Rev. Elijah Craig

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Reverend Elijah Craig

Birthplace: Spotsylvania County, Virginia, United States
Death: May 18, 1808 (69)
Scott County, KY, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. Taliaferro Craig and Mary Craig
Husband of Frances Craig
Father of Elizabeth Veatch; Lydia Grant (Herndon); Lucy Pitt; Joel Craig; William Craig and 4 others
Brother of John Hawkins Craig, Captain; Rejoice Jossie Faulconer; Taliaferro Craig, Jr.; Rev. Lewis Craig; Joseph Craig and 5 others
Half brother of John Hawkins Craig, Captain

Occupation: Known as Father of Bourbon. Baptist preacher
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rev. Elijah Craig

He was a leader in the Baptist separatist movement of the Traveling Church, which came to Bryan's Station in 1785. He was known as the first distiller of bourbon whiskey.

He was "the first pastor of the "Old Crossings" church, and, while he was not as useful to the cause of Christ in Kentucky as many others of the pioneers he deserves to be remembered for his eminent services among the early Baptists of Virginia. He labored and suffered much amid the fiery persecution that tried men's souls in the old mother State, and few preachers in the Old Dominion were more laborious and useful than he."

He was the "son of Toliver Craig, and a brother of the famous Lewis and the eccentric Joseph Craig. He was born in Orange Co., Virginia, about the year 1743, was raised in his native county, and like his brothers, received but a limited education. He was awakened to a knowledge of his lost condition, under the preaching of the renowned David Thomas, in the year 1764. The next year, he and others were encouraged, by Samuel Harris, to hold meetings in his neighborhood, for the encouragement of the young converts, and their mutual edification. Elijah Craig's tobacco barn was their meeting house. Here Mr. Craig began his ministry, as did several other young men, who afterwards became valuable preachers. As has been related elsewhere, Elijah Craig traveled into North Carolina to get James Read to come and baptize the young converts, himself being one of them. Mr. Read returned with him, and baptized as many as were approved for that ordinance. Elijah Craig was among those baptized: this was in the year 1766, and a year after Mr. Craig began his ministry, He now devoted himself to preaching with great zeal. He was ordained, in May, 1771, at which time he became the pastor of Blue Run Church. Some time after this, the sheriff came to where he was plowing, arrested him, and carried him before a magistrate, on the charge of having preached the gospel contrary to law. He was committed to jail, where he was fed on rye bread and water. He preached to the people through the grates during his imprisonment. It was during the trial of Mr. Craig, that a certain lawyer, advising the Court to release him, said in substance: "The Baptists are like a bed of camomile; the more they are trodden the more they spread." This proved true; their preaching through prison grates enkindle their own enthusiasm; and produced a greater effect on the people tan if the preachers had been at liberty. After remaining in Culpeper jail one month, Mr. Craig was released. After this he was honored with a term in Orange County jail, for a similar breach of the law. His constant labor in the ministry, and his close application to the study of the Bible, in a few years, developed the tobacco-barn exhorter into one of the most popular and influential preachers in Virginia."

"During the fierce and long continued struggle for religious liberty, Mr. Craig was frequently sent by the General Association, and General Committee of the Virginia Baptists, as their delegate to the Legislature, to aid in forwarding that object."

"Another, and perhaps the greatest evidence of his popularity, was evinced in electing him to a singular and exalted office among modern Baptists. Inn the year 1774, the question was sprung in the General Association of Virginia Baptists, as to whether all the offices mentioned in Ephesians 4 : II; were still in use in the churches of Christ. After a long and heated debate, the question was decided in the affirmative, and the Association proceeded at once to elect and consecrate two Apostles for the north side of James river; the lot fell on John Waller and Elijah Craig. Samuel Harris was appointed an Apostle for the south side of James River. These Apostles exercised no real authority, and their office was discontinued at the end of one year's experience. These three men were the only Baptist Apostles who have lived since the death of the original twelve. Elijah Craig continued a career of eminent usefulness till 1786, when he removed to Kentucky. This move was unfortunate, both for the cause of Christ and himself. He was an enterprising business man. Then new country offered excellent facilities for profitable speculation. The temptation was too strong. He was soon overwhelmed in worldly business. He bought one thousand acres of land, and laid off a town on it, at first called Lebanon, but afterwards, Georgetown. The speculation succeeded. He erected a saw and grist mill, then the first fulling mill, the first rope works, and the first paper jill in Kentucky. It seems that he had no intention to abandon the ministry, but vainly imagined that he could served God and mammon both. He became irritable, and indulged a spirit of fault finding. He wrote two pamphlets, one to prove that a settled pastor of a church is not entitled to any compensation for his services in that capacity. The other was titled "A Portrait of Jacob Creath." They were both written in a bad spirit, and the latter is said to have been exceedingly bitter. This not only involved him in much trouble, but threw the whole of Elkhorn Association in much trouble, but threw the whole of Elkhorn Association into confusion, and resulted in much harm to the cause of Christ. But it would be unprofitable to follow him through his varied and annoying conflicts. He continued to preach till near the time of his departure. He was accused of no immorality except his petulant fault finding; and it is confidently believed that he was a child of God, and an sincere man; but he allowed satan to take advantage of the weakness of the flesh, and do him much harm. After saying he was considered the greatest preacher of the three brothers, John Taylor proceeds [in Ten Churches] to speak of him as follows:

"In a very large association, in Virginia, Elijah Craig was among the most popular, for a number of years. His preaching was of the most solemn style, his appearance, as a man who had just come from the dead, of a delicate habit, a thin visage, large eyes and mouth, of great readiness of speech, the sweet melody of his voice, both in preaching and singing, bore all down before it; and when his voice was extended, it was like the loud sound of a sweet trumpet. The great favor of his preaching, commonly brought many tears from the hearers, and many, no doubt, were turned to the Lord by his preaching. He was several times a prisoner of the Lord for preaching. He came to Kentucky later than his brothers. His turned of speculation did harm every way. He was not as great a peacemaker int he church as his brother Lewis, and that brought trouble on him. But from all his troubles he as relieved by death, when perhaps he did not much exceed sixty years of age, after serving in the ministry, say forty years."

His grandaughter Minerva Rightor wrote: "My grandfather located himself in Scott County, where he purchased large bodies of land in that tract where Georgetown is situated. He owned some fifteen hundred acres in one body, his farm. He lived on the hill above the Big Spring, a most lovely situation, having the full view of the city of Georgetown from his front portico; and all his farm back of the house for three miles, a most delightful home. He owned every foot of land for five miles around him. Georgetown was the center of his farm. He laid it off in town lots. Soon after he improved his farm. He was one of the most enterprising men in the County. A man of great wealth. He owned a large store. Only one in town - he owned a large paper mill - he owned a large extensive [. . .] works - he owned a large flour mill - he owned ten to fifteen thousand acres of land in other parts of Kentucky - he owned West Port and all the land for miles around it, and how much more I cannot tell. It is strange how a man of such wealth could even get through with it all and leave his children so little. . . . My dear Old Grandpa - he was one of the most benevolent, noble-hearted Christian ministers that Kentucky ever produced.

"So many of my relatives and friends in Kentucky tell me that his tenants and overseers were made rich by my Grand-father.

"He appointed my Pa his administrator to attend to an immense fortune. What went with it no one can tell. It is very certain we did not get any. You see rich Grandfathers do not make rich grand children; for we are all poor. Th'o of Royal Descent, for I hope we are all Children of God."

Elijah was a famous Baptist preacher.

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Rev. Elijah Craig's Timeline

November 15, 1738
Spotsylvania County, Virginia, United States
Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee
July 25, 1765
Orange, Orange County, Virginia, British Colonial America
Orange County, Virginia, United States
May 18, 1808
Age 69
Scott County, KY, United States
Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, United States