Historical Marker #51 in Bourbon County highlights the history of the Cane Ridge Meeting House and the famous revival of 1801 and its results. Six miles east of Paris on KY 537.
Cane Ridge Meeting House was built in 1791, one year before Kentucky was officially a state. Following the advice of Daniel Boone, White settlers came to a ridge of cane between two creeks to make their homes and build their church in the county of Kentucky in the state of Virginia. From the surrounding virgin forest, they cut blue ash logs and built their church 50’ x 30’ without heat or chinking between the logs. There were doors on the east end and the west end with the pulpit and communion table on the north side. The pulpit was approached by several steps so that the preacher looked down on the congregation. He looked up, however, to the gallery where the slaves sat. They entered a high opening on the west end by an outside ladder, which was removed in 1829 with the gallery during a modernizing so that the slaves then sat downstairs with their masters and enjoyed full membership.
During the Great Revival years, beginning in 1799, many revivals took place, but the largest was at Cane Ridge August 7 – 12, 1801. Estimates claimed that 20-30,000 people attended this revival, interested in salvation and socializing. There was a great spirit of freedom left over from the Revolutionary War, and the worshippers threw off their fear of the wrath of God and rejoiced in the love of a forgiving Lord. This freedom of belief, especially in the New Testament, eventually led to the establishment of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Church and the United Church of Christ.
Under the leadership of Barton Warren Stone, the Presbyterian minister at Cane Ridge, the members agreed to pull away from the Presbyterian Church in 1804 and create their church on the Bible alone – no creeds, no Calvinistic doctrine. The denomination grew and joined with a similar movement led by Thomas and Alexander Campbell in 1832.
In 1882 more modernizing of the old church put plaster on the inside walls and white clapboard on the outside so that it looked like any other country church with a graveyard among the trees. Services continued with long sermons and exhortations, frequent communion and immersion in nearby waters until 1922, the last organized service.
In 1932, the centennial anniversary of the union of the Stone and Campbell movement, the Disciples restored old Cane Ridge to its primitive appearance. Later as the ravages of weather and woodpeckers were destroying the exposed logs, the trustees built a beautiful superstructure of Cane Ridge limestone to cover the venerable old meeting house and preserve it forever.
With so many visitors to Cane Ridge, the trustees built a curator’s house with matching stone in 1965. In 1975 the trustees built a museum to house the accumulated artifacts.
Cane Ridge, a shrine dedicated to Christian unity is a peaceful place where everyone is welcome to sit in silence, join a group, pray, and worship.
Cane Ridge Bicentennial Sampler: Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the 1791 construction of Cane Ridge Meeting House,( Bourbon County, KY: Cane Ridge Preservation Project), 1991.
Sketch of Old Cane Ridge Meetinghouse
This sketch was created from descriptions in The Cane Ridge Meeting-House by James R. Rogers, published 1910.
Church interior shows the pulpit on the left and the gallery and the lower levels. The chuch is filled with worshippers during its open season from April to November.
Barton Warren Stone
Barton Warren Stone, the leader of the 1801 Great Revival, preached at Cane Ridge from 1796 to 1819. Stone was an abolitionist who moved to Illinois in order to free enslaved people his wife had inherited upon the death of her mother in Kentucky. At first he advocated for sending formerly enslaved people to Africa, but grew disillusioned with the progress of the American Colonization Society and eventually supported immediate abolition of slavery.
1801 Great Revival
An artist’s conception of the Great Revival shows enormous crowds and exhortations from preachers. Participants had to go home after a week because they ran out of food for their horses and oxen.
Statue of Stone
This statue of Stone, sculpted by Adeline Stern Wichman of Lexington, KY, stands on the grounds of the Cane Ridge Cemetery welcoming all guests and looking over his handiwork. Stone died in Missouri in 1844, but in 1847 his remains were moved back to Cane Ridge in Kentucky.