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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Benjamin Forfitt, 1763 September 8

ms-number: 763508.1

abstract: Wheelock writes to Forfitt thanking him for sending a chest of books for the School, and detailing troubles with the Indians that have prevented the missions of Charles Jeffrey Smith, Occom and Ashpo.

handwriting: Hand is small and crowded, though mostly legible, with several abbreviations.

paper: One large sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, yellowing and wear. There are some ink blots in the middle of the page resulting in very minor loss of text.

ink: Light brown

noteworthy: There is no signature, and the last paragraph is deleted, which suggests that this is a draft.



Dear Sir.
Yours of 27.th Apr.l laſt, came ſafe with the Cheſt of
Books for this School &c. y.e 20.th of laſt month; and I take
them as an Anſwer of Prayer, and a renewed Teſtimony of God's
Favour for this Infant Inſtitution; and by God's Help I will
diſcharge the Sacred Truſt (for So I look upon it) in the beſt
manner. The Collection I eſteem very valuable and well calcu
­lated for the Deſign proposed. May God reward the pious Do­
­nors a thouſand fold for this and all their Abundant Charities
and Labours of Love for the periſhing Souls of men, as I truſt
he has, and forever will your dear Brother, who was the principle
Inſtrument in procuring this Benefaction.
The Expreſsions of Kindneſs in yours refreſh and incourage
my Heart. tho' the preſent Rupture with the Indians has drawn
a Cloud over the whole Deſign, but I truſt it is not abiding.
it looks like a dying Struggle, and I hope will prove to be the
lasſt Effort of Satan to Secure those who have been for ſo long
a Time peacibly in his Chains.
Sam.l Aſhpo, an Indian of the Mohegan Tribe, who has
been for a Time in this School, and was examined and approved by
a number of Miniſters of this Government laſt May, Sat out on
his Miſsion, y.e 6th of laſt month. and as I have heard nothing
from him ſince, I conclude he has got [gap: stain] into the Indian Country.
And as he deſigned to go among them in Indian Habit, I
hope he will not fall a Sacrifice to [gap: stain] their Rage. and who
knows how much Good God may make him an Inſtrument
of. and if God Should mercifully [gap: stain][guess: Succeed] his Endeavours
at Such a Time, when no engliſh Miſsionary dares to goe
among them, it muſt needs raiſe the Reputation of the
Plan we have been purſuing.
M.r Charles Jeffry Smith, an excellent Youth was ordained
in my Pulpit June 30. and Sat out on a Miſsion to remote
Tribes. July 4.th, was driven back from the Six Nations to
Albany, by an alarm of an Army of the Enemy approaching.
but it proved to be made by a few bad Fellows among themſelves
and Whether M.r Smith had returnd to those Nations, or not I can't
tell.
M.r Occom Sat out on his Miſsion, and, I hear, went as far as to
the Mohock Country but the Apprehenſions of Danger were Such
that he returned. The Combination among the Nations is very
extenſive, and their Rage very bitter; but by the laſt accounts
they have met with Such Repulſes, as give us Hopes that they will
now Soon be diſcouraged.
I have Sent M.r De Berdt Some Materials by Gen.l Lyman
and Col.o Dyar, in order to obtain the Royal Favour of an In­
­corporation, and a Grant of Lands in the Indian Country in Favo.r
of this Deſign. You have likely heard or will hear Something of
it. If this Suit Should be Succeſsful, I truſt God will also put it
into the Hearts of Friends to contribute to the Furtherance of the
Deſign of Introducing Religion, and Learning among them and,
as a means thereof to lead them into an underſtanding of Agricul­
­ture & Manufacture &c.
Letter to M r B. Forfitt
Sep.t 8. 1763.
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.

Forfitt, Benjamin
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.

Smith, Charles Jeffery

Charles Jeffery Smith was an independently funded Presbyterian missionary and itinerant preacher. After his father's early death, Smith inherited a large private income. Instead of enjoying a life of leisure, he chose to complete his education at Yale and then become a missionary. After graduating, he taught at Moor's Indian Charity School, gratis, for a few months in 1763. His first mission, and his only mission among Indians, was a 1763 endeavor to the Six Nations, accompanied by then-student Joseph Brant as an interpreter. However, Pontiac's War forced them to return. Although Smith continued his missionary career, he focused on slaves in the Mid/South-Atlantic region and English-colonist congregations. Smith held several important roles in Wheelock's Grand Design. He was Wheelock's heir-once-removed (after Whitaker) in Wheelock's 1767 will, and was proposed as Occom's companion on the 1765 fundraising tour. Wheelock consulted Smith about the location of what was to be Dartmouth College (Smith proposed Virginia or South Carolina), and solicited him as an envoy to the Six Nations in 1768; when Smith refused, the job fell to Ralph Wheelock, who severely alienated the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Sir William Johnson. Smith's residence was in Virginia at the time of his death, but he actually died in Long Island while visiting his family, from a gunshot wound sustained while hunting. It is unclear whether this was murder, an accidental shot, or suicide.

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.

Dyar, Eliphalet
DeBerdt, Dennys

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

Lyman, Phineas

General Phineas Lyman was a longtime friend of Eleazar Wheelock’s and a supporter of his school. He was born in Durham, CT in 1715 and studied law at Yale. After graduating in 1738, Lyman became a tutor then successful lawyer, and he managed a law school in Suffield, MA. When Suffield was incorporated into Connecticut, Lyman became involved with the Connecticut General Assembly. He served in the French and Indian War, commanding 5,000 Connecticut troops, and was integral in the battle of Lake George in 1755 although General Johnson was credited with the victory. After the war, General Lyman went to England in search of acknowledgment for his war endeavors, and to secure land on the Mississippi or Ohio River for himself and fellow officers. Lyman assured Wheelock he would endeavor to incorporate his school into the territory. However, in April of 1769, Lord Dartmouth wrote to Wheelock indicating that General Lyman had excluded the school from his plea; Sir William Johnson had denounced Wheelock for supposedly deterring Indians from ceding their property. In 1774, after 11 years of negotiations, General Lyman finally obtained the grant for the Mississippi and Yazoo lands; nonetheless, Wheelock had already established his school in New Hampshire. In 1775, General Lyman died en route to the newly acquired territory in West Florida.

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