abstract: Wheelock informs Oliver that the Onaquaga chiefs are planning a visit to Boston, and encloses a letter for Gideon Hawley that encourages Hawley to make a visit to Onaquaga, and to oversee Samuel Ashpo as a missionary. He mentions that Occom and David Fowler have set out on their mission to the Six Nations.
handwriting: Informal handwriting is small, crowded and occasionally difficult to decipher.
paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.
noteworthy: This document is very likely a draft.
layout: The letter to Oliver is written on the top half of one recto. The letter to Hawley takes up the rest of the paper.
events: Occom’s first mission to the Oneidas
my Hand laſt this week under cover of one from
M.r Jeſse Dean who informs me that M.r Gunn
with Several of s.d Cheifs deſign to ⇑a Viſit ⇑to Boſton
this Summer. perhaps the News of what the
Honle Com̅iſsrs have ⇑of Lately done for them may prevent
them if it reaches them ſoon enough.
Hon.r & the Reſt of the Com̅iſsrs may ſee the Contents if
Youy pleaſe ⇑after that pleaſe ſir to cover & direct it to him.
hence to y.e Six Nations. by the way of New York.
Gen.l Lyman has Recom̅ended the Deſign which David
the Com̅iſsrs ſend David upon to [illegible]Genl Johnſon
and beſpoke his Friendſhip and Aſsiſtance therein. —
proves very mortal among us. 3 now lie dead in
this place and Several others Seem as tho' they wod [illegible][guess: n't]
live long. — pleaſe to accept dutiful Salutations &c
Times ſince I ſaw you if I had known were to Direct
my Lettrs to you. When I was laſt in Boſton I took
the Name of the place in writing but have loſt it again.
I have longd to ſpend an Evening with you to plead the
caſe of your old pp at Onohoquagke, in whoſe Affecnſ
you live above any Engliſh man on Earth, and where
there is ye moſt agreable openg & moſt Encouragg
proſpect of the ſuceſs of the Gospel of any place
whatſoever that I have knowledge of. and in addition to
thoſe very ⇑weighty arguments w.c ye Honle Com̅iſsrs argue. I would
give you ſome acco.t of their preſent ſtate which perhaps the
Com̅iſsrs have not yet known and ⇑in which I think there is ſuch
an Argument at leaſt for your making them a long viſit,
as you will find much Difficulty to withſtand the [illegible]force of
a real Chriſtian about 19 ⇑ſome Years ago, & was ⇑I admitted him
into this Ch-h he behaved very well Several Years till he
got [illegible]into ⇑the Company with of illegible ſaylors at N London, & got
Drunk, he ſoon after came to me and with Tears informd
me of his Fall and ſeemd very much afflicted and I thought
gave ſatiſfying Evidence of [illegible][guess: true] Repentance. deſired to
make a publick Confeſsion ⇑&c and I ſuppose has nevertaſted
of any ſpiritous Liquor of any Sort ſince. Some Years
ago under the Influence of ſome lay Exhortrs he was ſeducd
and at length received Ordination in their way by the Hands
of Such [illegible][guess: Creatures] Yet he has not Appeard to be one of
the moſt Bitter ⇑Bitter Conſorious, furious & uncharitable ſort.
andNor I could ⇑I never find but that his ⇑religious Principles except what
relate to his Ordination are Good. but he has very thorough
ly imbibed ſuch independ.t and Browniſtic Principles which ⇑as
I find many good ſort of pp in your Province are ⇑zealous to defend ſadly in
and he has gone on to exerciſe the Power thus rec.d from ye
Ch-h. laſt year he went to onohoquage. iOn his return
he was ⇑lodgd at my House. ⇑& informd me of a great ⇑spl concern among
the Indians in those parts eſpecially at Jeningo which I was
the more inclind to give cred.t to bec. I had heard of it otherways.
This year he has made them another viſit. & lodgd again at
my House ion his Return ⇑this week and. informs me that there are about 20
at Jeningo which he thinks to be really converted. and a
Gen.l Concern among Others. that they are very unwillg
yt ye Engliſh ſhould get footing among them leſt by & by
they root them out as they have done in New England. that
they have had a meeting and voted to have him, for their Minier
and deſired him to make Application to the Com̅iſsrs
for his Support and for the Support of an ⇑Some Indian
Schoolmaſter. as a Schoolmaſter. as to this acco.t I
Suppose it is credible and that there has been a great and
uncommon ⇑religious Concern among them, and Some thing like
Converſion, & perhaps ſome real ones Inſtances of it. —
Aſhpo ⇑[illegible: [guess: Said he moſt]] is [illegible]determined to ſee the Commiſsrs & earneſtly deſired me to
write ym ⇑you in his Fav.r to them
Com̅iſsrs I told him I could write no more than a plain
honeſt Narrative of the Truth. [gap: blotted_out] ⇑& y.t the Com̅iſsrs were
heartily ingagd to do any thing in yr Power to further
y.e Great Deſign of Spreadg the Gospel among them ⇑Indians
but they knew what miſcheifs ſuch Principles as he held hadve
done in the Ch-h, and I was perſwaded they would take
utmoſt care y.t [illegible][guess: [a ſack] ſhould not be laid in y.e very
Bottom among the Pagans. I have taken [illegible]
ofMuch pains to convince him of his miſtake. ⇑& have told him
there is a probability y.t he might do [illegible][guess: a great deal of]
much good among them if he were delivered from those
Errors, and would take pains to furniſh himſelf with useful
I [illegible] him [illegible: [guess: ſilent]]
&, he ſeemd more inclind to hear &, I hope to ſsuſpect himſelf
than he did. This ⇑ſhort Narrative, dear ſir, gives you the moſt an
affecting View of their Case. Aſhpo's Intereſt in their Affrs
is Such as that thiere is danger of the ſaddeſt Conſeqces unleſs
y.e Affair be conducted with utmoſt Prudence, [illegible]
and Diſcretion. and ⇑by Reaſon of y.r Acquant.e with and Intereſt in them. I ſuppose no man ſo likely as you to
prevent the Miſchiefs which are threatned, and to nouriſh, Cheriſh,
and further any good Beginings there, by Reaſon of your accq
quaintance with them and intereſt in their Affections.
by all accots they have a hearing Ear. and it looks as tho' the
Gospel might have free courſe among them, and who Reconds
what a Glorious Harveſt you may have, and what Bleſsings
of periſhg Souls come upon you.
as I ſuppose Aſhpo will Viſit them again whether
he be encouragd by the Com̅iſsrs or not ſo perhaps it will
not be ⇑prudent or beſt he ſhould be at once thrown into Deſpair of
Fav.r & Countenance by ⇑[illegible]from them or you or the Honle Com̅iſsrs but rather
⇑tenderly be put in your arms & held upon trial & Probation & ⇑if he will act be encouraged to act under
your Direction and Conduct. and if he ſhould be ductile
& Teachable, I dont conclude yt ⇑[illegible] he will not ſerve y.e
Cauſe. ⇑as I can but entertain in Charitable hope concerning his [illegible] & the Honeſty of his Intentions. however the caſe appears to me very Dangerous
and Difficult. and when we conſider what infinite
miſcheifs Satan has done when tranſformd into an Angil
of Light & Eſpecly at ye firſt Sitting planting the Gospel
in places ⇑and by the Inſtrumentality of good men too it may Justly awaken our Fear and I hope will [illegible][guess: perſwa⇑de]
⇑[illegible] [illegible][guess: to accompany & introduce dear M.r Thompſon accordg to ye Comrs deſire]
comply with y.e Deſ.r of y.e Hon.le Com̅rs, at leaſt ſo far as to
accompy & introduce dear M.r Thompſon, if he ſhall accept the
M.r Occom ſeems to have a good Underſtanding of [illegible][guess: Satans]
Devices ⇑of y.t ſort and has ſome thots he ſhall make [illegible][guess: them] a viſit to
Jeningo before he returns from his Miſsion. If you
ſhould chance to meet him there ⇑& [illegible] y.r [illegible] it will [illegible] it may be very happy
⇑look like a very favourable Providence.
and pleaſe ſir to favour [illegible] [illegible][guess: with] your a [illegible][guess: viſit] whenever you have occaſion to paſs thro' Connecticut I wiſh you
Divine directive, ⇑in & Bleſsing upon all your pious Endrs to
build up the Kingdom of the Great Redeemer I am Revd & dear ⇑ſr
and with Kindeſt Salutations to you and your [illegible][guess: dear]
ſpouse am Rev.d & dear ſir
Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.
Andrew Oliver was an influential Boston merchant and politician, who was a member of several societies that funded Eleazar Wheelock, including the Boston Board of the New England Company (treasurer) and Massachusetts General Assembly (secretary). Oliver played an important political role in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts and, as a firm advocate of Indian missions, attended multiple conferences with Indian tribes. He believed that Anglican and Dissenter missionaries and societies could cooperate, and after Oliver and Wheelock were introduced in 1756, Oliver helped Wheelock access funding from the New England Company, the Massachusetts Assembly, and the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Their relationship deteriorated, however, when the London Board of the New England Company turned against Wheelock late in 1765. Wheelock became aware of the London Board’s change of heart through the “Oliver letter,” a letter purportedly written by Oliver (actually written by Ebenezer Pemberton) that was “injurious” to the characters of Wheelock, Whitaker, and Occom. In 1765, Wheelock also lost his funding from the Massachusetts Assembly. It is unclear what role Oliver played in these events. On the one hand, the breach between Wheelock and the New England Company coincided with the collapse of Oliver’s political career over his attempts to enforce the Stamp Act. Oliver may have been too preoccupied to be involved in the London Board’s change of heart; after all, Boston mobs were burning him in effigy. On the other hand, if Oliver was not involved, it is more difficult to explain why his correspondence with Wheelock ended abruptly in 1767 or why Wheelock lost funding from the Assembly and the London Board at the same time. Oliver would be the obvious link; but of course, Wheelock had many detractors in Boston and another explanation is certainly possible.
Gideon Hawley was born in Stratford (Bridgeport) CT, the son of Gideon, a descendant of Joseph Hawley, who immigrated to America in 1629, and Hannah Bennett, daughter of Lieutenant James Bennett of Stratford. Hawley's mother died at his birth, and his father died when he was three; he was raised mostly by his older brother. A very good student, Hawley graduated from Yale College in 1749 and was liscensed to preach by the Fairfield East Association. Sponsored by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the Parts Adjacent in America (the New England Company), Hawley accepted a position as schoolteacer in Stockbridge in 1752, under the supervision of the noted theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was a preacher to whites and Housatonic Indians in the region. But because of the contentious politics in Stockbridge, Hawley accepted the NEC's offer to take over the mission among the Six Nations on the Susquehanna, in the multi-tribal town of Onaquaga, where Elihu Spencer has served five years before as missionary. Hawley was ordained in 1754 and acted successfully as missionary and interpreter, but was forced to leave in May 1756 during the hostilities of the French and Indian War. He returned to Boston and accepted a commission as chaplain to Colonel Richard Gridley's regiment, but resigned because of illness. The NEC then sent him to the large plantation of Mashpee Wompanoags at Plymouth, MA, who approved of him and requested his permanent appointment in 1758. Hawley was a staunch supporter of traditional tribal land ownership and Indian rights; the Mashpees enlisted his help in petitioning the Massachusetts General Court for their rights to self-government. During the Revolution, Hawley did not enlist in order to protect the tribe, and in 1789, he succeeded in abolishing Masphee as a "district" subject to state rule and served as the only resident overseer and treasurer until 1795. He opposed the mixing of whites and Indians, as in Stockbridge, which ultimately disenfranchised and drove out the Indians, but insisted the Mashpee Wampanoags learn English, the only language in which he preached, and practice agriculture. He married Lucy Fessenden in 1759; they had five children, four of whom lived to maturity. Their youngest son graduated from Harvard in 1792. Lucy died in 1777 and at age 50, Hawley remarried Mrs. Elizabeth Burchard in 1778, a widow twice over with a large estate. He died beloved and respected by the Mashpee Wampanoags, whose village he helped to sustain.
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.
Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.
David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.
General Phineas Lyman was a longtime friend of Eleazar Wheelock’s and a supporter of his school. He was born in Durham, CT in 1715 and studied law at Yale. After graduating in 1738, Lyman became a tutor then successful lawyer, and he managed a law school in Suffield, MA. When Suffield was incorporated into Connecticut, Lyman became involved with the Connecticut General Assembly. He served in the French and Indian War, commanding 5,000 Connecticut troops, and was integral in the battle of Lake George in 1755 although General Johnson was credited with the victory. After the war, General Lyman went to England in search of acknowledgment for his war endeavors, and to secure land on the Mississippi or Ohio River for himself and fellow officers. Lyman assured Wheelock he would endeavor to incorporate his school into the territory. However, in April of 1769, Lord Dartmouth wrote to Wheelock indicating that General Lyman had excluded the school from his plea; Sir William Johnson had denounced Wheelock for supposedly deterring Indians from ceding their property. In 1774, after 11 years of negotiations, General Lyman finally obtained the grant for the Mississippi and Yazoo lands; nonetheless, Wheelock had already established his school in New Hampshire. In 1775, General Lyman died en route to the newly acquired territory in West Florida.
Sir William Johnson was a powerful British colonial official who amassed wealth and influence by integrating into the Mohawk tribe. For a brief window of time (1761-1768), he provided support for Wheelock’s missionary efforts among the Six Nations. He also helped the Brothertown Nation of Indians procure land from the Oneidas. Johnson was born in Ireland in 1715. His family had been part of the Catholic elite, but after William of Orange’s 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne, they at least nominally converted to the Episcopalian Church. In 1738, Johnson emigrated to America to manage his uncle Peter Warren’s estate in Mohawk territory. Over the next decade, Johnson became wealthy in his own right through trade and land sales, acquiring a vast estate crowned by his manor house, Johnson Hall, which became the central location for British and Indian treaty making. In 1745, Johnson began collecting official British titles and positions. He played an important military role in the French and Indian War and was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756 and first baronet of New York in 1757. Much of Johnson’s success was due to his influence among the Mohawks, which he obtained by learning their language and customs and integrating himself into their society. He participated in Mohawk rituals and entered into a common-law marriage with a powerful Mohawk woman, Molly Brant (also called Mary Brant). Because Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) society is matrilineal, this marriage was an essential element of his participation in Indian affairs. Wheelock desperately wanted to wield missionary influence among the Six Nations, and sought to obtain Johnson as an ally in his endeavors. At first, the two found grounds for cooperation. Wheelock sent Occom as a missionary to the Oneidas in 1761 and again in 1762, and sent a substantially larger group of missionaries and schoolmasters in 1765, 1766, and 1767. Johnson, meanwhile, encouraged Haudenosaunee children, including his brother-in-law Joseph Brant, to attend Moor’s. Johnson’s support proved indispensible to missionaries in the field; he helped with supplies, language skills, and relations with the Mohawks and Oneidas. Wheelock also valued Johnson for his influence in Britain, and drew on him for recommendations and public statements of support numerous times. From 1763 on, however, Johnson found himself decidedly uncomfortable with Wheelock’s missionary efforts, and by 1769, their relationship had dissolved completely. In 1766, Johnson was invited to join the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the largest and most influential Anglican missionary society in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world. He began working to place Anglican missionaries, rather than Congregationalist and Presbyterian ones, among the Six Nations, which alarmed Wheelock. Johnson was generally supportive of Native American tribes’ efforts to maintain their land and sovereignty. As the historian Linford Fisher has noted, “virtually every major Native group in southeastern New England successfully petitioned Johnson to act on their behalf during the late 1760s and early 1770s.” Among these groups was the Brothertown Nation, a Christian composite tribe formed by Southern New England Algonquian Moor’s alumni. Johnson helped them negotiate with the Oneidas, which proved essential to their successful land purchase and relocation to central New York.
Ashpo was born into a very powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and became an influential Mohegan preacher. He was converted at Mohegan during the Great Awakening, and became a schoolteacher among the Indians at Mushantuxet from 1753 until 1757 and from 1759 until 1762, when he left to attend Moor's. Between 1757 and 1759, he worked as an interpreter, and supposedly struggled with alcohol. He attended Moor's for only six months, and then continued his teaching and missionary career on successive trips to Chenango (the first was cut short because of violence in the region). On July 1, 1767, the Connecticut Board dismissed him from their service because of further charges of drinking. He continued to preach successfully to various New England Indian tribes until his death in 1795. The variations of his name exist in part because Ashpo is an abbreviated form of Ashobapow.