For more than two centuries, Clark Countians have been worshipping God inside a small stone church on Lower Howard’s Creek, not far from the original Boonesborough settlement.
Since the late 18th Century, the structure at the end of Old Stone Church Road, has been the spiritual home to the original settlers and their slaves, followed by an African-American congregation which purchased the building in 1872.
The claim remains, Clark County’s Old Stone Church is the oldest church in Kentucky.
According to information from the Bluegrass Heritage Museum, the 40-by-60-foot building was constructed in the mid 1790s, with limestone quarried from about a quarter mile away.
The stone edifice replaced a log structure built three years earlier, complete with “loop holes” to allow for a defense against Native Americans. Those early leaders included Squire Boone, brother of frontiersman Daniel Boone.
Local legend has it Daniel Boone actually attended Providence Baptist Church, as the structure became known, but local historian Harry Enoch said he has found nothing to support that statement.
“Daniel Boone was not a known church-goer, period,” Enoch said. “By the time the church was built, he was gone.”
The church’s exact construction date is not known, though it was indicated on county records in 1793, Enoch said. The congregation can be traced back to 1784. Until the first log church was built, they met in people’s homes, including Capt. Billy Bush, who helped settle the area along the Kentucky River and the current border between Madison and Clark counties.
Some of the original settlers from the area may be buried on the grounds.
“It’s reported some of the white pioneers are buried there, but no markers are found,” Enoch said.
The church long was open to African-Americans, often the slaves of church leaders, according to church records. Those records note the membership of slaves as far back at 1786, often identified by their owner’s name. The slaves, it was told, sat in the church balcony.
By 1849, Enoch’s research showed the African-American congregants were allowed to have their own services on an irregular basis, which increased to weekly Sunday meetings, with the condition at least two of the white members be present.
In 1870, the white members began building a new church nearby. Two years later, they sold the stone building to the African-American congregation, which continues today as Providence Missionary Baptist Church.
The original building is still intact and in use, though there have been additions.
“They added a community room … that they attached to the right side,” Enoch said.
“In all the research I’ve done, I think it’s fair to say it’s the oldest church building that’s been in continuous use.”§