This enterprising and historic Church was organized as the Oak Grove Baptist Church on September 15, 1854, by Elders James S. Dawson, John G. Howard, and William J. Owen. The constituent membership numbered seventeen and were as follows: Lattney Owen, James J. May, John Hedges, Thomas Howard, James May, Lewis Sublett, R. L. May, George Field, John Howard, Wesley Hedges, Eliza A. M.. Owen, Sarah Bohem, Susan Field, Francis Mahon, Parthenia O’Flynn, Albina Sublett, and Lydia Bohem. This list of members, ten males and seven females, were dismissed from the Green Brier Church for this purpose.
A history of this Church was written and read before the Association in 1898 and incorporated in the minutes. Dr. W. P. Bennett was the author and to him we are indebted for most of our information concerning the early days of this Church. According to his history many difficulties were encountered by the constituent members. The Pedo-Baptists put some difficulties in the way in regard to a building and the mother Church, Green Brier, interposed many objections upon the grounds that a Church organization at that place was not then necessary; and the withdrawal of the members desiring letters to go into the new organization would unnecessarily weaken Green Brier Church. The brethren finally overcame these difficulties and on the date given were organized into a Church.
The Church was organized in the Martin School House located about one and one-half miles north of its present site. Plans were immediately set on foot to erect a house of worship. This site was located in the northeast corner of what is now known as the Parrish Wheeler farm. The plans progressed in such a way that the Church held its first services in the new house of worship in March, 1857. This building continued to serve the Church until November 5, 1885, when it was completely demolished by a cyclone. The pastor at that time, Dr. W. P. Bennett, was away in revival meetings elsewhere and for several months the Church was unable to meet. With a small membership at that time of about sixty-five, no house of worship, and with but little financial ability, the outlook for the future was very discouraging. In the spring of 1886 the Church began to hold regular meetings again; sometimes in the Bethlehem Colored Baptist meeting house, and again in the school house in the town of Utica. The Church purchased its present location in July, 1886, and a revival meeting was held by Elder B. F. Jenkins in the Colored Baptists’ House of Worship. As a result over seventy members were added to the membership of the Church and a sufficient amount of money was subscribed to erect a new building. With great joy and rejoicing the new building was entered and dedicated in October, 1887, with Elder J. M. Peay preaching the dedicatory sermon. This glorious event was followed by another revival by Elder B. F. Jenkins and thirty-one additions to the membership. This Church has continued in a flourishing condition to the present time and is now one of the strongest Churches in the entire Association.
In the year 1928 the Church began the erection of a Sunday School annex. On the third Sunday in May, 1929, the annex was dedicated with Rev. Sam P. Martin preaching the dedicatory sermon. The whole project cost about $5,000.00 and was dedicated free of debt. This has been a great help to the Church in all of her work but the time may come in the not too distant future when an additional expansion may be necessary. For a short time after 1920 the Church owned a parsonage but later disposed of this property. The Church has also been the custodian of the Utica Cemetery for some time.
Since her organization the Church has been served by the following pastors and clerks :
|William J. Owen||1854-1858|
|T. M. Peay||1858-1868|
|A. G. Davis||1868-1869|
|J. M. Dawson||1869|
|H. T. Lampton||1870-1872|
|T. M. Peay||1873-1877|
|L. D. Arnold||1878|
|A. G. Davis||1878-1881|
|W. P. Bennett||1881-1896|
|T. M. Morton||1897-1904|
|E. B. Farrar||1905-1906|
|O. M. Shultz||1906-1914|
|L. W. Clark||1915-1916|
|O. L. Smith||1917-1918|
|A. S. Pettie||1918-1920|
|T. N. Compton||1921-1922|
|Clifton J. Allen||1929-1932|
|George C. Lovan||1932-1939|
|Wendell H. Rone||1940-1941|
|George J. May||1854-1864|
|G. W. Talbott||1865-1870|
|S. M. Givens||1870-1871|
|Beatty R. Jewell||1872-1875|
|S. M. Givens||1875-1878|
|T. M. Holmes||1878-1887|
|Beatty R. Jewell||1887-1888|
|P. S. Howard||1889-1892|
|Beatty R. Jewell||1892-1894|
|C. L. Hall||1895-1896|
|Beatty R. Jewell||1896-1905|
It will readily be seen that this Church has had some of the strongest men in the history of the Association as her pastors. In ministerial talent and success very few men have excelled Elders J. M. Peay, Dr. W. P. Bennett, J. M. Dawson, T. M. Morton, O. M. Shultz, A. S. Pettie, T. N. Compton, and Norris Lashbrook. Clifton J. Allen is now holding a prominent position with the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Only fifteen days after the constitution of the Church she became a member of the Daviess County Association. From that day to this she has never failed to be represented by messengers and letter at each annual gathering of this body. The Association has been entertained by the Church on five different occasions – 1869, 1894, 1908, 1924, and 1935. In the person of Elder A. G. Davis she furnished the Association with a clerk for a period of twenty-three years.
The Church ordained Elder Davis to the ministry in September, 1866; Clay O. Bennett in May, 1905; and Robin Martin in June, 1918. She also licensed Hobart Chissom to preach in January, 1917. The ordination of R. E. Bailey in September, 1917, was later declared null and void because of irregularity in his life. Boyce Lovan was licensed to preach in December, 1940.
Brethren Thomas Howard and Lattney Owen served as the first deacons of the Church. Brother Owen continued to serve in this office for almost fifty years. The other men who have served the Church as deacons are: Ferdinand O’Flynn, B. A. Coke, C. L. Hall, J. G. Howard, Sam Givens, Ebin Dawson, Oden Ashby, Will McCormick, William Huebner, J. T. Stevens, George Huebner, H. A. Givens, Raymond Martin, Will Birkhead, Wesley Riddle, G. W. Nation, Joe Hunt, Paul Burdette, Martin Howard, and Chester Igleheart.
Since the year 1870 the Church has fostered a Sunday School but it did not meet on some occasions during the winter months. Young People’s work has been carried on since 1916 with some years intervening. The first Women’s Missionary Society was organized in 1911 and since that time this one organization alone has contributed about $3,500.00 toward our Missionary work.
At the date of organization the Church assumed the name of “The United Baptist Church of Jesus Christ called Oak Grove.” This remained the name of the Church until July, 1931, when it was changed to “Utica Baptist Church.” The Church takes its name from the town in which it is located. For many years this town was known as Lewis’ Station.
This Church has been thoroughly evangelistic and missionary. About 1,000 persons have been baptized into her fellowship and about 400 have been received by letter. She has also given over $25,000.00 for missions in her history and about $100,000.00 for all purposes at home and abroad.
Mrs. Eliza A. M. Owen was the last constituent member to pass to her reward – this was in November, 1925. She had been a member of this Church for seventy-one years. Mrs. Delia Martin Jewell was a member of the Church from November, 1863, to her death in December, 1942, at the advanced age of ninety-five years and five months. The Church was organized in the School House on her father’s farm and she well remembered the event and also had the privilege of hearing all the pastors of the Church preach up to the year 1942.
Elder John A. Bennett, though never pastor of the Church, held his membership with the Church for a number of years prior to his death in 1931. He was a moving force in the work of the Church and greatly assisted in promoting the welfare of her membership. The Church will not soon forget the lives of John A. Bennett and his father, Dr. W. P. Bennett, in the community. Both Dr. Bennett and Elder A. G. Davis are buried in the Utica Cemetery which occupies a commanding hill overlooking the little town.
During her early history the Church had many colored people within her membership. They were the slaves of the white members. The number ranged from eleven in 1861 to twenty-eight in 1864. After the Civil War the Church assisted the colored members in organizing a Church of their own. This new Church took the name of Bethlehem and was organized about the year 1867. There has always been a spirit of helpfulness manifested toward the colored people by the Church and the white brethren have contributed in many ways to their welfare.
The author is glad to say that some of the happiest days of his life have been spent in the fellowship of this Church while he served them as pastor. The contribution of this Church to the life and welfare of the Association has been the highest and best.
Source: A History of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky, 1844-1943. Wendell H. Rone, Messenger Job Printing Co., Inc., Owensboro, Kentucky, 1944.