1837 – 1881
“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.