Tag Archives: St. Louis

206 – July 25 – This Day in Baptist History Past


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.




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He was called “the man with the twenty hands.” 
December 01, 1817 – John Mason Peck arrived with his family in St. Louis, Missouri after a  129 day journey by wagon, by boat, and on foot. They had to carry him, sick with a fever off on a stretcher. He had surrendered to the mission field under Luther Rice. He began by gathering children for a school and doing evangelistic work among the black population and make excursions into the surrounding areas to preach. He planted the earliest Baptist churches west of the Mississippi River. Limited in his own education, he founded the first College in the West. So great was his energy, he was called “the man with the twenty hands.”  The following entry from his 1925 journal gives an example: He said that he had been gone from home for 53 days, had traveled through 18 counties in Ill. and 9 in Ind., rode 926 miles, preached 31 regular sermons, besides several speeches, addresses and lectures. He revived three Bible societies, and established seven new ones, aided in forming three Sabbath-school soc’s., and in opening several societies where none existed. The family had to live frugally on $5 per month from the Mass. Baptist Missions Soc. Peck eked out a living through other means including manual labor. When the interest in the Baptist Mission Societies in the East waned Peck and Jonathan Going doubled their efforts and laid the foundation for a new Missions Society in a period of strong anti-mission sentiment. We owe much to this man who built the first Baptist church in the city of St. Louis.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 501-02.

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“He lost his position… when he… was immersed”

November 04, 1870 – Henry Novotny entered seminary in Switzerland, and in 1875 he married Anna Kastomlatska. In 1881 he went with his wife and two children to Edinburgh, Scotland, to study in the Free College. For some time he served in evangelism, but he lost his position as an evangelist when he embraced the Baptist position and was immersed on Feb. 12, 1885, in the largest Baptist church on the continent by Pastor Charles Ondra in Lodz, Russian-Poland. Returning to Prague, Bohemia, Novotny organized a Baptist church with 16 members near Prague. Mrs. Novotny was a hearty soul as well. She was immersed in the icy Vltava River when the ice had to be broken. Henry was called before the court numerous times. During one period he had to report to the local authorities every Monday morning to narrate his activities. He was happy to relate to them the sermon that he preached the Lord’s Day before. When the officials refused to allow them to meet in their building they moved to the pastor’s home. As the church grew they rented a building, then the officials said that they had to meet in a “dwelling place,” so he had one of his son’s sleep in the rented hall. Henry conducted seven services each Sunday. He also played the organ and conducted Sunday school. The work of the Baptists grew under such direction, and Novotny’s pen proved as strong as his pulpit ministry. His “literary work” was done under the pre-war [First World War] Austrian government, which strictly censored printed material…religious or otherwise. Hence Henry’s writings were often confiscated, and several times he had to pay heavy fines. By the time of his death his son Joseph followed him in the pastorate, and the work had so grown that there were Baptist churches in thirty Bohemian towns.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 458-59.

PERSONAL NOTE: My father was a missionary pastor in St. Louis, MO. His experience was this! – How important is “SCRIPTURAL” baptism? Important enough for Jesus to walk 60 miles to be baptized by the only one that had authority to baptize because John the Baptist had authority from heaven. Jesus would not settle for a substitute. As missionary pastor, my father experienced the reality of some that felt their baptism was not any good and asked for scripural baptism NOW. The mission did not have a baptistry so my father said Alton Lake was available. These people said yes and January we cut ice that was 9 inches thick to baptise. What a witness!

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