Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to George Whitefield, 1762 September 16

ms-number: 762516.1

abstract: Copy of a letter in which Wheelock discusses Occom's mission, those affected by Indian wars, the growth of the School, grants of money, and the donation of books.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small and occasionally difficult to decipher; it is not Wheelock’s.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is heavily reinforced, which makes it difficult to gauge the condition of the paper.

ink: Black-brown ink is somewhat dimmed by reinforcement.

noteworthy: This letter is a copy of manuscript 762516. It is uncertain to whom Wheelock refers when he mentions the "English Youth" in the second paragraph of one recto, and so he has been left untagged. The number 814 is circled in blue pencil at the top of one recto; it is likely a cataloguing number, possibly of a private collector. An editor, likely 19th-century, has added the note "To Whitefield" after the trailer on two verso. This note has not been included in the transcription.

signature: The signature is not in Wheelock’s hand.

events: Occom’s Second Mission to the Oneidas



My dear & Hond Sr
David my indian Scholar, return'd july 18.th from
ye Mohawk country, where I inform'd you in my laſt
I sint him, & brought with him four indian boys. 3
Mohawks & one of ye Farmington tribe, ye boys & girls
I expected from Onida, were detain'd by their Parents, on
account of a Rumour & ſuspicion of a warr full com‐
mencing between ym & ye Nation on ye Back of them & in
Such a Caſe they did not chuse to have their Children
at ſuch a distance from them, But perhaps they were
ſuspicious that they ſhould be obliged to join these Nations
against ye English —
The English Youth of which I have inform'd you
who has been a Captive with ye Senecans till he is maſter of
their Language. & which I ſent for with a view to fit him
for an Interpreter to that Nation. was under such engagements
to a Trader at Black Fort, as that he could not get [illegible]clear'd
for the present, I have again wrote to Gen.l Johnson, who was
not at Home when I David was there till ye night before he came
away, & desired him to procure & ſend ye youth, if he Eſteems him
likely to answer ye design — Mr Occum writes me a very Me‐
‐lancholy Letter. viz that, by an Untimely frost last fall,
their Indian Corn was all Cut of, that ye Onayadas are almost
ſtarv'd having nothing to live upon but what they get by
Hunting that they had just come in from their Pidgeon
— & were going a fishing, as ſoon as they return
from that they will go after Deer, That he follow'd them
but found it very difficult to get a number of them together
to preach to them, that by hard living (tho they were as kind
 to
to him as they Could be) & especially by lying on ye wet
Ground his old disorders (viz Rhumatic) return'd & he was
apprehensive he must return before ye time appointed, That he
lived in fear of being kill'd. tho ye Indians had promis'd
him in caſe a warr ſhould break out, they would ſend
him under ſufficient guard down as far as ye English
Settlements
But there was something very good in his Letter
viz that there were visibly good Effects of his Labours
among them last Year, & especially a Reformation among
them as to their Drinking
My School is in a flourishing State through ye
Great Mercy of God, I have 19. in Number. viz 15 Males &
4. females, & ye most of them appearing quite likely, I hope
I ſhall have several well fitted for Interpreters & Misſionarys
in due time. I have been favour'd with ye best of
of Maſters ſucceſsively for some Years — I have received
ye Bell you sent and it is decently hung on ye Houſe Which
is devoted to ye ſervice. & we now feel ye Benefit of it
we can keep Hours with little Trouble & I hope in Gods
Time it will be use'd to call to gather a little black Aſſembly
to hear you Preach Christ.
A small Counsel of Ministers has been lately Call'd to
Examin. Saml Aſhpo. an Indian of whom I once wrote you
& they were so farr ſatisfied & pleas'd with him as that
they advised to his being fitted as fast as may be for a
Miſſion. and accordingly I Expect Him to this School this
week. ſeveral others I expect here soon & my hope for
their ſupport is only in Him what ye Earth is, & ye fullneſs thereof
The Gen.l Aſſembly of ye province of ye Maſsachusetts Bay,
last fall, voted me ye uſe of a Legacy of S.r Peter
Warren
. of about £750 ſterling which he left in their hands
for ye Education of ye Youth of ye Six Nations, but I Understood
by Dr Chauncy that ye new form'd Society in & about Boſton
design if they can to get it into their hands, as ſoon as my
years improvt of it is Expired — Also his Majesty Counsell
and house of Representatives in ye province of New Hampſhire

have voted to ye uſe of this School £50 ſterling per annum
for five years succeſively, but there was not time for ye
Governour to Consider of ye Act before he prorogud ye
Aſſembly & so it is not yet ſign'd — & who knows to what
a Height this School may arise from low and deſpicable Beginnings
and what Glory may redound to the great Redeemer thereby
to God alone be all ye Glory!
Mr Smith inform'd me that there was some talk in England
of collecting a Library for ye use of this School, may God
incline ye Hearts of his people to promote that design
is there not a ſociety in England lately form'd with a ſpecial
view to ye printing & disſperſing Usefull Books? I wish I
could be inform'd particularly about it & if you think fit
introduced to a Corresſpondance with some members of it. Miſs
Williams
before she left Wethersfield, sent me a Number of
valuable and useful to be disperſed as I judged but among
Children &c which I now suppose might likely come to her from
that Society. I have lately been ſick & brought low with
a Dyſentry but thro ye mercy of God am now able to do ſome
Buſsineſs
pray for Your Unworthy Br.o &c
Eleazar Wheelock
[right]Rev. Mr Wheelock
 Sep.r 1762.
 America
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.
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).
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.
Seneca Nation
The Senecas are one of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. They are the Westernmost Haudenosaunee tribe and are known as the “Keepers of the Western door,” just as the Mohawks are the “Keepers of the Eastern Door.” During the colonial period, the Senecas were the largest of the Six Nations, in part because they adopted large numbers of Native Americans and even some Europeans to compensate for losses from disease and warfare. (Their most famous adoptee was Mary Jemison, a Scots-Irish woman who spent her life as an adopted Seneca and whose memoirs were written down and published in 1824.) The Jesuits launched missionary efforts among the Senecas, along with the rest of the Six Nations, in the second half of the 17th century. However, the Senecas received fewer Jesuit missionaries than other Haudenosaunee tribes did. This may have been due in part to their close relationship with the British, to whom the Senecas were loyal allies against the French and the Americans. It could also have stemmed from their conflict with the Hurons, another Haudenosaunee-speaking tribe located to the west of the Six Nations. Although the Hurons and Haudenosaunee spoke related languages, they were fierce enemies; because the Senecas were the most western of the Six Nations, they fought the Hurons more often. The Hurons had close ties to the French and hosted numerous Jesuit missionaries, so the Senecas' conflict with the Hurons may have further alienated them from Jesuit efforts. The Senecas also sided with the British during the Revolution, and, in retribution, General Sullivan destroyed their homes and crops during his 1779 rampage through central New York. The Seneca perspective on Sullivan's campaign survives in Jemison's memoirs. After the Revolution, many Mohawks and Cayugas, who had also allied with the British, left central New York. Some moved west, while others moved to the Grand River Reserve in Canada. The Senecas are notable for staying on their lands, where many of them remain today. Samuel Kirkland, an Anglo-American Moor’s Indian Charity School alumnus most famous for his work among the Oneidas, began his career with a mission to the Senecas between January 1765 and spring 1766. He also was adopted by the Senecas. His mission to the Senecas gave him his reputation as an dedicated missionary because of their perceived savagery. Eleazar Wheelock himself had little contact with the Senecas. Kirkland’s Seneca brother by adoption, Tekanada, suggested that he might send his son to Moor’s Indian Charity School, but does not appear to have done so.
Farmington Tribe
The Farmington Indians were the inhabitants of the Algonquian town of Farmington, CT. Before European contact, the Indians at Farmington were predominantly Tunxis. Disease and violence decimated the tribe and, by 1725, only 50 members survived. They were joined in the mid-18th century by members of the Quinnipiac, Sukiaugk, and Wangunck tribes, and the new group became known as the Farmington Indians. Farmington was one of the seven towns (along with Mohegan, Montauk, Niantic, Charlestown, Groton, and Stonington) that participated in the Brothertown movement, a composite tribe comprised of Algonquians from around the Long Island Sound that immigrated to Oneida territory in 1775, and again in 1783. Farmington was a predominantly Christian town. It was first evangelized by Rev. Samuel Whitman, a minister under the employ of the New England Company, who preached and taught at Farmington from 1732 until his death in 1751. Although Whitman’s successor, Rev. Timothy Pitkin, did not pursue the mission with the same zeal, the Farmington Indians were more than capable of attending to their own religious needs. Farmington became an active participant in regional networks of Algonquian Christian worship, along with the six other settlements that eventually joined the Brothertown movement. Samson Occom preached there, and, in 1772, he introduced his soon-to-be son-in-law Joseph Johnson as a schoolteacher and preacher. Although Johnson only formally taught at Farmington for 10 weeks, he subsequently used the town as his base of operations for organizing the Brothertown movement. The Farmingtons were instrumental in Johnson’s cause. They made up the bulk of immigrants in the aborted 1775 expedition (which then found shelter at Stockbridge, MA, where some Tunxis were already living) and, when Brothertown was re-founded in 1783, Elijah Wampy (a Farmington leader) formed part of the town’s leadership. Some Farmington Indians remained at Farmington rather than immigrating to Brothertown. However, by the late 19th century, those Farmington Indians had emigrated, died out, or been assimilated.
General Assembly of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay
The Massachusetts General Assembly was the legislative branch of the colony of Massachusetts. One of its responsibilities was distributing available funds to missionary societies. Naturally, the Massachusetts Assembly became the site of several conflicts between Wheelock and his Boston rivals, the New England Company and Chauncy's Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Wheelock's dealings with the Massachusetts General Assembly related primarily to the Peter Warren fund. Sir Peter Warren (who was, incidentally, Sir William Johnson's initial employer in America), died in 1752 and left a fund of £750 to the Massachusetts Assembly for the education of Indian children. The Assembly ignored this fund until 1761, when it began distributing the interest Warren's legacy had accumulated. Andrew Oliver, the Assembly's secretary and the New England Company's treasurer, was at this time friendly to Wheelock and alerted him to the fund's existence. Wheelock applied for the money and received a total of £291.12 between 1762 and 1765 for the support of Indian students, including several members of the 1765 expedition to the Six Nations. In 1762, Charles Chauncy tried to claim the fund for his missionary society, the short-lived Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America. That society folded and Wheelock continued receiving the money. In 1765, the Assembly stopped rewarding Wheelock the Warren interest. Instead, it distributed the money to Rev. Forbes, a minister affiliated with the New England Company. It is no coincidence that the Assembly's decision coincided with Wheelock's breach with the New England Company. For whatever reason, in 1765 the New England Company became very hostile to Wheelock -- perhaps because they opposed Occom's fundraising tour. The New England Company had enormous influence in the Massachusetts Assembly through Andrew Oliver, and was likely behind the Assembly's decision to cut Wheelock off from the Warren fund. Wheelock applied to the Massachusetts Assembly for funds again in 1772 and 1773. While some interested individuals did offer Wheelock money, the Assembly rejected both his petitions, likely because of Wheelock's rivals in Boston. It is important to keep in mind that although the Massachusetts Assembly did not fund Wheelock after 1765, they still supported various missionaries and missionary societies.
Society for Propagating Religious Knowledge Among the Poor
The Society for Propagating Religious Knowledge Among the Poor, also known as the Book Society, was formed by dissenters (members of sects that diverged from the Church of England, such as Presbyterians and Baptists) in London in 1750 to distribute religious books to the poor. The Society donated books to Wheelock on at least two occasions in the 1760s; some of these books are still in the Dartmouth Library. The Book Society should not be confused with the Anglican Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), which also distributed religious texts.
Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America
The Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America (called by Chase the Society for Promoting etc.) was a missionary society formed in Boston in 1762 ostensibly to counter the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Charles Chauncy's feud with Eleazar Wheelock may also have played a role. The Society tried to compete with Wheelock for the Peter Warren legacy distributed by the MA General Assembly, and also tried to replicate his plan for educating Indian boys in colonists' homes, and as Chauncy was very involved in organizing it, taking money from Wheelock was probably an added perk. We should not, however, conclude that all members of the Society were conspiring to ruin Moor's Indian Charity School: it is much more likely that they were conspiring to interfere with Anglican missionary efforts. The Society was comprised of clergymen and laymen, including all members of the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Religious Knowledge. The Society...among the Indians of North America petititoned the crown for incorporation, but was denied. Members of the Society believed that the Archbishop of Canterbury had ruined their petition, although the Lords of Trade pointed to inconsistencies in their financial records. It is likely that both shoddy organization and religious politics played a part in Parliament rejecting their incorporation. In 1787, the remaining members of the Society petitioned the General Assembly of MA for incorporation and received a charter.
His Majesty Counsell and House of Representatives in the Province of New Hampshire
The Council and Assembly, along with the Governor, made up the colonial government of New Hampshire. Council members were appointed by the King of Britain while members of the Assembly were elected by constituents. Wheelock and Dartmouth College had a rocky relationship with the New Hampshire government. Between 1761 and 1766, Wheelock received limited support from the Assembly. The governor at the time, Benning Wentworth, was an Anglican who generally opposed anything Congregationalists tried to do. B. Wentworth defeated an attempt by Henry Sherbourne, a George Whitefield devotee and the speaker of the Assembly, to grant Wheelock recurring funding, but he did later allow the Assembly to grant Wheelock a one-time payment of £50. However, when it fit his political needs, B. Wentworth was willing to relax his policy on Congregationalists. He offered Wheelock tracts of land in the western Connecticut River Valley in 1763 and 1765, largely because he was trying to claim that territory for New Hampshire. Wheelock fared better under Benning's successor, John Wentworth, who became governor in 1767. J. Wentworth granted Wheelock the land for Dartmouth and enthusiastically supported his move. He became a member of the College's first board, along with several members of the colony's Council. The Assembly was much less supportive of the new College than the Governor and Council were. It vigorously opposed Wheelock's attempts at incorporation (governance over the College's town) and hesitated to let Dartmouth return to New Hampshire after a brief period of unity with Vermont (June 1778-February 1779). The State's first constitution, established in 1783, even banned anyone involved in the administration of "a College" from holding a seat in the state government, although this policy was removed in the 1792 constitution.
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.

Oneida

Oneida is a city in Madison County located at the geographical center of New York state. Before European settlement of the area, the Oneida Tribe, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, inhabited a large territory adjacent to nearby Oneida Lake. Around 1533, they built their first village on the south shore of the lake, at or near the mouth of Oneida Creek. At the end of the 17th century, this area began suffering raids by parties from the French colony of Quebec, in a battle to control the fur trade. In 1696, Oneida village was burned by the French. As a result, the Oneidas moved their chief village east of the original site, called Old Oneida, to a new site called Kanawalohale, also known as Oneida Castle, which was fortified by tall palisades and a moat. This is the site of the present-day village of Oneida Castle, a small hamlet west of the city of Oneida in the northwest corner of the town of Vernon. When used in Occom Circle documents, the place name "Oneida" usually refers to the territory inhabited by the Tribe east of Oneida Lake, but can also refer specifically to Oneida Castle. Although the Oneidas sided with the patriots during the Revolutionary War, much of their territory was sold or appropriated by the state of New York. In 1790, the first European settlers moved into the area of Old Oneida village, and the district began to expand. In the 1830s, the state built a feeder from Oneida Creek through the present city site to provide water for the new canal system, which enabled canal boats to ship freight into the town. Eventually, the railroad came through the town and helped with its expansion. This led to the incorporation of the Village of Oneida in 1848 and the establishment of the Town of Oneida in 1896. The town was chartered as the City of Oneida in 1901, and with two more railroad lines transecting the area, it became a thriving manufacturing center for the first half of the 20th century.

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.

Black Fort
Wethersfield

Wethersfield is a town in central Connecticut located south of Hartford. The land that would become Wethersfield was inhabited by the Wongunk Indians, who called it Pyquag. In 1634, the Wongunks established trade with British settlers in Watertown, Massachusetts. Soon the fecund soil attracted British colonists to settle in the area, which they initially named Watertown before renaming it Wethersfield in 1637. Wethersfield’s proximity to the Connecticut River made it an important trading town, famous for its red onions, which has continued to be a symbol of the town throughout the centuries. The architecture of 17th- and 18th-century Wethersfield homes reflects the colonists’ need for security against the Pequots, a powerful and expanding tribe with whom the people of Wethersfield, aided by an alliance of Mohegan and Narragansett Indians, had battled during the Pequot War (1636-37). In 1692, a flood shifted the course of the Connecticut River east and destroyed all but one warehouse in the town of Wethersfield, which nevertheless continued to play a major role in commerce in the 18th century. Solomon Wells, a firm friend and patron of Occom, lived in Wethersfield.

New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire is in northern New England, bordered by Vermont to the west, Maine to the east, Massachusetts to the south, and Canada to the north. The Connecticut River, which begins in Canada and empties into the Long Island Sound, runs along the western border of New Hampshire and, in the colonial period, functioned as a route for trade -- both of commodities and ideas -- between southern New England and the northernmost parts of America. New Hampshire was originally inhabited by large groups of Abenakis who spoke a dialect of Algonquin distinct from New England tribes to the south, but by 1617, disease and war had brought their number to only 5,000. European fishing fleets had travelled to the coast of New Hampshire since at least 1497, but English settlement of New Hampshire formally began when Captain John Mason, Governor of Portsmouth in Hampshire, England, was granted land in the region in 1622. Settlers arrived in 1623, establishing a base near what is now Portsmouth and entering the fur, fish, and timber trade. In 1641, New Hampshire agreed to come under Massachusetts' jurisdiction, but in 1679, Charles II gave New Hampshire its own charter. From then on, the Province of New Hampshire had its own government, consisting of a royal Governor and Council and an elected House of Representatives. By the time Wheelock moved Moor's Indian Charity School to New Hampshire, the colony was experiencing unprecedented growth. English victory in the French and Indian War stabilized the region, and as a result New Hampshire's Governor Benning Wentworth began to grant hundreds of townships to new settlers, many from the colony of Connecticut. Though Wheelock considered moving Moor's Indian Charity School to several different places, he finally decided on Hanover, NH, in 1768. Because Benning Wentworth was not receptive to Wheelock and his school, it was his nephew and successor Governor John Wentworth who signed Dartmouth College's charter in 1769. In August 1770, Wheelock moved his family to New Hampshire and established Dartmouth College. Moor's and the College would exist side-by-side in Hanover for decades. Soon after Wheelock founded Dartmouth in New Hampshire, the Revolutionary War began and the colony declared its independence. While several buildings and locations around Hanover bear Occom's name, he never visited the town or the college.

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.

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.

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.

Warren, Peter
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.

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.

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.

Chauncy, Charles

Charles Chauncy was an eminent Boston divine, the most zealous proponent of Old Light doctrine, and Wheelock's lifelong rival. Born into functional Puritan royalty -- his grandfather, also Charles Chauncy, had been president of Harvard in the seventeenth century -- Chauncy had every social connection possible. He entered Harvard himself at age 12, graduated in 1721, and became copastor at the First Church of Boston in 1727. From this pulpit, he launched his attacks on New Light Congregationalists. While the Old Light/New Light schism was deep, Chauncy alone saw the split as a cosmic battle between good and evil. His notable polemics include his 1743 work, “Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England," as well as a 1744 open letter against George Whitefield. Chauncy had a long, bitter conflict with Wheelock. Wheelock was among those specifically named in Chauncy's attacks, and Chauncy used every avenue possible to frustrate Wheelock's plans for Indian education. As chair of the Boston Board of Correspondents for the SSPCK, Chauncy had plentiful opportunities to frustrate Wheelock, and was likely the impetus for Wheelock's creation of a Connecticut Board in 1764. Notable clashes between the two men included: 1) In 1761-1762, the Boston Board reneged on a promise to fund the education of a certain number of Indian boys. 2) In 1762, Chauncy formed his own society -- the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America -- and competed with Wheelock for sources of funding (specifically, a fund left by the late Peter Warren). This society planned to a) set up English day schools in Indian country and b) bring Indian boys back to English towns to be educated. Given the overlap with Wheelock's own goals and methods, it is fortunate for Dartmouth's history that Parliament denied Chauncy's society incorporation. For what is perhaps the most often cited letter on the feud, see Chauncy to Wheelock, 762165.

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.

Wentworth, Benning
Occom’s Second Mission to the Oneidas
In 1762, Occom returns to Oneida from May to September to find the people in dire straits due to war and an early killing frost.
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to George Whitefield, 1762 September 16
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only