On this day in 1849, Joseph Merrick, a Jamaican Baptist missionary who established the first successful mission on the Cameroon coast of Africa, died.

Merrick began preaching in 1837 in Jamaica and was ordained a full missionary in 1838.  In 1842, missionaries with the Baptist Missionary Society of London sought out Jamaican lay missionaries to join them on an expedition to the Cameroon coast. Merrick signed on.  

In 1844, Merrick visited Bimbia and spoke to King William of the Isubu people to request permission to establish a church on the mainland. Despite some initial resistance, the king acquiesced. Merrick founded the Jubilee Mission in 1845 and over the next four to five years, translated parts of the New Testament into the Isubu language, set up a brick-making machine and a printing press, and used the latter to publish his Bible translation and a textbook for teaching in Isubu. Merrick made excursions into the interior, as when he climbed Mount Cameroon and when he became the first non-African to visit the Bakoko people.

In 1849, Merrick was in ill health. He set off for England on furlough, but died at sea.  On Merrick’s death, Joseph Jackson Fuller took charge of the mission station and congregation at Bimbia. Merrick’s efforts also paved the way for Alfred Saker to make further progress – he made use of Merrick’s printing press to translate and print the Bible in Duala.  Joseph Merrick Baptist College in Ndu, Northwest Province, Cameroon, is named for him.

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