Christ’s Ambassador to the West
Washington would be called the “Father of America,” but John Mason Peck would be known “God’s Ambassador to the Mississippi Valley.” He was born on Oct. 21, 1789 and in 1807 began teaching school. In 1809 he married Sally Paine, who proved to be an ideal wife for the pioneering life that God had in store for him. When their first child was born, the Peck’s hesitated to have the baby sprinkled which led them to a sincere study of the scriptures which led them to oppose infant baptism. Upon moving to New York they discovered a Baptist church in New Durham, and they were baptized in Sept. 1811. The church had services only once per month, and the people insisted that Peck preach to them when the pastor wasn’t present. In time he became pastor and continued in the ministry for 46 years. The Peck’s met Luther Rice and their hearts were turned toward Missions but not East Asia but to the Western United States. After studying for a year under Dr. Wm. Staughton in Philadelphia, the Triennial Convention met in that city in 1817. The Peck’s were accepted as missionaries to the West, being commissioned on May 18, 1817. He was not yet 28 years old when he wrote in his diary, “I have now put my hand to the plow, O Lord may I never turn back…” On July 25, 1817, with his wife and three little children in a small one- horse wagon, they began the journey of over 1,000 miles that would take over four months through undeveloped regions, and on Dec. 1 they entered St. Louis. In April 1818 the first baptismal service took place in the Mississippi River in the midst of a hostile environment, where the Bible had been burned and coarse songs were songs and blasphemy’s were hurled at them. Peck began a Baptist church making it his base of operations in the West. His trials were great. His oldest son died, sicknesses were many, hostile Indians were everywhere, he had to fight anti-missionary forces, his support was cut off by the Baptist Convention. But he fought on as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He died on March 14, 1858.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 304-06.