Gunn, Elisha

Variant last names: Gun
Birth: January 16, 1733 in Hatfield, MA
Death: March 17, 1769

New England Company; Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America




Interpreter; Gunsmith


Onaquaga (from 1759-06-21 to 1767)

Montague, MA

Marital status:

Married to Esther Gunn. They had at least three children.


Elisha Gunn was a gunsmith who resided in Onaquaga for a number of years and served as an interpreter for several different missionary societies. Although he was a well-known interpreter in missionary circles, there is little information about him. He is identified as a resident of Montague, MA, where his three children were born, but he and his family seem to have spent much of the 1760s living in Onaquaga. It is unclear where Gunn learned Haunenosaunee (Iroquois) languages, but his services were certainly in high demand: he was the interpreter over whom the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK and the Boston Board of the New England Company clashed in 1765. One of Wheelock's main goals was to train missionaries who could serve as their own interpreters, because he believed that existing interpreters were too scarce, too expensive, and too untrained in theology. What little we know of Gunn certainly supports Wheelock's arguments. He seems to have been one of the few available interpreters (if not the only one), his services cost the New England Company £50 sterling a year (more than three times Occom's salary at the same time), and his surviving letters show a reliance on extremely phonetic spelling and suggest a lack of formal education. NB: One genealogical website puts Gunn's birth year at 1723, a decade earlier. It would be easy for a researcher to mix 1723 and 1733, especially if the record is poorly written, and neither year is unreasonable.

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Berg and Frank Families. Accessed 8/27/2013. Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Cushing, Christopher. “What Congregationalism Has Accomplished During the Past Century.” In The Congregational Quarterly, Volume 18, Christopher Cushing ed. Boston: American Congregational Union, 1876. Pp. 537-561. Accessed via Google Books 8/27/ "Elisha Gunn (1733-1769)." Accessed 8/27/2013. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932. RootsWeb. “BANFILL-BUCK-HAWKINS-PIKE-PERRINE.” Accessed 8/27/2013. Sullivan, James ed. The Papers of Sir William Johnson Vol. 3. Albany: The State University of New York 1921. Accessed via Google Books 8/27/2013.