Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PECK, John Mason, clergyman, born in Litchfield, Connecticut, 31 October, 1789; died in Rock Spring, St. Clair County, Illinois, 15 March, 1858. He was the son of a farmer in humble circumstances, and, after being educated at the common schools, removed in 1811 to Greene county, New York, where he united with the Baptist church. The same year he was licensed to preach, and began his pastoral work at Catskill, while prosecuting his studies and supporting himself by teaching. He was ordained in Catskill, 9 June, 1813, and the following year became pastor of the church at Amenia, New York He was then sent to the west by the Baptist general convention as a missionary, and reached St. Louis at the end of 1817. During the next nine years he was engaged as an itinerant preacher and a teacher, travelling in the former capacity through Missouri and Illinois, and finally fixing his residence at Rock Spring, in the latter state. In 1826 he raised money and aided in organizing the Rock Spring seminary for educating common-school teachers and ministers. In April, 1829, he began the publication of "The Pioneer," the first organ of the Baptist church in the western states. In 1831 he spent three months in planning with Reverend Jonathan Going the American Baptist home missionary society, and the same year he issued "A Guide for Emigrants" (Boston), a small but useful publication. He soon afterward began a monthly periodical entitled "The Illinois Sunday-School Banner." In 1834 appeared his "Gazetteer of Illinois" (Jacksonville, 1834; Philadelphia. 1837). In 1835 Shurtleff college was founded at Upper Alton, Illinois, to take the place of his Rock Spring seminary. To endow this institution Dr. Peck travelled nearly 6,000 miles, and collected $20,000. In watching over and helping the new enterprise, and in aiding in the establishment of a theological institution at Covington, Kentucky, he was occupied until 1848, which year, with the two following, he spent in Philadelphia as correspond-mg secretary and financial agent of the American Baptist publication society. Returning to the west, he was pastor of several important churches in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. In 1852 he received the degree of D. D. from Harvard. Dr. Peck was a master spirit among the pioneers. " Perhaps no man of the class," says an intimate friend, "did more than he to guide the thoughts, mould the manners, and form the institutions of the west. He was an embodiment of western character, plain, frank, self-reliant, fearless, indomitable." He was an important contributor to nearly all the historical societies of the northwestern states and territories, and published, besides the works already mentioned, " New Guide for Emigrants to the West " (Boston, 1836) and "Father Clark, er the Pioneer Preacher" (New York, 1855). He is also the author of a "Life of Daniel Boone" in Sparks's "American Biography," and edited the 2d edition of "Annals of the West " (Cincinnati). His large and valuable collection of newspapers and pamphlets was destroyed by fire a few years before his death, but he left his large collection of manuscripts to the Reverend Rufus Babcock, who published " Forty Years of Pioneer Life: Memoir of John Mason Peck, edited from his Journals and Correspondence" (Philadelphia, 1864).
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