John Mason Peck: Apostle of the Mississippi River Valley
John Mason Peck (1789-1858) was a Baptist missionary, preacher, educator, historian and a prolific author as well as a leader who influenced the development of Illinois, Missouri and the Mississippi River Valley. To that list, given the time period, must be added pioneer and frontiersman. In addition to founding churches here, he also encouraged the establishment of schools. He is the founder of Madison County’s first college in 1831. Originally called Rock Springs Seminary, the name was changed in 1835 to Shurtleff College after a major donation from Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff. Today this is the campus of the SIUE School of Dental Medicine. Peck was a good friend to politicians, particularly Edward Coles and Ninian Edwards. He was a strong supporter of abolition and temperance and worked to influence his political friends in that direction. He is also known for the articles and books he wrote describing life on the frontier.