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John Alexander Meek (1791?–1863)

A doctor, minister, and landowner, John Alexander Meek was one of the leaders in establishing Baptist churches. He is credited by The Baptist Encyclopedia as being the founder of nearly all of the early Baptist churches in south Arkansas and north Louisiana.

John Meek was likely born on April 16, 1791 (though some records show the years 1790 and 1792), in Laurens County, South Carolina, the sixth of seven children, three of whom became ministers and medical doctors. Details of his early education and medical training are not known.

Meek married Sarah “Sally” Spraggins on December 12, 1809, in Abbeville District, South Carolina. Sally Meek died on December 13, 1825, in Laurens County; two of their five children also died that same year, all from causes unknown. Meek soon married again, this time to Frances Elizabeth Forney Webb, a widow with six children, and together they had five children.

Originally a Methodist, Meek left that denomination after the Methodists’ 1834 Baltimore Conference—apparently differing with the Methodists over the issue of abolition, which he opposed—and became a Baptist. In 1837, he was ordained a Baptist minister.

In 1840, James Madison Meek, his twenty-six-year old son, moved to what would become Dallas County, Arkansas, staying just a short time before moving on to Union County. He wrote many letters praising that area in glowing terms, so in 1840, Meek and his family moved to Arkansas with three sons and one daughter and quickly became a prominent leader around Three Creeks and El Dorado, both in Union County.

On January 4, 1845, his second wife died. Shortly after that, Meek took Eliza Jane Vincent as his third wife, and they had two children. He supported his family by practicing medicine, but he gave a great deal of time to church work. That same year, Meek became one of the founders of the First Baptist Church in El Dorado and served for a time as its pastor. His portrait hangs today in the foyer of that church. Reverend William Spraggins Meek, his oldest son, followed his father as pastor in 1850 and also served again from 1852 to 1854.

Meek died in Warren (Bradley County) on December 18, 1873, while visiting his son. Because the roads were impassable that winter, he could not be returned home for interment, and thus his burial place has not been conclusively determined.

For additional information:
Campbell, Mrs. Thomas, ed. “Two Letters of the Meek Family, Union County, 1842 and 1845.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 15 (Autumn 1956): 260–266.

Cathcart, William, ed. The Baptist Encyclopedia. 2 vols. Rev. edition. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883.

Rogers, J. S. History of Arkansas Baptists. Little Rock: The Executive Board of Arkansas State Baptist Convention, 1948.

 Carolyn Meek Nelson
Fort Smith, Arkansas

Last Updated 1/26/2007

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