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Abolitionist Missionary - Evan Jones (1788-1872)

“Big men make big mistakes.” So goes a common adage. Whether or not Baptist missionary Evan Jones made big mistakes, he certainly made lots of them. Quarrels—big quarrels—strode through life with Jones like an unshakable plague. So did accusations of financial, political, ecclesiastical, and moral misconduct, including adultery and murder. His legions of foes, at various times, included the U.S. Government, the Cherokee Treaty Party, Presbyterian missionaries including Samuel Worcester, his own Baptist Mission Board, successive Cherokee Principal Chiefs, and white men opposing the Christian faith in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the Cherokees Jones so loved.

Yet, examining the issues animating those conflicts usually reveals strong, if controversial, grounds for the positions Jones took. In the end, he lived amongst and served the Cherokees he loved for half a century. That his son John, acquainted with him from birth, followed in his footsteps, with nearly as enormous an impact, itself speaks to the power and Christian conviction of Evan Jones’s private character. Father and son converted more Indigenous people to the Christian faith than any other missionaries.

Serving Full Bloods

Jones’s accomplishments loom all the more remarkable when considering he began his earthly life across an ocean in Wales, spent 13 years as a London merchant, and did not take up the gospel ministry until 33 years of age, nearly the life expectancy of a white man in that era of America. He threw himself into the cause of the Cherokees with all the formidable passion and intellect he possessed. He pastored, founded new churches, learned the tribe’s language, translated entire books of the Bible into it, and defended the Cherokees’ cause against any of the vast suspects he perceived to threaten it.