Barton W. Stone, minister and key figure in Tennessee and Kentucky frontier revivalism of the early 1800s, established a “Christian” movement that later became part of the Disciples of Christ. Born in Port Tobacco, Maryland, Stone grew up in southern Virginia and enrolled in David Caldwell’s Log College at Guilford, North Carolina, in 1790. After a conversion experience, he studied theology and became a Presbyterian minister. In 1796 he accepted the call to the Concord and Cane Ridge churches in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
Stone and fellow Presbyterian James McGready shared a growing concern about the need for religious renewal on the frontier. In 1800 Stone attended a revival meeting at Gasper River that lasted for several days as people came and camped at John Rankin’s church in Logan County, Kentucky. Stone came away impressed by the large number of conversions. Soon after, Stone began planning his own sacramental service in Bourbon County. On August 6, 1801, thousands of people from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio appeared at Cane Ridge and for nearly a week participated in the largest Presbyterian communion service in American history. In the intensity of the service, people cried, jerked, and above all, fell to the ground.
By 1803 the Presbyterian Church had accused two of Stone’s closest colleagues of Arminianism. In 1804 Stone and six other ministers resigned from the Kentucky synod and within a year adopted the name “Christians” and took the Bible as their only guide. Rejecting a church hierarchy, they contended that salvation was open to all believers and that each congregation should govern its own church.
Stone spent the years from 1804 to 1832 preaching and writing in Kentucky and Tennessee. At Lexington on January 1, 1832, Stone and representatives of his own congregation and representatives of Alexander Campbell’s Disciples agreed to a form of unity that became the Disciples of Christ.