Biography - George Keith
Keith was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1638 and was reared in the Quaker Church. As an adult, he joined the Church of England and was ordained by that body in 1700. In 1702, he became the first missionary sent to America by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; there he laid the groundwork for the mission effort that was carried on in the colonies until the Revolutionary War. Keith returned to England in 1704 and became the rector at Edburton, Sussex, where he died in 1716.
Biography - Thomas Thompson
Thompson was born ca. 1708 in Gilling, Yorkshire. He graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1732, and also received an M.A. from the same institution in 1735. The next few years saw Thompson's steady rise through the ranks of Deacon, Priest, Bishop, Junior Dean of Cambridge, and then Senior dean. In 1744, he resigned his comfortable position to become a missionary and was sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to Monmouth County, New Jersey. Here, he took a special interest in the slaves, which prompted his request to begin mission work in Africa, and in 1751 he became the first S.P.G. missionary to the Gold Coast. He resigned this post in 1756 for reasons of ill health. Two months before his resignation, he sent three young boys from Africa to England for education; one of these was Philip Quaque who in 1765 became the first non-European to be ordained to the Church of England ministry. (See also collection 151, Papers of Philip Quaque.) Thompson served several parishes in England after his return from Africa and was vicar in Elham, Kent, when he died on June 5, 1773.
Scope and Content
The reel of microfilm contains the ninety-two-page tome (title page missions) of Keith's missionary exploits and the eighty-nine-page work of Thompson, An ACCOUNT of Two Missionary Voyages by the appointment of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The one to NEW JERSEY in NORTH AMERICA, the other from AMERICA to the Coast of GUINEY. Keith's printed journal covers the time from his embarking for America on April 28, 1702, to his return to England on August 14, 1704. It covers his experiences preaching in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Mention is made of his interaction with Increase Mather and with Samuel Willard, president of Harvard College. A good portion of the journal is taken up with Keith's denouncement of Quaker heresy.
Thompson's ACCOUNT was first published in 1758, when at least five hundred copies were known to exist. It was unknown to the S.P.G. for decades until it was rediscovered in the Rutgers University Library. The microfilm was done from a facsimile copy published in 1937. The book's title gives a good explanation of its contents; of special note is Thompson's painstaking effort to record African culture as he first encountered it.
The materials for this collection were purchased by the Center.
No Accession #
October 8, 1980Galen Wilson
Reel 1 - S.P.G. Missionary Records: Journals of George Keith (1638-1716) and Thomas Thompson (1708-1773). Positive copy, 35mm.