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Saturday, November 7, 2009

KENTUCKY'S RURAL CHURCH ARCHITECTURE, 1800s

MOUNT TABOR BAPTIST CHURCH
When I am out in the country, I am always amazed at the many lovely small country churches that I come upon in Kentucky. They are very picturesque, simplistic in form and well maintained. Most are small as my photos illustrate. The churches featured in this post are from the 1800s or before. A common denominator of their architecture is the gable end front entrance or some call it the temple front. Usually rectangular, constructed with weatherboarding sides (wood), brick, or historically log. I have not been able to identify any rock or stone country churches as of yet.

PAINT LICK UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Of course, over the years some changes have been made to these country churches. However, they are minor to the overall function and form. Here on this Methodist church we see a porch that was probably added around the early 1900s. The main structure has the original foundation of stacked limestone while the front porch area has a cement block foundation, probably from the early 1900s. The weatherboarding sides are covered with modern siding. I am sure that adding the siding was a matter of abolishing the tedious work of painting the church every few years. Out in the back-yard of this church is a covered picnic area with picnic tables. An old church practice, still found sometimes today in Kentucky and other regions, is to have outside church dinners. These church dinners would be held on the church grounds ever so often.


OLD MULKEY MEETING HOUSE
An early name for a church in Kentucky was called a Meeting House. I have found in the literature that these very early churches in Kentucky were usually constructed of log. I have not personally come across one as of yet, but there is one in Tompkinsville, Kentucky called the Old Mulkey Meeting House that is believed to be one of the oldest wooden buildings in the state. It has chinked and daubed walls, clapboard shutters, puncheon floors, and handriven shingles. The old country church cemetery resides within a few feet of the original Mulkey Meeting House and several distinguished persons are buried there. One is Abe Lincoln's sister Hannah. Now located in a state park one can visit the Meeting House and cemetery (click here).

KIRKSVILLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH -- EST. 1849, CURRENT STRUCTURE -- 1878
This church was established in the early 1800s but the current structure was not built until 1878. The stained glass in the Gothic windows was replaced in 1995. The replacements were copied from the church's previous stained windows. The 1878 church is a classic example of Gothic Revival style popular amongst churches during the last half of the 1800s.

KIRKSVILLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH -- REPLACED STAIN GLASS 1995
A close up of the Gothic window frames with replaced stained glass windows. Kirksville Christian church is one example of the popularity of Gothic Revival style that many churches adopted across the nation, both urban and rural.

KIRKSVILLE CHURCH ENTRANCE DOOR -- ORIGINAL TO 1878 CONSTRUCTION

PAINT LICK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH -- EST. 1784, CURRENT STRUCTURE BUILT 1875
Paint Lick Presbyterian church was founded in 1784. It began its life in the church's cemetery. following came a second church in 1830 and the present church in 1875. The 1875 being the popular style of the time, Gothic Revival.

These few churches presented here are a sampler of the many found in Kentucky country. As I find more with unusual pasts or parts I will include them in a future post. These small churches were often the life blood of the community in the 1800s when transportation was primitive as was communication outside the area.

Church cemeteries are often associated with country churches. I remember going to my grandmother's funeral at a country church in Ohio. I was about six. Her coffin was in the church for the service and then taken outside only perhaps a few feet, and then had her burial right then and there. A large gaping hole had been dug for her coffin.. She was lowered into the ground while friends and family stood around the gravesite. She was lowered by a couple men using thick long ropes. Then the men took shovels and started to throw dirt back in the hole after the coffin had been completely lowered. That was the old country way in the past.

The churches in this post all have active parishioners except for the Mulkey Meeting House.

4 comments:

  1. The burial of your grandmother, with the casket lowered and then the dirt being shoveled in, reminds me of a Mennonite funeral I attended in our community.

    I enjoyed the photos and commentary. I love the little country churches of Kentucky.

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  2. Hi Genevieve, Thanks for the nice comments about the post. It is amazing that the old school houses are either sagging or missing from their former landscapes while the country churches continue to be pretty much the same as when they were built. I like your new photo! -- Barbara

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  3. I a republishing my previous inquiry. Did any of the churches built around 1800 - 1860 have secret pathways, rooms or underground tunnels? I am doing research for a writing project and would appreciate additional info about my search. Thanks Barbara. I am enjoying your site.

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    1. Hello Judy -- I am not familiar with church interior layouts. Basically in the past I have usually taken only exteriors. May I suggest that you google churches of the date you are interested in -- or perhaps contact some church folks in your area. thanks -- barbara

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