The sketch of the Baptist Church of Hopkinsville is by John Rust, Esq., of the Bethel Female College, and was read to the Baptist congregation on the occasion of Elder T. G. Keen’s preaching his farewell sermon to the church. Through the courtesy of Mr. Rust we are permitted to use it in our history of the county. It is as follows:
The New Providence Baptist Church was constituted agreeably to the articles of association, at the private residence of John Pursley, situated about a mile west of the town of Hopkinsville on the north bank of the West Fork of Little River, June 6, 1818. The next day the church met in conference for business; Elder Jesse Brooks was chosen Moderator, pro tem. and E. R. Bradley Church Clerk, pro tem. The following names were enrolled as members: James Payne, Charles Thrift, John Pursley, Henry Rowland, Robert Slaughter, Sally Tally, Hezekiah Thrift, Grace Parsley, Lucy Slaughter and Winnie Payne, colored. El-der James Payne was called to the pastorate of the church. He was a man of more than ordinary intellectual ability. As a preacher he was abreast of the times, and stood high in the church and the community. At the regular church meeting on the Saturday before the first Sunday in August, 1818, Elder Payne was chosen Moderator and E. R. Bradley, Clerk. Dr. Augustine Webber was received into membership at this meeting. It was agreed to build a meeting-house 45×35 feet, the house to be located on the lot now occupied by the Hopkinsville High School building. It was also agreed at this meeting that the church should be known as the ” New Providence Church,” and Elder James Payne and E. R. Bradley were appointed messengers to the Red River Association. At the church meeting, September 5, 1818, Brothers Robert Slaughter and William H. Payne were appointed Deacons, though they were not ordained until the following October. In December of the same year the church resolved to ” commemorate the Lord’s Supper four times a year.” December 4, 1819, Elder Payne resigned the pastoral charge of the church, which was without a pastor from that time until December, 1820, when the Rev. William Tandy was called. Before speaking of this good man it may be interesting to notice some of the church usages. In December, 1819, the church levied a tax on its membership to build a meeting-house; a member was tried for not paying his subscription; and the church determined that members were not required to give the hand of fellowship after baptism.
Rev. William Tandy was chosen Pastor December 7, 1820. He was a good preacher, much devoted to his calling, beloved by his congregation, and being able to live without compensation, he, with an exemplary generosity, continually refused to accept any pay for his services. During Brother Tandy’s pastorate, in May, 1821, Brother Armistead G. Slaughter was received into the church by baptism. At the church meeting on December 7, 1821, Elder William Warfield was invited to preach twice a month. At the same meeting the church proposed to grant Dr. Webber the privilege of exercising his gifts. Feeling some hesitation, Dr. Webber asked that the matter be left with himself, which was agreed to.
The church minutes from 1821 to 1823 could not be found, and the next item recorded is the call of Mr. Warfield to the pastorate, November 8, 1823. Mr. Warfield was no ordinary man. He commanded the respect and love of his brethren and the community. His large acquirements and other superior advantages eminently fitted him for his field of action. At the meeting on January 11, the church unanimously opposed a division of the association, and at the same meeting a tax of 12 1/2 cents on the $100 was levied to meet the church expenses. The minutes of this year recorded the trials of members for slander, backbiting, heterodoxy, etc. February 12, 1825, Rev. Warfield was re-chosen pastor. In October of this year the church resolved to appoint messengers to form a new association, and Elder William Warfield, James Clark, Dr. A. Webber and Armistead G. Slaughter were named as messengers. The church at different meetings of this year resolved to stand during singing and kneel at prayer; that a male member under censure is ineligible to the office of clerk or assistant clerk; that any male member absent at two consecutive meetings shall be cited to attend and explain; that questions of receiving or dismissing members, licensing or ordaining ministers and choosing pastor and deacons, require unanimity: all others may be decided by a majority; that slander shall be dealt with, and if the slandered party shrinks from taking the Gospel steps he shall be publicly rebuked; that a member under censure is not entitled to church privileges; and finally, one member is excluded under the charge of Unitarianism. Many other curious customs might be mentioned, but in the course of a few years they were abolished by church action, or neglected until forgotten.
Rev. William Warfield continued in the pastorate till 1827, when, in May of that year, Rev. Robert Rutherford was elected pastor. Elder Rutherford was a co-laborer with Elder Reuben Ross, in the early work of the Bethel Association. He was a well-educated Scotchman, with a rich brogue and great pulpit earnestness. Aside from his pastoral duties, he did much missionary work in southern Kentucky. In 1833, Elder Rutherford finding it impossible to serve the church regularly, Elder J. M. Pendleton was engaged to preach two Sundays in the month, and in August of this year he was received into the church by letter. In November, 1833, Rev. Pendleton was ordained by Elders Ross, Warfield, Tandy and Rutherford. The life and works of this man of God are too well known to need mention in this connection. He is a man of splendid powers, highly cultivated, but he is still serving his Master, and after he has been called hence will be time enough for those who know him to speak of his excellencies. It was during his administration that this church became known as the Hopkinsville Church. This change of name may have been made. officially, but the minutes contain no account of it. In August, 1836, a committee consisting of Brothers Pendleton and Webber presented fifteen articles of faith, which the church adopted.
In December, 1836, Elder Pendleton withdrew from this church, but he was requested to preach to the congregation as often as convenient. A committee was appointed to ask Elder Hubbard to occupy the pulpit one Sunday in the month, and the request was repeated the next year. The same year an invitation was extended to Elder Anderson. It seems this condition of affairs continued till 1839, when Elder Anderson took pastoral charge. In December, 1841, Rev. T. G. Keen was called to the pastorate, and remained in charge till 1845. In 1845 the church was incorporated, and Dr. Keen resigned. The next year the church extended a call to Rev. Samuel Baker, which was accepted. Dr. Baker only preached once a month at first, but the next year his whole time was se-cured. Dr. Baker is well known to the people of Kentucky, and occupies a leading place in the ministry. He is a critical scholar, a good speaker, and has no superior as an ecclesiastical historian. He is still at work among his brethren, and needs no eulogy from our hands. In 1850, Dr. Baker resigning, the Rev. A. D. Sears took charge of the church. During his pastorate Bethel Female College was established and built. Dr. Sears is a cultivated gentleman, an earnest pulpit orator, and a good pastor. Under his labors the church made material progress. But he, like other of our former pastors, is still actively engaged in his ministerial duties, and needs no further mention in this sketch. In 1864, when the war clouds were still lowering, when brethren and families in the same churches in Kentucky were often found in the ranks of the opposing armies, the church in Hopkinsville formed no exception; and when the subject of calling a pastor was discussed by the few who dared to mention the matter to each other, it was thought hardly possible to find any one sufficiently conservative to unite the two parties, the honesty of whose opinions and sentiments had been tried on many a bloody battle-field. Dr. Keen, then pastor at Petersburg, Va., was mentioned. He had been pastor here before the war. It was doubted whether a greater unanimity could be obtained on any other name North or South. He was unanimously called to the pastorate, accepted the call, passed the lines without molestation by either party, entered upon his work; and, however deep may have been the rankle of party prejudice, it is a fact worthy of mention that the mantle of peace has ever been over the church. Dr. Keen’s record is made, and the events of his twenty years’ labors with the church bear stronger testimony to his fidelity than any mere utterance of words. Dr. Keen was the first pastor who was called for his whole time, and it was during his connection with the church that the present edifice was originally erected and recently remodeled.
[The following sketches of members are by Prof. J. W. Rust, President of the Bethel Female College of Hopkinsville – ED.]
We feel that the history of our church viewed alone in the line of its pastorates and usages would be incomplete without some reference to those good and pious brethren who have long since gone to their reward. Among those who have held membership in this church and worshiped with this people may be mentioned Dr. Augustine Webber, perhaps one of the most thorough scholars in all that relates to our faith and practice that has ever adorned our common membership. To him the Bible was the inspired oracle of a living God. He walked by faith and not by sight. He feared God and eschewed evil. His zeal never abated. With heavy professional obligations pressing upon him as a physician, he seldom failed to be in his place as a church member. ever ready to help in any good work; while his pious wife, rivaling if possible his Christian enthusiasm, stood by his side in full sympathy with every move that looked to the spiritual life and growth of the church. Her gentle, loving, earnest and intelligent work in the Sunday-school will never be forgotten. The names of these two humble, loving Christians will ever be linked together in the memories of all who knew them-who have drawn inspiration and encouragement from their noble, consecrated lives. John P. Campbell Sr., possessed force of mind, dignity of character, general intelligence and liberality in support of the Gospel rarely equaled and never surpassed by any of his contemporaries. In his life benevolence was conspicuous. Under what he conceived to be demands of necessity his liberality knew no bounds. He was always ready, with or without others, to meet the balance of every church obligation. It was by his munificence more than that of any one else that Bethel Female College was founded. His donations amounted to fully one-third of its cost, and it may to-day be justly recognized as a living monument to his memory. Just before the war, sitting on his horse at the college gate one morning, he remarked to the writer, pointing to the building, ” That is only the center, two wings must be added.” The beautiful Christian life of his devoted wife added luster to his own, and in both church and home these two grand and good people exemplified a liberality and hospitality which honored the profession they had made.
E. J. Roberts was one of the most devoted men the church ever had in its membership. His humility, firmness, kindness, liberality and moderation were happily blended, controlled by a strong abiding faith and great decision of character.
John Buckner’s long, consistent life as a Christian is well remembered by those who often bowed with him around the altar of prayer. Kind and faithful, he was ever ready to lend the helping hand in time of need.
Armistead G. Slaughter united with this church in its early history. Some years after he removed to Bethel Church near Pembroke. He was a man of strong convictions and genuine Christian integrity; devoted to all the services of the church, and liberal in the support of its enter-prises. He was unusually well read in the affairs of the denomination, in which he took an abiding interest.
Jacob Torian was one of the pillars of the church. With an impulsive, impressible nature, he was admirably fitted by grace to attend to the general interest of the church, and in the pastor’s absence his services were justly recognized as of the highest value.
William H. Pendleton’s name will bring to the memory of those who knew him best one of the most active, earnest and faithful members of this church. A close Bible student, gifted in prayer and exhortation, and whether in the Sunday-school, in the prayer-meeting, or in the financial interests of the church, he was alike not only efficient but enthusiastic in his work. With many positive elements of character, he was aggressive in his nature, and his heart was ever enlisted in the work of the Lord. A life of great usefulness was spread out before him, but the summons came, and he exchanged the toils of earth for a crown in heaven.
Joseph M. Cheaney is another remembered for his good works. A more spiritually-minded Christian may not be found among our member-ship. Earnest in exhortation and in song, the interests of the church seemed uppermost in his mind. He showed his religion by his daily walk. He was always “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
Of James Clark, John Hawkins, Thomas P. Clark, Zack Glass, Thomas M. Buck, E. B. Richardson, Alpheus Palmer and others equally worthy of mention, we would be glad to speak, bat the limits of this sketch will not permit.
We beg to close these hasty and imperfect personal references with a brief allusion to one of the most remarkable men ever connected with our church.
John Hubbard removed from Virginia to Kentucky in 1836 and connected himself with the church. Although solicited to preach, he generally refused, feeling that his mission was to exhort. So remarkably gifted was he in this kind of service, that he was often invited to assist pastors in protracted meetings. His exhortations after sermons were powerful and effective. Competent persons, who have heard him, say that when making an appeal before an audience with his emotional nature aroused, the ” expressiveness of his eye, the clear and solemn tones of his voice, his whole manner indicating the deep earnestness and solicitude of his soul for the salvation of sinners, were such as often to carry conviction to the sinner’s heart that had remained unmoved under the sermon. Indeed, so powerful were his exhortations, that he is said to have reached the hearts of men of all classes as few preachers could. This desire to be instrumental in the salvation of sinners was not the result of a momentary impulse with Mr. Hub-bard, but seemed to be the abiding burden of his heart, and the upper-most thought of his mind.” The name of John Hubbard will be held in remembrance by thousands who have listened to his unaffected and impressive exhortations, many of whom he effectually led to the Savior. His death like his life was a grand triumph of faith. During his last illness, his devoted wife seeing that his end was nigh labored with him and prayed that he might have ” dying grace.” Seeing the deep grief that awaited her terrible bereavement, he earnestly prayed that she might have ” living grace,” and thus they strove to comfort each other to the very doors of death.
But turning from the sainted dead, let us not look mournfully back, but hopefully forward. The lessons of their lives are before us. Let us feel that we can best perpetuate their memories by emulating their noble deeds.
The Colored Baptist Church
The Colored Baptist Church is located on Virginia Street, and is a large and substantial brick edifice. It is lighted with gas, and well furnished and comfortably seated. It has a large membership, some 500 or 600, as we were informed, and is in a very flourishing condition. Rev. E. Richey is the Pastor. We were unable to obtain the facts of its early history and organization. A large and flourishing Sunday-school is maintained in connection with the church.