CANE RIDGE MEETING HOUSE
The Birthplace of the Restoration Movement
The Restoration Movement is the movement that started the Independent
Christian Church, the Church of Christ (non-instrumental) and the Disciples of
The Community Christian Church is affiliated with the Independent Christian
Church and other than church history, we have no ties to the Church of Christ or
the Disciples of Christ.
A Church of Pioneers
A group of Kentucky's early settlers built Cane Ridge Meeting House in 1791.
Nestled among Kentucky's rolling hills and gracious horse farms, Cane Ridge
Meeting House is located on State Highway 537 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. It is
believed to be the largest one-room log structure standing in North America. It
is the symbol of the late 18th and early 19th century Western Great Revival. The
Cane Ridge Presbyterian congregation with its pastor Barton Warren Stone were
hosts for the event that took place here in August 1801.
Following the advice of pioneer explorer and guide Daniel Boone, a group of
Scots-Irish Presbyterians from North Carolina settled in the area in 1790. At
the same time that they were building homes and establishing livelihoods, they
cut and hewed blue ash logs for the Meeting House's walls and oak and chestnut
trees for beams and roof supports.
Religion on the Frontier
The young Presbyterian minister, Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844), arrived on
the western frontier to pastor at Cane Ridge in 1796. By the end of the century,
Presbyterians in Kentucky, southern Ohio, and northern Tennessee traveled to
each other's sacramental communion services which typically began on Friday or
Saturday and continued through Monday. Joining them in increasing numbers after
a meeting at Red River in Logan County in June 1801 were Methodists and Baptists
as well as the "unchurched".
The Revival of August 1801 at Cane Ridge was the climactic event of the Western
Great Revival. It was estimated by military personnel that some 20,000 to 30,000
persons of all ages, representing various cultures and economic levels traveled
on foot and on horseback, many bringing wagons with tents and camping
provisions. Because of the numbers of people attending and the length of the
meeting, Cane Ridge has become the metaphor of the Great Revival. Historical
accounts recall the contagious fervor which characterized the meetings that
continued day and night. Descriptions abound of individuals, taken by great
emotion, falling to the ground, crying aloud in prayer and song, and rising to
exhort and assist others in their responses to the moment. Worship continued
well into the week following the serving of Communion on Sunday, in fact, until
provisions for humans and horses ran out.
The sacramental gatherings of the Presbyterians, already undergoing
transformation by the time of the August 1801 Cane Ridge Revival, contributed to
the growing camp meeting revivals. Participation by Methodists added an
emotional evangelical quality that Presbyterians had previously tried to hold in
check. Baptists attended, however, many were in a parallel meeting of the South
Elkhorn Baptist Association.
Birth of "The Christians"
In 1804, a small group of Presbyterian ministers from Kentucky and Ohio,
including Stone, penned and signed a document, "The Last Will and Testament
of the Springfield Presbytery", at Cane Ridge that resulted in the birth of
a movement seeking unity among Christians along non-sectarian lines. They would
call themselves simply "Christians. The Christian Church, the Churches of
Christ (non-instrumental), and the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ),
trace their origins here. This movement is often noted as the first one
indigenous to American soil.
Preserving the History
Cane Ridge Christian Church congregation continued until 1921 when the
declining congregation disbanded. The historic old building stood in its place
awaiting recognition of its proper place in cultural and religious history.
The effect of the charismatic leadership of Alexander Campbell dominated the
Stone-Campbell movement for many years after his death in 1866. In the 1930s the
ministry of Barton Warren Stone was discovered anew. His role in the Cane Ridge
Revival and the development of the Christians of the West sparked the desire to
restore the Meeting House to its original appearance. This led to the
organization by the Disciples of Christ of the Cane Ridge Preservation Project.
After the Historic American Buildings Survey visited Cane Ridge in 1934, it was
recognized by the US Dept. of the Interior as a building of national
significance deemed worthy of saving. To protect it from weather, vermin, and
woodpeckers, in 1957 a golden limestone superstructure around the log church was
Religion on America's Western Frontier
In early August 1801 as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people gathered at Cane
Ridge Meeting House in Bourbon County, Kentucky, for a revival that became the
defining event of the late 18th and early 19th century Western Great Revival
period. Following the tradition of the Presbyterian seasonal communion
celebration which had roots in 17th century Scotland, people with Presbyterian,
Methodist, Baptist, and other religious persuasions as well as those with none,
worshiped together. The seasonal sacramental events had captured the
imaginations of the emerging American mind. It mattered not whether one was
rich, poor, educated or not, or culturally sophisticated or not. To Cane Ridge
they came and at Cane Ridge they intended to make camp and join a vibrant
A new American tradition was in the making. Perhaps new to the sacramental
occasion was the intentional bringing along of tents and camping provisions.
Camp meetings were taking on a life of their own. The "revival
meeting" was moving into its place in the American consciousness.
Two hundred years later, between August 4 and 12, 2001, the trustees and
curators of the Cane Ridge Preservation Project invited all to honor those days
of 1801 with nine days of celebration. Calling it "The Great
Gathering," the climax of the nine days of prayer, praise, and worship was
a communion service much like the one served in 1801.
The Signing of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery
occurred in the Cane Ridge Meeting House on June 28, 1804, with Presbyterian
ministers Robert Marshall, John Donlavy, Richard McNemar, Barton Warren Stone,
and John Thompson, plus a ministerial candidate, David Purviance, signing the
document. The Bicentennial Celebration took place June 26 - 28, 2004 at Cane
Ridge with speakers, a drama, soloists, music groups, picnics and box lunches on
the grounds, and an overnight prayer vigil in the Meeting House on the final
The Great Gathering had as its goal "To celebrate the influence and promise
of the Great Revival." A distinguished advisory panel and committees from
Central Kentucky churches worked to bring this about.
Cane Ridge Day 2005, held from 9:30 a.m. to mid afternoon on Saturday, June
25, dealt with that happened when three Shaker missionaries appeared at Cane
Ridge within a year of the signing of the last Will and Testament of the
Springfield Presbytery to try to persuade Barton Stone and his colleagues into
the Shaker camp. It took a mighty effort on the part of Barton Stone to control
the damage done to the new movement by these newcomers to the Kentucky frontier.
The Great Revival
The time was right in 1801 for the people of middle America to get their
souls in order. Settlers of European and African origin, indentured and free,
had conquered a frontier - at least they had rendered it manageable. Their
farms, towns, and villages were bustling with productive activity. Native
Americans had been driven from the land. The Kentuckians' spirit of energetic
application to any emerging questions had spawned countless divisions and now it
was on the verge of nurturing a semblance of unity.
Barton Warren Stone, pastor at Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church, had taken
advantage of various networks of communication, especially Methodist and
Presbyterian meetings, to circulate word that the Cane Ridge sacramental
communion was to be "one of the greatest meetings of its kind ever
known." Congregations and pastors, determined not to miss it, packed up for
journeys from not only Central Kentucky but also southern Ohio and northern
Sacramental communion events in the months preceding the one scheduled to begin
in early August at Cane Ridge had attracted thousands of people - 4,000 at
Concord, 6,000 at Lexington, and 10,000 at Indian Creek in Harrison County. The
atmosphere was electric. Travelers from nearby and not so nearby began arriving
on Friday, August 6, amidst a downpour of rain. By Saturday a Methodist neighbor
Ilai Nunn observed that his grove was a part of the setting.
Colonel Robert Patterson, who had been involved in the settlement of Kentucky
practically from the beginning, described with amazement the religious phenomena
taking place during the sequence of meetings. His description of the Cane Ridge
Revival, taken from a letter to the Rev. Doctor John King on September 25, 1801,
"On the first Sabbath of August, was the Sacrament of Kainridge, the
congregation of Mr. Stone. - This was the largest meeting of any that I have
ever seen: It continued from Friday till Wednesday. About 12,000 persons, 125
waggons, 8 carriages, 900 communicants, 300 were struck. . . "
Patterson tried, "as well as I am able," to describe the emotion.
"Of all ages, from 8 years and upwards; male and female; rich and poor; the
blacks; and of every denomination; those in favour of it, as well as those, at
the instant in opposition to it, and railing against it, have instantaneously
laid motionless on the ground. Some feel the approaching symptoms by being under
deep convictions; their heart swells, their nerves relax, and in an instant they
become motionless and speechless, but generally retain their senses. . . He went
on to describe other manifestations which continued from "one hour to
"In order to give you a more just conception of it," Patterson
continued, "suppose so large a congregation assembled in the woods,
ministers preaching day and night; the camp illuminated with candles, on trees,
at wagons, and at the tent; persons falling down, and carried out of the crowd,
by those next to them, and taken to some convenient place, where prayer is made
for them, some Psalm or Hymn, suitable to the occasion, sung. If they speak,
what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting - many are struck
under such exhortations. . . Now suppose 20 of those groups around; some
rejoicing, and great solemnity on every countenance, and you will form some
imperfect idea of the extraordinary work!
"Indeed it is a miracle, that a wicked unthoughtful sinner, who never
could, or did address himself, to an audience before, should, rise out of one of
those fits and continue for the space of two hours recommending religion and
Jesus Christ to sinners, as a lovely Savior, free willing, and all sufficient,
and calling to sinners and inviting them to come to Christ and close in with the
offer of salvation, in the most pressing an engaging manner." (Source:
Extract of a Letter from Colonel Robert Patterson, of Lexington, Kentucky to the
Reverend Doctor John King, September 25, 1801.
Cane Ridge continues to be a living church. Prayer, singing, and preaching occur
in the Meeting House, a place of worship for many congregations and religious
groups who come as welcome guests each year. Since the late 18th century and
now, in the 21st century, worship services, weddings, celebrations, lectures,
and other gatherings have taken place in the church and on its grounds. Each
year thousands of travelers visiting Cane Ridge receive talks and tours from the
The graveyard, burial site of many of the early settlers and Barton Stone, has
unique ledger stones. Barton Warren Stone is buried beneath a white granite
obelisk. His first wife Eliza's remains and ledger stone were brought from the
graveyard at the farm where they had lived to the Cane Ridge graveyard in about
The museum houses mementoes of the congregation, Stone and his family, the
Stone-Campbell movement, a collection of antique farm and domestic implements,
the office of the Cane Ridge Preservation Projects and a small book shop.