Little Otter To Lost River, 1
It is my opinion that anyone attempting to write a history of any branch of the Chastain family should devote some space to a history of their religious activities which play an important part in the lives of most of them.
Since the Chastains are of French origin, I suppose it would be correct to assume that most of them originally were members of the Catholic Church. During the Great Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of them renounced the Catholic faith and became part of the group commonly called Huguenots. The Huguenots were a group of French protestants whose faith was based mostly on the doctrines of John Calvin. The Huguenots were persecuted severely by the French Government and the Catholics from their beginning about 1520. Many civil wars were fought until 1598 when they were guaranteed religious and civil liberty. Regardless of this, they were soon being persecuted more and more. In 1685, the law that presumably gave them this liberty was revoked and many thousands of them fled to England, Germany, Switzerland, and eventually to America. Most lost all they had when they fled France. The Huguenots married young and had large families. They were temperate, religious, and believed in religious and personal rights for all. Most were healthy from working outside and lived to a ripe old age.
At the time Peter Chastain (I), the immigrant, arrived in Virginia in 1700, and for many years after, the state religion of Virginia was the Church of England. The early members of the Chastain family in Virginia were members of this church and Peter and his son, John, are on record as being very active in King William Parish where they had settled.
Early records indicate that almost from the settlement of Jamestown, there were numerous dissenting non-conformists in the English colonies. By 1740, there were Baptist churches in every colony and, after what is called "The Great Awakening," they multiplied very rapidly. There were 10,000 Baptists in the country during the Revolution and at least 290 Baptist churches in Virginia alone.
Several third generation members of the Chastain family in Virginia were converted to the Baptist faith. One of the first was probably Ren Chastain of Buckingham County who was baptized in 1770 and immediately began preaching. He was pastor of the Buckingham Baptist Church from 1771 until his death, a period of 53 years. At least two of his cousins, James and John Chastain, also started preaching for Baptist Churches in Virginia, but later moved south into the Carolinas.
The members of the Chastain family who came to Washington County and Scott County, in southern Indiana, were all members of the Baptist church, a trait I find common in all the other early Chastain lines. George Chastain, of Washington County, and Valentine Chastain, of Scott County, were members of the Baptist church before they left Virginia. Other members of this family did not become Baptists until after the move to Kentucky in the early 1800s.
I would like now to mention some of the Baptist Churches with which our branch of the family have been associated with. One finds the Chastains mentioned frequently in the existing records of these churches as preachers, elders, messengers to other churches and to the various associations to which they belonged. Individual church records regarding members of the early family will be found with the history of the individual and will appear elsewhere in this effort.
Pigg River Baptist Church, Franklin County, Virginia
This church was formed in 1773 with 28 members by Rev. Randolph Hall. Hall preached from the pulpit in this church before he moved to the State of Kentucky. The church was a member of the Strawberry Baptist (Separate) Association in 1792 and had 92 members. Robert G. Semple in his "Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia," printed in 1810, states that the minutes of this Association had not been printed recently, even at that early date. Today, there is still a Primitive Baptist Church "at the head of Pigg River." It is a continuation of the church formed in 1773 but their records do not go back that far. It is said by members of this church that the records from 1773 up to 1796 had been burned in a fire in the Henry County, Virginia, Courthouse, although no one seemed to know just why they would have been taken there. The records in existence start the fourth Friday in August of 1796. They are usually very sketchy and in numerous places state only that "church met" without giving much information. The biggest disappointment of all is the fact that there are no early membership rolls in this book, thus it is probable that many early members of this church are not mentioned at all in the record. ] did find that Valentine Chastain, late of Scott County, Indiana, and George Chastain, later of Washington County, Indiana, were members of record here. George Staton, the father-in-law of George Chastain was also a member of this church. In April of 1971, my wife and I made a pleasant visit to this church. It is located about eight miles west of Rocky Mount, Virginia, on Route 750 and only a short distance east of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is in a pleasant secluded spot. We were taken there by Elder William Holland and his wife. Elder Holland was then pastor of the church and also had the early records. Today this church is a member of the Pigg River District, Primitive Baptist Association and in 1970 had 42 members.
East Fork Baptist Church, Henry County, Kentucky
East Floyds Fork Baptist Church was organized September 11, 1802. It was organized by members of the Drennons Lick Church. The name was shortened to East Fork on February 6, 1808, and remained as such until 1872 when it was moved to Smithfield, Kentucky, and became the present church of that place. In 1966, the original records of this church from the time it was organized until about 1828 were in possession of Mr. and Mrs. Mason G. Smith of Smithfield. After first insisting we have dinner with them, Mr. Smith showed me the location of the old church which was located about two miles west of Smithfield and in a much earlier time bordered on land owned by my ancestor, George Chastain of Washington County, Indiana. The old church building has long since been torn down but the large rock slab that served as a front step was still visible. It was at this church that the wives of George and Valentine Chastain became Baptists, as well as most of the other members of the family who later removed to southern Indiana. George Chastain was appointed a deacon
in 1805 and apparently served as such until he moved to Illinois in 1830. In 1811, it was here that Valentine Chastain was first authorized to "speak and exercise a public gift in this church and sister churches." Not all Chastains maintained their membership in this church while in Kentucky. It is possible they moved to the Dover Baptist Church located a few miles away in Shelby County. Dover Church is where Abraham Stark was ordained a Baptist preacher in Mardi of 1812. The Stark family became closely associated with the Chastain family in both Washington County and Scott County, Indiana. Records of Dover Church are not in existence for this period.
Union Baptist Church, Washington County, Indiana
Union Church was organized on the second Saturday in October 1816 by Abraham Stark and others at the Sinking Spring Church in Washington County, Indiana. On the same date the Blue River Baptist Association was organized by Abraham Stark, Elisha Stark, Stephen Stark, and others at the same place. Sad to say, the records of Union Church have never been found. Most of the history of Union must cane from Association minutes, history, tradition, and the records of sister churches located near it. While it is impossible to say just who were members of Union in the early days, it is safe to say the Chastains were represented on her rolls. The fact that they were not members of any of the sister churches near it seems to confirm this.
In his "History of Vernon Township," written in 1916, the late Roy Hardin states that George, Barnett and Ren Chastain were all leaders in the early days of Union. Other members, as taken from existing Association minutes, included members of the Stark, McCoy, Pounds, Stout, Smith, Elliott and Henson families. Union was one of the churches on the council when Stampers Creek Church was formed in 1818. In late 1825, when Lost River Association was formed out of Blue River, Union elected to go into the new association and remained in it as long as it was in existence. From tradition, the buildings at Union were log, brick and frame in that order. Hardin states the first building was burned down by a fire that swept the area. It is said the brick house did not last long due to the bricks which had been formed by hand and became soft. These buildings were located on what is now the southwest part of the cemetery and at that time the road ran by the building. It was not until May 13, 1823, that land was deeded for Union, though it had probably met at the same place since its organization. On the above date, Elisha Stark and Lucretia, his wife, deeded one and one-half acres, part of the northwest quarter of Section 23, to Rice McCoy and Elisha Carr of the County of Washington and to Joseph Pounds of Orange County as trustees of the church. This deed says the land was for a permanent place of worship for the Association of Christians known by the name of the Union Regular Baptist Church and specifies that the land was to be used as a burying ground and for religious purposes and also gave the church full liberty to erect such buildings and make improvements as they saw fit. The Starks deeded this land for $3. and "for and in consideration of the favour, affection and good will, which the said Elisha and Lucretia Stark bear towards the said church and the warm interest which they feel in the doctrines which it incalculates."
The bitterness that marked the division of many Baptist Churches during the 1830s seems to have hit Union hard. According to the Tri-County History of 1884, in 1822 Abraham Stark was pastor, Elder Rice McCoy was Clerk and the church had 79 members. In 1826, she reported 55 members to the Association,
but by 1833 the membership had fallen to 42. During the l840s, the church numbered around 25 members, but by 1850 it had only 19 members. Clearly Union was a dying church. One source says that the last church meeting was held in July of 1864 when Harrison Cornwell was pastor and Reuben Stout was Clerk. However, Union was represented at the 1864 Association meeting at Hebron Church in September of 1864 and still claimed 14 members. This is the last time it is represented in Association minutes and it would seem that this pioneer church did go out of existence in 1864.
Sinking Spring Baptist Church, Washington County, Indiana
This old church was organized in 1813 or 1814 and went out of existence in the early l900s. It is possibly the first church the Chastains of Washinton County were connected with as Barnett and Ren Chastain came in 1814 -1815, a year or two before Union church was organized in 1816. This cannot be proven due to the loss of the records of Sinking Spring for the first three or four years of its existence. After Union church was discontinued in 1864, some members of the Chastain family became members of this church.
Lost River Primitive Baptist Church, Washington County, Indiana
While the above is the correct name for this church, one seldom hears it referred to by this name. Instead, both far and wide, the church and cemetery are commonly called "Old Union." A common misconception is that this church is a continuation of the Union Church since it is in the same location. This is not true. The Lost River Primitive Baptist Church was organized in 1872 by sixteen members of the Chastain family who were "lettered out" from Sinking Spring church for that purpose. These sixteen were: John A., Andrew J., Phebe, George, Barnett G., Matilda, Meredith, Ellen, Valentine, Sarah, Cynthia, Nancy J., Catherine, Malissa, Jacob R., and Phebe J. Chastain. On March 30, 1872, they met at the Old Union church building and were constituted as an Old School Baptist church. I am told the present building was built in the 1870s on the banks of Lost River and was moved to its present location near the cemetery later. The present church added ground around the original site in 1872 and in 1903.
Lost River Baptist Church, Claysville, Washington County, Indiana
This church was organized in Orange County, near Tremble Cemetery, in 1815. In 1855, it built a building at Claysville, Washington County. This was not a move of many miles and it has met at Claysville since. This church is a mission church and in her records will be found the date it quit associating with Union church due to the question of missions. The Chastain family has never been prominent in the early history of this church, although a few were members when the church was still located in Orange County. Of the Washington County branch of the family, only my great-grandfather, James H. Chastain, with some of his children were members of this church in its early years at Claysville.
Scaffold Lick Baptist Church, Scott County, Indiana
This church is located about one mile west of the village of Blocher in Scott County. It is said to be one of the twelve oldest Baptist churches in continuous service in the State of Indiana. It was organized October 14, 1818, at the home of Valentine Chastain. The constituent members were: Valentine and Mary Chastain, Robert and Magdaline Chastain, John and Anna Chastain, George and Mary James, and Benjamin and Nancy Boyd. The Chastains were prominent in the early history of this church. In 1826, Valentine Chastain was ordained and in 1832 he gave two acres for the meeting house and cemetery. In 1823, Peter Chastain was Church Clerk and served until 1830 when he moved to Illinois. He later lived in Washington County, Indiana. From 1830 to 1847, Nathaniel Robbins, a son-in-law of Valentine Chastain, was Church Clerk.
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