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MIKE WATSON: Baptizing in Russell Creek on day such as this

Freezing temps now and in 1838 are put in perpective by former Kentucky Governor Preston H. Leslie, about an interdenominational baptizing following a protracted meeting at the Baptist Church.
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By Mike Watson, Adair County Historian

The thermometer registered very low this morning in Columbia. Would you, as a new convert, be prepared to trek to Russell Creek and be baptized today, with the need to break ice with axes to reach the waters? Thus was the case in late December 1838, so tells former Kentucky Governor Preston H. Leslie, an eye witness, in this letter to the Adair County News, printed 9 February 1898.--MW

"There was then at that town [Columbia] one Baptist church, one Presbyterian, one Methodist, and one Christian (called Campbellite) church. He and I attended the weekly prayer meeting and Sunday services at the Baptist church. The pastor was Rev. Daniel S. Colgan...and at one time in December, shortly before Christmas, there was a protracted meeting, held at the Baptist church-- the principal preacher was a man named Millikin, but a man named Billy Thomas and the pastor, Colgan, were there, and helped. Dr. Jones and I attended the meeting of nights when we could do so without neglecting our studies. It was a blessed good meeting; quite a number professed religion, and the shouts of joy and happy embracings of love and praises moved the congregation and spread solemnity along the lines of marching, hundreds coming and going.

"On the last Sunday morning of the meeting a great crowd of people assembled on the banks of Russell's Creek, a half mile or more from the church, and there witnessed the baptism of thirteen new-born Christian young men and women. It was a cold morning, the ice was from three to five inches thick and had to be cut away so as to get out where the water was deep enough. Dr. Jones and myself, with others, opened the way through the ice with pick and ax.

"There were two large log fires built out on the gravelly bar, some distance apart, and around each a tent was erected within which the baptized persons were carried to be disrobed of their cold, wet clothes. (At the time and for a while, there were men and women who affected great alarm, because as they predicted there would be sickness and probably death on account of such awful exposure in going into that cold water, but no one ever heard of even a bad cold appearing among the subjects baptized, or those who waded in and cut the ice and helped to lead the dripping young soldiers through the icy way back to dry land.)

"The sweet sounds of that Sunday morning music about the waters of that large creek, the great crowd of lookers on, the shining faces and interchanges of happy words and shaking of hands, and the brave stepping into and plunging all over into the cold, freezing waters, of those young ladies and men, is a picture I have loved to behold for almost sixty years. I have often passed along the public road near to that Baptismal pool, and always felt a sense of love drawing me back to that long-ago morning, and in the silent, but active thought, meditate upon the question on 'Will we all be ready to answer at the roll call? And shall we hear the voice of welcome?' There were very many incidents and occurrences through that five months that impressed me as noticeable, and have never been forgotten..." - Adair County News, 9 February 1898

This story was posted on 2018-01-17 06:53:52
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