Melville B. Cox (1799 – 1833)

Written By Dr. Troy L. Kickler, Kelly Lester

A minister at Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh, Melville Cox left his post in 1831 to travel to Liberia.  There, he served as the first Methodist missionary from the United States to a foreign country.

Cox landed in Liberia in 1883.  Upon arrival in Liberia, the missionary established a Sunday school, a Methodist Church, and summoned conferences.  Although a Wesleyan University student warned Cox regarding the contagiousness and deadly nature of malaria, the Methodist missionary remained intent on his goals in Africa. Only five months into his missionary work, Cox contracted the disease. Before his death, Cox requested the student to write his epitaph: “Let a thousand die, before Africa be given up!”  Before his death, Cox managed to write Sketches of West Africa—an account of  his interactions with Liberians and his quest to establish a Methodist church.

A monument outside of Edenton Street Methodist Church (Raleigh) summarizes Cox’s work and his dedication to education and the Liberian nation.