Lee Rogers is one of several church members who have studied the history of the Indian-Kentuck  Baptist Church.  (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Lee Rogers is one of several church members who have studied the history of the Indian-Kentuck Baptist Church. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Members of one of Jefferson County's oldest churches may not know the exact location of their church's first meeting in Canaan, but they still have a long history to celebrate during this year's bicentennial celebration.

While some early history of the Indian-Kentuck Baptist Church remains lost to the ages, current members celebrate a history that began with original members meeting at a private home in 1812.

Ed Taylor, a member of Indian-Kentuck Baptist Church for 69 years, said the church has gone to great effort to preserve its history as best as it can. With the help of the church's minutes and Madison Baptist Association minutes, there are records of the progress, triumphs and defeats over the past 200 years.

"We're lucky to have them," Taylor said of the record books that remain from the church's early years.

From changes in membership to changes in the church's meeting place, the Indian-Kentuck Baptist Church has survived many challenges.

A few members of the present congregation have family ties to the original founders. Church member Lee Rogers said some of the other current members have the same last name as the original founders.

"There's several generations that have been members," Taylor said.

Rogers also read through more than a 100 years of minutes from the Madison Baptist Association relating to Indian-Kentuck Baptist Church's history. He found membership lists and other historical facts from the early 1800s.

The congregation grew from nine to 29 in three years. By 1823, about 75 people were members of the church, and records showed 204 people belonged to the church in 1963. Other years showed averages of 80 to 100 members.

Today, about 40 to 60 members attend services at Indian-Kentuck Baptist each Sunday.

Minutes from the 1800s reflect a congregation that was very legalistic, Taylor said. Records show charges brought against some of the early church members for non-Christian conduct - sometimes against themselves.

Taylor also recounted a story recorded in the records where a member wished to leave the church. The church brought charges against the man for leaving, making the member appear before the church for a vote. In the end, the congregation voted the man out of the church anyway. Other records show charges brought against members for leaving the service in too big of a hurry and wearing inappropriate clothing as well.

Early records also provide the original constitution of the church - written in 1814 - as well as deeds to land owned by the church.

"For years, they debated where the church had been," Taylor said, and thanks to records saved over the years, some of those questions have been resolved.

Minutes show that the earliest church meetings were held in a private home on Lee's Ridge. A few years later, construction of the first church began. Yet for some unknown reason, that first building was never finished.

"There's major events not recorded in the minutes," Taylor said.

Records show the first occupied church building was on Copeland Ridge in 1822. The tract of land was sold to the church for $1. The church included a brick stove and glass windows by 1838. Still, members of the church voted to sell the building at public auction and built another meeting place "one mile south of east" in 1843.

That new church was built on the property where the present Indian-Kentuck Baptist Church is located. A faulty foundation caused the first church building to be torn down and rebuilt in 1865.

The second church building stood for over 100 years until a tornado destroyed it in April of 1974.

"It was always a question of do we fold or rebuild," Taylor said.

After a church meeting, members decided to rebuild. Nearly $30,000 in donations and pledges were raised for the new building in one day after the decision was made.

The congregation built a building farther from the road and added more space for classrooms, offices and a kitchen.

"The (former) church could have easily have fit in the sanctuary" of the current church, Taylor said.

A baptistery, something none of the former church buildings had, was also added to the new building. Baptisms always took place in the creek or Madison First Baptist Church before 1974, Taylor said.

A few items from the former church building were salvaged. A Bible in the foyer of the church was saved, as well as a piano, organ and clock. The pulpit also survived the tornado after a few repairs, as well as the communion table - which still misses a piece of trim on the right side.

"That is a reminder of what was," Taylor said of the missing piece.

Earlier this year, the church began hosting previous pastors as special speakers on Sundays as part of the bicentennial celebration. A committee of church members including Taylor, pastor Ed Roberts, Becky Smitha, Charles Rogers and Carol Poling helped to plan different events for the 200th year of the church's beginning.

And the celebration doesn't expect to end with a special Homecoming Celebration on Oct. 21. Committee members also plan to create a timeline of the church's early history, as well as national and local history, to display in the building for years to come.