The public is invited to join the O’Fallon Historical Society as its dedicates a marker in memory of the Rev. John Mason Peck on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. at Rock Spring Cemetery in O’Fallon.
A native of Connecticut, Peck (1789-1858) was a pioneer Baptist missionary, educator, historian, prolific author and anti-slavery advocate. He arrived in St. Louis by keel boat two centuries ago on Dec. 1, 1817 and founded, along with fellow missionary James Welch, the first Baptist church there.
He and his family settled at Rock Spring, in present day eastern O’Fallon, in late April 1822. This was his home for the rest of his life. He was a planter of numerous Baptist churches, including those for African-Americans. Close to his home, he founded Rock Spring Seminary in 1827, the first college in Illinois.
He was also instrumental in stopping an Illinois constitutional convention in 1824 that threatened to make Illinois a slave state.
He is considered the first postmaster of the O’Fallon area; it is a portrait of him handing out mail to local residents that hangs in the O’Fallon Post Office.
Peck died at his home in Rock Spring in 1858. He was initially buried next to his wife Sally (1789-1856). However, 29 days after his burial, his remains were moved to Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. His wife remains at Rock Spring to this day. The memorial to Peck marks the spot where he was briefly buried at Rock Spring.
Following the ceremony at the cemetery, there will be refreshments available at the O’Fallon History Museum, 101 W. State St. in downtown O’Fallon. There will also be display of memorabilia relating to Peck.
Directions to cemetery
Rock Spring Cemetery is located at the end of Commerce Drive, which is off of the north side of U.S. Highway Route 50, just past the intersection with Scott Troy Road/Illinois Route 158 as you head toward Lebanon.
Parking will be available along Commerce Drive. O’Fallon Historical Society members and Boy Scouts will be on site to guide people back to the cemetery.