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THE GOSPEL OF FLOYDS FORK - BY BOB HILL

| Bob Hill | Ben Stout House

In the beginning of the Cedar Springs Church of Christ along Floyds Fork – and we are talking 1785 here – there was the Brashears Creek Baptist Church near Shelbyville, Ky.

The Brashears Creek church came to life at Owen’s Station, an early Kentucky pioneer refuge and fort. The church had eight members desperate to hear the word of the Lord. They included, according to one church history, “Rebecca, a colored woman“– surely a slave.

The history said, “the Indians became so troublesome that the church did not meet again for two years; nor did members hear a sermon during that period.”

Wanting to end the religious drought, the church invited a minister named William Hickman of the Forks of Elkhorn to preach at Owen’s Station.

Hickman later described his 20-mile journey from Elkhorn in the dead of winter. It was a trip made on a bitterly cold night that required that the four people in his party cross the Kentucky River, ferried one at a time in a canoe – their horses swimming alongside.

“Sometimes it was snowing,” Hickman wrote, “and then the moon was shining.”

The group – including one woman – had to ford Benson Creek 19 times. On some crossings the ice held their horses; on others the ice broke through. Along the way they passed a number of deserted cabins whose occupants had been killed or driven off by Indians.

Hickman’s party reached the fort at 2 a.m. – only to be denied permission by a woman fearing a trap. The woman eventually relented, allowed the minister and his party inside for food, fire and warm beds.

“Early in the morning she sent out runners to different forts, “Hickman later wrote in a history, “and about noon collected one of the rooms nearly full of people.”

Hickman preached on a Saturday night – and then again on Sunday morning “to nearly the same people.”

He wanted to go home to his family, his wife, Obedience – but the needy pioneers begged him to stay. He could leave only after agreeing to return in March to preach.

“This short visit attached our hearts to each other,” he explained.
Hickman returned in March – and again the Owen’s Station pioneers begged him to return, promising him an armed guard as an escort and several loads of grain if he would.

Hickman returned again in May, and as he began baptizing members – and he would eventually baptize hundreds in the Kentucky wilderness over a 50-year span – the Brashear’s Creek Baptist Church grew in spirit and numbers.

“I repeated my visits to them and baptized a number,” he wrote in a personal diary. “While going from meeting to meeting, sometimes twenty or thirty in a gang, we were guarded by the men. It looked more like going to war than to meeting to worship God.”

Modern day parishioners who worry about finding a parking place near the church door should remember such history.

It was only a matter of time until other early pioneers who had moved further west from Brashears Creek into the area of Chenoweth Run and Broad Run near Louisville wanted a church more convenient to them.

They applied to the Brashear’s Creek Baptist Church for their church letters – and on June 16, 1792 the Chenoweth Run Baptist Church was born. Soon afterward a simple log structure about 30 by 40 feet was built on what’s now the Chenoweth Run Cemetery a few miles from Floyds Fork.

The church served as the religious anchor for a broad area along Chenoweth Run, Floyds Fork and into the little community of Fern Creek. But as happens, the church divided over a reformation movement.

The leader of that reformation movement was a Zacheus Carpenter, who had served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War, then immigrated to Kentucky.

Once the movement began some church members left to form the Cedar Creek Baptist Church on Bardstown Road. In 1849 the remaining members of what had become the Chenoweth Run Reformed Church agreed to sell the land and building and move.

On April 19, 1850 members of the Hoke family deeded to the reformers the two acres of land at Billtown and Seatonville Roads that would become the home of the Cedar Springs Church of Christ – the two acres part of a large parcel of land that had once been owned by Squire Boone, Daniel Boone’s brother.

The church’s name came from the many cedar trees in the area – and a still-running spring beside the church that gently falls into the broad Floyds Fork valley below.

The choosing of that particular place was explained in a history book compiled by the Fern Creek Woman’s Club:

“The crest of the hill overlooking beautiful Floyds Fork Valley was chosen as the perfect site for this house of worship. The new church was of a traditional type according to meeting house standards, with two front doors, a rear door and the usual three seats designated as the “Amen Corner.”

The church doors first opened in 1851. In its early days the church did not have a full-time minister; “preaching was done two Sundays a month.” In 1919 the church was moved back away from the bluff and closer to Seatonville Road and “various modern conveniences were added” – including bathrooms.

In 1950 a nearby parsonage house was added. In 1958 the old white church was torn down and the newer brick building took its place – itself remodeled in 1985 to add a large fellowship room and classrooms.

Other churches were later established in Fisherville and in Fern Creek, but for more than 150 years the Cedar Springs Church of Christ served as the center of worship along much of Floyds Fork.

Church historian Juanita Puckett, a church member since 1970, said the reason for that loyalty was very basic.

“They were mostly farmers,” she said, “and the church was very important to them…And a lot of times they would have picnics on the grounds. They would tie up their horse and buggies to the cedar trees around our church building.

“And everybody here in this area is family. A lot of people are interrelated because they’ve been here so many years. And so their children would marry somebody else’s children.”

Those family named included the Tylers – who owned land across on the opposite corner of Billtown and Seatonville Roads for more than 100 years.

The ubiquitous Stout family had a massive strawberry farm across Seatonville Road from the church – a strawberry patch so large Fern Creek High School would allow its students out of class in late spring to come pick strawberries; some Stout descendants still live on the land.

The area was then considered isolated, remote – and the church had to accommodate that, Puckett said:

“We would have various preachers come out to preach for us, so they would preach for hours on end when they came.

“It was not a steady preacher, and they would take the interurban train out here to the Fern Creek area. And some one would either pick them up in a horse and buggy or he would walk from Fern Creek to the church to preach, someplace around six to ten miles.”

Puckett said church records back to 1859 are being stored in the building and the church is considering building a separate display area for them.

Among the artifacts is a hand-made basket dating back to 1854 that was used to carry the bread and sacramental wine for communions, along with the silver chalice.

The Tyler family kept them in their house for more than 100 years, carrying them back and forth across the road for the church services.

The account of the church financial records from 1889 show a total expenditure for the year of $196.40; a pair of hinges was 15 cents; a new broom costs 20 cents; a half-gallon of wine 50 cents; various ministers received $25 for months of service.

In 1890 the annual expenses for the church totaled $166.25 – including $2.20 for 20 bushels of coal at 11 cents a bushel, $1 for stove pipe and 75 cents for a half-gallon of wine.

The church Sunday school records from October, 1938 offer an example of the ever-reoccurring nature of the classes and those tough financial times of the Depression.

A Brother Edward Stout conducted the discussion. The lesson subject was “Personal Rights and Where They End.” There were 48 “scholars” along with seven officers and teachers and three visitors present. The collection was $2.49.

The church’s history now covers more than 160 years and Alice Pound Swan, 96, who was born in an old house off Billtown Road, has been a church member for more than half of that.

“It was seven of us kids,” she said, “and we all come to this church for years.”

As a child she walked to grade school on Brentlinger Lane a few miles away. For fun they swung out into Floyds Fork on a big rope tied to an oak tree: “Us kids learned to swim almost before we could walk.”

When she was 13 her father taught her to drive the family car – a 1927 Chevrolet – so she and two siblings could get to Fern Creek High School.

“He said there was no bus and we couldn’t walk to Fern Creek,” she said.

Thirteen was also about the same age she was baptized into the Cedar Springs Church of Christ in a ceremony in Chenoweth Run close to where it runs into Floyds Fork at Seatonville.

“Nobody had a baptismal in church in those days,” she said. “You went to the creek to be baptized…so once a year we’d do it as soon as the water was warm enough…and if anybody went forward between that they’d just have to wait to be baptized until the water warmed up.”

Swan said the 10 or 12 church members who were to be baptized with her rode in two cars to Chenoweth Run where the Seatonville Road crossed it.

“We all lined up just below the bridge,” she said,” and the people in the church all lined up on the bridge so they could just look down and see us all be baptized.

“I was excited. I just couldn’t wait.”

She said two men stood waist deep in the water to help perform the baptism. When it was over the participants were all led to Long’s general store just around the corner where they could put on dry clothes – the boys and girls on separate floors of the small, wood-frame building.

“Irma Long took us over to that store to change our clothes. She had rows of chairs for us with towels on them; she had that all fixed for us.

“My two sisters were with me and we was all, of course, tickled to death. So we decided we was going to walk home. That was nothing for us in those days. We did it a lot.”

Another participant in that baptismal ceremony was Latichia Stout, 90, who was born in a house on Seatonville Road where her father owned the big strawberry truck farm – and whose grandfather and great-grandfather lived in the Stout House at the bottom of the hill on Stout Road.

“My dad would take vegetables to the farmer’s market in Louisville two or three times a week,” she said. “He had all kinds of vegetables. He also grew gladiolas and dahlias. He would take them on weekends. He said that people loved to get flowers on weekends.

“He loved the farm. It was hard work. Dad had no tractor, just two mules, “Pete” and “Tig,” with one cow for milk and chickens and hogs for meat.”

She also had distinct memories of the baptism in Chenoweth Run:

“I was 12, and I had on a thin dress. Mom said, “Now when you get in there, that dress is going to float on the water, and you’re going to be able to see your body.”

“I said, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll put my bathing suit on. Then I put my dress on over the top of that.”

Other Cedars Springs Church of Christ memories were provided by Margaret Tyler Pound, 85, whose family lived across from the church and kept the communion basket and chalice all those years.

Her father, Claude Tyler, bought that corner property in 1915 from the Funk family – the family that operated a grist mill at Floyds Fork and Seatonville beginning in 1817.

Tyler, who was treasurer of the Cedars Springs Church of Christ for many years, paid $1,500 for the 46 acres. What’s now called Billtown Road was once Funk’s Mill Road.

“The roads weren’t very good at the time,” said Pound, “but little by little they blacktopped Billtown Road. And it was so smooth we all got roller skates and we went out and roller skated.”

Her father owned the bottomland farm along Chenoweth Run that’s now part of Steve Henry’s Future Fund property and his four children would ride down the long Seatonville Road hill in a 1937 Ford to hoe the corn planted there.

She graduated from Fern Creek High School in 1941 – a class so depleted by World War II enlistments it had only 27 students; 20 girls and seven boys. She attended the Cedar Springs Church of Christ for many years – and well remembers its namesake spring.

“We walked across the road daily to get us a bucket of water that we used for drinking and cooking.”

Ruth Tyler Frey also grew up near the church – with family and geographic connections to the Funks, Mills, and Stout families.

Her father, a Tyler, was a packrat. He saved many old family artifacts from the church – and his personal life – among them 150-year old school books and colorful memory books filled with hand-crafted poems and notes.

He also saved and passed on to his daughter a pair of metal ice skates he used to glide along Floyds Fork – and the ice tongs used to haul ice from Floyds Fork into an ice house during cold winters a long time ago when he was young – and so was his church.

About the Author

Picture of Bob Hill

Bob Hill

Former Louisville-Courier columnist Bob Hill is a historian for The Parklands of Floyds Fork. He travels Floyds Fork writing of the people, the places and the history of the stream within the 20-mile park system - all of which is to be preserved in the Filson Historical Society. Some of Hill's stories appear in A Landscape and its Legacy, the commemorative book for The Parklands of Floyds Fork project. Hill has also compiled a Floyds Fork “Places & Faces” presentation that adds imagery to the words.

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