Source: The Early Life of Lexington [KY] before the Year 1820, Mary Estelle Delcamp, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Transylvania College in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts June, 1916

Altho the Gazette did not print much concerning the church and other religious organisations, yet the little given portrays a deeply spiritual attitude and a devout feeling towards the established faiths. According to Ranck’s History of Lexington, the denominations were founded in the following order: Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, and Second Presbyterian. All of these, except the last mentioned, were holding services before 1800. The Second Presbyterian, commonly known as the Market Street Church, was not built until 1815 (July 10, 1815). In a letter of Dr. Holley’s to his wife in 1818 mention is also made of an Associate Reform Church (Caldwell, on Dr. Holley).

The meeting houses were large enough to answer the needs of the growing community. The dimensions of a building erected in 1789 were: length fifty feet, breadth forty, height 22, with a gallery fifteen feet wide around three sides of the house. Wood was the chief building material (June 27, 1789).

The customs observed in the management of the church were in keeping with the spirit of the times. Pews were rented either Saturdays or Mondays at twelve (Apr. 7, 1812; July 10, 1815). In one case at least the cellar of a new church was advertised for rent (Feb. 19, 1816). The lottery, an ordinary means of raising money in those days, was used to finance the building of meeting houses and the purchasing of organs (Aug. 29, 1809). Sometimes to aid in defraying expenses, collections were taken at the first services held in the new building (Aug. 27, 1819). Sunday morning service began at eleven o’clock. In the Episcopal church the second service was held at three o’clock in the afternoon (Nov. 8, 1813).

Sometimes the sacred buildings were used for peculiar purposes, but not all with the approval of the minister or his congregation. In 1802 the Presbyterian meeting house was set on fire by a Negro, who was shooting at pigeons in the rafters. The wad stuck in the shingles and ignited the roof, but no material damage was done. It was enough however to arouse the ire of some of the citizens, so that they asked if the circumstance was not sufficient lesson to the trustees so that they would hereafter execute rigidly the law against shooting within the inlots of the town (Jan. 8, 1802).

In the first decade of the nineteenth century the arrival of visiting ministers was announced in the Gazette (May 24, 1806; July 1, 1806). About the same time religious disputes increased the denominational feeling. In 1810 Rev. Thomas Smith and Rev. C.W. Cloud discussed at the court house the following question: Is the Son of God equal to the Father? Mr. Cloud upheld the affirmative; Mr. Smith, the negative. The debate began at ten o’clock in the morning. Rather peculiarly Mr. Smith, the speaker on the negative, opened the discussion of the question. It is not at all apparent why in the discussion of so momentous a theological question each speaker should have been limited to twenty minutes (Apr. 10, 1810).

At that time the burying places were located in the church yards, and can hardly be considered apart from the church. In 1810 there was only one general depository for the dead attached to the town. This cemetery was located on the site of the present First Baptist Church. For some time it had been in an exposed and ruined state. Many monuments had been removed, injured, or destroyed; animals of every description were permitted to traverse the spot; only the meeting house and the demolished wall served to designate the place where the remains of former Lexingtonians reposed (Nov. 6, 1810). The authorities were aroused to the needs of the place; and money was raised to build a new wall. This wall measured 220 feet on Main and Short, and 215 from Main to Short (June 4, 1811). Previous to the year 1810 the trustees of the town had rented a potter’s field from Chas. Humphreys; but in the same year the agreement was cancelled, and the field was appropriated for a regular cemetery (Apr. 17, 1810).

Transcribed February 2003 by pb

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