October 31, 1789:  John Mason Peck, pioneer missionary to the western frontier (Ohio and Illinois), was born in Litchfield.  Having secured funding as “missionaries to the Missouri Territory,” the Peck and his missionary partner Welch and their families traveled westward, arriving in St. Louis in December, 1817. Peck and Welch organized the First Baptist Church of St. Louis, the first Protestant church in the city, and baptized two converts in the Mississippi River in February, 1818. By year’s end, they also soon founded the first missionary society in the West: The United Society for the Spread of the Gospel. Peck became active in establishing Bible societies and Sunday School associations, distributing bibles as well as spreading literacy and Christian principles. Peck moved to Rock Springs, Illinois in 1822 to farm, and arranged a circuit to visit the various societies which he continued to establish, as well as isolated farms. On one trip, Peck visited Daniel Boone, then nearly 80, and later wrote a book about the frontiersman’s life.  ABHS holds Peck’s correspondence from 1833-1852 and a journal from 1854.

 

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