John Mason Peck

John M. Peck arrived in Illinois in 1822. Born in Connecticut, he had come west to work as an itinerant evangelist in Missouri before settling in St. Clair County. Upon his arrival in Illinois, Peck became the agent of the American Bible Society for the western half of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. He brought strong anti-slavery beliefs to southern Illinois and took a leading role in the struggle of 1823-4 that prevented the official introduction of slavery in the Prairie State. In 1825 Peck secured funds for the establishment of a Baptist seminary and in 1827 he opened the "Rock-spring Theological Seminary and High-School." The school struggled to attract students and was reopened at Upper Alton in 1832 at the Alton Seminary. After further difficulties Peck secured a gift of $10,000 from Benjamin Shurtleff, M.D., of Boston, Mass., and renamed the institution Shurtleff College. Peck also proved himself a prolific author, writing a Guide for Emigrants, Containing Sketches of Illinois and Adjacent Parts (1831) and a Gazetteer of Illinois (1834). He also produced a "New Map of Illinois" (1837) and edited the Annals of the West (1850).

Peck's memoir, Forty Years of Pioneer Life (1864) is available on Lincoln/Net. Please click on the title to view the book.