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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to George Whitefield, 1762 September 16

ms-number: 762516

abstract: Wheelock writes of his difficulty in securing pupils, and relays news from Occom about the bad conditions among the Oneidas. Ashpo is being trained for mission work. The future of a grant from the Massachusetts assembly and other monies are in question.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small and crowded, with several additions and deletions, which affects legibility.

paper: Large single sheet is in good condition, with light staining and wear, and moderate creasing.

ink: Black-brown

noteworthy: This document is likely a draft. Manuscript 762516.1 is a copy of this letter.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.

events: Occom's Second Mission to the Oneidas

My very dear and Hond Sir Friend
David, my Indian Schollar returned July 18
from the Mohawk Country, where I informed you in my
laſt, I had Sent him, and bro.t with him 4 Indian Boys three Mohawks
Boys and one of the Farmington Tribe the Boys and Girls which I expected from Onoyada
wre detained by their Parents on acco.t of a Rumour, & Suſpicion, of a war just com̅encing
between them and the Nations back of them occaſioned
as they Said by the Attachment of the Onoyadas to the Engliſh,
in which and in ſuch a caſe they sd they did not chuſe conſent to have their
Children at ſuch a Diſtance from them, but perhaps they were Suſpicious yt
they ſhould be obliged to Joyn those Nations againſt the
Engliſh. The engliſh youth of which I informed you,
who has been a Captive with the Senecas till he is Maſter
of their Language, and which I ſent for with a view to
fit him for Interpreter to that Nation, was under ſuch
ingagements to a Trader at Black Fort as that he could
not get releaſed for the Preſent, I have again wrote to
Genl Johnſon who was not at Home when David was there
till the Night before David came away when he returned
from a long Journey which he had taken in order for a
Treaty with Several Diſtant Tribes of Indians, and then
was So full of Buſineſs y.t he could scarſely attend to any
thing but his own Affairs. I have again and deſired him to be
inſtrumental to procure, and ſend ye youth to me if he eſteem[illegible]
him likely for to anſwer the Deſign.
M.r Occom writes me a very meloncholly Letter. viz
that by an untimely Froſt laſt fall their Indian Corn was all
cut off – y.t the Onoyadas are almoſt Starved havg nothing
to live upon but what they get by Hunting — that they had
then just come in from their Pigeon Hunt — and were going a
fiſhing — as Soon as they returnd from that they will go
after Deer. that he followed 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 as they could be) and
eſpecially lying upon the wet ground his old Diſorders (viz Rhumatic)
returnd, and he was apprehenſive he muſt return befor the
Time appointed [illegible]— that he lived in fear, of being killd tho’ the Indians had
promiſed him if in caſe a war ſhould break out, they would ſend him
under a Sufficient Guard, down as far as the Engliſh Settlements
But there was Something good in his Letter viz that theree
were ſome viſible 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 thro’ the great Mercy
of God, I have 19. in Number viz 15 males and 4 females. and ye moſt of ym appr quite likely & hope
I Shall have Several well fitted for Interpreters and Miſsionaries in due Time
I have been favoured with the beſt of Maſters ſucceſsively for
Some years.
I have received the Bell which you Sent and and it is

[left]Letter to Mr Whitefield
Sept.r 16. 1762.
decently hung on the House which I have devoted to
the Service. and we now feal the Benefit of it. we
can now keep hours with but little Trouble. I hope
in Gods Time it will be used to call together a little
black Aſsembly to hear you preach Chriſt. —
A Small Council of Miniſters has been lalely calld
to examine Saml Aſhpo. an Indian of whom I once
wrote you, and they were So far Satiſfied & pleaſed with
him as that they adviſed to his being fitted as fast as
may be for a Miſsion. and accordingly I expect him to ye School this
week at this School. Several others I expect here ſoon.
and my Hope for their Support is only in him whoſe
the Earth is and the fullneſs thereof, and who has the
hearts of all in his Hands.
The general Aſsembly of the Province of the Maſsachuſetts Bay, laſt Fall year
voted me the use of a Legacy of ſir Peter Warren
of about £750. Sterling, w.c he left in their Hands for the
Education of the Youth of the Six Nations. but
I underſtand by Doct.r Chauncy that the new form’d Society in, & about Bos‐
deſign if they can to get it into their Hands as ſoon
as my year’s improvement of it is Expired.
[inline]also His Majesties Councel and House of Repreſentatives
in the Province of New Hamſheir. have voted to
the use of this School £50. Sterling pr annum for
five years Succeſsively. but there was not Time for the
Governour to Conſider of the act before he prorogued
the aſsembly and So it is not yet Signed.
and who known to what a heighlh this may ariſe from low
and deſpicable Begin[illegible][guess: in]gs, and what Glory may redown to
the great Redeemer thereby. to God alone be all the Glory.
M.r Smith inform’d me that there was Some talk in England of collect‐
-ing a Library for y.e use of this ſchool may God incline the Hearts of
his people to promote that Deſign. Is there not a Society in
England lately formed with a Special view to the Printing and
diſperſing useful Books? I wiſh I could be informed perticularly of it. and
if you think fit introduced to a Corriſpondance with ſome mem‐
-ber of it. Miſs. Williams before She left Wethersfield Sent me
a Number of valuable and useful Books to be diſperſed as I
judged beſt among Children &c, which I now suppoſe might likely
come to her from that Society.
I have two Engliſh youth in my School, Charity Schollars, fitting
for a Miſsion as fast as poſsible and I yesterday concluded
to take a Lad, Eleazar Swetland of a neighbouring Pariſh
who was hopefully converted laſt Spring by the Bleſsing of
God on the preaching of M.r Huntington y.e School Maſter laſt
year, his experiences are clear his affections appear genuine
and he ſeems to be Truly filled with the Holy Ghost his Heart is much ſet upon being fitted for Miſsny amng [illegible] I hope his
warmth and Zeal may by the Bleſsing of God be of Special
Service to the School.
I have lately been ſick and bro.t low with a Dyſsentary
but through the pure mercy of God am now able to do ſome
Buſineſs. pray for your unworthy B.r &c

Eleazr Wheelock
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.

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.

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.

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.

Warren, Peter
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.

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.

Wentworth, Benning
Swetland, Eleazar
Occom's Second Mission to the Oneidas
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to George Whitefield, 1762 September 16
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