A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST
DENOMINATION IN AMERICA, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
By David Benedict
London: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, No. 53, Cornhill, for the Author
HISTORY OF ASSOCIATIONS IN VIRGINIA
As we have entered largely into the general history of the Baptists in this State, we must be the more brief and comprehensive in that of the Associations which it contains.
In the year 1772, the time in which Morgan Edwards's MS. history of Virginia Baptists closes, there were but two Associations in the State, one of the Regulars and one of the Separates. The former was called Ketockton, and contained 14 churches; and the latter Rapid-ann, or the General Association of Separates, and contained 19. In both Associations there were 33, churches, 32 ordained ministers, and 3,603 members. In the year 1809, according to Semple's History, there were fifteen Associations, wholly in the State of Virginia, and four others, of which a part of the churches were in Virginia, and a part in a number of the adjacent States; and in all these Associations there were 294 churches, about 18O ordained ministers, who were stationed pastors of churches, besides a large number who were not settled in the capacity of pastors, and 31,052 members or communicants; which makes the increase of Baptist communicants in this State, for 37 years, 27,449, besides many thousands who have removed to Kentucky and other parts of the western country.
Of the fifteen Associations which are wholly in Virginia, six lie north of James-river, viz. Ketockton, Culpepper, Albemarle, Goshen, Dover, and Accomack; six, south of James-river, viz. Portsmouth, Middle District, Meherrin, Appomattox, Roanoke, and Strawberry; and three west of the Alleghany mountains, viz. New-river, Greenbrier, and Union. Those four, a part of which only lie in Virginia, are Mayo, on the borders of Virginia, North-Carolina, and Tennessee; Holston, on the borders of Virginia and Tennessee; and Redstone, on the borders of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The Redstone, Greenbrier, and Union Associations proceeded in part, and the last of them indirectly, from the Ketockton Association; the history of which may be found in the account of the Regular Baptists. The Accomack Association was formed of the churches which were dismissed for the purpose, from the Salisbury Association in Maryland; the Portsmouth was formed by the division of the Kehukee Association of North-Carolina; and the remaining 13 all originated from the Separates, and comprehend the main body of the Baptists in Virginia.
It has already been related in the history of the General Association, that this extensive body, from motives of convenience, in 1783, divided into four district Associations; two of which were on the north and two on the south side of James-river. The names of those on the north side of the river, were Dover and Orange; those on the south side, were called Middle District and Roanoke. [It is proper to inform the reader that the term district here, and wherever it occurs in the history of the Virginia Associations, has no reference to any civil departments in the state.]
This division was at first, however, rather nominal than real; for although the two grand divisions acted in distinct capacities from the year 1783, yet it was not until the year 1788 that their subdivision was completely effected. These two great sections appear to have met together once a year, and the four districts besides had one session in a year by themselves, until 1788, when the lines were distinctly drawn, and the four Associations formally organized.
The Dover Association deserves first to be mentioned, as it is the largest body of Baptist communicants in America, and probably in any part of the world; although it contains but 37 churches, and but 24 ordained ministers, who are pastors of churches. This Association, in 1809, contained 9,628 members, many, and perhaps some thousands of whom, were Africans. The largest church in this body is called Nominy, in the county of Westmoreland, under the pastoral care of Rev. Henry Toler, and contained at the time above mentioned 875 members.
The Orange Association, in 1791, was divided into three, which were called Goshen, Albemarle, and Culpepper, so that the original name of the Association was lost.
The Middle District Association experienced a similar division, except that it retained its original name in 1803, when two new Associations were formed from it, which were named Meherrin, and Appomattox.
The Roanoke Association was divided in 1791, and a new Association by the name of Dan river was formed from it. But this new establishment was of short duration; for after two sessions, it declined its travel, and was re-united to its mother body. But in 1794, a more permanent division of this body was effected; and as many of the churches were in North-Carolina, they were all dismissed to form a new Association, which was called Flat-river, whose history will be related, when we come to the State in which it is situated.
The Strawberry Association is in the neighborhood of the mountains, near the southern line of the State. It was formed in 1776, seven years before the dissolution of the General Association, and appears to have been some of the early fruits of the Separate preachers, who went almost every where throughout the State, preaching the gospel. The first laborers within the bounds of this Association were the two Murphies, William and Joseph, Samuel Harris, and Dutton Lane. Several preachers were also raised up soon after the rise of the Baptists in these parts, the most distinguished and the most useful of whom was Robert Stockton, who, after laboring a few years with much success in these parts, removed to Kentucky, and is now one of the principal ministers in the Green-river Association, in that State.
In 1793, the Strawberry Association was divided, the Blue Ridge became the dividing line; the churches, to the west of which, united under the name of the New-river Association. This appears to be the smallest Association in Virginia.
The Association was divided again in 1798, and the Mayo Association was taken from it, which is composed of churches partly in Virginia, and partly in North Carolina.
The history of the Mountain and Holsten Associations will be given under the heads of North-Carolina and Tennessee, and that of the Portsmouth and Accomack, in treating of the respective Associations from which they proceeded. And the number and names of all the churches in all the Associations in Virginia, which have been described or mentioned, and also the names of their pastors, the years in which they were constituted, and the counties in which they are situated, may be seen in the table of Associations.