Heroes of the Faith: John Gibson Paton

John Gibson Paton greatly improved life in his missionary work in the South Pacific.

John Gibson Paton

He was born on May 24, 1824 in Braehead, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He was the oldest of eleven children born to James and Janet Paton.

At the age of twelve, he began to learn his father’s stocking manufacturing business. He worked fourteen hour days beside his father and continued to study two hours a day, while eating his meals.

His father was a witness to a Christian life and would go three times a day to his prayer closet and lead the family twice a day in prayers.

As a young man, Paton felt God calling him into missionary service. On March 23, 1858 he was ordained by the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

John Gibson Paton with family

On April 2, 1858 he married Mary Ann Robinson. Two weeks later, the couple sailed for the South Pacific. He later wrote of the touching goodbye between him and his father.

The couple arrived in the New Hebrides on November 5, 1858. They served the natives of Tanna, who were cannibals. The missionary couple were surrounded by “painted savages who were enveloped in the superstitions and cruelties of heathenism at its worst. The men and children went about in a state of nudity while the women wore abbreviated grass or leaf aprons.”

On February 12, 1859 their son, Peter Robert Robson, was born. Three weeks later, Mary lay in her grave from a tropical fever. Their son followed at thirty-six days of age. He would spend his nights sleeping at their graves to protect them from the cannibals.

John Gibson Paton

He continued his missionary work until it became unsafe and he was rescued. He then went to Australia and later returned ot Scotland. He raised money for missions and to build a mission steamship.

While in Scotland, he married Margaret Whitecross on June 17, 1864.

The couple returned to New Hebrides in August 1866. He established a new mission station and built houses for his family and the orphan children. Later, a church, a printing house, and other buildings were erected.

While there, six of their ten children were born. Sadly, four of the children died young.

“John learned the language and reduced it to writing. Maggie taught a class of about fifty women and girls who became experts at sewing, singing and plaiting hats, and reading. They trained the teachers, translated and printed and expounded the Scriptures, ministered to the sick and dying, dispensed medicines every day, taught them the use of tools, held worship services every Lord’s Day and sent native teachers to all the villages to preach the gospel.

John Gibson Paton

Enduring many years of deprivation, danger from natives and disease, they continued with their work and after many years of patient ministry, the entire island of Aniwa professed Christianity. In 1899 he saw his Aniwa New Testament printed and the establishment of missionaries on twenty five of the thirty islands of the New Hebrides.”

Paton later wrote his life story, Missionary Patriarch: The True Story of John G. Paton.

Maggie Paton died on May 16, 1905 and John Paton followed her on January 28, 1907. They are both buried in Victoria, Australia where they were living at the time of their deaths.

In 1996, a plaque was erected at the grave of Mary Paton and their son, Peter.


John Gibson Paton endured deprivation and disease to take the gospel to the cannibals of the South Pacific #faithfulheroes #heroesofthefaith Click To Tweet


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