Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Samson Occom, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1764 August 22

ms-number: 764472

abstract: Occom reports on his activities and on progress in the building of his house. He also notes that he’s been paid a half-year's salary by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America. On two verso, Wheelock has written an outline for a sermon.

handwriting: Occom’s hand is formal and clear; Wheelock’s is cramped, heavily abbreviated and much less legible. There are two other hands on the document: one is that of an editor, likely 19th-century; the other likely belongs to Solomon Williams.

paper: Medium-sized sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with moderate wear along the edges, and a tear in the center that results in some loss of text.

ink: Dark brown ink, likely iron gall, has burned through the paper in spots.

noteworthy: Woven throughout Wheelock's sermon are random notes that appear to be in Wheelock's hand. A note added below Wheelock's sermon appears to have been written by Solomon Williams. On two verso, an editor, likely 19th-century, has added the note "S. Occom aug. 22. 1764." This note has not been transcribed.

layout: Occom's letter is on one recto and verso; Wheelock's notes are on two recto and verso.

events: Building of Occom’s House

I can write
but a ward or two in great hur
ry, I was at New London Mon­
and I can find nothing that
the Honble Commſſrs has done
for me But ten Pounds ſince
I firſt went up to onoyda, and
that was paid as Salary for half
years Service at Mont[illegible]auk
Timber for [illegible]my Houſe is got thro'
your good Influance for wich I am
thankful and I hope ever Shall
be [illegible]both to god and man — I have
many Hands to Day Both Plowers
and Seller Diggers, and the overs
are to meet here this Day
by the dorder of the Government
to reconclile matters as I under­
ſtand —David went to Lyme
laſt Satturday and he is not
come back — I want to go on our
Journey as ſoon as poſſable
we have been very Sick in
my family but are now better
thro' favour, — with Sincere
Service I Subſcribe your [illegible]worth
leſs Servant
Samſon Occom
Auguſt 22 1764
John 6.53. except ye Eate ye Fleſh
and Drink ye Blood &c —
D. y.t nil can give us Sp.l Life but Eatg ye
fleſh & Drinkg ye Blood of X.
I. Diſcribe [illegible][guess: y.e] faith in X & [illegible][guess: pr]lrly w.t of it is
Implyd in Eatg [illegible][guess: the] — y.[illegible][guess: s] metaph.l
Diſcripn of it in o.r txt.
1. y.t x is y.e Fountn auth.r [illegible][guess: Nouriſ][illegible]&
of Sp.l Life.
2. an appetite to [guess: y.s] food w.c is occaſiond
only by con[illegible][guess: v]n of y.e [illegible][guess: Lord]. ==
3. Delight. An applic.n of x to [illegible][guess: offer] . ==
4. Delight. meet in [illegible] ==
5. Deriv.n of Nouriſhmt fr. him.
II. wthout y.s is not Spl Life. Le Da[illegible]rd
1. y.e Princle of Life [gap: hole][illegible][guess: sup tg] S.[illegible][guess: t] of Life in x[illegible]
2. of courſe all y.e [illegible][guess: Actgs] of it. & all [illegible][guess: Contry]
Enmity == This [illegible][guess: For] [illegible][guess: for] [illegible][guess: David]
3. all ye Symptoms of Death —
1. fr. ye grtnſs of y.[illegible][guess: s] Neceſsty David 1764
2. fr. y.e Expence of y.e Giver of y.e Bene[illegible][guess: fet][illegible]
3. y.e freenſs of y.e off.r == wthout money:
4. y.e Sweetnſs & B[illegible]dnſs of y.e Enjoy[illegible][guess: mnt] ==
5. y.e [illegible][guess: pl]eadgs of infinite L. on ye one hand
and Infinite wrath threatnd ==
The above is a sermon in the hand
writing of Dr Eleazar Wheelock,
first President of Dartmouth
[bottom]1.Mourng makes way for Comf.t.
accordg to y.e courſe of Natr Night before Day
y.e Sp.t of y.e Ld. is upon me. == [illegible] of Joy for ==
2. mourng makes way for comft: it opens ye
[illegible] bids x his Comfts wellcome ==
The Revd El⁁azer Wheelock
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.

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.

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.

Building of Occom’s House
HomeSamson Occom, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1764 August 22
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only