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A glance through the life of the Western Recorder


Chip Hutcheson

Summarizing 195 years of Western Recorder (and its predecessors) cannot be done in a few pages of the magazine. However, glancing through random issues of our archives reveals some interesting statements, fact and observations.

Some of those are provided in the following notes...

March 11, 1926 Victor Masters, editor



An old judge talked about the mighty power Christians summon when praying, "In Jesus' name."

When the war came, his only son left for the Army, and as a result he became very interested in soldiers. Every soldier that passed by brought his son in remembrance — he could see his son in each one. He started working for the welfare of soldiers. His work resulted in him being president of the Soldiers Home in Columbus, Ohio.

One day he said to his wife, "I am giving too much of my time to these soldiers. I've got to stop it. There's an important case coming on in my court, and I've got to attend to my own business."

He went to his office that morning, resolved to let the soldiers alone. He went to his desk and started writing. Soon the door opened, and a soldier slowly wobbled in. He stared at the sight of him. The man was fumbling at something in his breast, and pretty soon he got out an old

soiled paper. The father saw it was his son's handwriting.

"Dear father, this young man belongs in my company. He has lost his leg and his health in defense of his country, and he is going home to his mother to die. If he calls on you, treat him kindly. For Charlie's sake."

When he saw "for Charlie's sake," a pang went in his heart. He sent for a carriage, lifted the maimed soldier in, drove home, put him in Charlie's room, sent for the family physician, kept him in the family home and treated him like his son.

When the young man was well enough to go to the train to go home to his mother, the judge took him to the railway station and put him in the nicest, most comfortable place on the train.

"I did it," he said, "for Charlie's sake."

Now, whatever you do my friends, do it for the Lord Jesus' sake. Do and ask everything of Him "who loved us and gave Himself for us."

Other articles in that issue focused on …

• The new birth

• The deacon's work in relation to the pastor

• The upcoming Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston

• Southern Baptist financial record for the past 10 years

• The accuser of the brethren

• Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit (Zech 4:6)

• Exposition of the Sunday School lesson on the subject: Jesus dies and rises from the dead

• WMU mission study and messages from missionaries

• Obituaries (almost two pages)

• Also, an advertisement by the Western Recorder saying it would do "printing work of all kinds. Splendid work at reasonable prices," according to the ad.

Sept. 21, 1922

Victor Masters, editor

Religious attention to the Black population was a paramount topic in this issue.

R.J. Pirkey wrote, "There is a growing conviction among Southern Baptists that we are not doing enough through aid to the Negro Baptists, to help this race by our side here in the South. One missionary effort at present does not annually call for more than $50,000 to aid them. Are Southern Baptists content to let their missionary concern for 10 million people be measured by the gift of less than a 1-cent postage stamp per members per year? I am confident they are not. But that is the extent of our present support of black mission and educational effort."

In other stories …

• In an article titled "The work and the workers," it was noted that more than 17,000 school children in Harlem, a borough of New York, are addicted to the use of drugs.

• That story also noted that in the past 70 years, church building boards and societies of 22 denominations helped build 62,241 churches and 4,835 parsonages.

• The account was told of a two-week meeting at White Stone Baptist Church near Bowling Green. There were 32 baptisms and a total of 45 additions to the church. W. Bowles of Sonora was the preacher. "It is no disparagement to others to say that he is one of the best revivalists this writer has ever seen," wrote Pastor J.G. Taylor.

• One item in the story said, "It has been stated on fairly good authority that perhaps two-thirds of Baptist church members in the south have never engaged in any kind of service except perhaps to attend the services of the church and to give more or less regularly for the support of our denominational work. With this fact in mind, the Organized Class Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board is carrying on a very aggressive campaign for the winning of these thousands to service."

• An editorial titled "Baptists and religious liberty in America" noted that in colonial America "Baptists were in many quarters a despised " It went on to say, "Baptists are now a great religious denominational in America. So far from being obscure, their wealth, culture, numbers and influence win from the world that distinction which material impressiveness and power always win from the world.

"But we invite the reader to hark back to those early days in which for their faith, Baptists were despised, maligned, misrepresented, beaten and imprisoned. We should learn from (colonialists) the unswerving devotion to truth, with the world sneering and persecuting, is incomparably more pleasing to God than the brazen applause of spiritually-opaque worldly opinion where the truth is played down until it fails to rebuke current popular opinion. This conformity is the grave danger Baptists now confront."

Centennial Edition 1837-1937

(General Association of Kentucky Baptists) Nov. 18, 1937

Victor Masters, editor

A prominent advertisement was titled, "Your Church Needs Acousticon Seatphones." The ad noted that hard-of-hearing Christians had been denied the full benefits of religion, but the seatphones would "attract older and wealthier people."

Sunday school attendance for Nov. 7, 1937 — two churches reported having more than 1,000 on that date. Walnut Street Baptist in Louisville had 1,322 while First Baptist in Newport had 1,014. There were 43 churches reporting more than 200. It was reported there were 2,030,000 people in Kentucky not in any Sunday school.

"Many of them live in reach of our churches … most of them are lost and must spend eternity in hell if they are not won to Christ," the story said. "They are the neglected souls living in a state that is overwhelmingly Baptist. About one million of the people in our state are either Baptists or of Baptist belief."

Three pages were devoted to a transcript of a sermon by H.C. Wayman from Matt. 28:18-20. He preached, "The Gospel to Every Creature."

"Our gospel is a call to all nations, to every individual in each nation. The plan and purpose is to bring the whole world to know and worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. All agencies of wickedness and sin and unbelief are to be attacked, in the firm assurance that the 'gates of hell shall not prevail' against His churches. Every heathen idol must be pushed from its pedestal and in its place an altar of worship to our Lord erected: this being done in the firm conviction that 'there is no other Name whereby we must be saved,' save the name of Jesus. It is imperative that repentance and remission of sins be preached 'in His name among all nations.'"

• In a story titled "Civic righteousness and public morals," this assessment was told: "Conditions in our state and nation are not materially changed from what they were a year ago in righteousness and public morals. If there is a change at all, we fear it is for the worse rather than the better … we mention the liquor problem, the gambling craze, the letdown in moral standards and ideals, such as the establishment of nudist colonies, vicious and corrupt motion pictures, the desecration of the Lord's Day, crime in its ever-increasing volume and cost, unholy wars for greed and conquest and the spirit of pleasure that is now rampant among the people."

• An account was given about the 60-year (1874-1934) ministry of W.D. Powell, who began a Tuesday night prayer meeting in a large Baptist church that didn't have Sunday school nor prayer meetings. Before long, people were traveling 10 miles to attend, prompting meetings to grow to twice a week. During that time, Powell (the teacher) surrendered to the call to preach. He closed up his law books, resigned as the principal of a school and entered The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which was in Greenville, S.C., at the time.

In 1875, he moved to Texas, where he pastored a church of 13 people. His first convert was Bill MacDonald, the most notorious character of the community — chief poker player and owner of the town's popular dance hall. All but two members of the popular dancing club were converted and baptized, and the dance hall "turned into a preaching place. During the first year, 32 converts were baptized and 88 the second year."

In 1876, he was elected as Sunday School missionary. During his five years in that role, he organized 400 Sunday schools, which brought to the study of God's Word 20,000 people. He held many revivals, preached the first sermon and organized the first Sunday school in many of the counties of west Texas.

In 1881, missionary John Westrop was killed in Mexico. Powell was asked to go to Mexico to investigate the killing and conditions there. He found Westrop's diary, stained with his blood, telling how he had organized four churches and baptized 75 converts during the previous six months.

"He also told how he was praying for someone to be sent to Mexico to assist with the work — little knowing his death would be required to put this on the hearts of his brethren."

Among one of his early converts was Juan Shavez, a fanatic who came one night to kill the missionary, but remained to seek and find the Savior. For five years this man accompanied Powell as helper and bodyguard in his travels.

Assessing his 60 years in ministry, much of it as a foreign missionary, he said, "I have never sought an easy place, but have always wanted to work where the Master wanted me. I have never had anything to say about the salary paid me. God has been so good to me that I cannot remember a time I did not receive my salary — whether large or small — on the first day of the month. The endeavor of my life has been to live my life for God and others."

Centennial Edition — 1825-1925 Dec. 24, 1925

Victor Masters, editor

Lead story in this issue was written by Louisville's J.G. Bow and chronicled, "some epochs in the history of Kentucky Baptists." Some things recorded are …

• The mention of Elder Squire Boone, a Baptist who was a brother to Daniel Boone. The brothers did not come to Kentucky together, but "met in their wanderings about the first of January 1770." Among the descendants of Squire Boone were several Baptist preachers.

• A decade later, there were only six Baptist preachers in the state and no other denomination had any preachers. By the end of 1783, there were only eight preachers and five churches. In 1785, a revival spirit began among some members of South Elkhorn Church. This work began under the ministry of John Taylor and continued to spread and "great numbers were baptized."

Membership increased until "it was deemed expedient to send out a colony. Clear Creek church was constituted while the revival yet prevailed. South Elkhorn … enjoyed great prosperity for about 30 years. During this period this church had many great revivals. In (a revival) in 1801, there were 309 baptized … in 1817 nearly 200."

• Kentucky churches gradually formed themselves into associations. Ten were constituted from 1810 to 1820. The General Association of Baptists was formed in 1837, with only nine of 43 associations represented. Three years later, there were 50 associations but only 11 had "endorsed the objects set forth by that body (General Association). It afterwards became manifest that the great body of the denomination favored the principles of the General Association from the beginning, but the few who did oppose them were found in every association and in nearly every church, and were bitter and determined in their opposition."

A compromise measure was adopted, stating, "Giving or not giving shall be no bar to fellowship." In most places, the "enemies of the General Association forced a vote on the subject and if they were in the majority promptly excluded their opponents, and if the minority, went off and set up for themselves." It was pointed out that "after years of bitter feeling and excitement the denomination became purged in a large measure of its anti-missionary element, having been in almost incessant war with Campbellism, Antinomianism, Two- Seedism and Anti-Missionism for nearly 20 years."

• Not all was gloomy during that time period. At Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, a six-year revival took place that resulted in 17,761 being baptized.

• J.H. Spencer noted, "The 10 years following the revival of 1800 to 1810 show a great Baptist gain. The revival of 1800 was one of the most wonderful events of modern time. It appeared more like the sudden conversion of a nation than the regeneration and reformation of individuals."

• The controversy of 1896 revolved around a man name Whitsitt, who wrote an article on Baptists for Johnson's Encyclopedia, arguing that English Baptists did not begin to baptize by immersion until 1641. Several state conventions lodged strong protests against retaining Whitsitt as a seminary president and professor and Kentucky led the way in that protest. In 1898 at Hopkinsville, after a prolonged discussion, the vote was 198 favoring dismissal of Whitsitt and only 26 for keeping him. He resigned and Y. Mullins was elected as his successor.

• A census report: "Virginia has been steadily falling back and will probably be overhauled by Indians in the next decade."

• In 1851, Georgetown College advertised its tuition at $20 per session with board from $2 to $2.50 per week.

• The Kentucky legislature of November 1851 had a regular committee on religion.

75th Anniversary Edition Dec. 7, 1899

T.T. Eaton, editor

A statement regarding the Western Recorder said it was, "the leading Baptist paper of the South."

• A story on the history of Walnut Street Baptist Church said it had 683 members in

It was reported that Broadway Baptist Church was destroyed by fire in December 1875, and Walnut Street Baptist voted to invite the church and its pastor joint occupancy until Broadway could rebuild. "The services are to be arranged by the pastors of the two churches," the story noted.

• There was a publication in Kentucky prior to the Western Recorder. H. Spencer said that in 1812, "Kentucky Missionary and Theological" magazine was published. It was hailed as the first Baptist publication in the West.

• Advertisements were numerous in this issue, with few related to religion. One ad asked, "Are your kidneys weak?" Another offered a "free cure for baldness." Another carried the heading, "Santa Claus, Santa Claus," from a retail store offering handkerchiefs, baby wear, table linens, purses, dress goods, ladies underwear and hosiery and gloves. One ad proclaimed in large type, "A preacher's discovery," promoting "the world's most valuable means of curing disease … for bronchitis, asthma, etc." Perhaps the most intriguing one was a doctor's claim he could help the opium and whiskey afflicted.

• One item said, "Prof. Royce is reported as saying, 'Putting off mortality is but a step toward realization of individuality,' whatever that means. Of course Royce believes that is a good thing, and are we glad he holds that view."

• Rev. C.A.G. Thomas in the North Carolina Baptist gave an interesting account of his recent visit to Shelbyville, Ky., and especially of the home of stalwart Baptist, J.A. Middleton. "If we had a hundred men like J.A. Middleton, we would drive the devil out of Kentucky," he said.

• Consider this piece of wisdom: "To find in the Bible where one did something does not prove that we ought to do the same thing. It depends on what the Bible says concerning it. If the Bible approves it or teaches that we ought to do it, of course that settles it. But the mention of a deed in the Bible does not prove we ought to do it. For example, the Bible tells us how Abraham lied, how David sinned, how Judas betrayed Christ, etc. Will anybody cite these cases as reasons why we ought to do likewise?"

Celebration 1987 Edition

Sept. 10, 1987

Jack Sanford, editor

Kentucky Baptist Convention officials said they expected 7,800 people to attend the annual meeting celebrating Kentucky Baptists' 150-year anniversary of "working together."

• A story by staff writer Joy Jordan looked back at Baptist beginnings in She wrote …

"Circuit riders, the kingdom builders, blazed through the wilds of Kentucky evangelizing and exploring. Rugged, often ragged and uneducated, they preached to pioneers as raucous and vehemently independent as themselves.

"Among these was Squire Boone … the first Baptist preacher in Louisville and the first in Kentucky to perform a marriage ceremony.

"Frontiersman William Hickman, born in 1747 and raised in a rather disreputable environment, depicted his first encounter with Baptists: 'Curiosity led me to go some distance to hear these babblers … I went home heavy hearted, knowing myself in a wicked state; I informed my wife what I had seen and heard — she was much disgusted for fear I should be dipped.'"

Ironically, Hickman "shook off the awful feelings" while his wife became intrigued with the Baptists. Irritated, Hickman demanded she talk with the Episcopalian pastor who would "convince her of the 'right' mode of baptism." She replied she "would not pin her faith to his sleeves." Baptized the spring after his wife, Hickman became a prominent early preacher.

Samuel Haycraft painted the backdrop for Kentucky's first Baptist church, Severns Valley, in June 1781, surrounded by dangers in a forest, "not knowing at what moment the savages would break in upon them." Indians eventually captured the pastor, John Gerrard, who was never heard from again.

Early Kentucky congregations usually gathered only once a month, meeting for business on Saturday and preaching on Sunday. Business wasn't what we would call it today. Predominantly that time focused on "soundly rebuking one another for transgressions — in Christian love, of course." Some churches paid their pastors mostly in produce. Some pastors, such as Elijah Craig, said preaching — like salvation — should be a free gift. Thus, he said, preachers should "travel the same thorny way of the laity."

Jordan's story concluded, "Kentucky Baptist history has never been devoid of conflict. Yet, hospitals, colleges, children's homes, home and foreign partnerships, growing churches and myriads of other ministries exemplify the effectiveness of selfless cooperation among the followers of Christ."

A.B. Colvin, KBC president in 1987, wrote: "Strange trends in three areas demand our attention. The areas are church membership, Sunday school enrollment and financial stewardship response. While we gained 216,000 in Sunday school enrollment from 1937- 54, we have lost 48,000 since the high point of 'A Million More in '54.' Church membership has increased from 368,000 to 765,000 — an increase of 407,000.

"Our financial stewardship has grown from total contributions of $1,283,000 to $127,164,000 —almost 10,000 percent. Missions income has risen from $375,000 to $26,286,000 — almost 7,000 percent. We must note, however, that mission receipts in 1937 amounted to 29 percent while today they amount to less than 21 percent.

"The obvious conclusion is that our record as 'People of the Book' or faithful stewards of financial capabilities is not altogether commendable. It is apparent that evangelism and Bible study results are not affected by inflation as are our currency and the resulting stewardship record."

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