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Stephen Paxon

Stephen Paxon

1837 - 1881

One could mention many persons from the history of the sunday school. I would like to mention one american. "Stuttering Stephen" Paxon was born crippled, and with a speech impediment. He was a "hatter" by trade and a favorite fiddler for Saturday night dances.He became a christian When his daughter, Mary, begged him to attend Sunday School to help her win a prize, he found himself pressed into service to teach a class of boys he, became a sunday school teacher,. As they read scripture he asked questions out of a book. Later, after he accepted Christ, Paxon volunteered for Christian service and became a missionary of the American Sunday School Union. and devoted his life to the sunday school. Stephen Paxon was his name, and travelled around the midwest of the United states and started a lot of sunday schools. One report tells about 40 new sunday school in 40 days, but he said that was hard work. During his almost 40 years of service he helped more than 3000 sunday schools. He was one among more then 100 sunday school workers in USA in the middle of the 19th century.

In order to travel so extensively, Paxson needed a rugged horse. His first horse was not up to the rigors of such a life and before long was completely disabled. A church in Pittsfield, Illinois took up an offering for a "Missionary Horse." With this money Stephen Paxson purchased a horse that he wryly named "Robert Raikes." "Robert Raikes" carried Paxson for 25 years, over more than 100,000 miles of the Midwest. Even the horse became well-known and loved, and was referred to by the children as "Dear Old Bob."
"Robert Raikes" came to know Paxson's habits so well that he automatically stopped whenever he came to a child, and turned in at every church and school . Paxson's daughter reported, "Once a young man borrowed Old Bob to take a young lady out riding. He moved along in good style till he met the children coming home from school, and then stopped. The driver told him to 'Get up,' but Bob would not Move a peg. The young man flourished a whip, but Bob was evidently going to be obstinate. The children gathered around, much to the young man's discomfiture, but all at once he suspected what Bob was waiting for, so he made a little speech to the children, bade them 'Good-evening,' shook the lines, and passed on"

"Stuttering Stephen" Paxon was born crippled, and with a speech impediment. He was a "hatter" by trade and a favorite fiddler for Saturday night dances. When his daughter, Mary, begged him to attend Sunday School to help her win a prize, he found himself pressed into service to teach a class of boys. As they read scripture he asked questions out of a book. Later, after he accepted Christ, Paxon volunteered for Christian service and became a missionary of the American Sunday School Union.

Often he would return to the East to raise money for books needed to establish Sunday Schools. His sophisticated audiences would weep and laugh alternately, overlooking his grammatical mistakes. Then they would give liberally to help start Sunday Schools everywhere, in log cabins, tobacco barns, taverns, and dance halls.

The Mississippi Valley Enterprise was one of the most successful in the annals of Sunday School. In 1824 there were two million inhabitants unreached with the Gospel in that 1,300,000 square mile area. Led by Stephen Paxon and other missionaries working there, the American Sunday School Union established 61,297 Sunday Schools with 407,244 teachers and 2,650,784 pupils in fifty years (later, that total grew to four million.)

Stephen Paxon finally retired from the field to work in the St. Louis office. He died in 1881 with a personal record of founding 1,314 new Sunday Schools to teach an enrolled total of 83,000 students. Stephen Paxson, who in earlier days was well known as the pioneer Sunday_school Missionary of Illinois and Missouri, was the son of Joseph and Mary (Lester) Paxson, and was born Nov. 3, 1808, in New Lisbon, Ohio. The name was originally spelled with a T. The first representatives of the family in this country were three brothers who crossed the ocean from England during the Colonial days. Joseph Paxson was born in Virginia, and his wife, Mary, in Maryland. They were married in the Old Dominion, whence they removed to Columbiana, Ohio. They became the parents of seven children of whom Stephen was next to the youngest. The father died while these were young; her circumstances forced the mother to seek homes for her children among strangers. Each one became a child of Him who has made a special promise to the fatherless.

Through his own exertions Stephen Paxon secured an education, after mastering untold difficulties late in life, for he at the age of thirty years was scarcely able to read. He was early imbued with those sentiments of religion which inclined him to earnest effort in the Master's vineyard, and to strain every nerve in this field of labor. By his untiring energy he established over 1,300 Sunday_schools, by which means 80,000 children were brought under the influence of religious training. He became one of the most effective speakers in the land, holding spell_bound audiences in all the leading cities in the United States as he recited his experiences in the cause to which he had devoted his life.

To Stephen Paxson, Illinois is indebted for her admirable system of county and township Sunday School organization. He was the instigator of the first convention held in the State of Illinois, and frequently assembled mass_meetings in the groves, which were attended oftentimes by as many as 3,000 people. He was never lengthy or tiresome in his discourse; an earnest talk of thirty minutes was usually the time he employed to convince his hearers of the necessity and importance of this great work among the young. From his excessive labors grew the present county and township Sunday school organizations of the Prairie State.

At the seventh annual convention of Illinois Sunday_school workers held in Peoria in June, 1865. Mr. Paxson presented his views on this subject and urged the appointment of a special committee whose duty it should be to take the matter in hand and prosecute it throughout the State. His plan was seconded by D.L. Moody, Mr. Vincent and others, and unanimously adopted by the convention. Moreover a fund of $2,500 was raised on the spot. Those interested immediately went to work and never ceased their pious efforts until 102 counties of Illinois were thoroughly organized. The whole life of Mr. Paxson was devoted to religious labors, and thousands of hearts well nigh stood still when the telegram flashed over the country that "Father Paxson" was no more. His death occurred in may, 1881, and the long funeral train which followed his remains to their last resting place, attested more forcibly than words could do the estimation in which he was held by the people.

The lady now familiarly known in this county as Mrs. Belle (Paxson) Drury was graduated from the Methodist Female College at Jacksonville, in 1863. She continued in that institution as a teacher for a period of four years. Previous to becoming a student at Jacksonville she had pursued her studies at Monticello Seminary in Godfrey, Ill. Of her union with our subject there were born two children, a son and daughter, Frank E. June 11, 1869, and Edith, July 16, 1873. The former, a bright and promising young man, has just entered upon his junior year in the college at Jacksonville. Edith is pursuing a classical course in the Presbyterian Female Academy.

Mr. Drury is identified with the Presbyterian Church, in which he is a Deacon, while his wife is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Drury, politically, is an earnest Republican, and has held the office of Township Trustee for a number of years. Mr. Drury first visited the farm which later became and still continues his home, when a lad nine years of age, in company with his uncle and his mother, riding in a carriage once owned by Gen. LaFayette, and which he rode in while visiting this country in 1824. The General met with the misfortune of having his carriage overturned into the river, and its white silk linings were thereby very much damaged. Taking another, he proceeded on his journey, leaving orders to have his carriage sold, and the uncle of Mr. Drury purchased it.

To the parents of Mrs. Drury there were born eleven children, five of whom died in infancy: six are now living. William is a Presbyterian minister and Superintendent of the missions of the Sunday school Union for the Southwest, having under his supervision twenty_six men engaged in missionary labors. He usually spends his winters in the East lecturing in behalf of the mission. The mantle of his honored father has in a large measure descended upon him. Corey, the youngest brother, and also an evangelist, has for three years been the assistant of Dr. Pentecost in his pastoral work in the city of Brooklyn, N.Y. Frederick is a lawyer of note in the city of St. Louis, Mo.


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