Saturday, December 15, 2018


Marker Details

Historical Marker:

John Mason Peck

The marker is located at 2800 College Avenue (IL 140) in Upper Alton on the campus of the Southern Illinois University Dental School (formerly Shurtleff College).
Dedication Date:
Dedication By:
The Shurtleff Fund and The Illinois State Historical Society

Marker Description:
On this site in 1831, John Mason Peck (1789-1858), pioneer Baptist preacher, author, and educator, established the school which became Shurtleff College. In 1817, Peck had left his home in New England with a vision "to bring the lamp of learning and the light of the gospel" into the undeveloped West. He, his wife Sally, and three children endured an arduous four month trip in a small one-horse wagon, setting in Rock Spring, near O'Fallon, Illinois.

There, in 1827, Peck founded Rock Spring Seminary, the first institution of its kind in the State of Illinois. In 1831, the seminary was moved to the growing city of Alton, where, in 1836, the name was changed to Shurtleff College, recognizing the gift of $10,000 from Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff of Boston.

John Mason Peck is well described as a missionary and a teacher, an author and an editor, a geographer and a cartographer, and a promoter of churches, schools, and western settlement. For thirty years, he was undoubtedly one of the strongest advocates of education and righteousness in the entire Mississippi Valley. He traveled hundreds of miles by horseback or wagon, often under most difficult circumstances, while his wife and children bore his long absences with fortitude.

Peck was one of the foremost ministerial opponents of slavery in Illinois and provided great support to Governor Edward Coles' successful anti-slavery effort in 1824. In 1851, he was honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He died on March 16, 1858, and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.

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