Date of establishment: 1791
Date of dissolution: Unknown
Location: Bourbon County, Kentucky
Notable people:
  • Barton W. Stone
  • Elizabeth Campbell

Earliest historic site of the Stone-Campbell Movement, located in Bourbon County, Kentucky. 

Barton W. Stone began his ministry with the Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church in 1796 and was ordained here on October 4, 1798. Here occurred the great revival of August 1801 and the signing of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery on June 28, 1804. It was an integrated and anti-slavery congregation in the early 1800s and was the first church of the movement to baptize by immersion, using Stoner Creek in nearby Paris, Kentucky. 

The Meeting House was built in 1791 of blue ash logs. Its dimensions are approximately fifty feet by thirty feet, with an eight-by-two-foot alcove or “pen” on each long wall. A raised boxed pulpit was set in the north alcove. The structure contains logs as long as thirty-six feet and sixteen inches square. Every log is shaped, some with ornamentation. A three-sided gallery is supported by eighteen posts. Here, at first, African American members of the congregation sat; no stairs were included originally, and these members climbed a ladder to enter through an upper window. Main access to the Meeting House was by a doorway at either end. No floor was laid for some years; later puncheon logs provided flooring. The high-pitched roof of whip-sawed sheathing was covered with shakes or shingles held by wooden pins. 

The congregation renovated the Meeting House twice. In 1829, the gallery was removed and taken to a member’s barn, where it was used as a hayloft for 129 years. A ceiling was added to hide the beams, and chandeliers were installed. Plaster was put over the logs, and a tongue-and-groove floor was installed on top of the puncheon logs. Seats with backs replaced earlier puncheon log benches. Outside, white frame siding covered the walls. 

In 1882 a center aisle was created. The boxed pulpit was removed and the eastern door closed. A poplar plank floor was laid, and a free-standing pulpit was placed on a platform in the center of the east wall. A communion table and elders’ chairs were at the front. New pews were built. A pot-bellied stove provided the first-ever heat for the room. A reed organ and kerosene lamps completed the renovation. The Meeting House continued to be used in this form until the congregation ceased to meet in 1921. 

In 1932 the Cane Ridge Preservation Project came into existence to oversee restoration. The outside siding and inside ceiling and plaster were removed. The east door was reopened, and the gallery was retrieved from the barn and reinstalled to an almost perfect fit as the building had never shifted. Stairs for the gallery were built. The 1882 floor and pews were retained. Seats were arranged in a “U” configuration around the boxed pulpit and centered communion table and elders’ chairs. A superstructure to protect the log church was built with native limestone and dedicated as a shrine to Christian unity in 1957. The original meetinghouse was typical of the log construction used on the American frontier and included a large elevated “box” pulpit. Courtesy Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University 

Throughout its existence, the congregational cemetery received the faithful of the past. The graves of Stone and his first wife, Elizabeth Campbell, several early leaders of the Stone-Campbell Movement, two veterans of the American War of Independence, and members of the congregation both black and white are found within its grounds. With the closing of the church in 1921 burials ceased for over eighty years until the interment of Stone-Campbell scholar Anthony L. Dunnavant in February 2001. 

A museum was built on the grounds in 1975 to house a growing collection of historical materials. It was expanded in 1989 to provide more exhibit space, and a sheltered picnic pavilion was added. The trustees of the Project, who represent nearby Disciples congregations and Kentucky Disciples schools, continue to care for Cane Ridge and offer programs such as the annual Cane Ridge Day. In August 2001 thousands of Stone-Campbell Christians from all three streams of the Movement gathered for over a week of commemoration and worship in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the Cane Ridge Revival. 

See also Cane Ridge Revival; Stone, Barton Warren 

BIBLIOGRAPHY James R. Rogers, The Cane Ridge Meeting House (1910) • Rhodes Thompson, Voices from Cane Ridge (1954). 

This entry, written by Franklin Reid McGuire, was originally published in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Edited by Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, and D. Newell Williams; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), pages 163. Republished with permission.