Rev. Thomas Burchell
Thomas Burchell (1799–1846) was a leading Baptist missionary and slavery abolitionist in Jamaica in the early 1800s. He is an iconic figure in Jamaican history, and is the 4th great grandfather of our Founder, Ray Matteson.
Thomas Burchell was among a group of early Baptist missionaries sent from England in 1824 to respond to requests from pioneer African Baptists for help establishing chapels and schools in Jamaica. He founded 10 churches, 7 schools and several infirmaries, ministering selflessly to thousands of slaves and freedmen alike.
He and other Baptists were persecuted after being accused of encouraging the Christmas Rebellion or Baptist War of 1831, a massive slave rebellion across the island. His original church, which he established in 1824, was torn down by a mob (but was later rebuilt in 1834 and the Burchell Memorial Church still stands in Montego Bay). He narrowly escaped death by fleeing offshore, was later imprisoned and tried for inciting a rebellion. His deacon, Sam Sharpe, an educated slave, was convicted of having a major role and was executed on May 23, 1832.
Burchell's work in Jamaica spanned 22 years, the most notable in the abolition movement in the colony. He witnessed slavery’s end in 1838. Many Jamaican parents still name their children Burchell – one of the most popular given or Christian names on the island.
We are guided by his example of humble, generous service to the people of Jamaica.