Cane Ridge Meeting House

Historical Marker #51 in Bourbon County highlights the history of the Cane Ridge Meeting House, the famous revival of 1801, and its results.

Cane Ridge Meeting House, built in 1791, is a special place for many reasons. Hardy pioneers, following the advice of Daniel Boone, came to this ridge of canebrakes between two creeks to make their homes and build their church in the county of Kentucky in the state of Virginia. From the surrounding virgin forest, these pioneers cut blue ash logs and built their church. There were doors on the east end and the west end with the pulpit and communion table on the north side. The pulpit was approached by several steps so that the preacher looked down on the congregation. He looked up, however, to a balcony where enslaved individuals sat. Slaves entered the building by way of an outside ladder that led to an opening on the west end. A renovation in 1829 removed the gallery after which the slaves sat downstairs with their masters.

During the Great Revival years, beginning in 1799, many camp meetings took place at this location. The largest at Cane Ridge was August 7-12, 1801. Estimates claimed that as many as 20,000 people attended the camp revival, interested in salvation and socializing. There was a great spirit of freedom left over from the Revolutionary War, and the worshippers threw off their fear of the wrath of God and rejoiced in the love of a forgiving Lord. This freedom of belief, especially in the New Testament, eventually led to the establishment of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Church, and the United Church of Christ.

Under the leadership of Barton Warren Stone, a Presbyterian minister at Cane Ridge, the members agreed to create their own separate church in 1804. This church was based solely on the Bible, without attention to religious rituals, or Calvinistic doctrine. The denomination grew and joined with a similar movement led by Thomas and Alexander Campbell in 1832.

In 1882 another renovation of the old church included plastering the inside walls and white washing the outside clapboards. A graveyard among the trees accompanied the building. Services continued with long sermons and exhortations, frequent communion, and immersion in nearby waters until 1922, the last organized service.

In 1932, the centennial anniversary of the union of the Stone and Campbell movements, the Disciples restored old Cane Ridge to its primitive appearance. Later, as the ravages of weather and pests were destroying the exposed logs, the trustees built a superstructure of Cane Ridge limestone to cover the old meeting house in effort to preserve it.