Hopkinsville Methodists

The appended sketch of the Methodist Church was written for this work by Judge Joe McCarroll. Of course it will be understood without explanation that the churches here, after the separation in 1844, adhered to the Southern division of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In his sketch Judge McCarroll gives a synopsis of the introduction of Methodism into the county as a prelude to the history of the church in Hopkinsville, which will be found of considerable interest to the reader. It is as follows:

In 1776, soon after the Declaration of American Independence, that vast region and wilderness embracing the western frontier of Virginia was by an act of the Virginia Legislature formed into a separate county called Kentucky, even the western end of which, where Christian County now is, began in a few years to be settled by whites. Ten years later (1786), within two years from the formal organization of the Methodist Church in America, Bishop Asbury appointed James Haw and Benjamin Ogden, vigorous young soldiers of the Cross, and fresh from the Revolutionary war, to travel and preach in Kentucky. The following year the Western work was divided into two circuits: Kentucky and Cumberland, the latter of which embraced that part of southern Kentucky which lies between Green and Cumberland Rivers, and also what is now called middle Tennessee. To the Cumberland Circuit Benjamin Ogden was returned. As this was but two years after the settlement of Christian County by John Montgomery and James Davis (according to Collins, but five years according to more reliable sources), and as Cumberland Circuit was an immense wilderness, it is hardly probable that Methodism had much foothold at that time in this county; but, on the other hand, it was under the supervision of a vigorous young pioneer, and it is but fair to presume that the settlements of this county claimed and received his attention, as did other parts of the wilderness. The history of Methodism in Christian County then dates from the appointment of Benjamin Ogden to the Cumberland Circuit in 1787-88. Since then it has maintained a firm and steadily increasing hold on the people until it is one of the strongest and most useful church organizations in the county, with an actual active membership of 1,500, church property valued at $30,000, and an annual expenditure for the cause of Christ of from $3,500 to $4,000. But, although the settlement in the county of a number of Methodist families from Maryland and Virginia secured the presence and attention of the traveling ministers, and doubtless the temporary formation of classes or societies, as they are called, and in that way unquestionably gave to the church here a historical existence dating from the appointment of Benjamin Ogden to the Cumberland Circuit in 1787-88-yet it is not at all certain that the church had any permanent foothold in the county prior to the great revivals held in Logan County (of which this was then a part) in 1794 by Rev. Jacob Lurton. Indeed, Dr. Red-ford says, in his Methodism in Kentucky, that Jacob Lurton ” was the first to proclaim the story of the Cross” to that people. A wonderful revival had started as far south as Nashville, Tenn., and gradually swept through all this country until it reached the neighborhood of Peter Cartwright’s father, near Russellville, in 1794. It was in his house that Jacob Lurton and Moses Speer held a powerful meeting during that year. Prior to the year 1800, Benjamin Ogden, James Haw, the great and noble Francis Poythress, Peter Massie, Barnabas McHenry (the grand-father of Hon. H. D. and Col. John H. McHenry, of Owensboro and Hartford), John Page, William Burke, Wilson Lee, Jacob Lurton, Moses Speer and Aquilla Sugg were the noble band of brothers who struggled and battled through the wilderness, and barrens, and hills, and settlements from Nashville, Tenn., to Russellville and Bowling Green, Ky., and thence to Evansville, Ind., presenting with remarkable ability and enthusiasm the doctrines of the Bible as understood and expounded by the Methodists. While it cannot be stated with precision which of these men preached in this county at any given time, the records are pretty authentic that they were preaching to all the various settlements of Logan, Christian and other counties in the Cumberland District 6111796, when Logan, Christian, etc., were formed into the Logan Circuit. The peculiar methods of the church at that early day were such that it is not possible now to tell exactly what it did accomplish. We only know that here, as everywhere else, its preachers and laymen went from house to house and from neighbor-hood to neighborhood holding meetings, until their influence was felt and impressed upon the people long, long before they ever had any church in the county. Indeed, we ascertain from some of the more modern records of the church that there must have been at least one hundred houses (residences) in the county where preaching was had before any attention was given to the erection of churches; and the church had really begun to grow strong before any organization was had. The following is a list of the most prominent preaching places since 1800: Old Concord, Harrison’s Camp Ground, Mann’s, E. Harrison’s, Bond’s, Nichol’s, Ben Harrison’s, Pyle’s, Johnson’s Schoolhouse, Sink’s, R. Harrison’s (Pond River), R. Harrison’s (Sinking Fork), Elliott’s, John Gray’s, Trade Water, Hall’s (old), Robert Harris’, J. and T. Dunnavan’s, J. Hopson’s, Grove’s Schoolhouse, McClellan’s, West Fork Meeting House, Long’s, Cave Spring, Sand Lick, Bradley’s, Turner’s, Russell’s, Pitzer’s, Brown’s, Powell’s Schoolhouse, also called “Catfight,” Lackey’s, Hazlegreen, Bird’s Creek, McKendree Chapel, Salubria Spring, Old and New Providence, Garrettsburg, Hopkinsville, The Bridge, Puckett’s Schoolhouse, Coon’s, Brown’s Chapel, Pleasant Green, Sheridan’s Schoolhouse, Berry’s Chapel, Pisgah, Hebron, Oak Grove, Olivet, Sively’s Camp Ground, Center Camp Ground, Robbins’, Fairview, Vaughn’s Chapel, Shiloh, LaFayette, Crofton, Bethlehem, New Concord, Mt. Carmel, Grissam’s Chapel and Hall’s Chapel, besides many of smaller importance and some whose locality we were unable to ascertain, though persuaded they were in this county. These various places of worship have been from time to time consolidated in different neighborhoods, and church edifices erected for the common good of all, until they now number about twenty-five.

Originally the ” Meeting Houses,” as they were called, were very rude. Rev. Father Thomas Bottomley relates that even as late as 1843, when in charge of the Hopkinsville Circuit, he went to Long’s Meeting House, on the Princeton road, to preach. He found a dirty log-house with no floor but the ground, no window except a missing log back of the ” pulpit,” split logs with splinters in them for seats, and a door so low at the top and so high at the bottom that it was difficult to crawl in through it at all. ” Brethren,” said Father Bottomley to a few old Christians who had assembled to hear him on his second ” round ;” ” I am not coming here any more !” ” Why ?” asked old man Long. Because,” said he, ” those of you who are good enough to come to this dingy hole to hear me preach will get to heaven anyhow; and as for the sinners, the place is so dirty and uninviting they’ll never come, and therefore I am not coming here any more ! ” And he never did preach there again. A better place was soon after built, perhaps Sheridan’s. From 1800 to 1811, when the Christian Circuit was formed, the following ministers preached to the various settlements of the county: William Kenyon, Learner Blackman, Thomas Wilkerson, Jesse Walker, Miles Harper, William Houston, David Young, Benj. Edge, Thomas Lasley, Samuel H. Thompson, Thomas Kirkman and Peter Cartwright. From that time to 1820 Christian Circuit included all the Methodist preaching places of Christian County; and the study of the records reveals many curious and interesting phases of early Methodist life in Christian County. The revivals, the arbor meetings, the camp meetings, the wonderful preaching and its remarkable effects, the wild oratory, the religious enthusiasm of those early times-all these form the text for more study and more history than we can afford in this place. In the year 1820 the Tennessee Annual Conference held its meeting in Hopkinsville and cut it off from the circuit. As the history of the church in Hopkinsville and magisterial districts necessarily gives the history of the Christian Circuit from 1811 to 1820, we now leave the general history of the church in the county and call attention to the precinct histories.

Methodist Church in Hopkinsville

Perhaps the first Methodist Church ever built in Christian County was the one built by the Hopkinsville ” Society ” on the lot recently owned by the late Ben. O. Welch, east of Railroad Street, between Market and Broad. We have no record of the date when this society was organized, but the history of the church in Kentucky and Christian County makes it pretty sure that it was very early in the nineteenth century; for as early as 1809 Rev. Samuel II. Thompson had charge of the Christian Circuit, of which Hopkinsville was the principal preaching place (II. Methodism in Kentucky, page 291), although the circuit is not mentioned in the general minutes of the church until 1811. The names of most if not all the ministers who had served this church prior to 1811 have already been given in the general remarks on the church in the county. In addition to these may be named Benjamin Harrison, Ezekiel Harrison, Jr., John Burgess, Joseph Williams, Henry Allen, Richard Gaines, James Nichols, Jesse Harrison (and perhaps Reuben and Robert Harrison, both of whom were prominent Methodists), Thomas Kirkman and John Graham, all of whom were then laymen in the church. But little is known of these men except that they were eminently pious and useful in their day. Their very names meant the Methodism of the times, and their lives were bright examples of goodness and holiness, which exerted an influence for good in the community for many years after they had passed away. Rev. Kirk-man was in the ministry for a good many years and died near Hopkinsville about forty years ago. He was not a man of great ability, but was so beloved that his name is still held in reverence by men who never saw him. If we are not mistaken, the Hopkinsville Church still preserves with care an old-fashioned, straight-back chair with his name on it, used by the good old man two generations ago. From the best information obtainable, we gather that the church here must have duly organized, as we have said, soon after the year 1800, though there had been Methodist preaching here some years before, as shown in another place. We are satisfied that the old ” meeting-house ” was immediately erected, if, in fact, it was not already there. It was a dilapidated old establishment, and there are men now living in Hopkinsville (1884) who remember the benches without backs, and the ” cracks in the floor so large that the chickens could be seen scratching underneath.” It was of brick, and here the church grew and prospered. Dr. Redford thinks the church had no place of worship until 1820, and that the court house was used for that purpose. That they had no church building prior to 1820 can only be true from a legal point of view; and, as a matter of fact, the church had no legal title to their place of worship until the 21st of October, 1822, when George Kirkman, of Todd County, for $170 cash, conveyed the lot before referred to to Peter Cartwright, Benjamin Harrison, Ezekiel Harrison, Jr., John Burgess, Joseph Williams, Henry Allen, Richard Gaines, James Nichols and Jesse Harrison in trust for the Hopkinsville Methodist Church. It is probable that the court house was used at times, but the old house was there years before. It was in this old meeting-house that the Tennessee Conference met in 1820, and the deed from Kirkman to the church describes the lot as ” containing a Methodist meeting-house now erected.” Some have thought this old church was new, perhaps in-complete at the time of the conference of 1820; but a reference to the aforesaid deed, executed in October, 1822, will show the following stipulation:

“In trust, that they shall erect and build, or cause to be erected and built thereon, a house or place of worship for the use of the members,” etc., and it is within the memory of some yet living, that according to this trust the church did very soon afterward, perhaps in 1823, repair and add to the old structure so as to perfect the building which was used by the church until the year 1848 or 1849. We may add here that, though the subject of parsonages had been frequently discussed by the church since 1820 (as the records show), occasionally houses rented for that purpose, and in 1833 the purchase of a parsonage for the Presiding Elder was ordered, it was not until the year 1838 that the committee was directed ” to inquire into the expediency of purchasing a parsonage,” and not until 1846 that the Hopkinsville Church really bought one. This was on the same lot with the old church, and was also of brick. It was sold, however, in 1848. The following is a list of the preachers sent to the Christian Circuit (which included Hopkinsville) from 1810 to 1820, when Hopkinsville was cut off to itself and made a station: 1811, James Axley, Presiding Elder, Peter Cartwright, Circuit Preacher. The former of these was celebrated for his simplicity and meekness, the other for his great pugnacity. He was known and read of all men as the fighting preacher. Perhaps no man in the American pulpit since that day has been so noted for courage and audacity. His piety was not questioned, but his manner was extremely rude and sometimes unfortunate. Both were good preachers. From 1812 to 1816, Peter Cartwright, P.E.; 1812, Jacob Turman, Circuit Preacher; 1813, Samuel H. Thompson, Circuit Preacher; 1814, John Johnson, Circuit Preacher. This last named gentleman enjoyed a great reputation both as a preacher and debater. It was in 1818 that the celebrated debates took place between him and Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman, a learned clergyman of the Baptist Church in Nashville and Hopkinsville. In these discussions they both made fire and sparks fly until their reputations spread all over the country. In 1815 Claiborne Duval was the Preacher; 1816 to 1818, James Axley was again Presiding Elder; 1816, Peter Cartwright, Preacher; 1817, Benjamin Malone, Assistant, and John Devar, Circuit Preacher; 1818 to 1821, Marcus Lindsey, Presiding Elder; 1818, John Cragg, Preacher; 1819, Peter Cartwright, Assistant, and Martin Flint, Circuit Preacher. In 1820 the conference cut Hopkinsville off from the circuit, and it remained what is called in Methodist parlance ” a station” (as contra-distinguished from a circuit) until 1837. The following is a list of preachers on station and circuit until then: The first Preacher to the new station was Rev. Andrew Monroe in 1820. The circuit had Peter Cartwright and William W. McReynolds; 1821 to 1825, Charles Holiday, P. E.; 1821, Hopkinsville, John Johnson; Christian Circuit, Thomas A. Morris and Richard Gaines, Preachers. It needs not to be mentioned to the Methodist readers of this history that this was the great and good Bishop Morris; 1822, Hopkinsville and Russellville, John Johnson; Christian Circuit, Thomas A. Morris and Major Stanfield; 1823, at Hopkinsville, Thomas A. Morris; Christian Circuit, George McNelly and Abram Long; 1824, at Hopkinsville, Simon L. Booker; on the circuit, George McNelly and Newton G. Berryman; 1825 to 1827 Thomas A. Morris, Presiding Elder; 1825, Hopkinsville, Richard Corwine; on circuit, William Peter and Benjamin Ogden; 1826, Hopkinsville, John S. Barger; Christian Circuit, William Peter and David M. Tunnell; 1827 to 1831, George McNelly, Presiding Elder; 1827-29, Hopkinsville, William W. McReynolds; Christian Circuit, Blatchly C. Wood, Samuel Kenyon, John Sinclair and Thomas Waring; 1829, Hopkinsville, Green-up Kelly; on circuit, George W. Robbins and William Phillips; 1830, Hopkinsville, A. H. Stemmons; Christian Circuit, John Denham and Clement D. Clifton; 1831 to 1833, at Hopkinsville, H. J. Evans, Preacher; on circuit, Newton G. Berryman and John Redman, two years each; Dr. Redford gives W. S. Evans also; 1832, Hopkinsville, Thomas W. Chandler; 1833 to 1837, Isaac Collard, Presiding Elder; 1833, Hopkinsville, John Beatty; on circuit, Wilson S. McMurry and Buford Farris; 1834, Hopkinsville, W. S. Evans; Christian Circuit, Leswel Campbell and Albert Kelly; 1835, Hopkinsville, W. S. McMurry; on circuit, Leswel Campbell and Reuben W. Landrum.

In 1836 Hopkinsville and Christian Circuit were again united under the name of Hopkinsville Circuit, and James H. Brooking and Edwin Roberts, Preachers. The following is a further list: From 1837 to 1841, Richard Corwine, P. E.; 1837, Gilby Kelly, Assistant, and Andrew J. McLaughlan, Circuit Preacher; 1838, Gilby Kelly, Assistant, and N. H. Lee, Circuit Preacher; 1839, Edward Stevenson, Assistant; 1840, J. B. Perry, Assistant; 1841 to 1845, Edward Stevenson, P. E.; 1841, Richard Holding, Preacher; 1842 and 1843, Thomas Bottomley. On Christian Mission, Silas Drake; 1844, Abram Long and James N. Temple; 1845 to 1847, Napoleon B. Lewis, P. E.; 1845, Abram Long, in charge, and L. B. Davidson, Assistant; 1846, A. H. Redford and George R. Browder; 1847 to 1851, Thomas Bottomley, P. E.; 1847, J. Young; 1848, J. S. Wools. In 1849 Hopkinsville was again cut off to itself, and Samuel F. Johnson stationed here two years. On the circuit T. J. Moore; 1850, on circuit, B. R. Hester; 1851 to 1855, N. H. Lee, P. E.; 1851, Hopkinsville, J. W. Kasey, on circuit, S. D. Akin; 1852, Hopkinsville, J. S. Wools. The remaining appointments to the circuit will be found in history of Shiloh Church. From 1853 to 1858 Garrettsburg was attached to Hopkinsville Circuit; 1853, Hopkinsville and Garrettsburg, F. M. English. Christian Mission South, B. R. Hester; Christian Mission North, R. C. Alexander. 1854, Hopkinsville and Garrettsburg, J. H. Owen; Christian Mission, Abram Long and W. M. Malloy; 1853 to 1857, Z. M. Taylor and J. S. Wools, Presiding Elders; Hopkinsville and Garrettsburg, J. H. Owen; Christian Mission, T. D. Lewis; 1856, Hopkinsville and Garrettsburg, J. Maxwell; Christian Mission, W. W. Mann, two years; 1857, Hopkinsville and Garrettsburg, F. A. Morris, two years. In 1859 Hopkinsville again stood alone. 1859 to 1861, Z. M. Taylor, P. E.; 1859 and 1860, Hopkinsville, L. P. Crenshaw; in 1861, Garrettsburg added -; 1861 Hopkinsville and Garrettsburg, Gideon Gooch; in 1862 Hopkinsville was again alone and has remained so ever since, except one year with Shiloh; 1861 to 1866, W. H. Morris, P. E.; 1862, Dennis Spurrier; 1863, J. C. Petree; 1864-65-66, S. W. Speer; 1866 to 1869, Timothy C. Frogge, P. E.; 1867-68, J. C. Petree; 1869-70, J. W. Price; 1869, L. B. Davidson, Presiding Elder; 1870, H. M. Ford, Presiding Elder, two years; 1872, D. Morton, P. E., followed by N. H. Lee, Isaac W. Emerson and George R. Browder, the present P. E.; 1871-72-73, Thomas Bottomley, Preacher; 1874 to 1878, John W. Lewis; the next three years Samuel R. Brewer, who was succeeded by Dr. E. W. Bottomley, the present Preacher.

The church in Hopkinsville has had many prominent, zealous and useful members. Early in its history Rev. Ira Ellis, a great and good man with his two sons, Nicholas M. and Ira I., and their families, moved to the county and joined the church. They added much to the strength, influence and usefulness of the church. Rev. Ira Ellis was one of the first preachers of his day intellectually as well as in point of time. After fourteen years of uncommon success in the ministry ” he withdrew him-self from public view,” says the Western Christian Advocate, ” as if alarmed at his own popularity, in 1795.” He preached occasionally in the old meeting-house,” until a few years before his death in 1841. His son Nicholas died April 24, 1849, and Ira only a few years ago; In addition to these were several of the old Hopson family-Henry,., and Jr., and John and Neville Hopson. Mesdames Preston, Caldwell and Wilkinson were among the early lights of the church. Coming down to later years we find John H. Wood, William S. Talbott, William E. Price and ” Aunt Margaret ” his wife, Charlotte Laskin, Mrs. Nancy Feland, William Alexander (afterward a useful traveling preacher), Samuel A. Means, David R. Beard, James A. Henderson (now a preacher in the Kentucky Conference), Ira F. Ellis, Dr. A. P. Campbell and a number of other useful and prominent Methodists still living. The first Sunday-school organized by the Methodists in the county was organized by Mr. John B. Gowen, in 1844-45, in Hopkinsville. Mr. Gowen was at that time the most prominent, zealous and active layman, perhaps, in the county. During the war, however, he withdrew from the church and has not since rejoined it. This Sunday-school was reported in 1866 to have increased its membership from twenty to sixty, and to have expended $30 for books, through the efforts of some young ladies. (Since writing the above it has been ascertained that there was a flourishing Sunday-school in this church as early as 1825, but it went down and finally became extinct, and was reorganized by Mr. Gowen as stated.)

In 1846, under the ministry of Revs. A. H. Redford and George R. Browder, the church was in a prosperous condition, and the old building was decided to be inadequate to the necessities of the congregation. It was agreed, therefore, to sell the old meeting-house and parsonage and build a larger and more suitable church. The members went to work accordingly. On the 17th of March, 1848, William E. Price and wife conveyed to the Trustees the lot on the corner of Nashville and Clay Streets, where the church now stands, and in due time the large and commodious brick edifice which is still used by this congregation was built, and dedicated with imposing ceremonies. Here the church has had many revivals, and is at present in a flourishing condition. It raised in 1883 $2,500 for repairs, and raises annually some $1,400 for various enter-prises of the church (including salaries of preacher and Presiding Elder). The membership at present comprises 260 persons, and the Sunday-school roll shows 190 pupils. The present officers of the church are as follows: Trustees, Hon. John Feland, David J. Hooser, David R. Beard; Superintendent Sunday-school, J. W. I. Smith; Stewards, Dr. A. P. Campbell, Ira F. Ellis, E. L. Foulks, John N. Mills, Andrew Hall, Henry C. Ballard and Joe McCarroll.

The Colored Methodist Church

The history of this church was writ-ten by Judge McCarroll, and is as follows: The colored Methodist people of Hopkinsville have had preachers and preaching ever since about the year 1830, possibly a little later than that. They had no church building or property of course until after their emancipation, but met in the church owned by the whites, and there had the Gospel preached to them. Since 1848 they met in the Sunday-school room of the present (white) Methodist Church on Clay and Nashville Streets, until they built a church of their own. Soon after the war they purchased a good lot on the corner of Liberty and Hickory Streets which had an old frame building on it, to which they made an addition, and thus had a very comfortable and roomy church. This was about the time of the organization of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America by the Southern Methodist Church. They had their society incorporated by the Legislature, and took a solid stand at once among the churches of the city. Some difficulty was at first experienced in paying for their church, but through the activity of Nelson Cross, one of the oldest members, and with the good example of his liberality, and the assistance of the whites, it was fully paid for. We find from records of the Christian Circuit, that the Quarterly Conference was licensing their preachers as far back as 1838; Thomas Northington and John Philips were licensed to preach that year. Peter Stroud, Richard Gant and Cyrus Glass were licensed to exhort about the same time, and their licenses renewed, especially Stroud’s, for many years. The church has done well here, and numbers among its members the most substantial and influential and upright colored persons in the county. Only a few years ago they tore down the old frame, and in 1880 completed one of the most substantial and commodious brick churches in the city, which we hear is all paid for; they also have a parsonage. The church is called Freeman’s Chapel, being named for Peter Freeman, one of the old reliable members, and a Class Leader in the church.

Among the old preachers of this church were Kit Humphreys, Stew-art Newton, Ned Newton, David Ratcliffe, Ned Jones, George McLain and James Allen. Of these preachers none rose to the prominence or had the ability of Ned Jones.., He was bright, and set free by the church in slavery times and educational facilities furnished him. When in his prime he was regarded as a most excellent preacher. He frequently preached to large congregations of whites; he died in 1865. All the old preachers are now dead except Dave Ratcliffe, who is extremely old and feeble. Amongst the prominent laymen have been Benjamin Phelps, Mat Phelps, Nelson Cross, James and Orange Warfield, Phil Bell, Kit Banks and Peter Postell. ” Uncle Kit,” as he is familiarly called, was for many years prior to January 1, 1884, the faithful Sexton for the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but owing to feeble health resigned at that time. Since the separate organization of the church, Revs. Walker, Cowen, Hubbard, James Bell and Dr. Matthews have served the church. The church at present numbers about 315 members, and the officers are Nelson Cross, Phil Bell, Columbus Lynch, Ned Turner, John Moore, Marshall Williams, J. R. Hawkins and Miner Thomas.


Perrin, William Henry, ed., Counties of Christian and Trigg, Kentucky, Historical and Biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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