Baptist Chapel & Cemetery

This log cabin, originally the Licking Locust Baptist Church, was moved and reconstructed on site of the First Baptist Church in Washington, which was destroyed by fire twice. Listed on the National Historic Register, the cemetery contains gravesites of early pioneers, Revolutionary War soldiers, Indians, slaves, and famous Indian fighters Capt. James Ward and his brother Charles Ward.

WASHINGTON BAPTIST CHURCH. This Washington, Ky., church, founded by Rev. William Wood, dates to 1785 and was one of the first churches

in Northern Kentucky. Wood was a founder of Washington in addition to serving as the first preacher for the church; he also donated the land for the church building and the graveyard, which is still in use. In the cemetery are buried some of the pioneers of the area; family members of Albert Sidney Johnston, including his mother, Abigail, the early Presbyterian ministers Robert Wilson and Paradise Lost McAboy; and Arthur Fox Sr., the other primary founder of Washington. Also buried there are American Indians including a chief and his wives. Part of the graveyard was set aside for “strangers.”

The Washington Baptist Church, which began as the Limestone Baptist Church, met in Limestone in 1785. Near there in 1788 Wood conducted some of the first baptisms in this part of the state. Baptized in the Ohio River at this time were Mary Rose, Ann Turner, Elizabeth Washburne, John Wilcox, and Elizabeth Wood. It was reported that Indians watched from the north side of the river, along with a large crowd from Limestone. A log structure was built in Washington in 1788 on the grounds donated by Wood, and the name of the church was changed to Washington Baptist Church in 1792. Wood continued as pastor until 1798, when his land purchases caused conflict with some members. It was in this first church and on its grounds that a series of debates was held in October 1823 between Alexander Campbell, representing the Baptists, and Rev. William McCalla, representing the Presbyterians. Thousands attended and both sides claimed to have won the debates. The Baptists hailed Campbell’s performance, but in 1830 he led a split of the Baptists by launching his Disciples of Christ movement. Rev. Gilbert Mason was the pastor at the Washington Baptist Church from the 1840s until 1856 and was at the center of a controversy that briefly separated the Washington Baptist Church from the Bracken Baptist Association, a group that the Washington church had been affiliated with since 1799. Although the first church building was a sound structure, it was torn down in early 1871. The replacement church was destroyed by fire in 1889 and was not rebuilt; the Washington Baptist Church ceased to exist. In 1980 an effort led by Rev. Ken Forman and the Bracken Association of Baptists resulted in rebuilding the church of logs, which stands to day on the original site. It serves the community on special occasions.

Collins, Richard H. History of Kentucky. Vol. 1. Covington, Ky: Collins, 1882.

Masters, Frank M. A History of Baptists in Kentucky. Louisville, Ky., Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, 1953.

Reis, Jim, “Cemeteries,” KP, April 21, 1986,4K.

John Klee