126 – Religion and Education

Church membership grew, but slowly, on the frontier.

Despite a large number of churchmen who crossed the mountains to save the sinful frontiersmen, less than one-third of Kentucky residents belonged to any religious denomination when it became a state. 

Kentucky’s Story – KET Education


In 1795, Baptist preacher Alexander Monroe formed the Forks of Licking Baptist congregation in the county seat of Falmouth. The group met a members’ houses once a month.

Falmouth was fifteen miles away from the Jarvis homestead, more than a five hour walk. But Monroe sometimes held his monthly service at Point Pleasant, about nine miles southwest of Falmouth. The Jarvises were close to Point Pleasant, so they became acquainted with his preaching there.

Alexander Monroe was the officiant at the marriages of the first three Jarvis children – Sarah in 1807, Elizabeth in 1812, and James in 1814.

So if the Jarvises practiced any religion, it was Baptist. The early 19th century Baptists were as strict as the 18th century Quakers had been. No dancing, drinking, or lotteries!

Here are some interesting Baptist meeting records – paying Rev. Monroe, buying lottery tickets, and dancing.

September 23, 1809 – The Church of Christ at Licking met according to agreement. after prayr and preaching by Brother Webb proceeded to business. The Church agreed that Brother John Routt apply to the members towards paying Brother Alexander Monroe for past services. The Church also agreed to build a Meeting house 30 feet by 20 feet of hew logs.

March 23rd, 1816 – The Church met agreeable to appointment. after Divine worship proceeded to Business. A question was put to the Church to know Whether her members was justifiable in bying tickets in lotterys or not. With one voice they Condemnd it.

April the 24th, 1818 – The Church met agreeable to appointment. after Divine worship proceeded to Business. Then the Charge against polly washburn for dancing was taken up & She Came forward Confest her fault and Said She hoped She had found Repentance and the Church freely forgive her.

North Fork Baptist Church Records – August 1799 – February 1854

The Forks of Licking Baptist congregation began to decline, and merged with North Bend congregation. Still, membership lagged.

In 1802, it numbered fifty-four members, and, the next year, entered into the constitution of North Bend Association. This was just at the close of the great revival. From this period the church declined, til 1812, when it numbered only twelve members.

A History of Kentucky Baptists – J. H. Spencer – Chapter 19 – 1885

Just a guess, but maybe membership declined because people liked dancing.


The next Christian denomination that held regular meetings in the county was the Methodist. A gentleman by the name of Robert Groves was perhaps the first Methodist who preached in the county. In a few years he was replaced by the regular circuit rider, who preached at private houses and school-houses, generally preaching every day in the week, organizing classes and churches wherever an opportunity presented itself.

Early History of Pendleton County – July 4, 1876 – reprinted in Falmouth Newspaper – 1924
Circuit Rider – Image from the General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church, Drew University.

The Jarvises were introduced, perhaps converted, to the Methodists when they began marrying the Robinsons. Several of the Robinsons were Methodist preachers – David and Jesse and Elias and…

David Robinson presided at four Jarvis weddings – Malinda in 1816, Susannah and Margaret in 1819, and Harvey in 1822.

So now some of the Jarvises were Methodists.

We don’t know whether William and Margaret were followers of either denomination. But we will see that the next few generations of Jarvises are mostly Baptists and Methodists.

The Methodists and Baptists were the acknowleged pioneers in propagating the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour in Pendleton.

Early History of Pendleton County – July 4, 1876 – reprinted in Falmouth Newspaper – 1924



During the years the Jarvises were in Pendleton County, there were no schools.

Not until 1836 did Kentucky establish a system of common schools. But by 1844, Pendleton County had only one school.

The scarcity of the schools could not have been for the want of children, because the county reported 1,314 children between the ages of 6 and 20 years.

The Schools of the County – Papers of E.E. Barton

I’ve not found any other information about schools in Pendleton County during the years 1790 to 1825. We don’t know if there was a teacher in the neighborhood who may have given the children some basic education.

The 1850 census was the first that recorded “Persons over 20 years of age who cannot read & write”. I perused that census for Harvey Jarvis and his siblings:

  • Sarah Jarvis Hazlewood cannot read & write
  • Elizabeth Jarvis Conyers can read & write
  • Parker Jarvis can read & write
  • James William Jarvis died 1840; don’t know
  • Malinda Jarvis Robinson can read & write
  • Gilbert Jarvis can read & write
  • Margaret Jarvis Robinson died 1842; don’t know
  • Susannah Jarvis Robinson can read & write
  • Harvey Jarvis can read & write

Sarah was the only sibling in the 1850 census that could not read or write. Two siblings had died, so we don’t know about them. Six other siblings were able to read and write by 1850.

Based on the above facts, let’s guess that the Jarvis children learned to read and write while they were young in Kentucky. It seems unlikely that all six could have learned as adults.

We can also see in the 1850 census that mother Margaret Jarvis could read and write, so perhaps she taught the children at home.


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