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WHITE CITY; Pleasant Grove’s history predates Civil War

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By Rebecca Roscoe

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was established 161 years ago on Sept. 11, 1852, nine years before the start of the Civil War.

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In the church history it is recorded that a group of believers met in the middle of a cluster of sycamore trees, which is how the church got its name.

The original church building was built of logs in 1853, but was replaced with a new building dedicated on May 5, 1897.

It is written of the first sermon held in the 1897 building: “It has been said that Rev. M.P. Hunt (of Louisville) locked the doors of the church before his sermon in order to raise money to finish paying off the debt on the church.”

The current building was dedicated on Nov. 27, 1949.

Robert Taylor, a former White City resident, said the opening of the new church building was celebrated with a party on the grounds.

“The original church was a large one room building, that did not have a basement, upstairs or parsonage,” said Taylor.

“Once the new building was finished, the church had an expanded area to work with – an upstairs and basement. The parsonage was built right beside the church.”

The original bell from the old church building was temporarily placed outside the new building, although it is uncertain what happened to it.

Long-term Pleasant Grove member and cemetery caretaker Martha Stephens said her husband, Leonard, bricked the parsonage.

“It was completed in 1961 and dedicated in May of 1967 a few years later,” she said. “The annex that was added on to the back of the church held the fellowship hall (basement level), an extension of the main level and an upstairs.”

Pleasant Grove’s cemetery is a final resting place for some important historical figures.  

Abraham Lincoln’s playmate and rescuer Austin Gollaher is buried near the church. Family and friends purchased a new marker for Gollaher and his wife Mary several years ago.

A state historical plaque mounted at the edge of the road next to the cemetery, states Gollaher rescued the famed 16th president from drowning in Knob Creek when they were children.

The cemetery also contains the graves of several Civil War veterans.

Each of the soldiers were enlisted in Union companies that became a significant part of the units that helped keep Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s forces at bay.

Civil War veterans buried within the cemetery include: John Gibson – spelled as Gipson on the tombstone, 12th KY Infantry; Nathan L.R. Melvin, sergeant in the 37th KY Infantry; George H. Powell, 37th KY Infantry; Hubert Howell, 55th KY Infantry; Robert Howell, 55th KY Infantry; Sanford Roof,  2nd KY Calvary; John Barnett, 37th KY Infantry; Lawson Barnett, 16th KY Infantry; William R. Dye, 26th KY Infantry; and George W. Taylor,  37th KY Infantry.

The 37th Kentucky Infantry was created on Sept. 17, 1863, in Glasgow.

During its organization, Confederate forces led by Colonel John Hughes captured 142 men on Oct. 6.

The unit pursued and caught up to the Confederate forces and reclaimed the majority of the men, horses and equipment that had been taken during the raid in Glasgow.

When Morgan led his cavalry units into Kentucky, the 37th, along with other units, moved in to stop him from further advancing on the state, resulting in a battle at Cynthiana.

The 37th helped drive Morgan out of the state, after reclaiming captured Union soldiers.

The regiment lost eight enlisted men to battle and 98 to disease, totaling 106 men lost – four of whom are buried at Pleasant Grove.

There are several unmarked graves located in the cemetery.

“My father told me that the poor house that was in White City would bury those who passed away there in the Pleasant Grove Cemetery – there’s a section for them there where there are no stones,” said Stephens.

The earliest gravemarker is that of Lydia Rentch Powell Price, who died in 1877.

An endowment fund created in 1976 helps maintain the cemetery upkeep today.

Today, there are 30 members attend Pleasant Grove, with almost 100 registered members.

For more information on Pleasant Grove Baptist Church call 270-358-8877.