Old Union Missionary Baptist Church

Historical Marker #1063 commemorates the Old Union Missionary Baptist Church, considered to be the oldest, continuous congregation in Warren County. When the Kentucky Legislature passed an act in 1795 granting each settler the right to own 200 acres in the Green River country, many people, primarily from the Carolinas, resettled in the area. Among the settlers were numerous Baptists including preachers John Hightower, Alexander Devin, and Joseph Logan. These preachers are credited with establishing the Union Church on the west fork of Drake’s Creek in 1796 with John Hightower serving as the first pastor. A log building, the first worship building was shared by the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Cumberland Presbyterian congregations, which allowed one Sunday per month for each group to assemble.

The Great Revival or Second Great Awakening, a series of religious revivals that began in Kentucky in the 1790s, doubled the number of Baptist churches by 1803 and tripled the number of members. The increased numbers initiated a union between different Baptist groups in Kentucky. While Kentucky’s Baptists have generally agreed about beliefs related to Biblical authority, congregational independence, and baptism by immersion, they often disagreed over organizational structure, the importance of education, professionalized ministry, and the worship structure.

In the mid-1820s, a division arose among the Baptists of Kentucky over the establishment of evangelization missions. As missionary activities by different churches increased, greater centralized organization was needed. “Anti-mission” advocates discouraged support of missionary organizations because the Bible did not authorize missionary organizations and the opponents believed the missionary organizations threatened the autonomy of worshipping congregations with the formation of organized district associations and state conventions. The opposition was strongest among the rural poor since the missions required a lot of financial support. Although the majority of Kentucky’s Baptists favored organization for the purpose of missions and education, the division caused services to cease at the Union Baptist congregation during the 1830s. It was reorganized as a missionary church in 1839 by O.H. Morrow from Simpson County. Old Union has helped organize churches in several states and supported mission work across the world. Camp meetings and revivals continued to be used as an evangelization effort.

By 1846, the church building had become a brick structure. Services continued to be held throughout the Civil War while some churches stopped services during the war. In collaboration with the Cumberland Presbyterian congregation, the current building was built in 1866 and remodeled in 1897. The education rooms, vestibule, fellowship hall and brick exterior were added between 1956 and 1993.