History of the Restoration Movement

Hill Street Christian Church

Lexington, Kentucky

1955 Painting Of Hill Street Meeting House
by Dr. William Clayton Bower

Excerpt From History of Central Christian Church, Lexington, Kentucky
Dr. William Clayton Bower

In 1826 Dr. James Fishback, pastor of a Baptist church on Mill Street, opposite what is now Gratz Park, proposed to change the name of his church to “The Church of Christ.” In his autobiography he claimed that all that Alexander Campbell had said and written in building up his own sect was obtained from a book Fishback wrote in 1813.

What appears to have been the nucleus of what was in time to become Hill Street Church was a group of ten that met for fellowship and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper under the leadership of William Poindexter, at the residence of Dr. Bell on the north side of Main Street just east of the corner of what is now the Esplanade, near the present site of Central. The group consisted of Dr. Bell, Mr. and Mrs. William Poindexter, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. James Schooly, Mrs. Bell and her son and daughter. It continued to meet from around 1816 to 1830. This group, together with the group of ex-Baptists led by Dr. Fishback, made up the Christian Church that purchased the lot on Hill Street for the new building for the Christians and Disciples.

By 1831 there were enough members to erect a new building. They acquired a brick structure on the north side of Hill (now High) Street, near Mill, that had formerly been a cotton factory. To this they added a brick structure of equal size on the east end. The pulpit was on the west end, and a balcony ran along the two sides and east end. The new building was dedicated by Jesse Bledsoe on October 16, 1831.

The Hill Street Church was of immense significance in the history, not only of Central, but of the entire movement of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This significance lay in the fact that here, in 1832, the Stone movement, known as the Christian Church, and the Campbell movement, known as Disciples of Christ, united to form the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

This historic event was the culmination of a number of preliminary conferences and unions in local churches. In 1828 the Separate Baptist Church at Antioch, Bourbon County, and the Christian Church at Beaver Creek united. In 1830 the Christian Church and the Church of the Reformers, as the Campbell branch was also known, at Millersburg united. In 1831 Disciples at Great Crossing in Scott County united with the Christian Church in Georgetown. The difference between these events and that at the Hill Street Church was that the former were unions of local congregations; that at Hill Street Church was the union of two communions.

The event was a dramatic one. John Smith, representing Disciples, made the first presentation before an audience composed of Christians and Disciples. As recorded in John Augustus Williams’ Life of John Smith, he said:

“God has but one people on earth. He has given to them hut one Book and therein exhorts and commands them to be one family. A union, such as we plead for—a union of God’s people on that one Book—must, then, be practicable. . .

While there is but one faith, there may be ten thousand opinions; and hence, if Christians are ever to be one, they must be one in faith, and not in opinion. . . .

For several years past I have stood pledged to meet the religious world, or any part of it, on the ancient Gospel and order of things, as presented in the words of the Book. This is the foundation on which Christians once stood, and on it they can, and ought to, stand again. . . .

Let us, then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites, or Stoneites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us all come to the Bible, and to the Bible alone, as the only book in the world that can give us all the Light we need.

Stone, representing the Christians, said in reply:

Controversies of the church sufficiently prove that Christians never can be one in their speculations upon those mysterious and sublime subjects which, while they interest the Christian philosopher, can not edify the Church. . . .

I have not one objection to the ground laid down by him as the true scriptural basis of union among the people of God, and I am willing to give him, now and here, my hand.

At this, according to Williams, “He turned as he spoke, and offered to Smith a hand trembling with rapture and brotherly love, and it was grasped by a hand full of the honest pledges of fellowship, and the union was virtually accomplished!” As Smith and Stone stood before the congregation, hands joined, it was proposed that those who were willing to unite on the principles expressed give one another the hand of fellowship. This they did, ratifying the union.

In order to confirm this union, John Smith, representing Disciples, and John Rogers, representing the Christians, were chosen to ride together to visit all the churches in Kentucky. In order to ratify the tentative union they rendered their report, together with communications from the churches, to a general meeting of the churches at Clintonville, Bourbon County, in October, 1832. Thus, in spite of considerable opposition, the union of the two bodies was consummated.

-History of Central Christian Church, Lexington, Kentucky, by William Clayton Bower, 1962, Bethany Press, pp. 24-26

Disciples of Christ

An Article On The History Of Christian Churches In Lexington, Kentucky in 1917

Broadway Christian

Seeking to restore the fundamental principles of New Testament Christianity and contending for a faith free from the admixture of human decrees, little bands of “Christianity” began to hold meetings in private homes in Lexington in 1825.

The sect called themselves “Disciples” and held to the doctrine propounded two years before by Alexander Campbell on his first visit to Lexington. One of the bands held its meetings in the home of Mrs. Bell, who lived a shore distance east of the site of the present postoffice. Barton W. Stone, who had been the ?????????? For many years, was their ????????? Group of “Disciples” held meetings in a house on Spring Street, which afterward, was used as the workshop of Thomas H. Barlow, inventor.

By the year 1831 the bands had grown strong enough to build a house of worship. Its site was on Hill Street, near the corner of mill. Jesse Bledsoe, an elder, deliver the dedicatory address Sunday, October 16, 1831. He had resigned from the Kentucky bar only a short time before to enter the ministry.

On January 1, 1832, Saturday, the two bands of “Christians” met in the Hill Street Church to consider plans for a union of the two bodies. Addresses were delivered by Elders John Smith and Barton Stone, and many members of the congregations. They united on the ground that the Bible was the “true and only basis for religious faith and worship; all shall enjoy the right of private and unquestionable belief; and the opinions of ecclesiastical leaders shall not be allowed to introduce into religious practices and disturb the peace of the church.” They desired the establishment of a church with no creed nor name except that Christ had authorized and with no terms for admission other than those required for entrance into the church at Jerusalem, Rome, Corinth or Ephesus.

Elders Jacob Creath, Curtis Smith and Thomas M. Allen conducted the services until a regular pastor was called. Among the congregation were Mr. and Mrs. William Poindexter, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Rogers, Mrs. T. S. Bell, Mrs. Joseph Flicklen, William Van Pelt, James Schooley and William Van Pelt, Jr.

The Rev. Allen Kendrick was one of the first ministers of the faith in Lexington. The two bands were united under his ministry. The congregation grew rapidly and a movement was set on foot for building a larger church. The old Main Street church was the result. It was completed in 1843. In this church was held the famous debate between Bishop Alexander Campbell and the Rev. N. L. Rice before an audience which thronged the assembly hall. Henry Clay, Judge George Robertson and Colonel Speed Sith were the moderators. Bishop Campbell won many converts to the faith he championed in that debate. Among the most prominent of these was Dr. James Fishback, who left his own church and became a minister in the “Christian” Church.

Elder James Challen, of New Jersey, a former student of Transylvania University, was the first regular minister of the church, followed by Dr. B. F. Hall, of Texas.

Dr. L.L. Pinkerton, the next minister, brought about a period of prosperity and conducted a campaign that resulted in building the old Main Street Church. He remained in that pastorate for three years, taking active part in establishing the Orphan School at Midway, Elders Newman Short, William Park, A. W. Robbins and John I. Rogers filled the pulpit in quick succession.

The Rev. W. H. Hopson, a native of Christian County, was called to the pulpit in 1860, serving until 1862, when he was succeeded by J. W. McGarvey, who was followed in turn by Elder Robert Graham.

The Rev. L. B. Wilkes was called to the pastorate in 1869. Because of growth in the congregation, overflow meetings, with the advice of the Rev. Mr. Wilkes, were held in the Odd Fellows’ Hall at the corner of Main Street and Broadway. Later a house belonging to the First Presbyterian Church on North Broadway was acquired May 1, 1871, for holding the overflow meetings from the Main Street Church. A separate congregation was not formed, however, until July 1, 1871. When Elders J. W. McGarvey, W. B. Emmel, I. W. Hodgen and R. A. Gibney took charge of the services.

Elder McGarvey, who was a professor in the College of the Bible, was also pastor of the church 1881, serving until 1890. During his ministry a house was built on Chestnut Street for a new congregation, aimed to relieve the crowded conditions at the Broadway Church. The new church grew rapidly, but the mother church remained in charge.

On the resignation of the Rev. Mr. Shouse, O. A. Bartholomew, of St. Francis, a “preacher-architect,” took charge of the campaign. In September 1891. The new church was completed and was dedicated formally. Mr. Bartholomew resigned then, and continued his work of building churches throughout the country.

The Rev. Mark Collis. Who had been professor of English language and literature in Transylvania University, was called to the ministry in 1892. He accepted. At the beginning of his ministry the congregation was about 700 in number. It has grown now to about 1400.

Work on a handsome new church costing about $100,000.00, to replace the one burned in February, 1916, will be begun in a few weeks.

A flourishing mission has been established by Broadway Church in the West End, where regular services are held on Sunday and Thursday evening.

Central Christian.

The band which had its simple beginning under the name “Disciples” and “Christians,” worshipped in the Main Street house for fifty years among the later ministers who served the church while its head-quarters were on Main Street were the Rev. W. F. Cowden and the Rev. Robert T. Matthews, who remained until the new church on Walnut Street was built.

The change was definitely decided on December 7, 1891, when a committee of thirty was appointed to select a suitable site. The building was completed and dedicated on July ??, 1894. The Rev. Mr. Matthews, before its completion, was called to the dean of the College of the Bible and Drake University.

Dr. I. J. Spencer, the present pastor, was called at that time to Central Christian Church, as it had been named. Dr. Spencer spends several weeks each year. His vacation,. In evangelistic work. He has received more than 10,000 persons into the Christian Church during his ministry, more than 2,000 of whom have been received into Central Christian.

In addition to his pastorship, he has for fifteen years superintendent of the Sunday school. Professor W. C. Bower took charge of the work later, however, but resigned recently and was succeeded by Marshall Dunn as director of the Educational Department.

Woodland Christian.

Woodland Christian Church is a daughter of the two main church, as pastors have been E. C. ??well. The Rev. R. W. Wallace and the Rev. E. T. Edmonds. The church has had unusual growth under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Edmunds.

Maxwell Christian.

Maxwell Christian has grown into a powerful organization under the ministry of Dr. A. W. Fortune, called to that work in addition to his professorship in the College of the Bible.

Missions are being conducted also at Arlington and Forest Hill.

-The Lexington Herald, Lexington, Ky, April 15, 1917, Sunday, (Educationional, Woman’s and Municipal Section) page 4,9.

History Of The Hill Street Church

Probably the most unusual religious development at this time (during the early years of Lexington) was the emergence of the Christian Church in Lexington and surrounding areas. The Reverend Barton Stone, a former Presbyterian minister who had become the main figure in the 1801 Cane Ridge revival that blotted out denominational attachments and led to his separation from the Presbyterian fold, had been preaching in Lexington and throughout the central Bluegrass area. Stone settled in Lexington in 1815 and organized a group of adherents. At the same time, Alexander Campbell of western Virginia, preaching the same message but called his adherents Disciples of Christ, visited Lexington. Services were held in the houses of the members. As these two groups began to move closer together, they were joined by the group Dr. Fishback led out of the Mill Street Baptist Church, and they acquired a former cotton factory on Hill (High) Street to which to which they built an addition and dedicated it in 1831. Here a year later the Stone movement and the Campbell movement united to form the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

As the Hill Street Church prospered under the dynamic leadership of Dr. L.L. Pinkerton the congregation outgrew its facility, and built the Main Street Christian Church in 1842 on the south side of the street just west of the present Harrison Avenue viaduct. This impressive structure with its recessed portico and Doric columns was a familiar landmark on Main Street until it was razed in 1903. The congregation had moved in 1893 to its present building at the northeast corner of Walnut and Short streets, where once the Masonic Grand Lodge Hall had stood.

In November 1843, at the Main Street Christian Church, Henry Clay presided over a debate between the Reverend Nathan Rice, a Presbyterian minister from Paris, and Alexander Campbell, which lasted for several weeks and centered on the issues of baptism, the spirit of God, and human creeds. Arousing a great deal of community interest, the debated engendered more heat and division than light and reconciliation.

-Lexington Heart of the Bluegrass, page 65,66

Directions To The Location Of Hill Street Christian Church

From North Lexington, where I-75 unites with I-64, take exit 118, Hwy. 25, and go south into the city. It will dead end into Newtown Pike (Hwy. 922/25). Continue into the downtown area. Turn left on W. Main Street. When road divides into one-way road, you will find yourself on W. Vine St. Go two blocks and turn right on S. Mill St. Go one block and turn right on W. High Street. Immediately on your right will be a bank parking lot. This is the location of the Hill Street Church. Remember that Hill Street was changed to High Street.

The GPS Location of where the Hill Street church stood is: 38°02'51.1"N 84°30'03.4"W / or D.d. 38.047517, -84.500957

Hill Street Christian Church
Lexington, Kentucky
Hill Street is now High Street,
south of and parallel to Main Street.

It was in this building that the union of the
Stone and Campbell movements took place
with the famous handshake between
Barton Warren Stone, representing his followers
the Christian, and "Raccoon" John Smith,
representing the followers of Alexander Campbell,
the Disciples of Christ/Reformers,
on January 1, 1832.

The 1955 painting by Dr. William Clayton Bower
depicts how the building looked when it served
as a church. The photograph was taken in the
1970's, shortly before the demolition
of the building, across the street from
First Methodist Church.

A bank now occupies this special place.

Stained Glass Presently Standing In The Cane Ridge
Meeting House
Near Paris, Kentucky Depicting The
Hill Street Meeting House In Lexington, Kentucky Where
Unity Took Place Between The Christian & Reformed
Baptist Movements In Kentucky
January 1, 1832

Stained Glass From Cane Ridge Meeting House
Depicting Unity Meeting At Hill Street Church
When The Forces Of The Christian Movement
Led By Barton W. Stone Extended The Right
Hand Of Fellowship To The Reformed Baptists
(Disciples Of Christ) Led By "Raccoon" John Smith
January 1, 1832

Photos Taken May, 2011
Courtesy of Scott Harp

Special Thanks to Tom L. Childers and C. Wayne Kilpatrick for assisting your web editor in acquiring the photos you see on this page.
We made a restoration research trip to the area in May, 2011, making this site possible.

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