The Bethel Christian Church


The Bethel Christian Church


In 1783-85 the Tates Creek Baptist Church was founded in Madison County. Around 1830 Alexander Campbell, himself a Baptist, began preaching doctrines contrary to Baptist beliefs.

Many of the Baptist followed Campbell out of the Baptist churches into a church called Disciples of Christ, or, popularly, the Christian Church. Antioch Christian was formed in 1830 by former members of the Tates Creek Church. In 1839 Thomas Taylor gave a tract of land for a church and cemetery in the Baldwin community. The first two trustees were John M. Hayden and James Howard. The first building was a log structure; it was replaced by a brick building constructed by Talton Taylor in 1840. The brick church was torn down and the present frame structure was constructed in 1889. An organ was purchased in 1892 and Lena Taylor McCowan was the organist.

Early leaders of the Bethel Church were Jackson Million, teacher and song leader (1868-1875), Thomas W. Sanders, Sunday School superintendent, Miss Valeria Young, teacher (1905), and J.J. Masters, teacher of mens Bible class. Lyman Long, Elmer Perkins, W.C. (Kit) Harris, and Homer Curry all served the church as Sunday School superintendents.

Thomas W. Sanders was one of the earliest members, having been baptized into Bethel by a Bro. Price in 1869. Other pastors and evangelists included a Bro. Crutcher (1879), a Bro. Cunningham (1889), G.C. Stocker (father of Col. William Stocker and several Stocker ladies still living in Madison County), a Bro. Rogers (1892), Owen J. Young (1907-a Baldwin reared young man), George and Willie Peele (father & son), and A.C. Coyle (1920's and painter of the picture now hanging in the church pulpit). The most successful evangelist was W.O. Foster, who came to conduct a 10 day revival in 1908 and stayed three weeks. His preaching resulted in 120 baptisms. Three local preachers who held successful revivals at Bethel were Bros. E.C. McDougle, Frank N. Tinder, and E.C. Cosby. It is interesting to note that Bethel has produced six preachers of the Gospel and that four of them have become Methodist ministers.

Thus the Bethel Christian Church has ministered to the spiritual needs of the Baldwin community for the last l30 years. It is typical of the country churches of Madison County, which have meant so much to the people over the years. It is hoped that Bethel and all other small churches will be able to survive the space age. There is nothing more forlorn than an abandoned country church.

I am indebted to Mrs. Ida Masters Smith, a member of Bethel Church and author of a short history of this congregation, for the above information.

An earlier article in this column told of the railroad which ran along Tates Creek Pike from Richmond to Nicholasville. Mrs. Mabel Whitlock Christian, a member of Bethel, tells me that a stop on that railroad was Whitlock Station, near where the Baldwin road now turns off from Tates Creek. Both railroad and stop are long gone (1930's) and only via the magic of nostalgia can we ride the rails to Whitlock Station and transfer to a mule or Ford and climb the hills to the Bethel Christian Church in its heyday of the Roaring Twenties.

Many church records have been lost, but some of the members prior to 1890 included Gen. Bartleson Taylor (charter member-1839), Mrs. Amanda Taylor Million, Jackson Million, Thomas W. Sanders, Mr. and Mrs. F.J. Perkins, Jesse Newby, Rosa Beasley, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Burrus, and Hugh Reynolds.

The first elders of record (1896) were William Taylor and John A. Young; deacons: Jesse Newby, F.J. Perkins, Charlie Sanders, and Woodson Masters; clerks: Hattie Taylor and I.C.V. Dargavell. The church reached its peak in membership in the 1920's and has declined since 1933 and now numbers less than 100 active members. A centennial service was held in 1939 with George V. Moore, Dean of Men of Transylvania, as the guest preacher.

In the church graveyard old stones can still be read. Some of them are Talton Taylor (1793-1856), Elizabeth Taylor (1782-1860), Nancy E. Taylor (1852-1855), Jesse Taylor (1802-1873), another Elizabeth Taylor (1805-1870), and Doven Hendren (1773-1848).


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “The Bethel Christian Church,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed August 19, 2018,