Page, part of the Jan and Larry Rhodes Family site, updated 9 October 2009.

Reverend Lee and Susannah Voysey Compere

Compiled by Janet Compere Rhodes

Notes and Sources are presented as end notes. To read them as you proceed, click on note numbers within the text.

Reverend Lee and Susanah Voysey Compere were my great-great-grandparents. A copy of the page on which the article appeared was sent to me by Betty Stewart, a fellow Compere descendant and researcher. It has also been digitized by Google Books (search Lee Compeer), and may be viewed there along with references to him in many other works. Spelling of names was within the purview of the writer, as to a lesser extent it continues today. A search of Google Books for Lee Compere will yield even more references.

DESIGNATION of a MISSIONARYNote 1

Mr. Lee Compeer, a Baptist Missionary, about to proceed to the West Indies, to instruct the slaves upon the estate of a humble and benevolent gentleman, was publicly set apart to that work on Wednesday evening, Oct. 18 [1815] at Mr. Shenstone’s meeting Little Ailie-street, London. Mr. King, of Halsted, (Mr. Compeer’s pastor) began the service by reading the scriptures and prayer. Mr. Ivimey delivered an introductory discourse upon the importance of missions to the heathen, founded upon 1 John v. 19; asked Mr. Compeer the usual questions and received his answers. Mr. Roberts of Bristol, prayed for the missionary, accompanied by impostion of hands. Dr. Ryland, of Bristol, delivered a sermon and instructive charge from 1 Cor. ix. 19, 22, 23. Mr. Shenstone concluded in prayer, after presenting Mr. and Mrs. Compeer, each with a Bible; the former, from the children belonging to the Sunday school at Halsted, as a tribute of respect to Mr. Compeer, who had been one of their teachers; requesting him to employ it for the use of the negro children of his congregation.

Here is a brief biography centered around his mission in Jamaica.

LEE COMPERE.Note 2

The second missionary sent to this island was Mr. Lee Compere, a member of the church at Halstead, in Essex, to occupy a station corresponding with Mr. Rowe's idea of the most favourable spot for spreading the gospel among the slaves. Mr. and Mrs. Compere sailed from Bristol, Nov. 21st, 1815, accompanied by two members of Broadmead, who were regarded as skilful in the management of Sunday schools. He at first settled down near Old Harbour; but on the pressing invitation of the negro Baptists, who amounted to several thousands, he removed to Kingston; but in consequence of their circumstances as slaves, their ignorance and disorderly conduct, he found only about 200 to whom he could administer the Lord's Supper. Yet even under his careful selection they had increased to 400 by the end of the month; and on three or four estates a revival of religion had commenced. On Lord's Day afternoon, July 28th, 1816, the congregation appeared to be exceedingly affected under the Word, which excited him to pray more earnestly for Divine influences on himself and his people. “I felt,” says he, “as I never felt before, while speaking of the sufferings of the Redeemer. I could willingly have died in the pulpit, I enjoyed an unusual freedom of utterance, accompanied with an agonizing desire of plucking souls as brands from the everlasting burnings. In this frame I continued till my attention was arrested by the appearance of my audience. Many appeared exceedingly impressed, and the greater part were in tears. After the evening service, I was so fatigued that I was obliged to go very early to rest. This has been a distressing week. Mr. Bingar, the Methodist missionary, who got a licence to preach in Kingston at the same time that I did, has exchanged worlds. How wonderful are the ways of God! He just allowed this young man to surmount the opposition that was made to him (he had been twice refused a licence), and then He took him to Himself. I think I feel this removal of one of the labourers out of the Lord's vineyard as much as any of their own missionaries can do. Do pray for us, and send us speedily as much help as you can.” The labours of Mr. Compere brought on sickness; hence he writes, under date of October 7th, 1816: — “Through the good providence of God I am still on this side the grave. How long this will be the case I cannot tell. I am growing very weak, and have had some indisposition, which makes me think it may not be long. But I wish to leave it in the Lord's hands. Whatever is his will is certainly best, and ought to be mine. I trust, whether I live or die, that I am his, redeemed from all iniquity by the precious blood of the Lamb. Under this impression, I seem to have little concern for myself, whether I live or die. I hope, if I live, I shall live unto the Lord, and if I die, I shall die to Him.” In a letter dated January 8th, 1817, he made an urgent appeal to the Committee to send out more help. Two days before this he had baptized fifty persons; “and here are,” says he, “many souls continually heaving a sigh to England and in the broken language continually crying out, ‘O buckra, buckra, no one care for poor black man's soul! Buckra know God in England. O buckra, come over that great big water, and instruct me, poor black negro!’”
Mr. Compere, becoming debilitated, resolved on departing to America, where he was afterwards usefully employed among the Indians in Georgia.

The following is a transcription of a photocopy of a manually typewritten document, which appears to be a transcription of two articles from 12 and 19 December 1878 issues of a publication called The Texas Baptist. The author's name, who was apparently a contemporary missionary with Lee Compere, is not given. The punctuation variances lead one to wonder if the first transcriber was responsible, or if the original publication contained them. What other errors might there be?

This article appeared in The Texas Baptist,
issues of December 12 and 19, 1878

THIRTY YEARS AMONG THE INDIANS
(New Series.)

Chapter I

Rev. Lee Compere and his wife, Susannah


 “There are others truly noble,
   Who have known not fame or praise,
But here lived unknown, uncared for,
   Helping all their days;
Better than the warrior's oak-wreath,
   Or the laurel-leaves of Fame,
Is the crown they win in Heaven,
   Though the world knows not their name.”
 
Eternity alone will reveal – for time cannot – the toils, sacrifices, suffering, and ultimate success of the Rev. Lee Compere and his heroic wife in introducing the Gospel among the Creek Indians and their slaves, in the “old nation” before their removal west of the Mississippi. Hitherto I have not written of these two missionaries of blessed memory because my library and all my manuscripts were taken from me in the late war of States and I have been profoundly conscious that, from the lack of known and published facts, I could never do justice to their revered memories. All I have written heretofore on the introduction of the Gospel has had reference to this country, and not to Georgia or Alabama.
One of their devoted sons, Rev. E. L. Compere, from whom I have sought information, wrote to me some time since, saying: “It will be impossible at this date for any one to say much about the labors of Lee and Susannah Compere in planting the Gospel among the negroes of Jamaica, the Creek Indians of Alabama and the frontier settlers of the Gulf States.” The reason so little is known of these worthy missionaries is explained in the same letter by the following quotation: “Lee Compere's whole soul was in the work of spreading the Gospel – as he used say so often – that ‘poor sinners may be saved’. Although his persecutions, privations, and unceasing labors for the Gospel were abundant, and his writings were abundant, too; still he wrote nothing of himself. He burned many valuable papers lest his work should be overestimated when he was dead. He always called himself ‘a poor sinner saved through mercy,’ and felt that sinners had nothing of themselves to glory in; hence, he wrote nothing of himself nor of our mother.”
I know full well how to appreciate this feeling; but the world would be far better off today had he kept a journal and suffered it to be printed for our instruction. Brother Compere was modest and thought too little of his own writings, hence, instead of having his manuscripts published under his own supervision, he gave them to others, and doubtless much of Col. Pickett's account of the Creek Indians, as given in his excellent History of Alabama, is taken from them. Col. Pickett, in 1851, had the manuscript notes of Rev. Lee Compere in his possession, and quotes from them. From this history, Vol. I, page 82, I learn that Rev. Lee Compere was born in England on Nov. 3rd, 1790. He came to South Carolina in 1817. The Baptist Missionary Board of the General Convention sent him as a missionary to the Creek Nation in 1822. He and his wife, who was an English lady, resided at Tookabatcha six years. Mr. Compere made but little progress towards the conversion of the Creeks, owing to the opposition of the chiefs to the abolition of primitive customs. He was a learned man and a respectable writer.”[sic] He wrote 131 pages on the vocabulary of the Creek language, including the Lord's Prayer in that language, all of which were published in the 11th volume of “Translation of the American Antiquarian Society,” Cambridge, 1830, which is inaccessible to the writer. He and Sister Compere translated into the Creek language several beautiful hymns and choruses that were sung by the negroes when I first came to the nation.
REV. LEE COMPERE AND THE BIG-WARRIOR

In 1822, the Big-Warrior, who then ruled the “upper-Creek towns”, related his traditional history of the Creeks – going further back than Milford or any other historian – taking them even from Asia, bringing them over the Pacific, landing them near the Isthmus of Darion, and conducting them thence to Alabama. “My ancestors,” said Big-Warrior, “were a mighty people. After they reached the waters of the Alabama and took possession of all this country, they went further – conquered the tribes upon the Chattahooche, and upon all the rivers from thence to the Savannah – yes, and even whipped the Indians then living in the territory of South Carolina, and wrested much to the country from them.” The Big-Warrior concluded with this sentence with great exultation, when Brother Compere, to whom he was speaking, interposed an unfortunate question: “If this is the way your ancestors acquired all this territory, now lying in Georgia, how can you blame the American population in that State for endeavoring to take it from you?” Never after that could Brother Compere extract another item of Creek history or tradition from the Big-Warrior.”[sic] (Pickett's History of Alabama, Vol. 1, p. 82.)Note 3
In all my travels as a missionary through that country I have tried by inquiring of the eldest people, to obtain reminiscences of Brother Compere; but the Indians of those times cared so little for Christianity, and so few of them remember that far back, that I have obtained but little information concerning him and his labors in that way. I am well acquainted with a Creek Baptist who was born about the time the Creeks whipped so many negroes for joining the church - of which I will make special mention in its proper place - and he is named Harper Compere, his parents having thus named him out of affection for the missionary. Capt. J. M. G. Smith, a member of Council, who was killed a few years since, frequently told me that he was educated by old Brother Compere, who taught a Baptist mission-school in Tookabatcha town, in the old nation. However, Capt. Smith never became a member of any church. Last week I was visited by old Brother Prince – a freed-man – who in Brother Compere's time belonged to George Kernel's and who outlived five masters before he became free. This old brother informed me that Brother Compere baptized him and fifteen other negroes just before leaving the nation. He also baptized Anna Kernels who was the first Creek Indian that ever joined the church. The Creeks never seemed to care how their slaves worshiped God, as long as their own people clung to the tradition of their fathers. They supposed that Christianity was good enough for white people and negroes; but the the [sic] Great Spirit had given his red children a religion far superior to that. Hence when Anna Kernels was baptized they determined to make an example of all the negroes that were Christians by whipping them in the most cruel manner.
Like most missionaries, Brother Compere failed to get much of the salary due him, and had to spend at least $1,200 of his own private means for the support of his family, as well as for keeping up the Baptist mission school that he conducted in Tookabatcha town. After he returned from Jamaica to South Carolina, and before going as a missionary to the Creeks, he “prospered in basket and in store, and in favor with those excellent South Carolina Baptists, till the time had come when American Baptists thought that the Gospel should be sent even to the Maskoke Indians.”
During the six years spent as missionaries to the Indians, two children were born to Brother and Sister Compere, and were named by Indian Chiefs. Susan Maskoke (pronounced by white people Muskogee) and Ton Hechickee (pronounced by white people Thomas Hechigah.) I give the Indian pronunciation as distinguished form ours, both for the sake of accuracy and for historical reasons.

Rev. T. H. Compere's name has an interesting history, which the chief who gave it to him doubtless understood very well; but which is marred by the imperfect Indian orghography [orthography?] of General Oglethorpe, copied in our excellent Sunday-school paper, Kind Words, for December 8th, 1875. The original Ton Hechickee was the first chief or Maskoke king the English ever knew, and went to England with General Oglethorpe in 1734. He died in 1739, aged 97, and was buried in Courthouse square, at Savannah, Georgia.
SUSANNAH COMPERE.

The wife of Lee Compere, as well as the sainted mother of Elders E. L. and T. H. Compere, was born of wealthy parents in the City of London; and though she has been dead over forty years, she still lives in her most useful children, and he works do follow her. Though we see not her face, nor yet hear her voice, she is not lost. For –
 “Though no sound our ears can reach,
There comes a spiritual speech,
   From that far shore.
It bids us hope and toil in faith,
And to the doubting soul it saith,
‘Soon shall ye reach the heavenly plain,
And see your loved and lost again,
   But lost no more.’”
 
Though brought up in the lap of luxury, a stranger to privation and want, she gave up all to become a missionary with her husband to the poor negroes of Jamaica. There, with her husband, she endured privation and afflictions till life was almost gone; and it was because of her fast declining health that they determined to remove to South Carolina.Note 4 When they taught the school among the Creeks, Brother Compere's sister, together with Rev. Mr. Simmons, afterwards a Missionary to Burma, assisted them. When Brother Compere used to travel and preach at other places of Sundays, Sister Compere would conduct religious services for the negroes in the chapel at home. She did not assume to be a preacher, as some women do in modern times, neither did she take her husband's place. She knew her own place; but being anxious to do what she could, she was to her husband a real helper in the Gospel. She was a sweet singer, and used that gift in praising her Redeemer, and in teaching the poor slaves to sing Gospel songs; and on Sundays she taught them to read the Bible. She also led in prayer in connection with other religious services. Though she haad been delicately raised – as her parents were wealthy – and though she had four or five young children of her own to care for, still she found time for this work. She was not merely an assistant, but the leader in those devotional meetings. One or two of her choruses, as translated by the assistance of the pious negroes whom she taught, are still extant, and are frequently sung in our revival meetings to this day. Of course there is little poetry in them, for the Creek language will not admit of poetry; but they are full of Jesus and the Gospel. I will give a specimen of one verse of the songs they sung in her day:
 Mokosapa toe yachkat,
Oketut awolichin; lathlanise.
Jesus ohlof kawopkeketee
Pasomechateluntose.
 
Literal translation:

 Christian friend,
The time is drawing nigh; I am going;
    When Jesus died, had he not risen,
    Poor sinners would have been lost forever.
 
This is as near a translation as can be given in English; but much is necessarily lost in any literal translation from Creek into English. It is very forcible in their language, and contains the Gospel idea that Christ's resurrection was as necessary to our salvation as was his death.
THE FIRST CREEK PERSECUTION

As long as the Creek negores kept their religion to themselves, and made no creek proselytes, there were unmolested; but as soon as Brother Compere baptized Anna Kernels and John Davis, the determined to put a stop to this “new religion.” Old Brother Prince, of whom mention has been made, and perhaps the only man living here who has a peronal recollection of those times, says it was either the Big-Warrior himself, or else Hopo’thle Yahala that gave orders for all the negroes to be whipped that attended Christian meetings. Brother E. L. Compere's account is as follows: "The Indians got tired of their slaves having so much religion, and determined to begin the work of persecution right in the mission yard. Accordingly a large number of them agreed on a plan. They were to get drunk, and come on a Sabbath when they knew my father would be absent, and whip the negroes. Of course, no one thought of this wicked and cruel plan but themselves. Hence, when all were happy in their religious services, one Sabbath-day, and when my mother had just given out these lines:
 “Venture on Him, venture wholly;
Let no other trust intrude,”
 
it was discovered that the yard was full of drunk Indians; and the worshipers knew that they were to suffer in some way. Some of the leading men among the negroes went to my mother and asked what they should do. She told them not to resist, as they were now to suffer as Christians; but to bear all patiently for Christ's sake. This they did; and 300 of them were tied up and whipped. My mother owned two most excellent servants who loved her very much; they were Uncle Hiram and his wife Aunt Esther. Seeing my mother was in much distress, and uncertain what the result might be, Uncle Hiram – ready to die for his mistress – stepped to her side and said: “Missus, madam, don't be afraid, madam; you jis say de word, madam, and I cuts down dem drunk Injuns jes like chickens, madam.” But she said, “No, Hiram, Christ suffered for us, and we must be willing to suffer for him.” No one can picture the horror of this whipping of negroes but those who have witnessed the old Creek method, as I have, and as it is faintly sketched in the account I have give of the whipping of Brother Jesse, in my biography of the native preachers. And much less can any one picture the Christian heroism of Sister Susannah Compere on that occasion. Blessed woman! Well may thy sons and daughters be proud of such a mother; and well might I so long hesitate to take up such a narrative, knowing the inability of any man's pen to do the subject justice. Eternity alone can reveal the worth of such a mother. And then, too, the picture of Hiram, ready to die for his “missus”, speaks of a dear relationship that has been broken up by the disasters of a cruel war.

Here is a representation of a published picture:Note 5

Lee and Sarah Compere

The picture appears on a page with others identified as religious leaders; and is captioned “Rev. Lee Compere and wife, pioneer Baptist missionary and preacher.” It is believed that the woman pictured is Sarah Beck, Lee's second wife. His grave is in the Hamilton-Beaman Cemetery in Retreat, Navarro County, Texas.

Lee Compere Headstone

  1. The Baptist Magazine 1815; London: Printed by J. Barfield, 91, Wardour Street, Soho; Page 484. [Digitized by Google and available online through Google Books]
  2. Clark, John, W. Dendy and J. M. Phillippo; The Voice of Jubilee: A Narrative of the Baptist Mission, Jamaica; London: John Snow, Paternoster Row, 1865; Pages 146-147. [Digitized by Google and available on line through Google Books.]
  3. Google has digitized History of Alabama by Pickett; and it is available on line through Google Books. The passage cited for this paragraph was helpful in deciphering the text.
  4. Other sources state that Lee's failing health sent them away from Jamaica. See The Voice of Jubilee citation preceding, as well as Aunt Jane's Letter, page 8.
  5. Owen, Thomas M. and Marie Bankhead Owen, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Vol. 1; Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921; Page 257. [Digitized by Google and available online through Google Books]

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