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This Day in Georgia History

December 16, 1769

Jesse Mercer Born

Prominent Baptist clergyman Jesse Mercer was born in Halifax County, North Carolina. The oldest of eight children, Mercer came to Georgia in 1773 with his family. Following in his father’s footsteps, he was ordained a Baptist minister in 1789. Mercer was an eloquent and moving speaker, and soon was noted throughout the region for his original sermons. He worked with the Georgia Baptist Association, primarily to encourage foreign missions. He was influential in the founding of the General Baptist Association for the State of Georgia, which later became the Georgia Baptist Convention; Mercer helped write the organization’s constitution, and was its first and only moderator until his death. Mercer brought the organization’s official news organ, the Christian Index, to Georgia from Philadelphia and served as its editor for seven years. Mercer also authored two volumes, a hymnal entitled A Cluster of Spiritual Songs and A History of the Georgia Baptist Association. Mercer remarried in 1827 ( his first wife and two infant daughters had died) to a wealthy widow. Through this inheritance he helped establish the Mercer Institute in Greene County in 1833. Largely through his work and financial donations, the school attained university status in 1837. Later, Mercer University was relocated to Macon and still exists as a testament to Mercer’s faith and generosity. He died September 6, 1841, and his body was laid to rest in a cemetery adjacent to the old university campus.