Bracken Baptist Church
The Bracken Church, located in Mason County, was constituted in June 1793, with ten members dismissed from the Washington Church. The famous pioneer preacher Lewis Craig, who had come to this section the year before from Central Kentucky, led the organization of the church, and probably was the first pastor. In 1795, the new church, with forty-five members, united with the Elkhorn Association, but in 1799 with one hundred and fifty six members, it went into the formation of the Bracken Association, in the Bracken meeting house, then located about five hundred yards northwest of the present village of Minerva. At this time there were four ordained preachers in the membership of the church, including Lewis Craig, Philip Duke, William Holton, and John King. One or the other of these served as pastor during the early history of the church.
About 1805 there was a division over the question of slavery, with a pastor for each division, but the two congregations held their services in the same house of worship. When the Anti-slavery Society dissolved, the division in the church was healed, and Jesse Holton became pastor of the united church in 1815, and continued until 1829. The sad report was given that Holton went over to Campbellism and took with him all the church of two hundred fifty-0one members, except thirty-seven. The Campbellites claimed the house of worship, but permitted the Baptist minority to hold services in it once a month.
Elder A. D. Sears, who was well known among Kentucky Baptists, became pastor of the church in 1840. He said “the building was dilapidated and situated a few hundred yards west of the village” of Minerva. This faithful preacher held a meeting in the Methodist church house, when the deep on the ground. During his two years' pastorate, Brother Sears had the Articles of Faith readopted, and by process of law restored the church building to the Baptists. A. W. LaRue, a young preacher, succeeded Elder Sears in 1842 and the church prospered during his pastorate. The old meeting house, built by Lewis Craig, and rescued from the Reformers was so dilapidated that it was unfit for worship. The amount of $3,000.00 was raised for the erection of a new building in the village of Minerva. Since 1850 the church has continued to decline in membership.
About 1900 the meeting house ceased to be occupied as a place of worship by the Baptist church. The house was used as a community center until 1930, when the property was sold by the only four remaining four members to a private citizen for $280. This money was turned over to the Bracken Association to be used for enclosing the grave of Lewis Craig. An iron fence set in concrete was built around the graves of him and his wife, and a bronze tablet was hung on the fence recording a brief biography of his life. In October, 1930, the unveiling ceremonies were held with Dr. John R. Sampey as the principal speaker.
The old Bracken meeting house is still standing and is being used for a tobacco barn. On June 6, 1947, the author visited this historic old building and viewed its desolation. Lewis Craig was a member of the Bracken Church in 1812 as he was a messenger to the Bracken Association that year. He, no doubt, remained a member until his death in the summer of 1825.
From Frank M. Masters A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, published by the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society.