A government shipwright at Chatham, he went to the government shipyard in Antigua in 1778. Being a local preacher, he became the leader of the society formed by Nathaniel Gilbert at St John's. Within three years it had grown from 30 to 600 members. He was appointed an 'Elder' at the Christmas Conference in Baltimore in 1784 and ordained by Thomas Coke the following summer. He was responsible for the building of the first Methodist chapel in the West Indies, in St. John's, Antigua in 1783. Before that the Methodists had rented or adapted premises since as far back as 1759/60. Essentially a pioneer worker, because of his extensive knowledge of the West Indies, he frequently accompanied Thomas Coke on his tours of the islands. The 'lady of some property' whom he married 'proved a helpmeet in his religious work'.
In 1788 Coke persuaded him to take charge of the Carib mission on St Vincent. Through his efforts a school-house was built, but the enterprise failed, mainly because of political disaffection, fostered by France, among the Caribs. Baxter returned to his work among the Negroes of Antigua, who knew him affectionately as 'Daddy Baxter', and, apart from one year's furlough, spent the rest of his life there.
'Mr Baxter preached for the first time in our own premises, on the 8th instant.'
Letter from Mary Gilbert to John Wesley, Antigua, November 20 1783
G.G. Findley and W.W. Holdsworth, History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, vol.2 (1921) pp. 32-40, 136
Entry written by: GRS
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