Jacob Creath, Sr.
1777 - 1854
Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Jacob Creath, Sr.
The subject of this sketch was born in Nova Scotia Canada, February 7, 1777(gravemarker records February 22, 1777-SDH). He was thus born a subject of Great Britain. At the age of ten his parents emigrated with him to Virginia. He united with the Baptist Church at the age of twelve and began preaching at the age of eighteen. He was ordained as a Baptist preacher in Louisa County, Va., in 1798. In 1803 he went to Kentucky and located in Fayette County.
He was a man of fine personal appearance. His features were regular, he had a prominent forehead and remarkably keen and penetrating dark eyes. His voice was musical, strong and commanding. He was uneducated, except in the experiences of life. He had no advantages in school; in fact, he did not attend school. However, his language was clear and accurate for one untrained in literary education. He was oratorical and had a vivid imagination. The statesman, Henry Clay, pronounced him to be the finest natural orator he had ever heard. Very few men possessed more of the simple elements necessary to a popular orator than Jacob Creath.
He had a free and easy intercourse with all men. He was affectionate and what would now be called "a good mixer." He exerted a very great and controlling influence over his audience and associates. He was considered a successful leader in the Baptist Church. It is said that he possessed very little of the sectarian spirit which existed among the leaders of that church. He was a man who loved peace and exercised a forgiving spirit toward his religious enemies. He fought with all the earnestness of his soul anything that opposed the Baptist doctrine for several years. In all of his conflicts as a Baptist he won the respect of his opponents.
Jacob Creath was gradually led into the light. He never left the Baptist Church until 1827. Many of his Baptist brethren who were preachers had already left the Baptists. But he did not want to be hasty in giving up the Baptist faith; hence, he was cautious and somewhat tardy in leaving the ranks of the Baptists. He wanted to be sure of his ground, and reexamined every principal of the Baptist Church in the light of the New Testament before he yielded. This is to be commended in him.
There was much inward conflict between his early conviction and his later knowledge of the truth of God. He was greatly endeared to his early religious association, which made it difficult for him to grasp and appreciate the truth as he now saw it revealed in the New Testament. Only those who have been entangled in the meshes of religious error can appreciate the struggle which he had in leaving the Baptist Church. He counted well the cost before he made the change. He knew the value of his friends in the Baptist Church, and as knew how bitter would be their persecutions if he left them; but when he saw the fullness of the light and the glorious truth of the gospel he left the church of his father. He soon made friends, because he was a lovable character and preached with power the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, like "Raccoon" John Smith, took with him many from the Baptist faith. He labored earnestly and humbly in Kentucky for a number of years. He would move from one county to another. and wherever he went he planted a church. It is said that when he moved, sometimes whole congregations would go en masse with him. This made it easier for him to establish a church in a community. It also shows his powerful influence over his brethren and sisters.
He preached the gospel with so much simple eloquence and such great power that hundreds were converted and whole Baptist churches turned from their errors and accepted the truth. He rejoiced in the freedom and fullness of the simple gospel and could tell the story of the cross with pathos and conviction. As an exhorter, he possessed rare and valuable talent, and his power has affected his entire audience upon many an occasion. Upon one occasion he delivered a sermon to the Baptist Association in which he set forth with such clearness and effectiveness the individual rights of the local churches that Thomas Campbell and other competent judges who were present regarded it as unequaled in eloquence and power. He was gentle and affectionate with all. He manifested no arrogance or feeling of superiority over any one but labored earnestly in the humility of the Spirit of Christ.
He furnishes a beautiful example in his association with other preachers of the gospel. He was ready to give "honor to whom honor is due," in honor preferring others to himself at all times. There was no strife or preacher jealousy in his heart or life. He rejoiced in the labors and successes of others as much as in the success of his own labors. Even in his old age he did not feel himself superior to his younger brethren who were preaching the gospel. He was anxious to encourage and help his younger brethren in the work of the Lord. He was always for peace and harmony and cooperation with all good men in the work of the Lord.
Alexander Campbell was in Kentucky in 1850 and heard Jacob Creath preach and he described him and his speech with the following language: "Though his once brilliant eye is quenched in darkness and his subduing voice is broken into weak tones, he rises in his soul while nature sinks in years; and with a majesty of thought which naught but heaven and hope can inspire, he spoke to us a few last words, which so enraptured my soul, that in the ecstasy of feeling produced by them, when he closed there was silence in my heart for half an hour; and when I recovered myself, every word had so passed away that nothing remained but a melancholy reflection that I should never again hear that most eloquent tongue which had echoed for half a century through Northern Kentucky with such resistless sway as to have quelled the maddening strife of sectarian tongues and propitiated myriads of ears and hearts to the divine eloquence of Almighty love. Peace to his soul; and may his sun grow larger at its setting, as his soul expands in the high hope of seeing as he is seen, and of loving as he has been loved." (Millennial Harbinger 1850, page 404.) This is a remarkable eulogy of this humble servant of God who wrought noble service in the army of the Lord.
For the last seven years of his life he was totally blind. He had a sudden attack of jaundice at Memphis, Tenn. while he was on his way to Mississippi, and this left him blind. Under this affliction he was submissive and bore it without a murmur. This brought his public ministry to a close. He spent these seven years in associating with his brethren and encouraging them to be faithful to the Lord. He possessed qualifications which made him a charming conversationalist in the social circle, and he was a favorite among the brotherhood wherever he went. He died on March 14, 1857(gravemarker records March 13, 1857-SDH), and passed to his reward at the ripe age of fourscore years. It is good to remember him for his work's sake during the stormy days of the Restoration Movement.
-From Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages 33-36
John Rogers Tells Of The Work of Jacob Creath, sen.
We wish to call especial attention to his [John T. Johnson] most touching, eloquent, and deserved tribute to "The Blind Preacher," elder Jacob Creath, sen. It is not inferior, according to its length, to that of the elegant and eloquent W. Wirt. Who that has a mind to appreciate the lovely, the beautiful, the true in eloquence, and a heart to feel the touching, can read, without the greatest delight and the deepest emotions, the account of our evangelist's first interview with elder Jacob Creath, in the congregation at Grassy Springs, after he was afflicted with blindness? Perhaps I am not a proper judge. Doubtless, it is all the more beautiful, elegant, eloquent, and touching to me, because I knew the subject of it for long, long years, and loved him most ardently.
I heard Jacob Creath preach in Georgetown full forty years ago. He then stood among the very first Baptist preachers in Kentucky, for eloquence and influence. From the period of the union, in '32, [at Lexington, Kentucky] up to the time of his death, I met him often, and enjoyed his very agreeable and interesting society. He was a very remarkable man. He had no advantages of education; but was blessed with a very large share of what we call common sense. He possessed the rate art of governing himself—was a man of great good feeling and prudence—of very discriminating judgment—of a fine, commanding personal appearance—a happy elocution—a splendid voice—a most keen, black eye, peering out from under a heavy, dark eyebrow; and withal, very social and popular in his manners. He was, therefore, admirably suited to exert a controlling influence among the people with whom he was identified. And his earlier history shows that, among the Baptists of Kentucky, up to the time of his exclusion from them for what they denominated heresy, he had been a leading man. When he entered the reformation, he was upward of fifty years of age. He seemed to be aware that he was too old to figure in his new position, as he had done among the Baptists. He was not a self-conceited, ambitious or envious man; and therefore, he was happy and cheerful. I never shall forget his remarking to me, shortly after the union, to this effect: "I was once very popular among the Baptists, and, for a while, I rode Ball; but I found him to be a mettlesome, dangerous steed; and, perceiving that Jerry Verdeman wanted to ride him, I voluntarily got down, and let Jerry get into the saddle; and very soon it was evident he felt the saddle, the stirrups, the reins, and the revenue. But I am now too old ever to occupy as prominent a place in the reformation, as I did among the Baptists. I must give place to younger men; and, therefore, as soon as I took my present position, I voluntarily took my place, in the order of the alphabet, as low as Q; and, if it is necessary, I will go down to Z."
I met him often after his blindness, and had the pleasure once, a short time before his death, of keeping him some two weeks at my house. He always seemed cheerful and happy, and we felt it to be a real luxury to have him with us, and minister to his wants. I never heard him utter a murmuring word about his great calamity. Indeed, he scarcely ever alluded to it, unless the subject was introduced. At different periods, he was with me at Carlisle and Concord, and assisted me in several meetings. He once said to me, "I like your people; they seem to me to be the middle class between the rich and the poor. Society has been aptly compared to a barrel of beer—the froth is on the top, the dregs at the bottom, and the good beer in the middle."
I could say much more of the beloved Creath. I could not get my own consent, in passing, to say less. Doubtless, I will be excused, if not justified, for saying thus much in this connection.
—The Biography Of Elder J.T. Johnson, by John Rogers, page 282-284
Location Of The Grave Of Jacob Creath, Sr.
Efforts have been made in the last few years to keep the location of Jacob Creath, Sr's remains. In October, 1996 my family took our vacation in Kentucky. This gave us an opportunity to search out the whereabouts of Creath and other restoration preachers. While in Lexington I had a wonderful couple of hours with Dr. Adron Doran where he sketchily gave some directions to the Creath farm and burial place.
From Lexington we were to go south on Hwy 27 toward Nicholasville. Doran said, "Look for some 'Ferry' road to your left. Go out that road and it is back in there somewhere." So we traveled south on Hwy 27 passing the Providence Christian Church on the left where Creath had visited, preached, and converted the whole church. They were the South Elkhorn Baptist Church. Then, as a result of his preaching, and after their baptisms for the remission of sins, they became known as the Providence Christian Church. Incidently, this church has a colorful history of great gospel preacher such as J.W. McGarvey and H. L. Calhoun taking tenures as preachers there. The old building was in total disarray when we were there. A new building was constructed in the early 1900's. In the auditorium of the new building two of the windows have the names of Creath and Calhoun etched into the glass.
We traveled a couple miles further south and saw a Groggins Ferry Rd. to the left. Not knowing if this was the road we went ahead and took it. We quickly saw that this was a small country lane. We went 4/10ths of a mile to the third driveway we saw on the right that had the name "Savage," on the mailbox. We turned down this old beaten path and proceeded to cross a barn yard to the end of the gravel road. Then we turned right onto a smaller gravel road and traveled to the end of it where two mobile homes no existed at the time of this writing.
Not finding anyone at home in either place we wondered what to do next. About that time a car pulled in behind us. A tall "farmer" looking chap got out of the car and asked if he could help. We told him we were looking for the Creath farm and grave. His response was that we were standing right in the middle of it. This was Albert Savage, one of the direct descendants of Jacob Creath who owned the land along with his brother John.
He very kindly spent the next hour with my family showing us around the old home place. The old family home burned to the ground a number of years ago. We went about 50 yards north of the driveway through a heavily wooded area, through a couple of cattle gates, to a small graveyard under some trees to the grave of Jacob Creath.
I was saddened to see that the grave had been broken in half. Mr. Savage, a retired Methodist preacher, gently took the upper half of the grave marker and placed it on top of the base giving us opportunities to take pictures. It was an awe inspiring event in my life. It seemed that we stood on holy ground.
After a short visit with him we were on our way. He told me he welcomed anyone who wanted to drop by and visit. So, if you have an inclination to search out the grave of one of the restoration movement's unsung heroes, the grave of Jacob Creath Sr. is a must. The estimated GPS location of the grave is: 37°54'08.9"N 84°33'06.6"W / or D.d. 37.902478,-84.551830