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A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST
DENOMINATION IN AMERICA, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
By David Benedict

1813
London: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, No. 53, Cornhill, for the Author

 

OHIO AND THE WESTERN TERRITORIES

Ohio has been pronounced the most delightful of any of the Western States. Its fame has traveled far, and adventurers from New-England, from Georgia, the Carolinas, and all the other States, and indeed from many parts of Europe, have populated its fertile plains with an astonishing and almost incredible rapidity. In 1790, the number of white inhabitants, French and English, was estimated at 3,500, but by the census of 1810, they had increased to 230,760. The holding of slaves has never been permitted in Ohio, and many of the Emancipators from the neighboring States, where they abound, have had this circumstance particularly in view, in fixing on this State as a place of settlement. The Legislature has guarded against the introduction of slaves, and even the residence of black people in this retreat of freedom, by a strong and rigorous prohibition. And many of the leading members of the Baptist churches here, have taken a determined stand against every article of that policy, which subjects to degrading and perpetual servitude so many of the unhappy soils of Africa. This favourite maxim the Ohio brethren have often pushed to an enthusiastic extreme,* and in many instances have doubtless been too uncharitable towards their brethren who have been surrounded by slaves from their infancy, who have been nurtured by the sweat of their wretched brows, and who have inherited them from their fathers, as a principal part of their fortune. [* The Miami Association will not correspond with any of the neighboring Associations in Kentucky, on account of slavery nor with the Red-Stone Association in Pennsylvania, because a few of the churches of this body are in Virginia, and hold slaves. And a church not long since withdrew from the Miami Association, because she corresponded with the Philadelphia Association, and this Association corresponded with that of Charleston, South-Carolina, where the abomination was discovered. This far-fetched argument was in their estimation sufficient to justify their withdrawment.]

Though some of the first settlers in this State were Baptists, yet they have not, as in Kentucky, been the prevailing sect. The Methodists have been and probably are at present, the most numerous of any one denomination in Ohio. The late Governor Tiffin was a Methodist preacher, before his elevation to that dignified office. But the Baptist cause has prevailed considerably, and is now increasing with great rapidity throughout the State; churches are formed in almost every part of it, and many individuals and little bodies are settled where churches have not yet been established. In 1809, there were in this State about sixty churches, in which were about twenty-five hundred members. Since then, the number has probably greatly increased.

MIAMI ASSOCIATION

This Association was formed in 1797 of only four churches, in which there were not probably more than a hundred members. It is situated between the Miami Rivers, in the south-west corner of the State. The church formerly called Columbia, now Duck Creek, is not only the oldest in this Association but in the State. It was raised up in the following manner. In the autumn of 1789, a number of families went down the Ohio River, and commenced a settlement at the mouth of the Little Miami River on Colonel Symmes?s Purchase, where the town of Columbia now stands. This was about six miles from Fort Washington, now Cincinnati. In this company were Mr. Isaac Ferris from Connecticut, the late Judge Goforth from New-York, General John Gano from the same city, and Messrs. Benjamin and Elijah Stites originally from New-Jersey. Some others were in the company, whose names I have not learnt. This settlement was made in perilous times. The Indians made every exertion to cut them off and prevent their settlement: they tried by many stratagems to decoy them ashore on their passage down the river; and after they had settled, they were continually lurking to destroy them. They were obliged, for a number of years, to live mostly in forts and block-houses; but notwithstanding all their precautions, a number of the first settlers fell victims to the rage of their savage neighbors. A number of the company above mentioned were Baptist professors, but having no preacher among them, they set up a meeting among themselves, which they conducted by turns. In 1790, Stephen Gano, of Providence, Rhode-Island, took a journey into the western country to visit his father and family relations; he also visited this settlement, baptized three persons, and formed the little company into a church, which was the first, of any denomination, raised north of the Ohio River, in that extensive country, then called the North-Western Territory. This church soon received considerable accessions from emigrants to the Miami country, and as the fears of the Indians subsided, they extended their settlements farther out, and the Columbia church became the mother of most of the first churches, which arose in this region. Its seat is now removed from Columbia to a place called Duck Creek. Daniel Clark and John Smith were the first ministers who settled in this quarter. Mr. Clark is now the aged and respected pastor of the church at Turtle Creek, in the neighborhood of Lebanon. Mr. Smith became pastor of the church at Columbia, and for a number of years was well esteemed and apparently useful. But riches and honors spoiled him for a preacher, and he relinquished the employment. He has also abandoned his religious profession, and remains a melancholy example either of successful hypocrisy or of woeful apostacy. He was suspected of being concerned in the ill-fated expedition of Colonel Aaron Burr, although nothing was proved against him. At that time he was a Senator in Congress, where he was impeached and acquitted. He had become very remiss in the duties of his station before he arose to the senatorial rank; but this, with the Burr affair, seems to have completed his downfall. He had acquired a large estate, but Providence frowned upon him, and he lost it by various means; and he has now become a poor, apostate, wretched man, and lives somewhere among the Spaniards in West-Florida. The church is now supplied by Mr. William Jones, a native of Wales, but who removed hither from the back part of the State of New-York.

Of the other churches in this connection, I have not gained sufficient information, to say much respecting them. They were formed in a gradual way, mostly of Baptist members, who emigrated from other parts. Nothing very remarkable has occurred in the progress of the Miami Association; its circumstances have generally been prosperous, and in the time of the great revival, it experienced considerable enlargement. The church at Columbia received the addition of ninety members in one year. This Association has corresponded with the Philadelphia since 1800.

Attempts have also been made to open a correspondence with some of the Associations in Kentucky, a number of which are sufficiently near; but the prevailing prejudices on the part of the Ohio brethren have hitherto prevented that profitable intercourse, which is usually maintained by neighboring Associations.

A division of this Association took place by agreement in 1809, and a new Association was formed from it by the name of White Water, the history of which will be given in the account of the Indiana Territory.

SCIOTO ASSOCIATION

This Association is in a central part of the State, and was formed in 1805. It contained at the time of its constitution only four churches, but it has since considerably increased. It is situated on both sides of the beautiful Scioto River, from which the Association takes its name, and a number of the churches are in the neighborhood of Chilicothe. The church at Ames was constituted in 1800; it is composed of people mostly from New-England, and was the first church which was gathered within the bounds of the Association. The German or High Dutch church at Pleasant Run, in the county of Fairfield, and near the town of New-Lancaster, is the most distinguished on some accounts of any one in this Association, and is remarkable for having emigrated from Virginia, to its present situation, in a church capacity. In 1801, six families, among whom were fifteen church members, removed from Virginia, and in the wilderness of Ohio began the settlement, which is now pleasant and flourishing. A number of others have since followed; some English people have also united with them; so that their church in 1809 contained upwards of seventy members. The German brethren, who took the lead in forming this church, came principally from Rockingham county, and the church, which they transported to Ohio, was constituted in Virginia about 1790. It came out from what was called the White-House church in the county of Shenandoah. The members of this church, in Kentucky, would be called rigid Emancipators; they were constituted on their present principles in Virginia, and carried their opposition to slavery so far as to resolve, that they would hold no slaves themselves, or have any communion or visible fellowship with their brethren who did. On account of these principles, they were subjected to many inconveniences in their native State, which led them to seek an asylum in the wilderness, where they might enjoy unembarrassed and unreproached the free exercise of principles which they held most dear. They settled on a very fertile tract of land, and are an industrious and happy community. The church is supplied by three preachers, whose names are Lewis Sites, Samuel Comer, and Martin Coffman, who preach both in German and English. When the congregation is mostly made up of German people, they preach in the German language, and in the English when it is otherwise; and besides supplying their own church, these respectable preachers travel and labor much in the surrounding settlements, and with the young and destitute churches. This account of the German church was made out when I visited it in 1809. What alterations have taken place in it since, I have not heard.

BEAVER ASSOCIATION

In 1808, the churches of Providence, Hopewell, Chenango, New-Lisbon, Warren, and Little Beaver, most of which were of recent origin, were dismissed from the Red-Stone Association, and were shortly afterwards formed into the one we now have in view, which received its name from a creek, which empties into the Ohio River from the north, about thirty miles below Pittsburg. The churches in this Association are partly in Ohio and partly in Pennsylvania. Some of them were raised up by David Phillips, Henry Frazer, and some other ministers belonging to the Redstone Association; but the most extensive and successful laborer in this part of the vineyard, is Mr. Thomas G. Jones, a native of Wales, who settled here a few years since. Mr. Jones has been employed as a Missionary a part of the time by the Philadelphia Missionary Board; and by a divine blessing on his labors, many have been turned to the Lord, and a number of flourishing churches established.

This account of the Beaver Association I received from Mr. David Phillips, near Pittsburg, in 1809. I have written a number of letters for further information, but none has been communicated.

Besides the churches in these Associations, there are many others in this State, which, on account of their scattered and remote situations, do not belong to any associate connection.

AN ACCOUNT OF THE BAPTISTS IN THE TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENTS

Besides the three States of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, there were, before the State of Orleans was formed, beyond the Allegheny mountains, six territorial governments. Three of these, viz. the Indiana, the Illinois, and Michigan, together with the State of Ohio, are subdivisions of that extensive tract of country, formerly called the North-Western Territory. The Mississippi Territory, which was formerly included in the State of Georgia, lies between that State and the river from which it received its name. The Louisiana and Orleans Territories, the last of which has lately been admitted the eighteenth State in the Union, comprehend that extensive tract known by the name of the Louisiana Country, which was lately purchased by the United States, of France, about which politicians, many of whom knew not whether it was on the Western or Eastern Continent, have had so much talk and disputation.

All these territories are rapidly settling by emigrants from almost every part of the United States; in most of them Baptist churches have been established, and throughout all of them Baptist families are more or less scattered; but I have found it difficult to gain sufficient information of these remote and wide-spread regions, to be able to give much account of our brethren in them: the following statements, however, I believe may be depended upon as correct.

The INDIANA TERRITORY lies west of the State of Ohio, from which it is separated by a line running north and south. It is bounded south by the Ohio River, north by the Michigan Lake and Territory. In this Territory there are three Associations, and a considerable number of churches which are not associated.

WHITE WATER ASSOCIATION

This Association was formed by a division of the Miami, in 1809. It commenced with nine churches, and has now increased to eleven. It is a small body, but is well supplied with preachers, who are well spoken of as men of ability and usefulness. A few of the churches in this connection are in the State of Ohio, but most of them are in the Indiana Territory.

WABASH ASSOCIATION

This was also formed in 1809, of five churches, in all which there were but a little more than eighty members; but in about two years many new churches were added to it, and its number of members amounted to over eight hundred. But many of them have probably been scattered by the troubles of the present Indian War. At the beginning of this Association it contained only two ministers, whose names were Alexander Deven and Isaac M?Coy. Its churches are on the Wabash River, and some of them near the town of Vincennes.

SILVER CREEK ASSOCIATION

This Association was formed in 1811, of nine small churches, which formerly belonged to the Long Run Association in Kentucky. It is situated near the falls of the Ohio.

The ILLINOIS TERRITORY was formed but a few years since, by a division of the Indiana, and lies between that and the Mississippi River. About 1807 or 1808, an Association, the name of which I have not learnt, was formed of churches, which were situated on the Mississippi, some in this Territory, and a few over in the Louisiana country. In 1809, it had increased to ten churches, eight or ten ministers, and about two hundred members. On what part of the Mississippi River these churches were situated, I have not been informed; but they must have been somewhere between the mouths of the Ohio and Missouri. This Association traveled in union but a short time. Disputes about slavery were introduced in it, and effected its division in 1809. Three churches maintained the holding of slaves, and the rest opposed it. Disputes rose so high, that they could no longer travel in fellowship; they, however, agreed to part in peace, and accordingly the Association was dissolved. What has been the progress of the Baptist cause in this region since that period, I have not learned.

There are many Baptists scattered throughout the LOUISIANA COUNTRY, but I conclude there are not many churches. In Kentucky, I saw a Baptist family, which was about moving a considerable distance up the Missouri, where, they were informed, were many of their brethren, and it is probable a church or churches have been established there before this time. But these people must all be in an uncomfortable situation, on account of the barbarous depredations of the Indians.

MISSISSIPPI ASSOCIATION

This Association, I conclude, was formed about 1807. It now contains about twelve churches, many of which are situated at no great distance from the Natchez, and some of the members of one of the churches reside in that town.

The Baptists by whom these churches were planted, emigrated mostly from Georgia and South-Carolina.

There are a very few Baptists in the city of New-Orleans. Mr. Edmund J. Reis, from Nova-Scotia, lately spent about six months in preaching there. Most of the inhabitants of this city speak the French language, in which Mr. Reis was brought up, as he was born in Paris, and lived there until he was fifteen years of age. His preaching here was well attended; and since he left the city, we are informed that a religious stir of considerable extent has taken place.

Thus we have endeavored to describe the progress and circumstances of the Baptists throughout the great American Continent. We see that their progress has been great, and that they have extended their communion over a vast extent of country from Nova-Scotia to New-Orleans. A number of miscellaneous articles remain yet to be given; but before we proceed to them, we shall insert a number of biographical sketches, which will be arranged in alphabetical order.

 
 
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