Whitaker, Nathaniel

Variant last names: Wittaker; Whittaker; Whetaker
honorificReverend; Doctor
Birth: February 22, 1732 in Huntington, Long Island
Death: January 21, 1795 in Hampton, VA
Affiliation:

Presbyterian Church; College of New Jersey; Board of Correspondents in the Colony of Connecticut of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School

Education:

College of New Jersey 1752, Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Saint Andrews (1767) and Dartmouth (1780)

Faith:

Presbyterian

Nationality:

Anglo-American

Occupation:

Minister

Residence:

Woodbridge, NJ (from 1755 to 1760)

Chelsea, CT (from 1761-02-25 to 1769)

Salem, MA (from 1769 to 1784)

Canaan, ME (from 1784-09-10 to 1790)

Tauntun, MA (from 1790)

Events:

1765: Left on a two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of the British Isles with Samson Occom. They raised over twelve thousand pounds for Wheelock's Indian Charity School, but Whitaker attracted controversy with his difficult personality.

Marital status:

Married Sarah Smith. The two had seven or eight children. One of them, James Whitaker, went to school with Wheelock while his father was in Britain.

Biography:

Nathaniel Whitaker was an outspoken Presbyterian minister with a long and wide-ranging career. Between his ordination in 1755 and his death in 1795, Whitaker ministered to five different congregations. His longest tenure was at Chelsea, CT (near Norwich), from 1761-1769, during which he joined Occom on his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Britain. While in Chelsea, Whitaker was very involved in Wheelock's project. The two engaged in frequent correspondence, and Whitaker served on Eleazar Wheelock's Board of Correspondents in Connecticut, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School. At one time, he was Wheelock's presumed successor, but Dartmouth's Trustees demanded that Wheelock appoint another. Wheelock, in part due to his strongly-held belief that Native Americans were childlike and rash, was convinced that Occom needed an Anglo-American supervisor on his fundraising tour. After several candidates turned down the job, Wheelock selected Whitaker. He proved to be a poor choice; he was, by many accounts, a difficult man to get along with, and many of Wheelock’s British allies, including George Whitefield and the English Trust (the organization that took control of the money Occom raised in England) preferred to deal with Occom, although Whitaker insisted on handling the tour’s logistics. Furthermore, in Britain, Occom was the obvious star of the tour, and it was unclear to many why Whitaker asserted himself so prominently. Whitaker’s poor decisions seriously alienated the English Trust and increased their suspicion of Wheelock’s later dealings and treatment of Occom. He gave the English Trust the impression that they would have control over money raised in Scotland (which was in fact lodged with the parent organization of the SSPCK), and he was the executor of the “Eells Affair,” a plan initiated by the CT Board of the SSPCK to bring the money that Occom and Whitaker raised back to the colonies by investing it in trade goods and selling them at a profit (Eells was one of the merchants who was to help with the resale of goods). The English Trust learned about the plan by reading letters that Whitaker had given them permission to open in his absence, and were immediately shocked. The wording of certain letters made it appear that only a percentage of the profit from the resale of the goods would go towards Moor’s Indian Charity School, but beyond that detail, the English Trust was scandalized at the thought of money raised for charity being invested in trade. The English Trust blamed Whitaker entirely for these affairs, and issued specific instructions for Occom to notarize all documents requiring Whitaker’s signature. In short, they wanted Occom to supervise Whitaker, when Wheelock had envisioned the opposite relationship (both Occom and Whitaker seem to have ignored their instructions, preferring to have as little contact with one another as possible). In 1769, a year after his return to Connecticut in 1768, Whitaker found himself dismissed by his Chelsea congregation (likely because he had spent two and a half years away from them). He went on to serve several more congregations before his death in 1795. Whitaker was an outspoken Whig, and during the Revolution he published several pamphlets on his political opinions.

Documents written: retrieve them
Documents received: retrieve them
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Sources:

Calloway, Colin, The Indian History of an American Institution. Dartmouth College Press 2010. Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. First Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge, NJ. “Rev, Dr, Nathaniel Whitaker, Minister No. 8 (1755-1760)” http://www.oldwhitechurch.org/church_history/pastorbios/whitaker.htm Accessed 11/30/2012. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932. Somerset County Maine Church Information. “Somerset County Maine: Early Ministers” http://genealogytrails.com/maine/somersetco/church-ministers.html Accessed 11/30/2012. Voorhees, Oscar M. “The Whitaker Family of Somerset County.” Somerset County Historical Quarterly Ed. A. Van Doren Honeyman. Volume 2 (1913). Somerset Historical Publications Reprint Publishers. Raritan, New Jersey: 1978. pp. 98-109. Richardson, Leon. An Indian Preacher in England. Hanover: Dartmouth College Press 1933.