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Columbia Baptist Revival and Icy Baptizing, December 1838

The following is a shortened version of an letter, written by former Kentucky Governor Preston H. Leslie, former Confederate Officer, and at the time Territorial Governor of Montana, printed in the Adair County News in February 1898. The letter, written upon the occasion of the death of Dr. W.P. Jones, former Adair Countian, and forwarded to Judge James Garnett, Sr., who allowed the publication...

Edited by Mike Watson, Adair County Historian

"In the Fall of 1838, after I had professed religion and joined the Baptist Church, I met Dr. [W.P.] Jones, then a youth entering manhood, at Columbia, Ky. We were both pupils in a school being taught there, of high grade and considerable local reputation, by a man named Page and a lady named Boardman--he in charge of the boys and young men at the building on the hill there, called the Seminary, and she in charge of the girls and young ladies at a building with convenient arrangements, two or three blocks away; but several of the classes consisted of both male and female and recited together.

Mr. Page taught classes in the old Robertson Academy building, on South High Street, which soon after was sold and became a private residence, now the home of Mrs. Wanda Hill. Mrs. Boardman taught the young ladies in the Old John Field Home, on now Reed Street.--MW

"We were there and filled our places through that five months' session. He and I became well acquainted. Each of us had but recently professed religion and joined the Baptist Church, and very often talked with each other about our conviction and experience in seeking pardon, and the forgiveness of sins and joys of peace and rest, hope and faith that came to us; the gift of love shed abroad in our hearts, and of our joining the church and steadfast purpose to live for Christ. We were congenial spirits and linked together in chords of Christian friendship that never weakened for a moment in this life, or grew cold. We were both anxious and careful to learn all we could and make the best possible use of our time during that session of school.

"There was then at that town [Columbia] one Baptist church, one Presbyterian, one Methodist, and one Christian (called Campbellite) church. He and I attended the weekly prayer meeting and Sunday services at the Baptist church. The pastor was Rev. Daniel S. Colgan...and at one time in December, shortly before Christmas, there was a protracted meeting, held at the Baptist church-- the principal preacher was a man named Millikin, but a man named Billy Thomas and the pastor, Colgan, were there, and helped. Dr. Jones and I attended the meeting of nights when we could do so without neglecting our studies. It was a blessed good meeting; quite a number professed religion, and the shouts of joy and happy embracings of love and praises moved the congregation and spread solemnity along the lines of marching, hundreds coming and going.

"On the last Sunday morning of the meeting a great crowd of people assembled on the banks of Russell's Creek, a half mile or more from the church, and there witnessed the baptism of thirteen new-born Christian young men and women. It was a cold morning, the ice was from three to five inches thick and had to be cut away so as to get out where the water was deep enough. Dr. Jones and myself, with others, opened the way through the ice with pick and ax.

"There were two large log fires built out on the gravelly bar, some distance apart, and around each a tent was erected within which the baptized persons were carried to be disrobed of their cold, wet clothes. (At the time and for a while, there were men and women who affected great alarm, because as they predicted there would be sickness and probably death on account of such awful exposure in going into that cold water, but no one ever heard of even a bad cold appearing among the subjects baptized, or those who waded in and cut the ice and helped to lead the dripping young soldiers through the icy way back to dry land.)

"The sweet sounds of that Sunday morning music about the waters of that large creek, the great crowd of lookers on, the shining faces and interchanges of happy words and shaking of hands, and the brave stepping into and plunging all over into the cold, freezing waters, of those young ladies and men, is a picture I have loved to behold for almost sixty years. I have often passed along the public road near to that Baptismal pool, and always felt a sense of love drawing me back to that long-ago morning, and in the silent, but active thought, meditate upon the question on 'Will we all be ready to answer at the roll call? And shall we hear the voice of welcome?' There were very many incidents and occurrences through that five months that impressed me as noticeable, and have never been forgotten..." -Adair County News, 9 February 1898

This story was posted on 2017-04-17 08:16:16
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'The Seminary' where later KY & MT Gov. Leslie studied

2017-04-17 - South High Street, Columbia, KY - Photo by Ed Waggener, .
Former Kentucky Governor, who was later governor of Montana, tells the story of his time in Columbia, when he attended 'The Seminary' - Robertson Academy - which occupied the stately house behind the dogwood here, and is now the residence of Wanda Hill. It was during his time in Columbia, in the fall of 1883, that Preston Leslie professed religion at a Columbia Baptist Church revival, and his subsequent "Icy Baptizing, December 1838," an occasion which required great effort break the ice in the creek.

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