John Mason Peck (1789-1858), a native of Connecticut, was a Baptist preacher, author, and newspaper editor who came to Illinois in 1822. Peck was a leading proponent of higher education in the state and in 1832 founded Shurtleff College in Upper Alton, Ill.
This collection consists of Peck's correspondence with Warren Leverett and Washington Leverett, brothers and professors at Shurtleff College. Their correspondence regards the administration and finances of Shurtleff College; day-to-day church business; Baptist conventions; and the administration of the Illinois Literary and Historical Society (one of the precursors of the Illinois State Historical Society), for which Peck served as secretary. In one particularly notable letter (June 10, 1852), Peck writes the Leverett brothers about the "visionary and impracticable" educational ideas of Jonathan Baldwin Turner, the Illinois farmer and advocate of industrial and agricultural education. (A portion of Turner's papers are also housed in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections.) Peck believed that Turner's ideas, if implemented, would destroy the educational landscape in which Shurtleff College thrived.
The collection also includes minutes of the Edwardsville (Ill.) Baptist Association Annual Meeting (1853) and a Circular stating the purpose of Shurtleff College's Society of Religious Inquiry (circa 1850s).
Additional materials on Peck in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections may be found in the Marguerite Jenison Pease Papers, the Lyman C. Draper Collection, and the Austen Kennedy De Blois Collection.