Historical Marker #753 in Bourbon County marks the site of Mt. Gilead Methodist Meeting House, founded in 1792; 3 miles NW of Paris, US 68.
The founder of Mt. Gilead, Caleb Jarvis Taylor, was born in Maryland in 1763, into the Roman Catholic faith. He left home at 18 to become a school teacher, converted to Methodism, and became a preacher before he was 20. In 1792 he came to Kentucky, settled in Mason County, and came to Paris. The church in Paris was probably the earliest Methodist congregation in the area northeast of Lexington. He was considered one of the chief songwriters of the evangelical camp meeting movement on the frontier, composing a hymnal Spiritual Songs in 1804. The Great Revival in Kentucky, culminating at the camp meeting at Cane Ridge Church ( Bourbon County Marker #51) in 1801, was well attended by Methodists, probably singing some Of Caleb Jarvis Taylor’s hymns; maybe “Good morning, brother pilgrim; What, marching to Zion” or “Almighty love inspire my heart with sacred fire.”
American Methodism was the third largest denomination in Kentucky. Much of their success depended on their style of itinerant preaching. By 1800 there were six circuits served by about twelve preachers. Between visits by a preacher, each congregation, or class, worshiped under the direction of a leading layman. The Methodist Annual Conference coordinated and advised the traveling ministers and the congregations on the frontier and the number of Methodist churches increased.
As attendance decreased at Mt. Gilead the Paris Methodist Church was organized about 1807, near the church’s present location at 7th and Pleasant St in Paris. There were several churches on this site, but the one seen today was built in 1897, and rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1911. The congregation erected the marker seen on US 68 to commemorate its beginnings. The surrounding cemetery is said to have 125 people buried there, but the inscription has been recorded and preserved for only eight stones.
Ellen Eslinger. Citizens of Zion. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999, p. 168-9.
Fry, B. St.James. “The Early Camp-Meeting Song Writers.” Methodist Quarterly Review, 4th Series, 43:3 (Summer 1859), pp. 401-413.
Walter E. Langsam and William Gus Johnson. Historic Architecture of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Historic Paris-Bourbon County, Inc., 1985. P. 260
by Dan Harper: Golden Gate 2012:312b Restoration Praise
There is nothing left of the 1792 church, but this is the place where it stood. There are some visible graves, and the monument to the beginning of Methodism in Bourbon County was erected by the Paris Methodist Church.
Current site of the Paris Methodist Church at the corner of 7th and Pleasant St. This building was erected in 1897-1898, constructed by Fletcher Brothers of Cincinnati. The elaborate interior was destroyed in a fire in 1909, but the walls remained, and the interior and roof were rebuilt and rededicated in 1911. More work had to be done in 1930 when it was discovered that the original wooden beams had been severely damaged in the 1911 fire.