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Gideon Hawley, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1763 January 27

ms-number: 763127

abstract: Hawley writes to tell of Occom's lack of tact in dealing with the Oneidas.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, but mostly clear and legible, with some additions and deletions.

paper: Single large sheet is in good condition, with moderate creasing and staining.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: Signature is abbreviated.

events: Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas

Revd & Hond Sir,

Your favours of 18th Octr & 21st Novr came safe & di­
rect, for which I humbly & heartily thank you. I should have
been glad enough to have heard from you before, but did not
take it illy that you did not write, suppoſing you had other
buſineſs, and other correspondents, that it was of more impor
tance for you to attend to: besides I live so much out
of the way, that it is very Difficult to get a paſssage for a
letter that is direct & safe. In regard to the viſit I sincerely
deſigned you before now, it has been unvoidably delayed by
such overtures in providence, which as at preſent it is needleſs
for me to relate — Altho all my relatives, and many of my
beſt friends are in Connecticut, I have not been able,
without neglect of more important duties, which could not be
dispenſed with, to viſit them since October 1758
In regard to Mr Occom, it is with singular pleaſure that I
view him as an orniment to his nation and to chriſtianity,
and am very sorry I never had the happineſs of being
acquainted with him. We were in the country of the Six Na
the fall before laſt at the same time, but such were the
duties of our miſsion, being straitened for time & having a
great deal to do, that we were seperated by the distance of
an hundred miles or near it. However, tarrying in the Coun
try, as I went after he did, when he was come off & seing
many of the Onoydas in my peregrinations, it being the
seaſon of their going to their hunting places, I had an Opper
tunity of being adviſed of his preaching, conduct & the rec[illegible]eption
he met with, among them; which were quite equal to what
one could expect. and what I communicated, & deſired my friend
to write you, concern some what, in his preaching that was
exceptionable, I thought it was beſt he should hear of; and yt
you, being his preceptor, spiritual Father &c was the moſt
suitable perſon to adviſe him of it. and the vindication
of himself [illegible: for] the reaſons M.r Accom gives I doubt not are [illegible] just & true,
and I think are satisfactory. A poor man among such a
people without a faithful & skilful interpreter is to be
pitied. However I would uſe this opportunity to say,
that the iregularities in dreſs and some other things in the
customs of Indians as they not sinful in themselves, it will
rather be commendable in a miſsionary to conform to them
in some meaſure, than at his firſt going among them to ſay
much very directly againſt them. The corruption of human Nature &
the sinfulneſs of it a miſsionary should expoſe in all it’s deformity
as much as poſsible which will prepare the way for ye Gospel.
St Pauls apistles, especially that to the Romans is the beſt
model and guide for a miſsionary.
In regard to your School is gives me very great satisfaction
to hear of its proſperity and I wiſh that it may floriſh
and that it may anſwer even beyond your expecta -
tions the great & good ends of its foundation. your
second letter gives me great concern becauſe you appear
to be afraid of your schools being a party affair, which
I pray God to prevent — you and I shall find, Sir,
the more we have to do with the world, that by reaſon of the
jealouſy which is inseperable from corrupt nature it will
be impoſsible for any conſiderable number to hold an ad-
vantageous confederacy for any length of time in any
affair. And we muſt be content with dragging along the
moſt generous affairs not only without the aſsiſtance of many
of whom we might juſtly expect it, but againſt the oppo
ſition of some, who are real friends to ye true intireſt of
religion, becauſe they can’t agree with us as to the me-
thods of promoting it. Indeed, Sir, we need much of that
charity which believeth all things, Loveth all things & en-
dureth all things.
In regard to my Indians my influence over them en-
creaſes and I see some little fruit, altho but little of my
labour; — they encreaſe in number since my settlement
— We have [illegible] one of our men, who has been as an
Agent to ye Court of Great Britain about our lands
and we hope to have our affairs upon a better foot-
ing. I have about Seventy Indian houſes & Wigwams
on this tract of Land beſides a dozen or more that be-
long to our meeting that live a little off from it —

I am, in very great haſte
Revd Sir,
your very Dutiful Son &
Servant in Chriſt
Gidn Hawley
Hawley, Gideon

Gideon Hawley was born in Stratford (Bridgeport) CT, the son of Gideon, a descendant of Joseph Hawley, who immigrated to America in 1629, and Hannah Bennett, daughter of Lieutenant James Bennett of Stratford. Hawley's mother died at his birth, and his father died when he was three; he was raised mostly by his older brother. A very good student, Hawley graduated from Yale College in 1749 and was liscensed to preach by the Fairfield East Association. Sponsored by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the Parts Adjacent in America (the New England Company), Hawley accepted a position as schoolteacer in Stockbridge in 1752, under the supervision of the noted theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was a preacher to whites and Housatonic Indians in the region. But because of the contentious politics in Stockbridge, Hawley accepted the NEC's offer to take over the mission among the Six Nations on the Susquehanna, in the multi-tribal town of Onaquaga, where Elihu Spencer has served five years before as missionary. Hawley was ordained in 1754 and acted successfully as missionary and interpreter, but was forced to leave in May 1756 during the hostilities of the French and Indian War. He returned to Boston and accepted a commission as chaplain to Colonel Richard Gridley's regiment, but resigned because of illness. The NEC then sent him to the large plantation of Mashpee Wompanoags at Plymouth, MA, who approved of him and requested his permanent appointment in 1758. Hawley was a staunch supporter of traditional tribal land ownership and Indian rights; the Mashpees enlisted his help in petitioning the Massachusetts General Court for their rights to self-government. During the Revolution, Hawley did not enlist in order to protect the tribe, and in 1789, he succeeded in abolishing Masphee as a "district" subject to state rule and served as the only resident overseer and treasurer until 1795. He opposed the mixing of whites and Indians, as in Stockbridge, which ultimately disenfranchised and drove out the Indians, but insisted the Mashpee Wampanoags learn English, the only language in which he preached, and practice agriculture. He married Lucy Fessenden in 1759; they had five children, four of whom lived to maturity. Their youngest son graduated from Harvard in 1792. Lucy died in 1777 and at age 50, Hawley remarried Mrs. Elizabeth Burchard in 1778, a widow twice over with a large estate. He died beloved and respected by the Mashpee Wampanoags, whose village he helped to sustain.

Wheelock, Eleazar

Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas
HomeGideon Hawley, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1763 January 27
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