James McCullough, the Ministers, and the Baptist Church on the Gunpowder

Henry Sanderson. (1805-1880)  Woodland Baptism

Henry Sanderson. (1805-1880) Woodland Baptism

James McCullough’s of Middletown, MD involvement in the church gives a sense of the activity of his life. From land records we can see that he was a trustee of the church.  From the minutes of the Maryland Baptist Union Association we know he was a member of the Executive Board.  From the Baptist history we can know some of the spiritual controversies and the ebb and flow of Baptist spiritual life in the first half of the 19th century.

According to historians John Thomas Scharf and David Benedict the Baptist Church in Maryland got its start in the person of Henry Sater around 1709 (Scharf 552). Sater would invite the wandering preachers into his house and ask them to say a few words.  One minister who happened upon this threshold in the backwoods was a man with a thorn in his side:

Henry Loveall was another of these early preachers of Baltimore County. He was born in Cambridge, England, about 1694, and baptized in New England, probably at Newport, R. I., in 1725. He was in Newport in 1729, and had then begun to preach.  About that year he went to Piscataqua, N. J., where he preached for two years on trial, and was there ordained, but never administered the ordinances, for soon after his ordination he behaved in so disorderly a fashion that he was excommunicated. He was accused of shameful immorality, and it was discovered that his real name was Desolate Baker. After causing much trouble in Piscataqua he came to Maryland in 1742 and became the minister of the Chestnut Ridge Church.

                                                                   (Scharf 552)

There is no shortage of sources calling Rev. Loveall a licentious person, he may have been strong in the spirit but he was indulgent in the flesh.  A grain of salt should be added to these words: Loveall’s indulgences perhaps run scarlet, however, they do not run with blood, but simple passion and lust.  For every preacher of the worldly sort there was one whose name is constantly praised.  The Reverend John Davis stands in stark contrast to Henry Loveall.  In 1747, members of the Chestnut Ridge went on to form Winter Run, later to be known as Harford.

   Who was the first pastor of Winter Run Church is not now known, but two years after its organization Rev. John Davis became pastor. He was born in Pennypack, Pa., Sept. 10 1721. He was ordained in 1756, at Montgomery, Pa., and in that year became the minister of Winter Run, or Harford, or Baltimore Church, and remained pastor for fifty-three years, or until his death in 1809, in the eighty-eighth year of his age. He was a man of great usefulness and influence, of untiring energy, great piety, enlightened evangelical views, and consistent character. He traveled much, preaching in the woods, the barn, the school-house, the cabin, the parlor as well as in the meeting-house, or to the traveler alone. The law indeed, guaranteed protection, but Mr. Davis suffered no little persecution for the purpose of intimidation from ‘certain lewd fellows of the baser sort’…. (Scharf 553)

Davis was the sort to be fed by ravens.  Davis is credited with beginning the Gunpowder Baptist Church in 1806 at the age of 85, he would die in 1809 (Shepherd 391).  Gunpowder Baptist Church had its start in “Tipton’s Meeting House” or “Stump Meeting House” on August 16, 1806 (Adams 67). “In 1815, a division occurred, and about fifty members withdrew, leaving forty-nine” (Adams 67). The reason unknown, this was a serious breach of friendship and community. In 1816 the congregation numbered 52: 5 had been baptized, 2 dismissed, and one member had passed away.  Preaching occurred on the 3rd and 4th Sundays of each month (1818 “Minutes”).  In 1819 the congregation stood at 47. In that year, they were unable to send a representative to the Association meeting held in Washington D. C. The church remained without a pastor till 1821, when Rev. Thomas Leaman came to lead them for the next twenty years (Adams 67). “In 1833, they helped to build the Union Meeting House in Middletown, to which they removed in 1834, adopting the title at that time of ‘Gunpowder,’ from the river of that name” (Adams 67).  There is a land record indicating James’ involvement with the church during this time. 

    This church was a part of the Baltimore Baptist Association until 1836 when the Gunpowder and other churches left to form the Maryland Baptist Union Association.  A schism had begun to form in the association regarding missionary work. This schism was very serious in that the Association was to all purposes the only governing body of the Baptists.  At a meeting in Black Rock in 1836 the Baltimore Association adopted a new direction:

The anti-missionary members immediately forced the adoption of the following Resolution : ‘Whereas, a number of Churches of this Association have departed from the practice of the same, by following cunningly devised fables, uniting with and encouraging others to unite in worldly societies, to the great grief of other Churches of this body, there cannot be any fellowship between principles so essentially different’.

                                                        (qtd. Adams 13)

Those in favor of missionary work responded quickly:

His [God’s] object in raising his followers to this dignity and elevation is obvious. They are designed to be the medium through which he seeks to convey the most substantial benefits to man kind, by accomplishing the merciful purposes of his grace, in the conversion of the world.

(qtd. Adams)

Church historians George Adams and George Purefoy establish that before 1836 the Baltimore Association was supportive of missionary work including in the circular of 1819.

George F. Adams Gunpowder Baptist Church Preacher

George F. Adams Gunpowder Baptist Church Preacher, 1843-1845

George Adams, later preacher at Gunpowder and principal author of History of Baptist Churches, was instrumental in the establishment of the Maryland Union: “Rev. Messrs. G. F. Adams and S. P. Hill, appear to have been the principal movers in getting up this new concern” (Benedict 634).

   The controversy was not limited to Maryland.  Elder George Purefoy relates a similar divide in North Carolina and in several other Associations (48-61).   Evident from these histories and from the 1819 circular is a controversy that had been present for some time. On 27 October 1836, at the First Baptist Church in Baltimore the newly formed Union released a statement and Constitution instituting a policy of bold preaching and religious pioneering. Present were Thomas Leaman and Zachariah Alban2, a friend of James, though twelve years separated them in age.  The fracture of the Association led to a confusing set of labels: those in favor of missionary work were called “Regular” Baptists and those not in favor were termed “Old School” or “Primitive” Baptists (Purefoy 48).  (For a better understanding of the anti-missionary stance see Watt’s The Rise and Progress of Maryland Baptists beginning on page 28).

The schism was salt on the wound as attendance in the churches had fallen.  After John Davis’ death, there was a decimation of the congregation.  Healy in the 1819 “Minutes” admits as much, “Our churches, indeed, have not abandoned the cause of truth: but a time of coldness seems to have overtaken us.  Our increase is very small–and in some of our branches, many who once appeared to be walking in the ways of God, are turned aside into forbidden paths” (12-13). This stagnation and decline continued to the time of the schism:

Since his [John Davis] death, the churches which he planted have been steadily declining, and some of them are nearly extinct.  Harford, the mother church, has been reduced from 160 members, to from 40 to 50.  In a few years, it will, in all probability, no longer exist. Sater’s church is reduced to a few members, and is barren and lifeless.  (Allen 143)

The missionary cause was a practical necessity.  Allen writing in 1836, gives the congregation of Gunpowder as 42; the church had not grown since 1819 (143).  As James watched his church fracture and struggle, wrestling with itself, the time of a renewal was quickly coming.  The formation of the Maryland Union facilitated the entrance of James and Zachariah into roles of leadership in the Association.  The Gunpowder hosted the annual Maryland Union in its second year of existence; 1837. George F. Adams was Moderator as well as preacher, undoubtedly if able, James and Zachariah stood in attendance (Adams 16).  The minutes for the Maryland Union in 1838 show Alban again as a delegate (5).  In these minutes there is also a description of the efforts of one itinerant preacher, Brother Joseph Mettam who also preached at Gunpowder: “Brother Mettam has travelled upwards of 1000 miles, preached 110 sermons, distributed more than 7000 pages of tracts, besides some bibles and testaments, and baptized nine professed believers in the Lord Jesus Christ” (7).  It had been proposed by Zachariah Alban that each church would be visited by the Union Board.  The moveable governing associates reported that meetings were, “generally well attended, that apparent seriousness prevailed, and that in some instances, particularly at Gunpowder, the divine blessing was manifest” (1838 “Minutes” 7).  Later they give this state of affairs at Gunpowder:

Only two years ago, they were not unlike the poor man, who had fallen among thieves; but the Lord has been as the Samaritan towards them.  They are now with invigorated strength and freshed spirits, pursuing their way.  Brother Leaman, their worthy but afflicted pastor, still continues, through divine mercy, to labor with them in word and doctrine…. (1838 “Minutes” 9)

   Daniel B. Wilhelm, a contemporary of James McCullough’s and listed alongside James in the land records for the Gunpowder Baptist Church, gave a short history of the Baptist Church in the North Baltimore area. He titled it Recollections of “Uncle Daniel”3. He gives the years 1840-41 as a time of a great revival, “About the year 1840, the Lord sent two old farmers, Bro. Jacob Knapp and Bro. Wm. Laws” (5).  Adams begins the revival in 1839 and the Baptists grew from 565 to 1183 (17). In Gunpowder from 1839 to 1840 the church gained 119 for a total of 164 (1840 “Minutes” n.p.).  During the 1840 meeting J. McCulloch, Z. Alban, along with others were elected to the Executive Board (1840 “Minutes” 6).  Laws and Mettam began a season of preaching at the Gunpowder:

  They began their joint labors with a protracted meeting with the Gunpowder church, and at this meeting God began a work of grace, which to a greater or less extent has continued to the present time.

In the first monthly report of our missionaries, they say: ‘We arrived at Gunpowder on Friday morning, April 17, at 10 o’clock, and found fifteen or twenty persons present.  We commenced preaching day and night.  On Saturday evening there were evident signs of the Lord’s being with us.  The good work began from that time.  We continued to preach Christ till the next Thursday night.  The church awoke and came up to the work.  The Lord made bare his arm, and many found peace in believing.  We immersed sixteen, and left with a promise to return the following Thursday.’  On their return according to promise, their report says ‘we found a large congregation; one poor sinner, who had not been in a meeting house for many years, and had even prevented his family from going, was sitting outside weeping and trembling,  We preached three times and baptized twenty more.’


They also visited and preached at ‘the Stump, a meeting house belonging to the Gunpowder church.’

(1840 “Minutes” 9)

The Gunpowder had become something of a center for the revival.  Hereford Baptist Church was founded with the help of Gunpowder members, first meeting on John K. Rowe’s two acre lot in 1840, “Bro. Daniel. B. Wilhelm states that the active members of the Gunpowder Church held prayer and enquiry meetings in this building, and that a revival followed, which led to the organization of a new Church” (Adams 90-91). The “Minutes” sums up the two missionaries efforts, “Our two missionaries have travelled, one during the last six months, between 2000 and 3000 miles, have preached on an average about one sermon for each day, besides attending meetings for prayer and other purposes.  They have baptized 147 persons….” (1840 “Minutes” 10). These men must have wakened with a anxious desire each morning.  Putting hoof and foot to ground they traveled to the poor reaches of upper Maryland.  Their voices, preaching fiercely, were sated and renewed by the very water they washed the converts sins away.

   “During 1842, a camp-meeting was held by the members of this and the Gunpowder Churches. Ministers from Baltimore and elsewhere attended and preached with power” (Adams 91). One can only imagine the spirit and happiness of these revivals where converts came up and received baptism.  Neighbors convened, sailors left behind the sea, barkeeps left behind the drink, and doctors got their real medicine.4

There was none of this going to the Springs for recreation in the hot summer like there is at present. Baptists held Camp Meetings in those days….In those days there was no music used in the Churches; the brethren and sisters did all the singing; they sang in the spirit and prayed in the spirit; they had not to hire men of the world and pay them to lead the singing as some Churches do now. (Wilhelm 6)

Burbank, J. Maze. Religious Camp Meeting. 1839. Watercolor. New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford

Burbank, J. Maze. Religious Camp Meeting. 1839. Watercolor. New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford

Wilhelm gives some account of the Gunpowder Baptist Church in his colorful language:

I recall the meeting at Hardscrabble, a village in the sixth District of Baltimore County. As I said, Bro. Laws labored in the counties. He commenced one of his first meetings in connection with Bro. Mettam, with the Gunpowder Baptist Church. This was in 1840. This is a very hard place–it was called Hardscrabble at that time. There was, I believe some eight houses and four of these were grog shops. There was a great revival in that meeting.  It was held in the old Union Meeting House. Some of the Methodists joined in with the Baptists and a great work broke out with them too. This was the commencement of breaking down those grog shops in that place; but I tell you the old Devil got mad, for he sent his agents out and they cut our clothes and even some of our horses’ ears almost off. I say ours, because I was converted in that revival. This meeting laid the foundation for temperance in the sixth election district in Baltimore County. The Baptists and Methodist with some few exceptions put away whiskey in that place. Now it is the only District in Baltimore County where no liquors are sold. (Wilhelm 6-7)

It is not too difficult to see why Wilhelm became part preacher. His language is lively and forceful. One can imagine that he shared many stories at different tables in the sixth district. I had hoped when I found this little tome that James’ name would appear somewhere in it. Disappointed on that front, the reader (which I’m guessing there has been very few) is delighted by the prospect of Daniel’s recollections. To get a sense of the spirit that was running through those town’s and villages is invaluable. James McCullough’s name appears next to Zachariah Alban’s and Daniel B. Wilhelm’s among others in 1842 for the purchase of acreage for the building of the Church5. It is likely that James was a convert to the Baptist church, like Wilhelm, and so possessed the convert’s ardor.  Wilhelm describes a conversion that mixes reading superstitions into the random occurrences of country life:

   My father was very fond of hunting, so I became very fond of that sport too, especially fox hunting. A company of us fox hunters would go out on Sunday, taking our whiskey with us, and then make another appointment for two weeks ahead and we would have a hunt again. […] I had moved to myself, my wife felt anxious to go to this meeting, so we went up one night, but when we got to the church there came a pack of hounds along, so I sent my wife in the church and went out to see the hounds. […] We went to the meeting that night, and my wife and I both went forward for prayer. We went home praying. After we arrived home there came a pack of hounds through my place. I thought now the Devil has sent those hounds to get me to go fox hunting again. I there promised the Lord I would never go fox hunting again, so I never did. (Wilhelm 7-8)

Wilhelm describes a the fashion of the itinerant preacher:

   Bro. Laws put those men and women as soon as they were converted to work; he had us with him at nearly every place he went to hold meetings; he would hold an experience meeting for about a half an hour before he began to preach; he would preach about thirty or forty minutes, then he invited out seekers. In his experience meetings he would try to get up and ask the prayers of God’s people. 

   He did not take the seekers up from the bench and tell them they had religion; he let them remain down till they knew for themselves and not for another. He did not mind how loud they cried or how many tears they shed, he was not afraid of what people call excitement. (Wilhelm 9)

The religion of the Gunpowder seems not a quiet one. The excitement was allowed to jump through the hard wooden seats and give the farmers something to shout about. Up to this time the word was preached in the Gunpowder by the now blind and deteriorating pastor, Bro. Layman (listed above as Leaman). In 1841, the church greeted a new pastor, Rev. W. H. Dix, but had to depart with him on the 16th of May due to quick ravages of typhoid pneumonia (Adams 67).

The revival took Brother Laws and Brother Wilhelm into several hard looking places where the day’s wages went:

   I happened to be in Baltimore after that. At one time as some three of us brethren were returning from Church one night, we heard fiddling and dancing. One of the brethren said to me, ‘Bro. Dan, suppose you go in and rout those fellows,’ so we went in. The old man of the house had been to church and the boys had got up a frolic while he was gone. They had two colored boys to play the fiddle; I stepped up before them and said, ‘Play us a tune.’ They began, I said ‘Stop, let us have prayers first.’ With that they began to leave, and I called on a brother to pray. After he prayed, they were all gone. Prayer being ended, the old man of the house said, ‘I am glad you run the devil out of my house once.’ I will mention another case while I am on prayer, and the effects of prayer. There was an old man who kept a grog shop and was doing a great deal of harm. We went there and held a prayer meeting, and broke up the grog shop. He sold out and moved away to another place and commenced another groggery. He went on for some time. We sent him word that we would pray God to convert him at such a time and if not, we would have to pray God to kill him; but finally he sold out again and never kept any more grog shops. I tell you in those days there was power in prayer and men felt it and trembled. (Wilhelm 10-11)

This passage from Wilhelm describes the revival as devolving into a very real power struggle with bullying and threats all part of the preaching. If the district was rough as Wilhelm says than what they needed was a rough religion.

  We may assume that James McCullough shared the Baptist’s views on alcohol. Undoubtedly, he was a pious sort.  We do not know what James would have thought of his grandsons James Wesley and William N., the former playing the fiddle the later playing the banjo in the barn dances across the eastern states: having a “frolic”. It was no preacher who “run the devil out” of these two but a couple of women in Ohio where they settled6. From the short-lived musical profession of these two men, it’s not hard to see their father James W as being a lover of a good tune. His father, James, may have been antagonist to the night-time fiddling but in the church choir perhaps his voice rose a little louder than his neighbors or maybe he listened closely to the hymns and felt the spirit more powerfully than what the sermon had done.

    In 1843, fifty members of the Gunpowder, “took letters of dismissal and organized the Forest Baptist Church, building also a new meeting house” (Adams 68). This meeting house was partially built with boards from a dismantled distillery (Wilhelm 9).  The “Minutes” of 1845 take a somber tone.  Gone is the jubilant optimism and the Association seems unable to find sufficient funds.  James McCullough is still a member of the Executive Board (1845 “Minutes” 9).  The Gunpowder and its congregation was struggling, “They state that of the one hundred and one members on their list, many are absent at the West and elsewhere, and their efficient members do not number more than thirty or forty, and most of these are poor and in debt” (1845 “Minutes” 15).  The clerk for the Gunpowder is William McCullough, James’ son.  While James McCullough is listed as a delegate with Zachariah Alban and the acting pastor Vincent Palen.  James is listed as donating two dollars while Zachariah donated three dollars (19). 

George F. Adams was a preacher for Hampton Baptist church in Virginia when the Civil War began.  The congregation, in terms of race, consisted of 949 blacks and 187 whites (Malone 2). Curiously, despite his efforts of salvation for the African-American population, Adams joined the Confederacy and acted as preacher for those soldiers in Virginia (Malone 2).  In 1862 the Union arrested Adams for spying and imprisoned him “on the Rip Raps in Hampton Roads”[Fort Wool] (Malone 2).  These ambiguities became too much and the majority of the congregation separated to form their own church, the First Baptist Church (Malone 2).  From this confusing history, it is unknown during his tenure at Gunpowder whether Adams preached in support of slavery or left the matter unsaid, again concentrating on souls and little on bodies: taking monition from the example of Loveall.

   In 1855 the Gunpowder church had apparently continued to lose members, becoming “quite feeble…For a short time it would revive and then fall back into lethargy” getting so desperate that only a visit by the Holy Ghost would revive them (Adams 68).  In 1863, the Gunpowder did not have a preacher of its own, “All these Churches are too feeble to support their own pastors without aid from the Association” (1863 “Minutes” 11).  To maintain himself a pastor had to divide his time between three churches; the Gunpowder, Hereford and Forest Baptist Churches.  The Gunpowder has maintained itself through the years and is still in service.  James McCullough is buried in the church cemetery.

It is unknown who James McCullough’s father was.  The O’Donoghue line is affiliated through the marriage of Jackson McComas to Sarah McCullough, James’ daughter.

Works Cited:

Adams, George F. History of Baptist Churches in Maryland: Connected with the Maryland Baptist Union Association. ed. J. F. Weishampel. Baltimore: J.F. Weishampel Jr. Press, 1885. Print.

Allen, I. M. The Triennial Baptist Register: No. 2–1836. Philadelphia: Baptist General Tract Society, 1836. Web. Accessed 18 December 2013.

2Referred to as “Father Albin” in Adams’ History

4The son of Rowe was a sailor but gave in to all the preaching occuring around him (Wilhelm qtd Adams 90). Daniel B Wilhelm’s father owned a distillery but due to his conversion gave it up (Wilhelm qtd Adams 94). Also describes the conversion of John C. Orrick (Wilhem qtd Adams 90)

5 Baltimore County Court (Land Records).  Ephraim Bell to James McCullow, Murry Wheeler, John L Price, Daniel Wilhelm, Zachariah Alban. 25 February 1842. TK 317, 1842-1842, MSA CE 66-367, Annapolis, MD. 238-240. Accessed 1 August 2013.

Baltimore County Court (Land Records).  James Gane Mortgage to James McCullough, Zachariah Alban, Daniel B. Wilhelm, John Price, Murry Wheeler. 30 July 1844. TK 344, 1844-1844, MSA CE 66-394, Annapolis, MD. 361-362. Accessed 1 August 2013.

Baltimore County Court (Land Records). John Sauble and Wife to James McCullough, Henry Cooper, Philip Hair, Philip Frank. 1 March 1834. TK 235, 1834-1834, MSA CE 66-285, Annapolis, MD. 468-470. Accessed 1 August 2013.

Baltimore Baptist Association. Minutes of the Baltimore Baptist Association, Held by Appointment, at Pleasant Valley Washington County, Md., September 6th, 7th, 8th, 1816. 1816. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, and Other Parts of the World. New York: Lewis Colby and Co, 1850. Web. Accessed 1 December 2013.

Healey, John. “Circular Letter: The Ministers and Messangers Composing The Baltimore Baptist Association, To the Churches with Which They are Severally Connected, Send Love in the Lord Jesus.” Minutes of the Baltimore Baptist Association, Held by Appointment, at Alexandria, District of Columbia, May 13th, 14th, and 15th, 1819. Alexandria: Samuel H. Davis, 1819. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

6 Julian, Kay McCullough. “Re. James and William McCullough.” Message to the author. 19 September 2013. Email.

 James, I believe James played the fiddle and William the banjo. I don’t know about other musicians in the family back then but my daughter use to play the viola in school. She was pretty good and got some scholarships to collage. She went 1 year an dropped out. She loved playing music but hated to study. As good a she was, after one of her concerts my Dad told her that all that classical music was ok, but she would never be really good till she could play Turkey in the straw. She opened her case, got out her viola and played it. Dad laughed and said “now that is good fiddling. You should be doing that on that stage.”


Kay Julian

email September 19 2013

Malone, H. O. “Historical Highlights of Hampton Baptist Church.” Hampton: Hampton Baptist Church. 2001. Web. Accessed 1 December 2013.

Maryland Baptist Union Association. Minutes of the Third Meeting of the Maryland Baptist Union Association, Held at the Baptist Meeting House near Taneytown, MD., October 22d and 23d, 1840. Baltimore: Richard J. Matchett, 1840. Sabin Americana. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

—. Minutes of the Fifth Meeting of the Maryland Baptist Union Association, Held in the Baptist Meeting House, Pikesville, MD., October 18, 19, 20, 1838. Baltimore: John W. Woods, 1838. Sabin Americana. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

—.  Minutes of the Tenth Meeting of the Maryland Baptist Union Association, Held in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church, Baltimore, MD., November 5th and 6th, 1845. Washington: Wm. Q. Force, 1845. Sabin Americana. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

—.  Minutes of the Maryland Baptist Union Association, Held in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church, November 4th and 5th, 1863. Baltimore: J. F. Weishampel Jr., 1863. Sabin Americana. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

Purefoy, George W. A History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association: From its Organization in A. D. 1758, to A. D. 1858. New York: Sheldon & Co., 1859. Web. Accessed 20 December 2013.

Shepherd, Henry Elliot. History of Baltimore, Maryland, from Its Founding as a Town to the Current the Current Year: 1729-1898. Baltimore: S. B. Nelson, 1898. Web. Accessed 18 December 2013.

Watt, Joseph T. The Rise and Progress of Maryland Baptist.  Baltimore: State Mission Board of the Maryland Baptists, 1953. Web. Hathi Trust. Accessed 21 December 2013.

3 Wilhelm, Daniel B. Recollections of “Uncle Daniel.” Baltimore: J. F. Weishampel, Jr., 1883. Print.


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