Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
David Fowler, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 September 23

ms-number: 765523.4

abstract: Fowler recounts his arrival at Oneida, and describes the state of his school and life there.

handwriting: Handwriting is largely clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair-to-good condition with moderate-to-heavy creasing and staining. There is significant tearing around the remants of seal, but it results in no loss of text.

ink: Ink varies in intensity from medium-brown to brown-black.

noteworthy: The contents of this letter are very similar to those of manuscript 765365. In the closing salutation, it is uncertain to whom "Master" refers, and so it has been left untagged.

Honoured Sir,
I arriv'd here on the fourth inſtant,
and immediately began my School; but it is very ſmall
at preſent occaſion'd by gathering Corn and building Houſes,
I beleive I ſhall have thirty after the hurry is over — My
Scholars learn very faſt ſome have got to the ieght Page:
I am yet teaching both Old and Young to ſing, they can
carry three parts of ſeveral Tunes neatly.
I made it a long time before I got 'up here becauſe
I had ſuch heavy Pack.— I bought me Plow Irons and
ſeveral other Things which I could not do without very well.
I have got the littel Horſe; the Man aſk'd a Dollar for
[left]keeping him and half a Dollar for going with me ten Miles before he
would deliver the Horſe to me.— My coming up ſo ſlow,
buying ſo many things, giving Money to those Women and
bringing two Horſes almoſt took all my Money be‐
fore I got up; I think I was very prudent with my
Money.— I ſhall want twenty Dollars more. al‐
ſo I ſhall be exceeding glad you find would find me
a Compleat Letter Writer and Guide to Prayer.—
I deſign to come down next Year after
I have planted Corn and Mmy Garden things come
up. ſo that I may be able to tell my Children how
they muſt manage the Garden in my Abſence.
Give my kind Regards Mto Madam and
Maſter I could not write to him this Time.— And ac
cept much Love and Duty from,

your affectionate
though unworthy Pupil

David Fowler
Blank page.Blank page.
from david fowler
Sept 1765

The Rev.d Mr Eleazar Wheelock
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.

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.

Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

HomeDavid Fowler, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 September 23
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only