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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America, 1764 July 9

ms-number: 764409

abstract: As secretary of the Connecticut Board of Correspondents of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, Wheelock writes to the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America, asking that it release Occom from its employ and pay him the 30 pounds that was promised him.

handwriting: Handwriting is small and informal, with several deletions and additions.

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

ink: Dark brown-black ink bleeds through to opposite sides of paper.

noteworthy: This document appears to be a draft.


To the Honle London Commiſs.rs in Boston
Hond Gentlemen,
I am directed desired by the Board of Correſpondents lately
formd in the Coloney by the Comiſsion of the Honle Society
in Scotland for propagating chriſtian knowledge
, to inform
you, that, in Conſideration of the many Advantages, which said
Correſpondents apprehend there may be to the Furtherence of the
gen.l Deſign of propagating the Gospel among the Indians, by
taking M.r Occom into the Same Plan with other Miſsionaries
and School Maſters, who are now prepared to be Sent forth, they
have voted to take said Occom into their Service, as Soon as a door
Shall open for his being improved therein, provided you will conſent
to releaſe diſcharge him him from from his engagements to you [illegible] Which they deſire you would pleaſe to take into
Conſideration, and conſent. And I would also inform you it is, [illegible] what Mr. Occom chuſes, con­
­ſidering that his Dwelling when he is not on the Buſineſs of his Miſsion
will be with, and near them and therefore his Circumſtances more easily
and fully known, and where he and his Family may eaſily apply to our for
Relief, Direction &c as there shall be occaſion, and he be employed as
profitably employed when he is not on the Buſineſs of his Miſsions abroad, profitably as he now is, and
so as not to interfere with your Miſsion in this Government. —
And he also chooſes it, as those Miſsion.rs. & School Maſter designed to be Sent from us are
all of them his Intitmate Friends & Acquaintents, and one of them his Bro
ther in Law, Who being joyn'd with him in the Same Plan, may naturally
improve and comfort, Strengthen & aſiſt oneanother in their reſpective
Buſineſs
And As M.r Occom was much in Debt when you took him into your
Pay, and more so now, and we have yet no Fund, as yet, for his Releif,
Said Corriſpondents pray you to take it also into your conſideration &
[illegible][guess: continue]grant to Mr Occom, at leaſt for the preſent year, the £30 which
you voted last Feby towards his annual Support and also that you would grant
as much Aſsiſtance as your can wisdom shall direct, towards paying towards diſcharging his preſent debts which
by the best Acco.t we have yet been able to get, [illegible] amount to not leſs than £60 New York
currancy pleaſe to favr with your Anſwer.as Soon as may be him who is
is with much Esteem & Duty Hond ſirs. And we the Comiſs.rs have also agreed to
use ourtheir Endeavors for his Relief amongst their own [guess: pp.], tho with little
Hope of succeſs. much Succeſs on acco.t of the great scarſity of money in ye country pleaſe Hond Sirs, to favour wth your
anſwer as soon as may be [illegible] him who is with much Duty & Eſteem

Your Most Obed. & Hum.le Serv.t
Lebanon July 9, 1764.
Eleazar Wheelock Secty to ye Board
 of Com̅iſsrs

Lettr to the London Com̅iſsrs
to releaſe M.r Occom to us
July 9 1764.
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.

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