Velorious Edwin Kirtley, son of Elijah L. Kirtley, and a descendant of an old Welsh family which has produced many Baptist preachers, not less than seven of whom have lived in Kentucky, was born in what is now Taylor county Ky., April 9, 1818. His father having lost his property, he was brought up to hard labor on a farm, and with only a few weeks’ schooling. In May, 1837, he united with Pittmans Creek church, being baptized by John Harding. After he was converted, his desire for education was greatly increased. Accordingly he applied himself to study by firelight, at night, while he labored hard by day. This practice he kept up till he arrived at his 21st year. After this he went to school and taught school alternately, until February, 1839, when he entered Georgetown College. Here he worked his way through an attendance of fifteen months. Having been licensed to preach, at Pittmans Creek, in Jan. 1839, ne was ordained at Frankfort, Dec. 25, 1841, by Wm. Vaughan, J. M. Frost and George C. Sedwick. He immediately took charge of Big Spring church, in Woodford county. He was also pastor of Providence church, in Anderson county, and preached once a month to each of the churches at Hillsboro and Salvisa. In 1844, he took charge of the churches at Bardstown, Mill Creek and New Salem, all in Nelson county. He served these churches, till 1848, when he accepted a call to the church at Owensboro, to which he ministered two years. In 1851, he accepted an agency for the Kentucky and Foreign Bible Society. In this position he labored four years. In March, 1854, he took the pastoral charge of the church at Danville, and served it four years, building it up from 33 to 125 members, of whom he baptized 80. On leaving Danville, he took an agency for Indian Missions, which he prosecuted only a few months, when failing health forced him to desist from traveling. He then improved a small farm near Springfield, and remained on it during the War, preaching meanwhile, to the churches at Hillsboro, Bethlehem and Haysville, in Washington county, and Lebanon, in Marion. In 1865, he took charge of the church at Bardstown, and at the same time became Principal of the Baptist Female College, at that place. After occupying these positions three years he moved to Lebanon, where he took charge of the church, and built up a female high school, of which he continued Principal, five years. In 1874, he took the pastoral care of the churches at Stanford, in Lincoln county, and Hardins Creek, in Washington. In 1876, he accepted an agency for Domestic and Indian missions, and filled the position six years, closing in 1882.
Mr. Kirtley is an eminently practical man, in the prosecution of his religious enterprises, whether in the pastoral office, at the head of a denominational school, or prosecuting a financial agency. He possesses remarkable physical strength and powers of endurance; and few preachers in Kentucky have performed so much hard labor as he, and equally few, perhaps, have labored to better advantage. He has been engaged in almost every enterprise of the Baptist denomination in Kentucky, and has been blessed with good success in them all. In the pastoral office, he thinks he has baptized over 1,000 converts. He has raised money to aid in building several church houses, as those at Portland, Crab Orchard and Bethlehem, and to repair those at Bardstown, Mill Creek, Lebanon, Haysville and Owensboro. He raised $8,000 to establish Danville Female Academy, the same amount for Bardstown Female College, and $10,000 to establish Lebanon Female College. He supposes he has collected for missionary and other benevolent enterprises over $150,000. At the age of 65, he is hale and strong, and appears as zealous in the Master’s cause as in the days of his youth.
Source: A history of Kentucky Baptists: from 1769 to 1885, Vol. 2. John H. Spencer, Cincinnati, 1886