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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Dennys DeBerdt, 1761 November 16

ms-number: 761616

abstract: Wheelock reports on the progress of the school and various missions.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small, crowded and occasionally difficult to decipher.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. The central crease has been reinforced.

ink: Black.

noteworthy: As noted on two verso, this document is a copy. The contents are similar to those of manuscript 761625.1.

events: Occom’s First Mission to the Oneidas



My dear Sir.
By a Letter from Miſs. Smith of Boſton
laſt week I'm Inform'd that M.r Whitefield has de­
­posited in your Hands £25 Sterling the generous
Bequſt of M.r Hardy to this Indian School (the
Lord return a Thouſand fold in better Good into
that generous Booſom) pleaſe to pay the Money
to M.r John Smith of Boſton or his order, perhaps
he is yet in London. I have received part and ſhall
as ſoon as She has opportunity to tranſmit, y.e whole
from his Lady in Boſton.
one of the Mohawke Lads, of whom I imformd
you in my laſt, when I returnd from Boſton, about
Six weeks ago, was in a declining State of Health,
and Doctr Huntington an able Physician adviſed
me that his Blood was So Spoiled &c that it was
not Likely he would continue long in the world,
and that it was beſt to Send him ſoon while
he was able to ride accordingly I ſent him away Octr
13.th
accompanied by Negyes another Mohawke Lad, and
School Mate, to the Mohawke Country. And on y.e 3.d [illegible]
Inſt.t I Sent young Kirtland with the Other Mohawke
youth., in order, when these two have made their viſit
to their Friend to accompany them. and 4 or 5 more
of the Six Nations, if general Johnſon, agreable to
his Expectations has found Such as are likely and will­
­ing to come; I have heard nothing from them ſince they
went away. I expect they will return, Some time next month.
M.r Brainerd Sent me two Girls but one of them
before ſhe had got on Board the veſsel was taken ill
and returnd Home, I ſhall expect her when ſhe ſhall
be able to come, as ſhe & her Parents are deſirous
of it. The other arived here the beginning of laſt month
ſhe is about 13. years old, and is an amiable little,
black Savage Chriſtian, and I think loves chriſt much
The Fruit of dear M.r Brainerds Labour & Pains among
them.
If I had it by me I would ſend you a Speciman of
The writing of the Indian Girl who came to me laſt ſpring
and then byut juſt knew her Litters. I intend to ſend you
ſoon.
By a Letter from M.r Eiſha Gunn who lives with
the Indians at Onohoquagke. I am lately informd
that there is a general Reformation among the
Indians as to their Drinking, that there is a general
religious concern among them in those parts, and
that a Number appear hearty in Religion. but what

will the poor Creatures do, they have no Bible nor
any Spiritual Guide Among them. I hope a Stop will
now be put to our traders carrying Rhum among them.
Sam.l Aſhpo An Indian which I baptized ſome years
ago, and received him into this Ch-h. of whom I think
Errors which he had run into; And Talks like an underſtanding
experienced & judicious chriſtian, and by whose Endeavors
in his late Rambles in those parts The Retigious concern a­
­mong the Indians was much increaſed. informs me that they
were as wild as ever they were at Corinth, or Galatia, and
need a faithful & ſkillful Guide as much.
perhaps the Hon.le Com̅iſsrs at Boston will think it expedient
to ſend him at preſent among them
You cant dear Sir conceive the Difficulty y.t attends
this affair. Their Temper and Manner of living is Savage
almoſt as ye [illegible]al Creatures. they are Jealous forever
ag.t ye Engliſh have a Deſign againſt them & will take
the Opportunity to requite the wrongs they have received
— and the Dutch Dutch Traders especially dont a little increaſe their
ill opinion of us. There are No Interpreters who
are they have as many Languages as illegible they have Tribes
and there are few or none capable & faithful enough
to be truſted as Interpreters. and it cant be accompl­
­ſhed without great Expence. &c I long to have my
Boys fit to go forth amonth them.
David my Indian Schollar who accompanied M.r Occom
in his Miſsion to the Oneida Indians laſt ſummer re­
turnd y.e Latter End of ſeptemb.r he ſays theyr liveg is exceeding
poor have ſcarſe any thing but what they got by Hunting
y.t M.r Occom was rec.d and treated with great Reſpect
by Gen.l Johnſon. and yt the Indians were as kind to
him as they could be, and Seemd to be affected with
his preaching. and have ſent [illegible][guess: one] down to N. York
deſiring y.t he may be ſent to them next ſpring. where
D.V. he deſigns to return & Spend ye next Summer
with them.
Our Measſures for an Incorporation are yet Embarraſsd
and yet my School flouriſhes and gains credit, eſpecially
among the more Judicious & underſtanding part of mankind.
and who knows what methods God intends to take to accompliſh
the Deſign. I have lately Nominated a Number of worthy
Gentlemen of Civil & Sacred Characters and Expect the
Scottiſh Com̅iſsrs in Boston
will recommend them to
ye Hon le Society for Such Comm̅iſs.n as they can give to
help us in this Affair.
We had a Diſtreſsing Drought Laſt Summer but a
very growing Autumn. Proviſions are very Deer
yet among us.
pleaſe to accept moſt ſincere Reſpect
(& I do love you heartily) from my illegible Hond and very dear ſir
 Yours moſt heartily Sincerely

Eleazr Wheelock



P.S. The Schoolmaſter Complains of the want of a Bell that [illegible][guess: Cou'd]
may be well heard about a mile these Boys thro' long uſe are adicted and inclined to ramble [illegible][guess: abt] & Their Health of the Boys
Requires that they be indulged in it in play time Suffered to ramble about more than
Engliſh Children incline to in play Time, and it is often Difficult to
get them together at ye proper Hours without ſuch a
publick Signal. & I apprehend y.e advantage of it in one
year would likely be Equal to the Expence of one for It would likely
make us more regular in all our [illegible] Exercises &c
Copy of Letter to
M.r DeBerdt 1761.
Nov.r Bell.

Moor’s Indian Charity School
Moor’s Indian Charity School was a grammar school for Native Americans that Eleazar Wheelock opened in North Lebanon, Connecticut in 1754. The school was named for Colonel Joshua Moor, also spelled More, who donated the land and school building. Moor’s was essentially an expansion of the grammar school that Wheelock opened in 1743 to support himself during the fallout from the First Great Awakening, when Wheelock, who'd participated in itinerant ministry during the Awakening, had his salary confiscated by the colony of Connecticut. In December of that year, Samson Occom asked Wheelock to teach him as well. Wheelock's work with Occom was so successful that Wheelock decided to replicate the experiment with other Native American boys. He accepted his first Indian students in 1754, and in 1761 began taking female students as well. Wheelock believed that in time, his school would become just one part of a larger missionary enterprise. He planned to send his Anglo American and Native American students to various tribes as missionaries and schoolmasters, with explicit instructions to pick out the best students and send them back to Moor’s to continue the cycle. His ultimate goal was to turn his school into a model Christian Indian town that would include farms, a college, and vocational training. However, Wheelock’s grand design did not survive the decade. Wheelock lost the vast majority of his Native American students; he fought with many of the best, including Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, and other former and current students accused him of subjecting Native Americans to disproportionate amounts of manual labor. In 1769, perhaps due to concerns about corporal punishment, the Oneida withdrew all their children from Moor’s. When Wheelock relocated to Hanover in 1769, only two Native American students came with him, and it became clear that Wheelock’s focus was on Dartmouth and that Dartmouth was for white students. After Wheelock’s death in 1779, Moor’s Indian Charity School receded further into the background as John Wheelock, his father’s reluctant successor, stopped taking Indian students. Some Native American students were enrolled in Moor’s until 1850, when the school unofficially closed.
Mohawk Nation
The Mohawk Nation is one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. As the “eastern door” of the Confederacy, or easternmost Haudenosaunee nation, the Mohawks were perceived throughout the colonial period as a gateway to wider alliances, trade, and religious influence with the Six Nations as a whole. Thus, they received heavy missionary attention from Jesuits, Anglicans, and Congregationalists as early as the 17th century. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the Mohawks and Six Nations more generally were a point of heated competition between Britain and France, as well as between Protestant Christian sects. Wheelock sent several missionaries and schoolmasters to the Mohawks between 1765 and 1767, including Theophilus Chamberlain (Anglo-American), Hezekiah Calvin (Delaware), Abraham Major and Minor (Mohawks), Peter (Mohawk), Moses (Mohawk), and Johannes (Mohawk). The two main towns or "castles" that the mission was based at were Canajoharie and Fort Hunter. Two of the most important figures in Mohawk history as it pertains to Moor’s Indian Charity School were Sir William Johnson and Joseph Brant. Sir William Johnson was the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Northeast, one of the most powerful men in British North America. He married into the Mohawk Tribe and had substantial influence among the Six Nations. Initially he supported Wheelock’s missionary project, but by 1769 he was endorsing Anglican missionaries instead. Joseph Brant was Sir William Johnson’s brother-in-law. He was the first of 19 Mohawk students at Moor’s, where he studied from 1761-1763. Although his time at the school was short, Brant entertained a deep affection for it. He went on to be an influential Mohawk war chief and may have protected Dartmouth College from raids during the Revolution. The Revolution fractured the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, with some tribes siding with the colonists and others with the British. The Mohawks sided with the British, and many of them, Joseph Brant included, relocated to the Grand River Reserve in Canada after the war. There was also a substantial Mohawk settlement established by 1700 at Kahnawake in New France (Canada), which hosted Jesuit missionaries. The Kahnawake Mohawks were often called “Canadian Mohawks” and Wheelock recruited students from them after his move to Hanover.
Six Nations
The Six Nations (often called the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois) is a confederacy composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. The first five tribes unified at some point before European contact (dates differ by centuries), and the Tuscaroras joined them in 1722, after colonial violence drove the tribe out of Carolina. The Haudenosaunee occupied much of what is now central New York, and, thus, were sandwiched between French, English, and Dutch territories. They allied with the English against the French early on, just as their arch-enemies, the Huron, allied with the French. Despite the Six Nations’ unity, the constituent nations experienced European contact in different ways. The Mohawks and Oneidas, as the two easternmost tribes, had by far the most contact with the English, while the Senecas and Cayugas, the westernmost nations, had little contact with the English (although both hosted French Jesuit missionaries). Mohawk territory was the site of Johnson Hall, the administrative center and home of Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the Northeast. The Oneidas, meanwhile, played host to several prominent Anglo-American missionaries and were thought of as the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe by many colonists. Eleazar Wheelock became fixated on the Haudenosaunee soon after he established Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754. He saw in them the opportunity for a fresh start, since he believed that New England Indians had assimilated to Anglo-American norms in all the wrong ways (too much rum, too little Christianity). Wheelock established contact with the Haudenosaunee through Sir William Johnson and made the Mohawks and Oneidas the focal point of his missionary efforts for much of the 1760s. The American Revolution had dramatic repercussions for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas sided with the British, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the Americans. Since all Haudenosaunee hold membership in both a tribe (Mohawk, Oneida, etcetera) and a matrilineal clan (bear, wolf, and others), the tribes’ divergent alliances brought about political schism and violence within extended families. Furthermore, Haudenosaunee territory was devastated during the war, especially in General Sullivan’s 1779 raid on Cayuga and Seneca territory. After the Revolution, many Haudenosaunee who had affiliated with the British relocated to the Grand River Reserve in Canada, while many of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras remained in New York. The Haudenosaunee at the Grand River Reserve established their own council fire, which operated in parallel with the original council fire at Onondaga. Today, both council fires are still active, and each tribe also has its own independent government (as do displaced Haudenosaunee populations, such as the Oneidas of Wisconsin).
The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America
The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America was a missionary society active in America from 1649 until 1786. It was first called the "New England Company" in 1770. Most secondary literature uses that name for convenience and to distinguish it from other missionary societies. The company was first chartered in 1649 as the "President and Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England," largely in response to John Eliot's missionary efforts. After the Restoration (1660), it was rechartered as the "Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America." The New England Company was very powerful and influential, in large part because it was a coalition between Anglicans and Dissenters. It supported a range of missionaries from the Mayhews to the Sergeants to Moor's alumnus Samuel Kirkland. After the Revolution, the New England Company refocused its attentions on New Brunswick and Canadian Indians. Wheelock had a very rocky relationship with the New England Company. Initially, it supported Wheelock's efforts. The Company funded Occom's education at Moor's and paid him a small salary during his time among the Montauketts. However, from 1765 onwards, its relationship with Wheelock rapidly deteriorated. The Company opposed the fundraising tour of Great Britain and went so far as to interfere with it by sending a widely circulated letter to England questioning Occom's background. The New England Company also interferred with Titus Smith's mission to Onaquaga by sending a rival missionary, Mr. Moseley, and stealing Titus' interpreter, Elisha Gunn. In 1767 it formally withdrew its financial support from Wheelock on the grounds that the fundraising tour had raised sufficient money. It is unclear what led the New England Company to suddenly change its stance towards Wheelock. Perhaps it wanted exclusive power over missionary distribution in New England, or perhaps it was thought that focusing on education over numbers in the field was counterproductive. Most secondary sources have conflated the New England Company's Boston Board and the Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge's Boston Board, an easy mistake to make since both are sometimes referred to as the Boston Board and both vigorously opposed Wheelock. Any secondary source's statement about either should be carefully researched.
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.
Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was established in 1730 to support local missionary efforts. It was the SSPCK's first board in the British colonies in America. The SSPCK later founded a New York Board (1741) and a Connecticut Board (1764). Although Wheelock lobbied for a New Hampshire board after his 1770 relocation, by that time the SSPCK had had enough of him and his request was denied. The Boston Board of the SSPCK sponsored many missionaries to Native Americans, including David and John Brainerd. However, it did not provide very much support to Wheelock or his school, in large part because Wheelock and Charles Chauncy, chair of the Boston Board, clashed over Congregationalist politics. The Boston Board did provide £20 to support Samson Occom and David Fowler on a 1761 mission to the Six Nations to procure Moor's students, but it was then reluctant to support the boys Occom and Fowler obtained. The Board eventually paid £58.10.1 in 1762. They never gave money to Wheelock again. Wheelock was instrumental in forming the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK in 1764, over which he exerted considerable influence. From that point forward, he was largely able to avoid dealing with the Boston Board of the SSPCK. The The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America is also called the Boston Board in some letters, and most secondary sources have mixed the two Boston Boards. This is an easy mistake to make since both are sometimes called the Boston Board and vigorously opposed Wheelock. However, the general confusion in the literature means that any secondary source's statement on either board should be taken with some skepticism.
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.
Boston

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.

Mohawk Country

Mohawk Country refers to the territory occupied and controlled by the Mohawk Tribe. This territory extends to the north near Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and to the south along the Mohawk River in New York state. The Mohawks were members of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy and were known as the “Keepers of the Eastern Door,” charged with protecting the Haudenosaunee Confederacy from threats to the east. After contact with the Europeans in the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries came to the territory and recruited Mohawks to go north into Canada to practice Catholicism, and in the 18th century, Wheelock’s missionaries travelled to Mohawk Country to recruit students and carry out missionary work. The Mohawks allied with the British during the American Revolution, and at the end of the war many fled to Canada, while others went to the Bay of Quinte, which became known as Tyendinaga.

Onaquaga

Onaquaga (more than 50 different spellings have been documented) was a cosmopolitan Indian town on the Susquehanna River, now the site of the town of Windsor, New York. It was initially established as an Oneida settlement by those seeking an alternative to the power politics of Kanawalohale, the new chief village of the Oneidas, and Old Oneida, the former capital. However, from the end of the 17th century onwards it became an immigration destination for displaced Indians from a wide range of tribes. Yet, from the late 1760s onward, Onaquaga’s cosmopolitan composition proved to be its undoing. The community was fragmented by disputes over the extent and the proper style of Christian practice, with Sir William Johnson and Joseph Brant (who owned a farm at Onaquaga) urging Episcopalianism and the New England Company urging Congregationalism. An influx of Mohawk immigrants in the years after the 1768 Fort Stanwix treaty led the inhabitants of Onaquaga to side with the Crown in the Revolution, rather than with the colonies as most Oneida towns did, and it became Joseph Brant’s base of operations. The town was destroyed by the Continental Army in 1778 as part of the wave of violent retaliation for British and Indian attacks on frontier communities that culminated in General Sullivan’s ravaging of Cayuga and Seneca territory. The area was resettled by Americans after the Revolution.

New York City
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.

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.

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.

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.

Hardy, Charles

Charles Hardy was a prominent London lawyer, and one of four executors of the affairs in England of the evangelical minister, George Whitefield (along with Robert Keen and Daniel West). Through these connections, Hardy learned about Wheelock’s Indian Charity School, and as early as 1761, he donated £25 to Whitefield for the school. He probably met Occom and Whitaker when they arrived in London at the beginning of their fundraising tour. In 1766, Hardy was one of nine Englishmen who formed the Trust to manage the funds that Occom and Whitaker raised on their tour of Great Britain from 1765-1768. During the fundraising tour, Hardy personally donated £50 to the cause. He continued as member of the Trust until the funds ran out in 1775.

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.

Smith, Elizabeth (née Scott)
Huntington, Jonathan Sr.

Dr. Jonathan Huntington was the first practicing physician in Windham, CT. Eleazar Wheelock hired him regularly from 1737 to 1768 to attend to the students at Moor’s Indian Charity School. Even after Wheelock moved to New Hampshire in 1770, Dr. Huntington continued to take care of Ralph Wheelock, Wheelock’s epileptic son. Dr. Huntington’s nephew, Jonathan Huntington, was also a doctor and also took care of students at Moor’s; thus, the two are sometimes referred to as Dr. Jonathan Huntington Jr. and Sr., respectively, to avoid confusion. Dr. Huntington also had a brief political career: he was on the colony council from 1754 until 1758 and he served as a local judge from 1749 until 1757.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

Johnson, William

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.

Brainerd, John

John Brainerd was an ardent missionary with an important role in Wheelock's design. He was the younger brother of the famous missionary David Brainerd, who died as a young man after being expelled from Yale and serving as a missionary to New Jersey tribes. John completed his Yale degree and was immediately commissioned to replace David. Even in his own time, he was seen as a man as pious as, but less talented than, his brother, though Brainerd missioned to Indians during a more volatile period, and saw his congregation forcibly removed from their lands in 1755 and relocated at Brothertown in 1758 (this Brothertown should not be confused with the one founded in New York after the Revolution by many Moor's alumni). Brainerd was extremely devoted to the Indian cause. He often had the opportunity to serve wealthy English congregations, but preferred to remain an Indian missionary. He invested signficant sums of his own money into his missions, for which he was never reimbursed. Brainerd was a very prominent Presbyterian figure, active in the Presbytery and Synod of New York, holding several elected positions, and in the Presbtery and Synod of New York and Philadelphia once the two reunified in 1758. He was a Trustee of the College of New Jersey from 1754 until his death, and a member of the New York Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Occom had planned to work with Brainerd in 1750, but political upheaval prevented it. Brainerd was one of several men nominated to accompany Occom to England, but the New York Board refused to let him go. While Brainerd and Wheelock were not close personal friends, the two had a similar interests and a long-lasting correspondence. John Brainerd sent Wheelock his first Indian boys, and also recruited female students in the 1760s. Throughout their lives, Brainerd and Wheelock updated one another on Indian missions, and Brainerd seems to have been one of Wheelock's "point people" in the Presbyterian Church.

Gunn, Elisha

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.

Ashpo, Samuel

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.

Fowler, David

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.

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.

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.
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Dennys DeBerdt, 1761 November 16
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