Eells, Nathaniel

Variant first names: Nathaneal
Variant last names: Eels; Elles; Ells
honorificRev.; Mr.
Birth: c. 1710 in Scituate, MA
Death: June 16, 1786 in Stonington, CT
Affiliation:

Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge

Education:

Harvard (1728)

Faith:

Congregationalist

Nationality:

Anglo-American

Occupation:

Minister

Residence:

Stonington, CT (from 1733 to 1786-06-16)

Events:

1767: Eells was implicated in a scandal over transmitting charitable donations from England to America via trade goods.

Marital status:

Married Mercy Cushing in 1733 and Mary Darrell in 1753. Each bore him seven children.

Biography:

Nathaniel Eells was a Congregationalist minister in Stonington, CT. Before 1767, Eells was very involved in Moor’s Indian Charity School. He was a member of Wheelock’s Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and named in Wheelock’s March 1767 will to a board to oversee the school’s lands in case of Wheelock’s death. However, the same month a scandal broke that forced Eells out of any management role in Moor’s. The details of the affair are sketchy because Wheelock, Whitaker, and Eells tried to spin their involvement, but, essentially, before Whitaker and Occom departed on their fundraising tour in 1765, the Connecticut Board agreed that Whitaker should send money back to Wheelock by purchasing goods, some of which would supply missionaries (thus eliminating the cost of expensive imports), and the remainder of which would be sold at a profit through the Lathrops, a wealthy merchant family in Norwich. The Trust in England (a board headed by the Earl of Dartmouth, created in 1766 to oversee the money Occom raised) did not learn about the scheme until March 1767, when the volume of bills made them suspicious. To these English elites, increasing charitable donations through trade seemed unspeakably vulgar, especially since the Lathrops planned to keep a chunk of the profits. Eells made matters worse because he took the opportunity to try to get his son into business with the Lathrops (his daughter had married a Lathrop, but the match had not produced the expected economic payoff), and certain remarks in his letters to Whitaker made it seem that money was being diverted. Eells’ involvement was all the more unfortunate since he had received £100 of the money in 1766, which he had invested in trade and lost (as of 1775, he had not repaid the debt). The Trust demanded that Eells and Whitaker withdraw from the management of Moor’s, and Eells was indeed written out of Wheelock’s 1768 will (Whitaker was initially retained as a member of the American Trust, but he was not made a Trustee of Dartmouth). Outside of his involvement in Moor’s, Eells was a popular local minister who was able to remain at one church from 1733 until his death in 1786. He was close with Joseph Fish, minister at North Stonington, who had been his classmate at Harvard, and both ministers had some involvement with the Stonington Pequots. During the Great Awakening, Eells, like many other ministers, was accused of being unconverted by the radical evangelical James Davenport. Eells was subsequently on the 1743 Congregationalist congress that issued a statement condemning certain revival practices. He served as a chaplain when the Revolution began, despite his age.

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Sources:

Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Dartmouth College Library. A Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Papers of Eleazar Wheelock. Hanover: Dartmouth College Library, 1971. Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press 2012. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. Richardson, Leon. An Indian Preacher in England. Hanover: Dartmouth College Press 1933. Sprague, William Buell. Annals of the American Pulpit, Volume I. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1857. Accessed via GoogleBooks. Wheeler, Richard Anson. History of the First Congregational Church, Stonington, Conn., 1674-1874. Norwich: T.H. Davis and Company, 1875. Accessed via GoogleBooks.