October 3, 2013

Traces of Laurel: Early Baptist churches

By Jan Sparkman

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The “Laurel County History of Churches and Schools” by Thomas and Henry Pate (I believe I named them Tate in an earlier column – my apologies) was written in 1900. Much good information about the churches is given but I only have space to list name and date of constitution. I’ll start this week with the Baptist churches the Pates described.

Providence, 1815, in Knox County; Mt. Pleasant, 1830; Slate Hill, 1831; Robinson Creek, 1835; Rough Creek, 1835; Liberty, 1839; New Salem, 1847 (Hiram Johnson was the first pastor and was still pastor there in 1900); Pinegrove, 1858; Sinking Creek, 1859; Union, 1865; Slate Lick, 1866; Pine Grove, ca 1867; Mt. Zion (at Mershons), 1867; New Prospect, 1869; New Salem (at Crawford), 1869; Long Branch, 1872; Laurel River (originally called Mt. Hebron), 1874; Laurel River (arm of Robinson Creek) 1874; Mt. Salem, 1876; Rockcastle, 1881; Craig Creek (or Cold Rock), 1882; Horse Creek (at Lily), 1883; Bald Rock, 1883; Pilgrim’s Rest (Primitive Baptist), 1884; Hopewell (at Lily), 1885; London, 1885; New Hope,. 1887; Freedom, 1892; New Salem (Baxtertown), 1893; Old Way, 1893; East Pittsburg, 1896; Pilgrim’s Rest (at Weaver), 1896; New Bethel (High Top), 1897; East Salem, 1897; Level Green, 1898.  Hawk Creek and Dog Branch are also listed but no dates of constitution are given.

In the Pates’ book each listing of a church is followed by names of pastors and officers, and in most cases, a list of the membership at the time. Providence, for instance, was an arm of the Concord church in Knox County and was established to provide a place of worship for those who were too far away from the home church to attend its services.  Those interested in being part of this new church met at the home of Daniel Cain on the 4th Saturday of November, 1815 and Providence was begun.  Though Laurel County had not been established at that time, the location of the new church fell into the boundaries of what would become Laurel and so Providence became the oldest Baptist church in Laurel County.

Original members of Providence were:  William Hopper, Moderator, David Weaver, Clerk, Polly Weaver, Elizabeth Box, Mary Weaver, Sarah Kirk, Elizabeth and Dolly Walden, Susana and Jas. Griffith, Helen Jenkins, Lucinda Allen, Rachel Ripley, Catherine Jones, Hezekiah Weaver, Ol’ph Jones, Darling Jones, William Allen, Sarah Weaver, and Kitaria Allen. By 1900, according to the Pates, the total number of members received in the 75 years of the church’s existence was 650.  The names of all the members “at present” (1900) is listed in the Pates’ book.

As I said, much good information for historians is to be found in this book but to condense it into a column like this one makes for dull reading.  I will continue to list the churches of other denominations found there, however, to give a complete overview of the religious beginnings of the county. And you can read these old records for yourself at the Laurel County Historical Society.

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Don’t forget about the Laurel County Historical Society’s Oral History Project.  If you or someone you know is over 80 years old and would like to share information about his/her long life with future generations, call us at the number given below.

This is the weekend for a special event at Levi Jackson State Park.  Dr. John Fox of the Friends of the Boone Trace will be overseeing the re-dedication of the Hazel Patch marker, first dedicated in 1950 and later damaged.  This ceremony will take place at the amphitheater at the park at 1 p.m.  Speakers, re-enactors, and a tour of some of the Laurel County markers are part of this event.  Everyone is invited to attend.

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The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department).  The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.  For further information, contact 606-864-0607 during library hours, or 606-224-3767 at other times.  Visit the historical society’s website:  Email the society at or Jan Sparkman at