Hopkinsville Presbyterians

The sketch here given of the Presbyterian Church was prepared for this work by Judges Landes and McPherson: The history of Presbyterianism in Hopkinsville, up to the date of separation in 1867, is the common heritage of both Northern and Southern divisions of that church. The first Presbyterian Church organized in the county was in Hopkinsville in the year 1813, and under the auspices of the Rev. Edwin Blackburn. The earlier records of the church have been lost and it is impossible to give the precise date of the organization, or the names of the original members. For a number of years the church was irregularly supplied with preaching, and worshiped in the old log court house on the public square. It is thought the first church edifice was erected some time about the year 1820. It stood upon the lot of ground on the south side of Nashville Street, where now stands the present church edifice of the Southern Presbyterians. This last-named edifice was built in the year 1849. It is a large, substantial brick building, with basement offices, etc.

The following-named ministers served the church up to the time of the division, July 20,1867: First, Rev. William K. Stewart was pastor for several years, but just how long cannot now be ascertained. Second, Rev. Joseph Cushman supplied the pulpit for eighteen months or more. Third, Rev. R. Lapsley from 1824 to 1829. Fourth, he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Caldwell, who died November 5, 1833, while supplying the church. Fifth, Rev. William D. Jones became pastor in 1834, and continued in that relation until 1848. Sixth, Rev. B. H. McCown filled the pulpit acceptably up to 1852. The church was without a pastor for a short time. Seventh, in 1853, the Rev. F. G. Strahan became the stated supply and continued to serve the congregation up to October, 1858. Eighth, shortly after Mr. Strahan left, the Rev. H. V. D. Nevius, now of Jacksonville, Ill., became pastor and continued in that relation from 1859 to March, 1867. A few months after the departure of Rev. Nevius, (July 20, 1867) the division referred to above took place, one part of the congregation (about forty) adhering to what is known as the -” Northern Assembly,” the other (about forty-four) adhering to the ” Southern Assembly.” The two churches continued to occupy jointly the church building on Nashville Street, dividing the time equally until 1878, when the church property was divided. By the terms of this agreement the ” Southern Assembly ” congregation retained possession of the church building and lot, while the ” Northern Assembly ” congregation retained possession of the parsonage lot and building, the former paying the latter the difference between the two properties. The further terms of this agreement were that the “Northern Assembly ” should be known as the First, and ” Southern Assembly ” congregation as the Second Presbyterian Church of Hopkinsville, Ky., while both were to continue to occupy the old building jointly till the 1st day of January, 1879. The two churches were subsequently incorporated under the respective names agreed upon, and on January 1, 1879, the First Church surrendered their interest in the church property.

First Presbyterian Church

In the year 1880 this congregation erected its church edifice, situated on the southeast corner of Russellville and Liberty Streets. The first service held in it was on the 7th day of November, 1880. The building is of brick and of the English-Gothic style of architecture, and cost including lot and church furniture the sum of $7,500. It has a seating capacity of 275, but on special occasions with the use of chairs has accommodated 400 or more persons. This church is connected with the Presbytery of Louisville, and through it with the Synod of Kentucky, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Since the division it has had the following pastors, viz.: Revs. James H. Dinsmore, W. T. Hall, A. W. Colver, Heman H. Allen, D. D., and Richard H. Coulter, the present pastor of the church, who was installed September 14, 1881. He commenced his ministry in the church as a licentiate, in May, 1880; was called to the pastorate January 15, 1881, and ordained to the full work of the Gospel Ministry by the Presbytery at Shelbyville, Ky., April, 1881. The present membership of the church is seventy-two; Acting Elders, R. H. Kelly, Jr., Allan Wallis and Joseph I. Landes; Deacons, Walter Kelly, W. T. Bonte, and J. M. Starling.

The Sunday-school numbers about fifty, officers, teachers and scholars, with an average attendance of forty pupils. The Superintendent is Judge Joseph I. Landes, who is also the present Clerk of the session.

Second Presbyterian Church

As already mentioned, the adherents of the “Southern Assembly ” at the time of the separation retained possession of the church property on Nashville Street, and consented to adopt the name and title of the Second Presbyterian Church of Hopkinsville, Ky. The first stated supply after the division of’ the church, was the Rev. H. M. Painter, who served them up to 1870, at which time (about April) the present pastor, Rev. John C. Tate, succeeded him.

The present officers of the church are: Elders, Thomas Green, G. W. Jarrett, S. H. McCullough, J. B. McKenzie, and John W. McPherson; Deacons, James C. Moore, J. E. McPherson, Dr. J. M. Dennis and G. A. Champlin; Trustees, Charles B. Alexander, C. L. Dade, James C. Moore, and G. A. Champlin; Sunday-school Superintendent, J. E. McPherson. The present membership of the church is about 120, while the Sunday-school numbers some sixty officers and scholars.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church

The following sketch of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Hopkinsville was furnished for this work by the pastor-Rev. A. C. Biddle. It is necessarily brief, as the early records, we learn, have been mislaid or were destroyed in the disastrous fire of 1882:

The first organization of a Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Hopkinsville was effected in the year 1825 or 1826. The meeting for organization was in what was then known as the Unitarian Church, located at the corner of Virginia and Court Streets. Its officers or Elders were David Usher, John Finly and Rezin Elliott. The little flock, not being able at that time to erect for itself a house of worship, entered into an agreement with the Unitarian people, by which they were to complete the unfinished house of the latter, and occupy it alternately with them, under a lease of ten years. In the meantime, in the year 1829, the Rev. James Y. Barnett had settled near Hopkinsville, in Christian County, in the bounds of the Salubria Springs congregation. Soon thereafter he took ministerial charge of the struggling enterprise, and in 1839 the church was in a flourishing condition. In this year (1839) the Green River Synod first met with the congregation, still worshiping in the Unitarian Church, and the Rev. S. G. Burney, D. D., now Senior Professor of Theology in Cumberland University, preached the opening sermon. Soon, however, the church was to be called upon to build for itself. On the night of the 20th of January, 1840, the church house was unroofed, and otherwise badly injured by a violent storm, so that it was considered more wise to build than to repair. On the 23d of March, 1841, a lot was purchased of George Poindexter, 65×82-6, on Russellville Street. The trustees appointed to receive this property at the hands of Mr. Poindexter, were Rev. James Y. Barnett, Magnus T. Carnahan, Rezin Elliott, William R. Payne and James Edwards. Upon this lot the Building Committee, composed of Rev. Mr. Barnett, Rezin Elliott and Magnus T. Carnahan, began at once the erection of a house of worship. The building was of brick, 37×45 feet; and here they continued to worship with but few interruptions until the breaking out of the war.

In 1848 the Rev. James Y. Barnett died at his home near Pembroke, and was followed in his pulpit ministrations by the Rev. A. J. Baird, D. D., now of Nashville, Tenn., and he in turn was followed by the Rev. Samuel B. Vance, now of Henderson, Ky. For some years before the war it seems that the congregation was without a settled minister, and when at last the war was over, it left not only the congregation wholly disorganized and badly scattered, but the building itself in a deplorable condition. It had been used first as a hospital by the Confederate army; then as a carriage shop, during which time it narrowly escaped destruction by fire, and then again it was used as a schoolroom.

From this date (1869) the facts in the history of this congregation are taken from the records of the church session. It appears that some time during 1868 or the early part of 1869, the congregation had been re-organized by the Rev. Joel M. Penick, for at the fall meeting of the Daviess Presbytery, October 9, 1869, a representative from the Hopkinsville Church appeared before the Presbytery, bearing a petition asking to be received under the care of that body. In that petition is found the following statement: ” We would respectfully represent that we now have a membership of thirty-two, with four Ruling Elders, viz.: Henderson Wade, Edwin Edwards,, G. W. Wyley and A. H. Ferguson, and also have a house of worship in the town of Hopkinsville.” The congregation was served from this time until May, 1870, by Mr. Penick, and from that time till March, 1871, by Rev. J. M. Gill, D. D.; of Elkton, Ky. On the 4th of March, 1871, the congregation formally called to the pastor-ate the Rev. A. H. Berry, now of Horse Cave, Ky., and he was shortly thereafter installed as pastor. At the spring session of presbytery, April, 1873, this relationship was dissolved, and in August of the same year the Rev. R. J. Beard now of Petersburg, Ill., took charge of the church. In May of 1876 the congregation found itself again without a pastor, in which condition it continued until October, 1877, when Rev. M. 0. Smith took charge, and was formally installed in the following November. Under the guidance of Revs. Beard and Smith, the congregation had grown to nearly 100 members. But unfortunately Mr. Smith was compelled to resign on account of a throat affliction, and his resignation was accepted October 5, 1881. Rev. J. A. Francis, of Lebanon, Tenn., was then employed for several months as a supply. On the 24th of October, 1882, occurred the disastrous fire, which must remain a memorable land-mark in the memories of the citizens of Hopkinsville, and in this fire the Cumberland Presbyterian church-house fell. The congregation at once determined to rebuild. On the 16th of July, 1883, Rev. A. C. Biddle accepted a call to take charge; a building committee was appointed, and the work of rebuilding progresses.

At the present time (March 25, 1884) the officers of the church are as follows: Pastor, Rev. A. C. Biddle; Elders, Edwin Edwards, Henderson Wade, Gustavus W. Wiley, James P. Braden and A. Campbell; Deacons, John A. F. Brown, William W. Twyman, M. W. Williams, R. D. Reader. The membership numbers eighty-eight. The Sabbath-school is now under the efficient conduct of M. 0. Smith as Superintendent.


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

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