Henderson County, Kentucky


It seemed as if by special divine will, that a yet greater check was to be given any future life of theirs in the Green River country. This came in the shape of a great religious revival, certainly the most wonderful and remarkable ever known prior to that time, and perhaps ever known since. Religious interest manifested itself in a most magical way, sweeping like a prairie flame, and extending its influence in every direction. The entire Green River country, beginning with Warren County, was affected with this wonderful contagion. In those days there were very few, if any church buildings, and the population small and very much scattered. No matter, this excitement seized the entire population, permeating every nook and corner of the counties, flying here and there with all the indications of an incomprehensible outbreak. These were the days of the great divine, Rev. James McGREADY, whose strong preaching drew hundreds around him, and engaged their earnest work in behalf of the Master and His Kingdom on earth. Camp meetings became the order of the day, often continuing for a month or more. These meetings were attended by people who had come from fifty to one hundred miles away - not curious amusement seekers, but men and women who had heard and had come to be taught and learn. They were bent upon more light and grace spiritually, than they had ever been enabled to gather from the solitude of a wilderness life. When assembled the body was a large one, a grand one, and great numbers, indeed a very great majority, connected themselves with the church. Among that astonishing number of converts were many who had been suspected of being the secret abettors of the outlaws, but, notwithstanding the repulsive taint attaching to their moral character, they were welcomed into the church and did afterwards become respectable and useful citizens.

These meetings were conducted by eminent divines, the most noted of whom was the Rev. James McGREADY, then came Revs. Rankin HODGE and William McGEE, Presbyterian preachers, and John McGEE, a brother of the last named gentleman, who was a Methodist preacher. In addition to these the Rev. William BARNETT, of that part of the country, now known as Caldwell County, frequently officiated. Mr. BARNETT was a remarkable man, and in addition to his wonderful pulpit and revival powers, is said possessed a voice absolutely surpassing belief.

Hon. Philip B. MATTHEWS, to whom I am indebted for much of the foregoing interesting recollections of early times, affirms that he could be heard and understood at a distance of one mile.

It was at these revivals a disease - if it may be so-called - farcical in its intervention and never before known, manifested itself. This anomalous evidence of regeneration - a sample of faith never before witnessed, a disease pedantic in its form - partook of an impassioned restlessness, then the tremors, then the wriggles, then the shakes, then the flounders, then the staggers, and then the whole epileptic catalogue of nervous jerks, seized the victims, while the victims seized the nearest saplings and exerted Herculean powers seemingly to unhinge themselves. This very remarkable outcropping of religious fanaticism permeated the entire camp, creating among many a considerable degree of alarm. The whole country became Christianized, and society, law and order became the gainers thereby.

Pages 35 - 35, History of Henderson County, Kentucky
E. L. Starling


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS