BRETHREN-L ArchivesArchiver > BRETHREN > 2011-01 > 1296525468
From: "Dwayne Wrightsman" <>
Subject: [BRE] Congregations West of the Green River in Kentucky
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2011 20:57:48 -0500
The history of the Brethren Church west of the Green River in Western
Kentucky in the early 1800s is replete with unanswered questions. In 1830,
Joseph Roland, elder at the Drakes Creek congregation in Simpson (then
Warren) County, Kentucky, wrote a short history of the churches which he
personally established, which was published in 1908 by the Southern District
of Illinois. He says that he "constituted" the church in Grayson County,
KY, on October 2, 1814, the church in Muhlenberg County, KY, on June 8,1814,
and the church on Long Creek, Muhlenberg County, KY, on September 20, 1826.
The first unanswered question has to do with the church in Grayson County.
Other than Roland's claim that there was such a church, I and others have
been unable to find out anything about it.
The second unanswered question comes from David B. Eller's Ph.D.
dissertation of 1976, p. 102, in which he questioned the 1814 and 1826 years
of the organization of the two churches in Muhlenberg County, given that
there was considerable Brethren activity in Muhlenberg going back to the
beginning of the century.
I think this second question may have an easy answer:
Historically, a Brethren congregation starts out with a central location
from which distant preaching points are added as the membership expands from
its central location. Over time, as a preaching point becomes sufficiently
large, it spins off from the mother church and establishes itself as its own
congregation. This happened over and over in Lancaster County with the
Conestoga Congregation, which was organized in 1724. For example, the
Little Swatara Church was "founded" in 1757, but it did not grow and break
off from the larger Swatara Congregation until 1798 or 1800. Prior to that,
the Swatara Church, itself, did not grow and break off from the mother
Conestoga Congregation until 1772.
I think that the same sort of thing happened in Kentucky. The Drakes Creek
Congregation was the mother church. The Brethren in Muhlenberg County gave
rise to distant preaching points fanning out from Drakes Creek. The
organization of the Muhlenberg County Congregation in 1814 came after the
members reached a critical size to warrant having their own minister and
So who was put in charge of the Muhlenberg County Brethren in 1814?
Probably not Samuel Donner who came later. Probably not Benjamin Coffman
who, although in the right place at the right time, was not a minister. My
guess is that it was John Dick. He moved into Muhlenberg County in 1814
where his brother Peter had settled in 1799, and where his brother Conrad
also lived. John Dick became certified by the county officials, in early
1816, as a Brethren minister to perform marriages, Benjamin Coffman and
Henry Shutt posting bond of 500 pounds. He married John Shutt and Catherine
Gates in 1819. He married Jacob Noftsinger and Mary Noftsinger in 1820.
During the 1820s, John Dick's son, Daniel lived and paid taxes in Muhlenberg
County while Daniel was still single. Daniel Dick married Susan Gates in
1830. I assume that his father, Elder John Dick, stayed with his son while
in Muhlenberg. In 1820, John Dick lived in Simpson County, close to the
action of the Drakes Creek Church. Muhlenberg and Simpson were not
particularly far apart, especially for circuit riding ministers who were
used to serving distant preaching points. John Dick was certainly an
up-and-around elder. He worked in both Tennessee and in Kentucky.
If I am correct, the Muhlenberg County church established in 1814 was the
so-called "Dutch Settlement" on Cypress Creek, near Bremen, in the northern
part of the county. Members of this church included, among others, Benjamin
Coffman, Samuel Danner, Jacob Garst, the seven Gish brothers, John Gossett,
Rudolph Kittinger, the three Noffsinger/Noftsinger brothers, Michael Frantz
III, the Landis families, and the Shavers. Most, if not all, of these were
from Botetourt and Franklin Counties, Virginia.
Although also in Muhlenberg County, the Long Creek Brethren, who lived in
the south of the county, were probably a preaching point until they grew
sufficiently large to be organized into their own church in 1826. This
church was headed by Isham Gibson, who was baptized by John Dick in 1823,
and ordained by Joseph Roland as a "bishop" in 1826. He was non-German and
from Middle Tennessee. He was immediately appointed by Joseph Roland to
head the newly established Long Creek Church. There he met Elizabeth Gates,
marrying her in 1830.
Just about the time that the Long Creek Church was established, the Brethren
in this part of Kentucky, including Drakes Creek as well as Long Creek, were
"cut off" (expelled) for not obeying the edicts of Annual Meeting. Those
who stayed joined other denominations. Some followed their leaders--Joseph
Roland, John Dick, and Isham Gibson--and moved to Central Illinois, where
they thought they could be left alone, but, as things turned out, not for
very many years. By 1870, the Far Western Brethren were outnumbered by
Eastern Brethren from Ohio. Elder Isham Gibson was disfellowshipped by his
own church in 1869.
|[BRE] Congregations West of the Green River in Kentucky by "Dwayne Wrightsman" <>|