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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Henry Sherburne, 1764 August 29

ms-number: 764479

abstract: Wheelock encloses a copy of a commission from the Honorable Society in Scotland, and informs Sherburne of Occom's prospective mission.

handwriting: Handwriting is largely clear and legible.

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

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: This document is possibly a draft.



My dear and Hond Friend.
I am not a little grieved that my Acquantance
and even Epistulery Corriſpondance, with a Gentleman of Your
Character, and importance Should be So Stagnated, as it has
been of late. I aſsure you Sir, it is not on my part for want
of Affection to you, or Sence of the Obligations which the
many Teſtimonies of your former Kindneſses have laid me
under to you, but my continual want of Leiſure, and a
proper medium of Conveyance to you. — Which I hope your
own Thoughts have Suggested in Excuſe for me.
I wiſh you could know the whole of my Affairs relative
to my School, but they are too long to write. I here incloſe
a Copy of a Com̅iſsion I obtained from the Honle Society
in Scotland
— also other copies as you will See.
And I have purſuant to the vote & Determination of the
Com̅iſsrs fitted out M.r Occom & David Fowler, who Sat out
on their Long Journey this week, but without money; for
their Supply of Which, we have Sent them to M.r Whilefield,
who is now at New York, in hopes that by his Influence
their Miſsion May be Supported. I have also The Conſidera‐
‐tions moving us to Send them now you will See in the inclo
‐ſed Copies. — And I have ordered M.r Occom, with the
Advice of Sir William Johnſon to procure 15. or 20. Youth
from Tribes as remote as may be for this School — The openings in Provi
‐dence Seem to make it Clear that now is the Time if ever to exert our
‐ſelves, nor did there ever one within my Knowledge look ſo
favourable as this. in complyance with which we have proceed‐
‐ed as you See, truſting that the Cauſe is Gods and that he
will Still Support it. —
I deſigned to have renewed my Application to Your Gen.l
Aſsembly
for their further Aſsiſtance, and only my want
of Leiſure for it has prevented. I know you will do and
adviſe in the Afffair as you ſhall think prudent. pleaſe to let
me hear from you as Soon as You Shall may be. and
unleſs you have a more direct Opportunity it will be beſt
to direct your Letters to the Care of M.r Peck [illegible][guess: of] watch maker in Boſton
God is my only hope, and my only Refuge pray for me
my dear & hon.d Friend. and beleleive that I am

yours moſt heartily
Eleazar Wheelock
P.S. hearty Regards
to your good Lady.
& Your Family —

The Honele Henry Sherburne Esq.r

Letter to the Honle
Henry Sherburne Esqr
Sep.r 1764
Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) is a Presbyterian missionary society formed in 1709 and still active today. The SSPCK was founded to anglicize the Scottish Highlands, which at the time were predominantly Gaelic and had little in common with lowland Scotland. British Protestants identified many of the same “problems” in Gaelic and Native American society, and in 1730, the SSPCK expanded into the colonies via a board of correspondents in Boston. Although most of Wheelock’s contact with the SSPCK took place through its Boston, New Jersey/New York, and Connecticut boards, he did work directly with the SSPCK parent organization during Occom’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Since Occom was technically sent to England by the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK, it was only natural that his tour include a visit to the parent organization in Edinburgh. The SSPCK, headed by the Marquis of Lothian, issued a bulletin to its member churches which allowed Whitaker and Occom to collect a substantial sum of money with little time or travel. While most of the money that Occom raised went into a trust under the Earl of Dartmouth (the English Trust), the money he raised in Scotland (approximately £2,500) went into an SSPCK-controlled fund that ultimately proved difficult to access. While the English Trust essentially gave Wheelock a blank check for the money it controlled (much of which went toward clearing land and erecting buildings for Dartmouth College), the SSPCK was much more stringent about requiring that the money Occom had raised be applied only to Native American education. As was often the case in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world, religious politics were a powerful motivator. Wheelock and the SSPCK both practiced Reformed Protestant Christianity, but New Hampshire was an Episcopalian colony. To make Wheelock’s Reformed Protestantism more palatable to Episcopalian New Hampshire, the New Hampshire governor attempted to make the Anglican Bishop of London a member of the English Trust and possibly the Dartmouth Trustees (the Bishop of London seems to have never replied to the invitation). Dartmouth’s geographic association with the Episcopalian Church, in addition to concerns about the use of the fund, gave the SSPCK an incentive to withhold money from Wheelock. It only issued Wheelock £190 throughout his life, although it did provide financial support to Samuel Kirkland out of the fund. It is worth noting that Wheelock seems to have been well aware that he would have trouble getting money from the SSPCK: he went through the entirety of the English Trust’s fund before soliciting the SSPCK. Subsequent Dartmouth presidents struggled to access the money, with limited success, until 1893. In 1922, the SSPCK concluded that since Moor’s Indian Charity School had become defunct, it was within its rights to devote the remainder of the fund—then valued at £10,000—to other missionary operations.
Connecticut Board of Correspondents of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Connecticut Board of Correspondents of the SSPCK was founded in 1764 at Wheelock's request. He wanted a public board's support so that his school would seem more credible since it was a private organization with no charter. The Boston Board of the SSPCK would not do since they generally opposed Wheelock, so his solution was to petition the SSPCK for his own board. The SSPCK acquiesed, and the board met for the first time on July 4, 1764. While the board was nominally separate from Wheelock's school, in practice, he exercised considerable control over it. The members of the board were Wheelock's handpicked friends and supporters: Jonathan Huntington, Elisha Sheldon, Samuel Huntington, Solomon Williams, Joseph Fish, William Gaylord, Samuel Moseley, Benjamin Pomeroy, Richard Salter, Nathaniel Whitaker, David Jewett, and Wheelock himself. Wheelock used this board to send Occom and Whitaker to England, hold exams for Moor's Indian Charity School, and generally support his designs. When Wheelock moved to New Hampshire, he tried to establish a New Hampshire Board as well, but by that point the SSPCK was much more cautious when it came to Wheelock's plans and refused. The Connecticut Board dissolved in 1771 as Wheelock was its raison d'etre.
Moor’s Indian Charity School
Moor’s Indian Charity School was a grammar school for Native Americans that Eleazar Wheelock opened in North Lebanon, Connecticut in 1754. The school was named for Colonel Joshua Moor, also spelled More, who donated the land and school building. Moor’s was essentially an expansion of the grammar school that Wheelock opened in 1743 to support himself during the fallout from the First Great Awakening, when Wheelock, who'd participated in itinerant ministry during the Awakening, had his salary confiscated by the colony of Connecticut. In December of that year, Samson Occom asked Wheelock to teach him as well. Wheelock's work with Occom was so successful that Wheelock decided to replicate the experiment with other Native American boys. He accepted his first Indian students in 1754, and in 1761 began taking female students as well. Wheelock believed that in time, his school would become just one part of a larger missionary enterprise. He planned to send his Anglo American and Native American students to various tribes as missionaries and schoolmasters, with explicit instructions to pick out the best students and send them back to Moor’s to continue the cycle. His ultimate goal was to turn his school into a model Christian Indian town that would include farms, a college, and vocational training. However, Wheelock’s grand design did not survive the decade. Wheelock lost the vast majority of his Native American students; he fought with many of the best, including Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, and other former and current students accused him of subjecting Native Americans to disproportionate amounts of manual labor. In 1769, perhaps due to concerns about corporal punishment, the Oneida withdrew all their children from Moor’s. When Wheelock relocated to Hanover in 1769, only two Native American students came with him, and it became clear that Wheelock’s focus was on Dartmouth and that Dartmouth was for white students. After Wheelock’s death in 1779, Moor’s Indian Charity School receded further into the background as John Wheelock, his father’s reluctant successor, stopped taking Indian students. Some Native American students were enrolled in Moor’s until 1850, when the school unofficially closed.
His Majesty Counsell and House of Representatives in the Province of New Hampshire
The Council and Assembly, along with the Governor, made up the colonial government of New Hampshire. Council members were appointed by the King of Britain while members of the Assembly were elected by constituents. Wheelock and Dartmouth College had a rocky relationship with the New Hampshire government. Between 1761 and 1766, Wheelock received limited support from the Assembly. The governor at the time, Benning Wentworth, was an Anglican who generally opposed anything Congregationalists tried to do. B. Wentworth defeated an attempt by Henry Sherbourne, a George Whitefield devotee and the speaker of the Assembly, to grant Wheelock recurring funding, but he did later allow the Assembly to grant Wheelock a one-time payment of £50. However, when it fit his political needs, B. Wentworth was willing to relax his policy on Congregationalists. He offered Wheelock tracts of land in the western Connecticut River Valley in 1763 and 1765, largely because he was trying to claim that territory for New Hampshire. Wheelock fared better under Benning's successor, John Wentworth, who became governor in 1767. J. Wentworth granted Wheelock the land for Dartmouth and enthusiastically supported his move. He became a member of the College's first board, along with several members of the colony's Council. The Assembly was much less supportive of the new College than the Governor and Council were. It vigorously opposed Wheelock's attempts at incorporation (governance over the College's town) and hesitated to let Dartmouth return to New Hampshire after a brief period of unity with Vermont (June 1778-February 1779). The State's first constitution, established in 1783, even banned anyone involved in the administration of "a College" from holding a seat in the state government, although this policy was removed in the 1792 constitution.
Lebanon

Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

New York City
Boston

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.

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.

Sherburne, Henry III

Henry Sherburne was an influential New Hampshire politician who supported Wheelock's agenda from 1761 until his death in 1767. He was an extremely well-connected man: his mother was a Wentworth and his father was a Sherburne, two of the most powerful families in New Hampshire. Henry Sherburne began working as a clerk in the New Hampshire court as soon as he graduated from Harvard. He went on to become a judge and the Speaker of the New Hampshire Assembly. During the Great Awakening, Sherburne became one of George Whitefield's disciples. Whitefield then introduced him to Wheelock in 1761. Sherburne used his influence to secure support for Wheelock from the New Hampshire Assembly, and raised private donations in his colony (he did not succeed in gaining much support from the Assembly because Benning Wentworth, the governor at the time, was an Anglican and strongly opposed Congregationalists). One of Sherburne's sons was a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1776, as was one of his nephews (the son of his brother John Sherburne, trustee of Dartmouth from 1770-1777).

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.

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.

Peck, Moses

Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.

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.

Sherburne, Sarah (née Warner)
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Henry Sherburne, 1764 August 29
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