Thomas Downs

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Rev. Thomas Downs was among the fathers in Daviess county Association. He was born, perhaps, in Nelson county, not long before the year 1780. He spent his childhood and youth, with his parents, among the wilds of the lower Green River country. His father was killed by the Indians, near the present location of Calhoun, in McLean county. In early life, he united with Hazel Creek church, in Muhlenburg county, and was early set apart to the ministry. Of this church, he remained a member, till about 1815, when he moved his membership to Panther Creek (now Yelvington in Daviess county) In 1824, he, with his wife, four daughters, his son and his son’s wife, united with Green Brier church in Daviess county. Of this church, Rock Spring, Buck Creek and Ohio (la.,) he was pastor many years. He was also pastor of various other churches, for briefer periods. But his work was not so much that of a pastor, as of an indefatigable pioneer missionary. He bore the standard of the cross among the early settlers on both sides of the Ohio river, from the mouth of Green river, 100 miles up the Ohio, and over a belt of country, about 100 miles wide. In this region he gathered many of the early churches, and supplied them with occasional preaching, till they could procure pastors. He raised a large family of children, all girls but one, and was so extremely poor that he had to do much of his traveling on foot, and often barefoot. “Many a time,” writes his successor in the pastorate, “has he ploughed hard five days in the week, and then walked from Green Brier to Rock Spring, a distance of 25 miles, and preached two hours, shoeless and coatless; sometimes to but few hearers, and once, to only three sisters.” Such was the labor and lot of this consecrated servant of Christ, during a ministry of nearly 50 years. He endured many severe domestic trials. In early life, he lost his father, who was murdered by Indians, while hunting in the forests for his horses. After he had raised a large family, his only son went to hunt horses in the forest, and was found hung by a bridle, already dead. About the same time, several of his children died of an epidemic, within a short period.

When Mr. Downs commenced preaching, not far from the year 1800, there were but two small churches in the broad field of his subsequent labors; when he closed his work, the same field was occupied by six flourishing and populous associations — four in Kentucky, and two in Indiana. In the closing years of his life, he became very corpulent and helpless. But such was the attachment of his brethren to their aged pastor, that they would convey him to Green Brier meeting house, and place him in a chair, where he, like the Apostle John, would talk to them about the love of God, and exhort them to love one another. Not far from 1850, the aged servant of God was called to his reward.

Mr. Downs was not regarded a great preacher, even at the time in which he lived. He was uneducated in the scholastic sense of the term; but he was a close, prayerful reader of the Bible, and few men of his times were better acquainted with the sacred oracles. He possessed only medium talents, but he had an easy flow of common English words, his heart was thoroughly educated and deeply imbued with the grace of God, and he was an indefatigable laborer in the gospel of Christ.

Source: A history of Kentucky Baptists: from 1769 to 1885, Vol. II. John H. Spencer, Cincinnati, 1886 Courtesy of the Daviess County Bicentennial Committee