HOPPER, JOHN ELISHA PECK, educator, Baptist minister, publisher, editor, and author; b. 18 Dec. 1841 in Coverdale Parish, N.B.; m. 22 Aug. 1867 Emma Smith, and they had at least seven children; d. 12 Jan. 1895 in Saint John, N.B.
John Elisha Peck Hopper was the son of Robert Hopper, whose father came from Yorkshire, England, and was amongst the earliest settlers of New Brunswick. His mother, Sarah Peck, was a descendant of Puritans in New England. Hopper received his early education at the New Brunswick Baptist Seminary in Fredericton and subsequently taught school. In 1859 he entered Acadia College. After spending his junior year at Madison University in Hamilton, N.Y., he graduated from Acadia in 1862. He then supplemented his theological studies at Regent’s Park College in London.
In 1864–65 Hopper preached in Shediac, Petitcodiac, and Sussex Parish, N.B. He returned to the New Brunswick Baptist Seminary in 1865, this time as associate principal and professor. A non-denominational institution, the seminary had been established in 1835 to promote Christian values and, by providing an educated leadership, to perpetuate the Baptist faith [see Frederick William Miles*]. In 1866 Hopper became principal and during his three-year term he was ordained, in September 1868. His first charge was the newly founded Queen Street Baptist Church in Fredericton. Through his influence this congregation united with the Brunswick Street Baptist Church in May 1869.
That summer Hopper preached to Baptists at St Stephen (St Stephen-Milltown) and was asked, and agreed, to stay on as minister. A Sunday school was started and a church building completed in January 1870. Hopper resigned in 1872 because of ill health and took over the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in Burlington, Iowa. There he remained until 1878, at which time he purchased a half-interest in and became editor of the Christian Visitor, published in Saint John. He would remain editor until 1884. In 1878 he also published and edited the Youth’s Visitor, a Sunday-school paper for children. The following year he purchased the other half-interest in the Christian Visitor and under his ownership the business expanded. From 1879 to 1882 he edited the Gem, a Sunday paper, and for some years after 1881 he both edited and published the Canadian Record, a journal concerned with secular, missionary, and temperance affairs. In addition, he published the International Sunday-school lessons.
In August 1880 Hopper accepted the “oversight” of the Brussels Street Baptist Church in Saint John. The term “oversight” was employed rather than pastorate because his responsibilities were reduced, mainly in the area of visiting the congregation and attending meetings of church groups. The state of his health led him to resign three times during his term, and he left finally in March 1887. In 1882 he had reorganized the way in which funds were raised for the church; his system is still in operation.
In 1887 Hopper became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sacramento, Calif. He remained in this position until June 1889, when he returned to New Brunswick to become principal of the Union Baptist Seminary in St Martins. He worked tirelessly for the school, retiring a large part of its debt, but the strain was too much for him. He resigned in March 1892 and returned to Saint John to recuperate. He passed away on 12 Jan. 1895.
Hopper had been active in a number of Baptist associations. He served in various capacities but principally on committees dealing with education, Sunday schools, and foreign and home missions. His newspaper and other literary activities had been undertaken to advance the Baptist faith and to promote the theological school at Acadia College. His encouragement of and direct involvement in Sunday-school literature grew out of his concern that Baptists were purchasing materials from such sources as the Religious Tract Society and not from Baptist organizations. Hopper wrote several books, all of which dealt with religion and one of which was a manual for Baptist churches.
John Elisha Peck Hopper is the author of Ecce agnus dei: a reply to Ecce homo (Saint John, N.B., 1879); Life in the hereafter world: or, “Shall we know each other there?” (Saint John, 1894), a second edition of which appeared the same year as The hereafter life: and, “Shall we know each other there?”; 1492 and 1892; the world’s political, intellectual and religious struggle for 400 years (Halifax, 1894); and Recognition of friends in heaven (Saint John, 1894). He is also the compiler of the Manual for Baptist churches: including polity, articles of faith, ecclesiastical forms, rules of order, formulae for marriages, funerals, laying corner stones and dedication of churches (Saint John, 1894).
Atlantic Baptist Hist. Coll., Acadia Univ. (Wolfville, N.S.), Fredericton, Brunswick Street United Baptist Church, records of Fredericton Baptist Church, 1844–80. Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Baptist year book (Halifax), 1895: 94–95. New Brunswick Western Baptist Assoc., Minutes (Fredericton; Saint John), 1848–92. Seminary Bema (St Martins, N.B.), 1 (1889–90)–2 (1890–91) (partial holdings at Atlantic Baptist Hist. Coll.). The Acadia record, 1838–1953, comp. Watson Kirkconnell (4th ed., Wolfville, 1953). Union Baptist Seminary, Calendar (St Martins), 1889/90–92/93. The Central United Baptist Church at Saint John, N.B. (1850–1950) . . . , ed. P. H. Prebble (Saint John, 1950). H. G. Davis, The history of the Brunswick Street United Baptist Church . . . (Fredericton, 1964). 1869–1969: 100th anniversary, Union Street United Baptist Church, St. Stephen, N.B. ([St Stephen (St Stephen-Milltown), 1969]). Terry Hopper, “John Elias Peck Hopper” (essay presented in J. K. Zeman’s course in church history, Acadia Divinity College, Acadia Univ., 1986). One hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary, Brunswick Street Baptist Church, Fredericton, N.B., 1814–1939 (Fredericton, 1939). E. M. Saunders, History of the Baptists of the Maritime provinces (Halifax, 1902). A. A. Trites, “The New Brunswick Baptist Seminary, 1833–1895,” Repent and believe: the Baptist experience in Maritime Canada, ed. B. M. Moody (Hantsport, N.S., 1980), 103–23. R. B. Wallace, “Some historical data of the Brunswick Street Baptist Church in Fredericton,” Maritime Advocate and Busy East (Sackville, N.B.), 35 (1944–45), no.12: 5–11, 28–29.