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Dennys DeBerdt, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1761 October 20

ms-number: 761570

abstract: DeBerdt writes regarding, among other things, money raised for Occom, preparations for war, and the health of Whitefield.

handwriting: Handwriting is informal, loose and occasionally difficult to decipher.

paper: Single sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Brown-black.

events: Occom’s First Mission to the Oneidas


Revd & Dear Sir
I wrote to you by C[illegible] both of the Societys
agreeing to allow Mr Occum £20 Sterling [illegible]
During his Miſsion to Oneidas and acquainted
the Revd Mr Bostwick of New York there of also
and hope it is a Token for good that the great
sun of Righteousneſs is about to shine Bright
and extend his Healing Wings far Back on your
Western Hemiſfhere—
The olive Branch of Peace is now Intirely withered
and nothing to be heard in City and Country but
beating [illegible] for Recruits as if the War was but
Just begining, I hope the Conduct of the French
will be rewarded as Pharaohs Reſoluteneſs in
oppreſing Iſrael was, untill all his Chariotts and
his Horsemen [illegible][guess: are] drawn in to and Drowned in
the Sea—
I have heard nothing since from Mr Hollis [illegible][guess: I shd]
be glad in any shape to serve good Mr Edward
whose case is very hard.
Good Dear Mr Whitefield is not yet able to
Preach, he Eats Drinks and Sleeps, but cannot get
up his Spirits even his own Inability to preach
affects him—
I thank you for Recommending Mr Peck, his
orders ſhall be regarded with no Peculiar attenti=
=on as a Friend of yours—
Good Mr Smith is safe arrived here and seems
in good Health and Spirits—
Dear Sir Yours in our Comn Lord
Dennys De Berdt
To Mr Eleazer Wheelock
at —
Lebenon
Conecticut
[left]M.r D. Deberdt'.s [gap: tear][guess: Letter]
Oct.r 10. 1761.
M.r Occoms £ 20. ſterlg.
Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) is a Presbyterian missionary society formed in 1709 and still active today. The SSPCK was founded to anglicize the Scottish Highlands, which at the time were predominantly Gaelic and had little in common with lowland Scotland. British Protestants identified many of the same “problems” in Gaelic and Native American society, and in 1730, the SSPCK expanded into the colonies via a board of correspondents in Boston. Although most of Wheelock’s contact with the SSPCK took place through its Boston, New Jersey/New York, and Connecticut boards, he did work directly with the SSPCK parent organization during Occom’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Since Occom was technically sent to England by the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK, it was only natural that his tour include a visit to the parent organization in Edinburgh. The SSPCK, headed by the Marquis of Lothian, issued a bulletin to its member churches which allowed Whitaker and Occom to collect a substantial sum of money with little time or travel. While most of the money that Occom raised went into a trust under the Earl of Dartmouth (the English Trust), the money he raised in Scotland (approximately £2,500) went into an SSPCK-controlled fund that ultimately proved difficult to access. While the English Trust essentially gave Wheelock a blank check for the money it controlled (much of which went toward clearing land and erecting buildings for Dartmouth College), the SSPCK was much more stringent about requiring that the money Occom had raised be applied only to Native American education. As was often the case in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world, religious politics were a powerful motivator. Wheelock and the SSPCK both practiced Reformed Protestant Christianity, but New Hampshire was an Episcopalian colony. To make Wheelock’s Reformed Protestantism more palatable to Episcopalian New Hampshire, the New Hampshire governor attempted to make the Anglican Bishop of London a member of the English Trust and possibly the Dartmouth Trustees (the Bishop of London seems to have never replied to the invitation). Dartmouth’s geographic association with the Episcopalian Church, in addition to concerns about the use of the fund, gave the SSPCK an incentive to withhold money from Wheelock. It only issued Wheelock £190 throughout his life, although it did provide financial support to Samuel Kirkland out of the fund. It is worth noting that Wheelock seems to have been well aware that he would have trouble getting money from the SSPCK: he went through the entirety of the English Trust’s fund before soliciting the SSPCK. Subsequent Dartmouth presidents struggled to access the money, with limited success, until 1893. In 1922, the SSPCK concluded that since Moor’s Indian Charity School had become defunct, it was within its rights to devote the remainder of the fund—then valued at £10,000—to other missionary operations.
Oneida Nation
The Oneidas are one of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. During the 18th century, they were largely considered the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe. The Oneidas had a rich tradition of indigenous ministers, including Good Peter, Deacon Thomas, and Isaac Dakayenensere, and played host to several Moor’s missionaries, including Samson Occom, David Fowler, Samuel Ashpo, Joseph Johnson, Joseph Woolley, Titus Smith, and Samuel Kirkland (who went on to found Hamilton Oneida Academy, now Hamilton College). They were also the interpreter James Dean’s adoptive tribe. Notable Oneida towns included Onaquaga, Kanawalohale, and Old Oneida. Onaquaga was the central fire of the Six Nations. By the 18th century, it also had a sizeable contingent of Onondagas and Tuscaroras. Good Peter and Isaac Dakayenensere taught there, as did Joseph Woolley. Kanawalohale and Old Oneida were more predominantly Oneida. The Oneidas were involved in several crucial moments in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School. Onaquaga was the site of the 1765 confrontation between Wheelock and the New England Company, in which the New England Company disrupted Titus Smith's mission, first by sending their own missionary, and second by repossessing Elisha Gunn, the interpreter they had agreed to "loan" to Titus Smith. Left without an interpreter, Titus Smith was forced to abandon his mission (Wheelock repaid the favor a few years later by hiring James Dean away from the New England Company). A few years later, in 1769, Deacon Thomas led the Oneidas in withdrawing all their children from Moor's. The Oneidas' departure struck a devastating blow against Wheelock's Indian education plans, and provided more momentum for his shift to educating predominantly Anglo-Americans. The Oneidas sided with the colonists during the Revolution, but they were still affected by the general devastation in Six Nations territory, especially the Sullivan Expedition (1779). After the Revolution, the Oneidas granted tracts of their land to two Christian Indian organizations: the Brothertown tribe, a composite tribe of Moor’s alumni from New England, and the Stockbridge Indians. It was not long before the groups came into conflict with one another. Encroachment from the new State of New York put increasing pressure on Oneida land, and the Oneidas tried to renegotiate their treaties with the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians to compensate. The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians fought back, but by the 1820s all three groups had lost, and many of them relocated to Wisconsin.
London

The capital and largest city of the United Kingdom, London is located in the southeastern region of England along the Thames River. The outpost that would become London originated as a military storage post for the Romans when they invaded Britain in the year 43. It soon developed as a trading center and financial hub for Roman Britain. During a revolt against the Romans in 61, London was burned to the ground; the rebuilt town appeared in Tacitus’s Annals as Londinium. With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Londinium became a Saxon trading town. Following the Norman Conquest, London retained its central political and commercial importance. In the 14th century, under Edward II, Westminster became an administrative center and London became the capital of England. In the early 18th century, London was an important hub for evangelical Christianity and home to many influential people, like the charismatic Anglican minister, George Whitefield, who were sympathetic to Wheelock’s missionary endeavors. Occom arrived in London in February 1766 on his fundraising tour for Wheelock’s school and preached his first sermon at Whitefield’s Tabernacle. London would be Occom’s home base for the next two years, as he and Whitaker travelled throughout England and Scotland. Occom made many friends in London who would continue to support him after his break with Wheelock and the School. By the late 18th century, London had replaced Amsterdam as the center of world commerce, a role it would maintain until 1914.

Lebanon

Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

Connecticut

Connecticut is a state in southern New England that borders Massachusetts to the north and the Long Island Sound to the south. Its name is derived from the Algonquian "Quonehtacut," meaning "long river," referring to the Connecticut, which runs from the border with Canada into the Long Island Sound. The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking Pequots, Mohegans, and Quinnipiacs. European settlers took advantage of tribal divisions to establish dominance in the region. Dutch explorer Adrian Block sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614, establishing an active Dutch trading post at what is now Hartford. English claims to Connecticut began in 1630, but settlement truly began when Thomas Hooker, a Congregationalist minister now known as "The Father of Connecticut," left Boston to found Hartford in 1636. Hartford became the center of the Colony of Connecticut, which did not receive its charter until 1662 when Governor John Winthrop, Jr. secured it from Charles II. In 1665, the Colony of New Haven, established in 1638 by the Puritan minister John Davenport, joined the Colony of Connecticut under this charter. Early settler relations with local Indians were tense, and encouraged the New England colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven to unify as the "United Colonies" or "New England Confederation" and fight together, with Indian allies, in the Pequot War and again in King Philip's (Metacom's) War. These wars helped establish a specifically Connecticut and specifically American identity; the latter drove the colony to join the rebellion against Britain in 1776. Occom, born into a Mohegan household in Connecticut, was closely associated with the Colony and retained strong ties to the region throughout his life. He converted to Christianity in 1743 when the Great Awakening spread through Connecticut, and inspired Wheelock's Indian Charity School, which was founded in Lebanon, CT in 1754. He also became involved in the Mason Land Case, a long-standing dispute over the ownership of reserve Mohegan lands in Connecticut. Wheelock also had strong ties to Connecticut, moving his Indian Charity School only when the colony would not grant it a charter.

DeBerdt, Dennys

Dennys DeBerdt was a London merchant of Dutch descent, a dissenter who took an avid interest in American affairs and politics. Although he was not especially prominent in British eyes, many Americans, including Wheelock, venerated him as a valuable ally. DeBerdt tried to help Wheelock secure a charter for Moor's, but his efforts failed because the Connecticut Assembly was opposed. Otherwise, DeBerdt helped Wheelock in much the same way as other supporters did: he collected and forwarded donations and circulated information. He also hosted Occom, Whitaker, and J. Smith on their fundraising tour. In 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly elected DeBerdt as their agent in London, a post he held until his death in 1770. He also served as an agent for the Assemblies of Connecticut and Delaware. He frequently advocated for American interests in London, and was instrumental in the repeal of the Stamp Act. DeBerdt invested heavily in American trade, with poor results for his estate. Perhaps because he was a Dissenter and enjoyed limited opportunities in England, he thought American religious freedom was well worth defending. Virtually all correspondence between DeBerdt and Wheelock dates from between 1757 and 1763. DeBerdt's last letter to Wheelock was written in 1763, and Wheelock wrote to DeBerdt only sporadically after that (his last two letters are dated October 1765 and February 1767). It is not clear why the two men stopped corresponding.

Wheelock, Eleazar

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.

Occom, Samson

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.

Smith, John

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.

Peck, Moses

Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.

Whitefield, George

George Whitefield, the English itinerant preacher who helped spark the Great Awakening, was an essential supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s project. Whitefield studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the pioneers of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. He was ordained in 1736, and he made the first of his seven trips to America two years later. While abroad in 1740, Whitefield founded an orphanage in Georgia, and went on a preaching tour during which he met Wheelock and spread ideals that prompted the Great Awakening. Although Whitefield was ordained in the Church of England, his enthusiastic preaching style and charismatic personality made him a controversial figure, and traditional clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic censured him. Nonetheless, he continued to be an important contact and friend of Wheelock’s, and his dedication to Wheelock’s vision was evident. He contributed money to the cause, secured various other funders, and donated an eighty-pound prayer bell to the school. More importantly, Whitefield not only suggested to Wheelock the idea of a fundraising tour in Great Britain, he hosted Occom and Whitaker shortly after they arrived in England, provided a house for them to reside in for the remainder of their tour, and introduced the pair to influential figures such as William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth. Whitefield tabernacle’s was the setting of Occom’s first sermon in England on February 16, 1766, and many believe that Whitefield wrote the introduction to a pamphlet printed in London during the campaign (although he was not credited). Whitefield continued to be involved in Wheelock’s work until he died in Newburyport, MA in September of 1770.

Hollis, Isaac

Isaac Hollis was a Baptist minister in England and a philanthropist for Indian education in the colonies. He was the eldest son of John Hollis (1666-1733) and Hannah Sanford (d. 1740). John was a successful draper in London, and after his death, Isaac Hollis was invited by the minister Isaac Watts to donate to Indian missions in the colonies, a type of charity that had become fashionable in England. Through a complex ministerial network, Watts contacted the Reverend Benjamin Colman in Boston, who wrote to John Sergeant, missionary to the Housatonic Indians, with Hollis' offer to fund the support and education of 20 Indian scholars. Although this proved too expensive, Hollis did support 12 Indian students. He was also the major donor for Jonathan Edwards' mission to the Stockbridge Indians in the 1750s. Thus, it is not surprising that Dennys DeBerdt, who was raising money for Wheelock's school in London, reports soliciting funds from Hollis in 1761. That initial request failed, he reports to Wheelock, because for a long time Hollis has been a "French Prophet, and will think of nothing but his Enthusiastical Revealation." French Prophets were a millenarian group that grew out of the persecution of the Hugenots and left France to proselytize in England, where they attracted important followers. In 1767, Hollis eventually donated £100 to Wheelock's school, but was recorded in the accounts as Thomas Hollis. Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was Isaac's uncle, a well-known English philanthropist who gave large sums of money to restore Harvard's library when Harvard Hall was destroyed by fire in 1764. Wheelock's thank you letter to Hollis (manuscript 767170.2 in Dartmouth Rauner special collections, not in the Occom Circle) addresses him as Thomas, hence the message from Alexander Chamberlain in manuscript 767569.

Bostwick, David

David Bostwick was a popular Presbyterian minister in New York—so popular, in fact, that two congregations fought over him and the New York Synod had to intervene. He was the president of the New York Board of Commissioners for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowlege. Bostwick encouraged Occom's mission to the Oneidas; took up a collection at his church for Occom, which reached over 60 pounds; and lent his name to a recommendation for Occom to Sir William Johnson. When Samuel Buell published his sermon from Occom's ordination, it was prefixed with a letter addressed to David Bostwick outlining Occom's character.

Occom’s First Mission to the Oneidas
Recruited in November by the New York Commissioners of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, Occom leaves in May 1761 with his brother-in-law David Fowler, for a mission among the Oneida in western New York. He preaches, establishes a school, and recruits three young Mohawk men to attend Wheelock’s Indian Charity School. He returns home at the end of September.
HomeDennys DeBerdt, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1761 October 20
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