A Sketch of Early Primitive Baptist History
in the State of Ohio

Baptist history in Ohio and the Northwest Territory had its beginning when a flatboat with 28 persons aboard (two of them children) drifted down the Ohio River and landed near the point where the Little Miami River flows into the Ohio. This was about five miles above what is now the city of Cincinnati. The pioneers named their new settlement Columbia. The date of their arrival was the evening of November 18,1788.

When they had gone ashore, members of the little band "lifted up their voices in hymns of praise, and offered up prayer to Almighty God for his sustenance, guidance and protection." They could drift west, but they could not drift back east; they had come to stay.

The leader of this group was Maj. Benjamin Stites, who was a member of the old Scotch Plains Baptist Church of New Jersey, as were six other persons in this pioneer band now seeking new homes in the black forest of the Ohio country. Among the number was John S. Gano, a drummer boy in the War for American Independence, and a son of Elder John Gano, a distinguished chaplain with the Continental forces in the Revolutionary War.

In 1790, the six persons of the original group who were Baptists, together with three others, were organized into a Baptist church at the home of Benjamin Davis, by Elder Stephen Gano. The confession of faith which they adopted was an abbreviation of the London Confession of Faith (1689) and accepted as the standard of Baptist faith and practice by the Philadelphia Baptist Association (organized in 1707) and with whom the members of the new church were previously associated. The Scotch Plains Baptist Church was organized in 1747, by members who were dismissed from the Piscataqua Church (which, in turn, was organized in 1686), and the Scotch Plains Church united with the Philadelphia Association the same year.

The newly organized church, which was called the Columbia Baptist Church, may indeed be regarded as the mother church of the many Baptist churches which were organized by the pioneers of the Miami Valley in the two decades which followed.

The first meeting house of this church was completed in 1793. It is to believed by many to have been the first non-catholic meeting house built in Ohio. A sketch of the building, from the American Pioneer, published in 1842, shows the edifice as it stood in 1830. It was destroyed by fire in 1835.

The Columbia Church, according to Asplund's Register of the Baptist Denomination, for 1790- 1794, was a member of the Elkhorn Association of Kentucky the first few years of its existence, and reported between 32 and 37 members, during that time.


In 1797, delegates from four pioneer churches - Columbia, Miami Island, Sycamore and Clear Creek (Warren County) - met at Columbia for the purpose of organizing the group into a Baptist association, and to draft "and present to the several churches general principles of faith, practice and decorum as a basis for an association." Elder John Smith, who was later chosen as the first United States Senator from Ohio, was the moderator of this meeting. The new association was called the Miami Association.

By the time Ohio, our seventeenth state, was admitted to the Union (1803), 22 churches had been organized and received into the Miami Baptist Association. The Association divided over the doctrines and practices involved in the modern mission system in about 1836.


The Scioto Association was organized at a meeting held at Old Chillicothe Church on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 12, 13, and 14, 1805. The introductory sermon was delivered by Elder Cyrus Paulk, from Zech. 4:11,12. Four churches were represented - Ames, 49 members; Pleasant Run, 36 members; Old Chillicothe, 14 members; and Salt Creek, 33 members. Elder Nathan Cory was elected as moderator, and Peter Jackson as clerk. The second session, in 1806, and third session, in 1807, were held with Pleasant Run church. A history of the association was published in the minutes of the 74th annual session in 1878, which was brought up to date again in 1904 for the centennial session.

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