District One
Crittenden County to Get New Historic Marker

Press Release Date:  Monday, September 12, 2005  
Contact Information:  Keith Todd
(270) 824-7080

Paducah, KY – (September 12, 2005) -- The Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Department of Transportation are teaming up to see that a part of Crittenden County history is not forgotten.  Saturday an official historic marker will be dedicated as a reminder that Piney Fork Cumberland Presbyterian Church is considered the first Presbyterian Church in Kentucky.

According to Sarah Ford, the marker was requested and is being sponsored by the church congregation.

“We felt the rich history of the church made it worthwhile to apply for the marker,” Ford said.  “There have been continuous worship services at this site for 193 years.”

Ford is a member of the committee that applied for the marker.  The text documents the organization of the Piney Fork congregation in 1812 by the Reverend Finis Ewing, a founder of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination.

         “This was the site of great annual camp meetings from 1812 until 1955.  The first structure built on this site was a log building that was also used as public school,” Ford said.  “It was replaced in 1843.  Another structure was built in 1867 with bricks fired on the site.  That structure was then replaced by the present brick building in 1957.”

         Heavy snow in 1955 caused major damage to two large wooden sheds or open air tabernacles that had been used for the camp meetings, so they were torn down and the camp meetings evolved into annual revival meetings in the present building.

         Ford estimates that Piney Fork had a population of about 50 families at one time.  As the church grew to a peak of 300 members, it helped establish other nearby churches, including the Sugar Grove church in 1844 and a church at Crayne in 1892.  

Brenda Underdown, a local historian and Crittenden County Chairperson for the Kentucky Historical Markers Program, attributes the prosperity of the church and the Piney Fork community to its strategic point along one of the region’s oldest roads.

“The Saline Trail or Flynn’s Ferry Road was an early wagon route taking settlers to the Illinois Territory and points west,” Underdown said. “It was a well-traveled road for the time and helped make the Piney Fork community a vital and vibrant part of Crittenden County.”

The church was added to the Historical Site Registry of the American Presbyterian Churches in 2003.  That helped inspire the church leadership to step up their efforts to obtain an official historic marker.

Church members chipped in to cover the $1700 cost of the marker with help from the Braxton McDonald Foundation.  The foundation is named for a former Crittenden County school superintendent who set up a fund to help preserve the county’s history.

“I think this is something our grandchildren and great grandchildren will appreciate.  It will be a visible way of reminding people of the history here,” Ford said.

The historic marker dedication will be at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, September 17, 2005.  The Piney Fork Cumberland Presbyterian Church is seven miles east of Marion on KY 506.

The Kentucky Historical Highway Markers is a program of the Kentucky Historical Society in cooperation with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.