Smith, John

Birth: February 2, 1703 in Boston, MA
Death: April 6, 1768 in United Kingdom
Education:

Harvard (1722)

Faith:

Congregationalist

Nationality:

Anglo-American

Occupation:

Merchant

Residence:

Boston

British Isles

Events:

1765: Preceeded Whitaker and Occom to England to lay the groundwork for their tour. Once they arrived, he stayed with them as an adviser for the duration of their trip. He repeatedly fell ill, and appears to have died in England.

Marital status:

Married Mercy Bridgham on November 24, 1728. The two had five children. One of their daughters married Ebenezer Pemberton, author of the so-called "Oliver letter" sent to London in 1765 to discredit Samson Occom.

Biography:

John Smith was an affluent Boston merchant who supported Wheelock’s school throughout the 1760s. It is likely that Smith and Wheelock were introduced by George Whitefield or someone similarly involved in evangelical and missionary efforts in the British Atlantic world: John Smith made somewhat regular trips to London for business, and had been in contact with Whitefield since the 1740s. Like the other Boston merchants who supported Moor’s Indian Charity School (including Moses Peck, William Hyslop, and Nathaniel Eells), Smith traded with Wheelock and kept him up to date on political developments in Boston, especially as they concerned attitudes towards Moor’s Indian Charity School. However, Smith was better educated (and likely more affluent) than the other merchants that Wheelock worked with, and, correspondingly, played a more important role than his brethren in Wheelock’s efforts. Smith publicized the school independently (his letter to an unnamed friend, catalogued as 764318.2, is one of the most cited letters on the organization of Moor’s) and assisted Wheelock in publishing the Narratives. John Smith’s greatest contribution to Wheelock’s design was his support during Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Smith set out for Britain in July 1765 to improve his health, and while there, acted as a vanguard for Occom and Whitaker. He managed their correspondence, suggested destinations, and served on an ad hoc advisory council that included George Whitefield, Samuel Savage, Robert Keen, and several other influential men. The pace of the journey caught up with John Smith, however, and he died in 1768 while in Britain.

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Sources:

Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. 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. Richardson, Leon B. An Indian Preacher in England. Dartmouth College Press 1933. Glover, Anna. “John Smith.” In An Account of John Glover of Dorchester and His Descendants. Boston: David Clapp & Son, 1867. Accessed via Archives.org. pp. 133-135.