History of the Restoration Movement

Benjamin Lynn


Personal Signature of Benjamin Lynn

South Fork Baptist Church
Seven persons baptized in Nolin
Creek by Rev. Benjamin Lynn. He
and Rev. James Skaggs founded
South Fork Church ca. 1782.
Organized as Separate Baptist
Church with 13 members, it met at
Phillips' Fort; later moved to
South Fork of Nolin. In the past,
church has assumed philosophy
of United. Separate and Regular
Later split on slavery issue. (Over)
(Other side below)

Benjamin Lynn--Indian Fighter

The subject of this sketch was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1750 of Scotch-Irish parents while they were traveling from New Jersey to Maryland.  His father was Andrew Linn, Sr., who according to a family history, was brought to America in 1701 ‘as a babe in arms.’  The Linns (after 1792, Benjamin Linn spelled his name “Lynn”) remained in Maryland until about 1767 or 1768 and then moved to southwestern Pennsylvania.  About four years later he moved to Kentucky (Chisholm 158).

At seventeen, young Benjamin went into the forest region of Ohio and spent seven years away from his family.  He lived among the Shawnee, Delaware, Maumee, and Kickapoo Indians and mastered their languages and customs.  He later put this acquired knowledge of the Indians to good use during the long Indian siege of Fort Harrod in 1777.  He travelled as far west as the Mississippi River and visited the French.  He travelled as far south as Natchez, which gave him a good knowledge of the frontier country.  He might have become just as famous as Daniel Boone, had he had a historian for a friend as was John Filson to Boone.

Lynn could fight the Indians or live among them in peace (he killed the first Indian at Harrodsburg during the long siege).  He always let the Indians set the mood of interchange between himself and them.  It was this sense of adventure which brought him to Kentucky where he lived for over thirty years.

This young frontiersman brought a party of settlers on flatboats to settle near Bardstown, Kentucky, about 1772.  John Gilkey and John Ritchie (of sour mash whiskey distillery fame) were among the settlers who came with him.  Young Lynn built a fort five miles southeast of Bardstown near Beech Fork Creek.  Dr. M. F. Coomes, a Bardstown physician, described the site of Fort Lynn in his paper which he read before the Filson Club of Louisville, Kentucky in 1895 (Coomes 3).

In 1780, when Kentucky was still part of Virginia, Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, deeded Lynn one thousand acres of land on which his fort had been constructed (Land Records 10:3).  In 1774, he helped the settlers at Fort Harrod to strengthen their fortification against the Indians.  In, 1777, the fort at Harrodsburg was attacked and besieged for six months.  George Rogers Clark was in command at the time.  He used Lynn to secure powder and supplies, and to hunt game for the fort.  Lynn could slip in and out of the fort under cover of darkness, and the Indians were never the wiser because he spoke their tongue so well and communicated with them.

While under siege, Clark sent Lynn and Samuel Moore to Kaskaskia in Illinois to spy on the British.  Lynn and Moore travelled many miles to the west and found the thriving settlement of Kaskaskia.  They posed as fur traders and trappers.  After a few days, someone discovered their real mission, and they had to flee for their lives.  They fled up the Cumberland as far as Nashville and then travelled northeast back to Harrodsburg.  Their information would help Clark to break British power in Illinois among the Indians.  This exploit may have earned the commission of captain for Lynn.  Clark refers to Lynn as Captain Lynn in his official reports after the Kaskaskia mission (Beattie 140-142).  In 1780, he went on an expedition to Vincennes and then to Ohio against the Indians.  These were his last military activities.

Benjamin Lynn—Pioneer Preacher

Benjamin now turned his interest in another direction—that of a pioneer preacher.  He was about thirty years old when he began to think of religion.  He allied himself with the Separate Baptists, and made preaching in that group his main occupation.  Although unfamiliar with books, he learned to read enough to teach from the Bible.  He only learned to read after his marriage to Hannah Sovereigns (Severns according to some documents).  Lynn’s marriage to Hannah was on July 9, 1777, during the Indian siege (Clark 6).  Records of marriages performed by preacher Lynn are found throughout southern Kentucky until 1802.

It was about this time that Lynn changed from the Baptist to the Christian church.  In July, 1802, Lynn occupied a seat in the Green River Association of Baptist Churches.  In 1803, Lynn was replaced as minister of the Brush Creek church, the last Baptist church he ever served.  Lynn had come under the influence of the Cane Ridge Revival and soon transferred his allegiance from the Baptist to the Christian church (Beattie 154-155).  Lynn even travelled to Cane Ridge to be baptized by Barton Stone.  One of the earliest ordination certificates known among the Restoration churches was that of Samuel Boyd, signed by Benjamin Lynn and Lewis Bynam.  It reads as follows:

We the underwritten do certify that according to a previous appointment on the east fork of Little Barren on Monday after the third Sabbath of July, 1809, Samuel Boyd was publicly set apart by ordination for the work of the Gospel ministry according to the manner of the Christian Church then present at that place--and that as such he is received by the different branches of sd. (sic.) church and in full communion and good standing.  Given under our hands the day and year above mentioned, Benjamin Lynn (and) Lewis Bynam (Whitaker 26).

Such documents were common during the early days of the Restoration Movement.  A few months after the ordination of Boyd, Lynn moved to Huntsville, Alabama.

John Chisholm, who had married Esther Lynn, Benjamin’s younger daughter, had moved to Huntsville, Alabama, looking for new lands.  Lynn followed Chisholm by 1810 and lived the remaining days of his life in the Chisholm household (Shankland 20).  In the early part of 1814, Benjamin Lynn established a Christian church in Huntsville.  Through the family of John and Esther Chisholm, along with Rachael D’Spain (Esther’s older sister) and her husband, Marshall D’Spain, the church was active in Huntsville for about two years.  Benjamin died December 23, 1814, and was buried in the churchyard near the Chisholm home.  This brought to an end a most illustrious life of one of Kentucky’s pioneers and unique preachers.

Benjamin Lynn’s Legacy

Though Benjamin Lynn was dead, his influence lives even today.  In 1816, the Chisholms moved to Florence, Alabama, in Lauderdale County, bringing the church with them.  That same year the D’Spains moved to Waterloo, also in Lauderdale County.  They too took the church to Waterloo.  The two earliest churches in Northwest Alabama were due, indirectly, to Benjamin Lynn’s labors.  The Chisholm work still survives as the Stony Point Church of Christ near Florence, Alabama.  It is, possibly, the second oldest congregation still surviving in Alabama.

John and Esther Chisholm’s daughter Dorinda, married B. F. Hall while he was teaching grammar school at the Old Cypress Creek (now Stony Point) meeting house near Florence, Alabama (B. F. Hall 71).  John Chisholm corresponded many times with Alexander Campbell and even subscribed to the Millennial Harbinger (Campbell’s Ledger 1830-1836).  Chisholm even made provisions in his will to aid Campbell’s work at Bethany College (Lauderdale County Wills 548).  It is an interesting sidelight that some of John Chisholm’s relatives were members at the Old Mulkey Meeting House near Tompkinsville, Kentucky.  On this list their names appear in the old spelling--“Chism.”

Marshall and Rachael D’Spain had two children who were connected with the Texas movement--Hetty Lynn D’Spain who married Joseph Clark and Lynn D’Spain who became a well-known gospel preacher.  In 1835, the entire church at Waterloo, Alabama, moved to Texas, with David Crockett at their head (Colby Hall 55).  On the first Sunday in January 1836, the first services ever held in Texas by New Testament Christians (as an organized Church) were conducted near Fort Clark. A few house churches had met from time to time, before this, through the encouragement of William DeFee and others The Lynn legacy was continued in Texas by the D’Spains (now Spain in some places) and the Clarks.  Texas Christian University was a result of the work of Addison and Randolph Clark, Lynn’s great-grandsons.  The Chisholms and the D’Spains still are influential in the church in Alabama.  Many D’Spains (Spain) and their descendants still live in Lauderdale County, Alabama and are faithful members of the church.  But the real thanks belong to the founding father of their spiritual line--Benjamin Lynn.

Beattie quotes O. M. Mather of Hodgenville, Kentucky concerning Lynn:  “His name is perhaps more securely perpetuated than that of any other person identified with the settlement of the Green River Section of Kentucky” (156).  Many places in this region of Kentucky still bear his name.  The continuing influence of Benjamin Lynn and his descendants is inestimable in the churches of Christ.

Works Cited

Beattie, George William and Helen Pruitt Beattie. “Pioneer Linns of Kentucky.”

Filson Club Historical Quarterly 20 Jan. 1946: 23.

Campbell, Alexander. Subscribers Ledger Book. (Filed at Bethany College, Bethany, West Virginia).

Chisholm, John. “Letter to John Barbee.” September 16, 1846. (Filed in Filson Club Historical Collection on the Lynn Family).

Clark, Joseph Lynn. Thank God We Made It. Austin, TX:  University of Texas Press, 1969.

Coomes, M. F. “Unpublished Paper on Benjamin Lynn.” (Filed in the Filson Club Historical Collection on the Lynn Family).

Hall, B. F. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Hall. (Unpublished manuscript in University of Texas Library)

Hall, Colby. Texas Disciples. Fort Worth, TX:  Texas Christian University Press, 1953.

Land Records - Jefferson Entries, Book A. p. 146 and Virginia #2029 Grant Book 10, p.30. (Filed in Office of Secretary of State, Capitol Building, Room 148, Frankfort, Kentucky).

Shankland, Albert B. “Benjamin Lynn - Indian Fighter, Hunter, Scout, Preacher.”

Despain Log Chain (Filed in Lynn Biographical File at Huntsville, Alabama).

Whitaker, Wilford W. Despain Log Chain 3 Jan. 1968: 26.

Wills. (Filed in Lauderdale County Court House, Florence, Alabama).

by C. W. (Wayne) Kilpatrick, March, 2012

Web Editor's Note: My first recollections of hearing of Benjamin Lynn were in classes on Restoration History, while a student at Heritage Christian University (then, International Bible College). It was back in the late 1980s. One day, upon entering class, our beloved teacher C. Wayne Kilpatrick had us pile into vehicles so he could show us "something." We traveled about six miles from the school, on the Chisholm Hwy., just north of Florence, to a small house on the side of the road. Behind the house was a small cemetery where the remains of the John Chisholm family are buried. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest cemetery in Alabama. It was the beginning place for your web editor; the beginning of many years and miles of travel to places where Restoration work has been done. Someday, perhaps we can discover more accurately the location of the grave of John Chisholm's father-in-law, Benjamin Lynn. We know it was on some property he owned north of present day Huntsville, perhaps in the vicinity of Meridianville.

Chronology Of The Life of Benjamin Lynn

Andrew Linn, Sr., (BL’s father) was brought to America ‘as a babe in arms.’

BL was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania

1767 or 1768
The Linns leave Maryland and move to SW Pennsylvania. Benjamin leave family (at 17) and goes into the forest region of Ohio to live among the Shawna (Shawnee), Delaware, Maumee (Miami in the Maumee Valley) and Kickapoo Indians. Learns languages and customs.

BL helps settlers of Fort Harrod to strengthen fortifications against the Indians.

Long siege of Fort Harrod, Ky by Indians (6 mos.) George Rogers Clark is in command at fort. Capt. Benjamin Linn sneaks out to eavesdrop on the Indian plans, brings back supplies to the fort, and even kills one Indian in a confrontation.

July 9, 1777
BL married Hannah Sovereigns at Harrods Station, now Harrodsburg, Kentucky during siege. She uses the Bible to teach him to read and write.

BL leads expedition to Vincennes and then to Ohio against the Indians. Military career concludes.

Kentucky still part of Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Patrick Henry deed Benjamin Lynn 1000 acres of land on which his for had been constructed. (Land Records 10:3)

BL formed a Separate Baptist Church near Nolin (No-Lynn) River in Larue County, Ky. There he baptized seven people, believed to be the first baptisms in Kentucky.

The Linns change the spelling of their name to Lynn.

John Chisholm married Benjamin's daughter Esther in Green County, Kentucky. Marriage Bond dated 27 Sep 1798. Bondsmen: John Chism [sic] and Marshall Spain. Married 27 Sep 1798 by Benjamin Linn. [Actual record uses the spelling of Lynn.]

August 1801
Attends and participates in the Cane Ridge Revival, Paris, Kentucky

July 1802
BL occupied a seat in the Green River Association of Baptist Churches

BL is replaced as minister of the Brush Creek Baptist Church, having left the ministry of the Baptists. Somewhere around this time, BL is baptized by Barton W. Stone for the remission of his sins.

With Lewis Bynam, BL ordains Samuel Boyd into the ministry of the Christian Church

John and Esther Chisholm moved to just north of present day Huntsville, in Madison County, Alabama. The Lynn’s follow soon thereafter.

Early part of year, BL establishes a Christian Church in Huntsville, Alabama

December 23, 1814
Benjamin Lynn died and was buried in the church yard nearby.

Family moves west to Lauderdale County, the Chisholms to a few miles north of Florence, and the DeSpains to the NW corner of the county, Waterloo. Soon thereafter, the church is established in both places.

Grave Of Frontiersman
James Walters came to Phillip's Fort
ca. 1784. Commissioned lieutenant,
2nd Regiment of Ky. Militia, by
Governor Isaac Shelby, 1792. Was
in local skirmishes, served under
Col. Patrick Brown in 1792, and in
War of 1812. Born in Pa., April
1770; died at his home, 2-1/2 miles
south, April 1852. Buried at South
Fork Church Cem., 1/2 mile west.

Historical Markers GPS Location
37°30'13.0"N 85°44'16.3"W
or D.d. 37.503619, -85.737873

South Fork Baptist Church Location

SOUTH FORK church, originally called No-Lynn, was, according to tradition, constituted in what is now La Rue county, in the summer of 1782, by Benjamin Lynn and James Skaggs. The late venerable Elder John Duncan took much pains to learn the history of the church, and had conversations with at least two men who claimed to have been present when it was constituted. They stated that Lynn had been preaching in the neighborhood for some considerable time, and several persons had professed conversion. The church was constituted under the boughs of a large oak tree, where it continued to meet the remainder of the summer. Immediately after the organization was effected the church sat to hear experiences. Seven persons were approved for baptism. The times were troublous. It had been only a few weeks since the supposed massacre of Elder John Gerrard, in an adjoining neighborhood, and the Indians were now lurking in the surrounding forests. The candidates for the sacred ordinance were guarded to the water by armed citizens, and baptized by Elder Lynn, in No-Lynn [now spelt Nolin] river. If this account be true, it is probable that these were the first persons baptized in Kentucky.

This church first united with old South Kentucky Association, but, in 1797, it assumed the style of Regular Baptists, and afterwards became a member of the Green River fraternity. It was one of the few Baptist churches, in which the "jerks" and other extravagances prevailed during the great revival of 1800-3. It was subsequently divided on the subject of slavery. But a reconciliation beingeffected, it became very prosperous, under the ministry of William M. Brown. It is at present one of the largest churches in Lynn Association. Among the few preachers it has raised up was John Hodgen, a brother of the famous Isaac Hodgen.

-J.H. Spencer, History of Kentucky Baptists, Volume 1, pages 33,34

South Fork Baptist Church
Where Benjamin Preached
GPS Location of South Fork Cemetery
37°30'28.0"N 85°44'29.3"W
or D.d. 37.507777, -85.741473

Buried At South Fork Cemetery Is
John Walters
An Indian Fighter Who Received Seven Wounds From Fights
He Was Mentioned In The Last Known Indian Battle On Buron's Run

Severn's Run 1792
A band of fifteen Indians attacked the Severns Valley settlement, killing two women and five 
children, livestock and burning several cabins before moving northward. Fifteen settlers led 
by Colonel Patrick Brown, set out in pursuit of the raiders. By nightfall they had tracked the 
Indians to the banks of the Rolling Fork River where the Indians crossed. The settlers camped 
by the river for the night without building a fire and with 2 guards posted. At daybreak they 
resumed pursuit of the raiding party. They found the Indians had gone ashore on the opposite 
bank. The settlers forded the river and quickly came upon the camp of Indians, which set between 
the banks of the Little Branch (Brown's Run) and the Rolling Fork. They were able to surprise the 
raiding party and a battle ensued, being a mixture of gunfire and hand to hand combat. At the end 
all of the Indians except the chief were killed in the battle, he fled making an escape. The Indian 
Chief had killed and scalped 2 of the three settlers that lost their lives that day. The white men 
killed in the battle were named Ashcraft, Vertrees, and Willingham. John Walters, Uncle of Elizabeth 
Walters Castleman was among the fifteen settlers at the battle, was wounded.
John was married to Susannah Ashcraft
-Ancestral News - History of LaRue County, Kentucky
compiled by Bessie Miller Elliott

In Honor Of Service
N.S. USD 1812
John Walters, Sr.

John Walters
Apr. 17, 1852
Aged 82 Yrs. 43 Days

Wife Of
John Walters, Sr.
Born In Pa. 1773
July 13, 1791
Died 1839

Nolin River
GPS: 37°33'31.9"N 85°47'17.4"W
or D.d. 37.558867, -85.788170

Before Kentucky was a state, during the days of Daniel Boone, many hunters, trappers and Indian fighters. Of that early group was a Pennsylvanian by the name of Benjamin Lynn. In earlier days, Lynn served under the leadership of General George Rogers Clark. He served as a scout for his regiment, and was even attained to the position of Captain.

Nolin River received its name when Captain Benjamin Lynn and ten other men were hunting in the Barrons, exploring in what is now Larue County, Kentucky. They camped upon the banks of the creek for several days. The men went in different directions, hunting on their own, but agreeing to return to the camp every night. On the first day's hunt, Captain Lynn came upon a fresh trail of Indians. He tracked the Indians throughout the day wanting to find out where they were going. He continued on the trail so far that he could not reach the camp. When the hunters returned they noted that Lynn was nowhere to be found. The second night, when Lynn did not show, one by one as the hunters returned they would report, "No Lynn!" The name stuck. No Lynn Creek became what is now known as Nolin River.

Nolynn Baptist Church
near Hodgenville, Kentucky
GPS: 37°33'31.9"N 85°47'17.4"W
or D.d. 37.558867, -85.788170

Built 1803
Destroyed By Fire 1893
Rebuilt 1895

Photos Taken May, 2011
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Special thanks to C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom L. Childers for assisting in the locations shown on this site. They traveled with your web editor on a Restoration Movement related trip through Kentucky in May, 2011.

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