearest organized bodies of
Christians. There were no other organizations.
Accordingly, Elizabeth Ashcraft Shacklett, Rachel Ashcraft Shacklett
and Sallie Shacklett Jenkins used to meet in their cabins in cold
weather and at a spring in warm weather for divine services. With
Bible and hymnal they were faithful unto the Redeemer. It was a time
when other than consecrated women would have given up. After many
months passed the men were willing to help in gathering the Hill
Grove Baptist Church. Elizabeth Ashcraft Shacklett gave the world
Brother Ben F. Hagan and Brother Daniel Fulton Shacklett; Rachel
Ashcraft Shacklett, the Willett preachers; and Sallie Shacklett
Jenkins, the Jenkins preachers.
October 4-5-6, 1839, the association met at Brandenburg. Opposition
to the newly formed General Association of Baptists had developed
among the churches. Squire LaRue Helm and Mentor A. Shanks of the
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church had played prominent parts in its
organization. It was at this association that the anti-missionaries
made their last stand. The church at Brandenburg was most favorable
to the General Association.
West Point in her letter sent a friendly query, "Does Salem
Association approve of the General Association of Baptists in
Kentucky, and will she send delegates to its next anniversary?"
"On presenting this query, a motion was made for Elder William C.
Buck, to lay before this Association the object and views of the
General Association, which being agreed to, and thereupon Elder Buck
addressed the Association upon the above named subject."
After the address the Association resolved "That we, as an
Association feel no disposition at present to decide upon the
subject, but to leave the churches to act as they in their judgment
may think best, and that the churches be requested to express their
opinion in their letters to, the next Association."
This was a drastic step and in a few days the "Otter Creek
Association of Regular Baptists" was a fact. History Vindicates the
General Association. In the communities where the Otter Creek
Association was strongest the churches have either perished or they
have been mission territory for these ninety years. Other churches
have had to contend with this anti-mission spirit.
The minute has this to say of the Sunday services: "At an early hour
a very large congregation was assembled at the stand. Elder Joseph
Board preached from Luke XXII, 67; Elder William Vaughan from Romans
V, 21; and Elder W. C. Buck from Eph. III, 10. The preaching was
listened to with deep interest, and it is hoped that the seed sown
on that occasion will in due time, yield a plentiful crop. Great
good order prevailed, and the citizens of Brandenburg, and its
vicinity will long be remembered by all in attendance at the
Association for their kindness, courtesy and hospitality. A
collection of $46.00 was taken up for the purpose of the General
It had been a year of severe trial but 531 members had been added by
baptism. The following year was a great ingathering in spite of the
Traveling preachers were sent out by the association. In 1843 the
Terms of General Union were adopted which partially closed the
breach but the leaven continued its work for many years to come.
Squire Larue Helm was a remarkable man. For the most part his
education was acquired by his own efforts. He was a great orator in
his day and the passion of his soul was for others to know the
Savior. He left Mount Pleasant Church in 1843. Doctor Squire Larue
Helm was a great soul winner and in each field his great, persuasive
personality was used for the Master's glory.
Other Church Associations in Meade County
Meade County Kentucky
Return to Kentucky Genealogy