I was looking through the book, “Early Days in Danville” by Calvin Fackler and my heart skipped a beat when I found “John M. Smith” listed in the index. Could this be MY John M. Smith? I copied 4 pages and I will transcribe it here. There are LOTS of clues to follow up on here. In the book, sources are given for quite of bit of the information including specific deed information and several references to a newspaper article written in the Kentucky Advocate in 1923, which I will try to locate, if possible.
This post will be a long one as I’m including not only my transcription, but also a few notes to some online sites the I began to look at last night after my family had celebrated Thanksgiving. My research for more information based on the book is only beginning. I decided I’d better post what I have before this post becomes book-length by itself! I’m sure there will be more information coming as I try to prove or disprove that this is MY John…
The Baptist church was the third organized here; and it has now the oldest church lot in use. The Baptists “came to town” in the early 1820’s. They were represented here long before that but worshipped in the country; for the Danville congregation was the daughter of Providence and, apparently, the grandchild of the “High German Lutheran” body, once located in the Fisher Garrison vicinity.
(Fisher’s Garrison was probably the largest and best manned of the early stations in the wilderness of Kentucky, according to Calvin M. Fackler’s “Early Days in Danville.” The station has a two-story log or frame building that stood until about 1900. http://articles.centralkynews.com/2006-08-07/history/24881416_1_family-tree-kentucky-family-names)
Unfortunately there seem to be no records of the Dutch Meeting House extant. The civil ones show that the church lot was deeded by Harry Innes and Stephen Fisher, Senior, and acre each, to Adam Smith, Adam Fisher, and Nicholas Wilhite “elders for the time being of the High Dutch Congregation.” The western half was carved from the Innes tract, and the easter from Fisher, May 19th and June 4, 1791, respectively. The consideration was nominal, one shilling and five shillings.
(There is an interesting history of the Low Dutch church of the Harrodsburg area at http://www.sweet-home-spun.com/historytrust.htm On May 19th, 1791 Stephen Fisher Sr. deeded one acre of land near his Station to Adam Smith, Adam Fisher and Nicholas Wilhite. On June 4th 1791, Harry Innes deeded another adjoining acre to the same people for the property where ‘The Old Dutch Meeting House” stands. Smith, Fisher and Wilhite were listed as “Church Elders for the time being”. The church was a grandchild of the “High German Lutheran” church established by these early German settlers at Fisher’s Garrison in now Boyle County, near Danville. Source: Early days of Danville, by Calvin Morgan Fackler, p. 152. It is noted in Fackler’s book that this church was actually built years before but no deed had yet been officially conveyed for the property. “The consideration was nominal, one shilling and five shillings”. Harry Innes was in the process of selling the surrounding land and thus the urgency to deed the property to the Germans. http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/GERMANNA_COLONIES/2010-11/1290204977)
Tradition has it that the church was built some time before that; and there are strong reasons for believing so: the first session of the District Supreme Court met at Harrodsburg and, taking note of its inadequate accommodations, adjourned immediately to the Dutch Meeting House – two days term, 1783. There was a necessity for making this conveyance at that time. Judge Innes, holder of a moiety of the legal title to the church grounds, was about to sell his tract; and did so a few days later, when he disposed of his holdings to David Gillespie, but excluded the Meeting House lot. This tract was sold in 1811, by order of Court, when it was described as “being in the neighborhood of Danville and near the dwelling house of Benjamin Fisher” (son of Stephen Sr.) to whom it was sold. Its location should be marked; out to be rather easy to trace since Benjamin conveyed to Dr. Daniel Yeiser. This was long the Daniel Yeiser homestead – now estate of the late J.C. Caldwell, Jr. There are other clues which we will gladly furnish to anyone interested enough to do this work.
The Dutch Meeting House seems to have had its origin in the German treck which ended here about 1780. Then the Fishers, Garrs, Yeagers, Wilhoits, Smiths (Smidts), Gashweilers, and others were of the Lutheran faith. As most of those names appear afterwards among the Boyle County Baptists, they must have gone en masse into that denomination – saving a few brands plucked by the Presbyterians. These families were to be found at Providence until its dissolution, some fifty years ago. Providence was a well built brick, about three miles out the Lancaster road. The twin front doors indicated a division of the sexes in worship. Today there is not so much as a scar upon the field, to show where it once stood; but those who constituted that town meeting, June 7, 1823, were not to have so comfortable a house of worship again for twenty years.
“The nine Baptists who lived within its borders (Danville) felt that if they were to exercise the best influence for their Lord and Master, it was time for them to form themselves into a church which could lend its influence toward the betterment of the community. As a result, the following met in the home of one of them and organized the ‘First Baptist Church of Danville, Mercer County, Kentucky’: Samuel Ayres, John M. Smith, Nancy Smith, Ruth Garland, Eliza Hand, Dorothy Ayres, Enoch Smith, Jesse Garland, and Elder Thomas Hand. The following ministers assisted in the organization, Elder John Rice, John S. Higgins, and Samuel D. Street.” Of that first nine only two names are known to use, Samuel Ayres, the silversmith, and his wife Dorothy. Come the next generation, and his son and namesake would head the roster of another church project; of which, more anon.
For the next two years they must have met from house to house, then they succeeded in getting that ideal location for a Baptist – near water; for over the fence shimmered the ripples of Doneghy’s pond. This was the property of Mr. Daniel McIlvoy, which they acquired November 12, 1825. The conveyance names John M. Smith, one of the original band, Jeremiah Fisher and Duff Green trustees. Mr. Fisher we already know. Dr. Duff Green, son of Willis, in addition to his professional duties, also served awhile as County Clerk.
The plat was one acre, described as follows: “Adjoining the town of Danville; beginning at a stone in a line formerly belonging to James Birney; thence West 12 poles, 6 links; thence North 12 poles 16 links; thence East 12 poles 16 links; thence South 12 poles, 16 links to the beginning.” It was separated by a distance of thirty-five feet from our North Third Street, which strip was cut from the Birney addition by the extension of said street. In the hands of a grasping party, that strip might have caused much trouble; but James G. Birney, with his usual fairness, sold it to the abutting property holders for a nominal sum, instead of making them pay through the nose for an outlet.
The purchase must have exhausted their funds, for it was years before they could erect a fitting building. The church chronicler says that on the south center of the lot stood a little log cabin which they used as a meeting house; “The church experienced a hard struggle for existence for the next few years. At times it seemed as though they would have to give up the fight, but in each dark period there would come a new ray of hope. During one of these brighter periods they decided to build a church house. The town had grown to such an extent that the Baptist property was more valuable; so that at a meeting in the church in 1839 or 1840, they hit upon the plan of selling some of their property to raise funds for the building.”