Marker #2645, Bethlehem Baptist Church and Cemetery

Historical marker #2645 commemorates the site of Bethlehem Baptist Church and Cemetery in Utica, Kentucky. This Daviess County house of worship began as one of several Black churches established by enslaved people who once attended the nearby Green Brier Baptist Church. In 1851, Green Brier Baptist Church appointed a committee to designate a part of the church building for Black members. The nine Black members consisted of five women and four men who were enslaved by the Howard Family and other white families in the surrounding area.

The hard-won freedoms provided by the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, which abolished slavery, inspired the formerly enslaved members of Green Brier Baptist Church to form their own congregation. Therefore, on August 1, 1868, the following appeared in the official Green Brier Baptist Church records: “A motion was granted the entire Black membership of our church, letters of dismission to go into an independent organization.”

This post-Civil War separation of formerly enslaved members from Green Brier Baptist Church and Oak Grove Baptist Church in Utica gave Black residents in this part of Daviess County the opportunity to worship and organize religious institutions as they wished. One of the churches in the area that was created for Black worshippers was Bethlehem Baptist Church, located about one mile east of Utica at Pleasant Point near Pleasant Ridge. Bethlehem Baptist Church also stood about three miles from Green Brier Baptist Church.

In 1883, the congregation officially purchased the land where the small church stood. The church and the adjoining cemetery served emancipated Black families and their descendants for over 135 years. As both a house of worship and a community center for its members, it added greatly to the vibrancy of African American life in Daviess County. Sadly, in 2018, a snowstorm destroyed the wooden building. Its remnants were buried where the church had formerly stood.

The church records and cemetery plots include evidence of African American soldiers who served in World Wars I and II as well as a few of the ministers who attended the Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary) of the General Association of the Black Baptists in Kentucky in 1915. The pastors and reverends who attended on behalf of Bethlehem Baptist Church were H. A. Moorman, Peter Rondo, and Rev. N. G. Galbreath.

The marker reads:


Founded in 1883 by nine formerly
enslaved residents of Daviess Co.
who had received permission from
nearby churches to form their own
congregation, Bethlehem Baptist
Church and its adjoining cemetery
served as a center of religious
and civic life for generations of
their descendants and others in
the Black community. A 2018 snow-
storm destroyed the wooden church.


Following its destruction, the
church was buried where it fell.
The nearby cemetery contains the
marked and unmarked graves of
the founders and others who were
formerly enslaved, as well as
members from the late 1800s,
church leaders, veterans of both
world wars, and their families.

This historical marker was dedicated on October 23, 2023.

This entry was written by Monzita Williams, marker sponsor, in association with the Bethlehem Baptist Church Guardian Foundation.