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

ms-number: 765673

abstract: Chamberlain writes from his mission about the bad state of affairs among the Canajoharie Mohawks, and about how the Indian teachers sent out by Wheelock refuse to obey him.

handwriting: Even, clear, yet letter case — particularly on "s" and "d" — is often difficult to discern.

paper: Light wear and creasing; watermark and remnants of seal visible.

noteworthy: Mentions “the Gravil” as a disorder -- possibly a reference to an older name for kidney stones or “urinary gravel;” a note is added in Wheelock’s hand; meaning of “crop” as in “crop the woods” unclear.

signature: Abbreviated


Rvd and honourd Sir
After a long and tedious Journey on Account
of the repeated Snows and Rains which have fell Since I
left your Houſe, I arived here laſt friday not in a good
state of health; yet thrō divine goodneſs am now comforta
ble. I find almoſt every Circumſtance this way diſcouraging
The Indians at fort Hunter have got strongly diſaffected
towards Engliſh Inſtructors suppoſing the Deſign of the
Engliſh is to Inſtruct them and take away their Lands as
a Recompence. They have uſd Calvin with such Language,
or rather he has heard such Language amongſt them againſt
the Engliſh that he cant be willing to stay amongſt them
this winter. In this Caſtle I am chargd with not keeping
my word to return within eight Weeks. My Blankets have
are taken by ye Chief Sachem and sold for Liquor; and all
the Recompence I can have is "you did not come back
within eight weeks the Time you talkd of. The Boys here
are so much offof[illegible] the Notion of being Subject to your Orders
that I can do nothing with them. Abraham major, indeed
I have not seen he is gone to Schoharry; little Abraham
cant come down before Spring on account of the Cold; Moſes
cant come till then becauſe he intends to bring down his
Coſen who cant come before Spring; John has got
two horſses to feed. & both[illegible] his Brothers being lateley gone
to War, he muſt do it himſelf and therefore cant go
with me to Onoida. This however unexpected is in
fact the Caſe. It suprized me to find them so re
solvd. I had tried the force of every [illegible][guess: thing] Motive I could
think of to alter their Minds but as yet can prevail
Nothing. I have mentioned your Expectations and their
obligations in gratitude to anſwer them. I have urgd
your Deſigns of making them men in the World & their
neceſaty of your Aſsiſtance to live like men; I have
told them the Consequences of their Staying here, their
growing raged, living like Indians, danger of being undone
&c. I have tried my own Influence which once was
conſiderable, but nothing prevails they will not stir.

David Fowler has been down from Onoida about a
fortnite ago and run in Debt above five Pounds [illegible][guess: york]
Money which I have paid for him. from Onoida I hear
that they almoſt deſpair of my coming there this winter.
There is no such thing as gitting to Onoida with a horſe
at preſent; I intend to settle things in the beſt Manner
I can here as faſt as poſsible and crop ye Woods on foot
to Onoida. Cpt Butler to whom I am greatly obliged
for repeated favours, has taken care (tho he did not go
as he proposd to Onoida) to send me up several sorts of
Proviſion to fort Stanwicks; which I here has got wet
and am much afraid it will be [illegible][guess: all] be Spoild.
Mr Smith was taken sick at Southhadley,
has the Gravil, I have but little hope of his ever
viſiting theſe Parts again as his Diſorder wont admit
of much Rideing. I carleſsly came from your houſe
without general Gages Commiſion, Should Cpt Buttler
viſit you this Winter as he intends if the Winter favours
with Sleighing pray send it by him, he thinks twill
be of great Service to us. The Money I brought will
not be Sufficient to carry us thro the Winter. if you
think proper we Should have more pray send it by
Cpt Buttler. Tommorrow I intend for fort hunter to
give them some further Acquaintance with your school
and Deſign, to set their minds a little at Liberty from
their Prejudices if poſsible.— Sir if I underſtood you
I had Liberty to send down some of thoſe Mohawk Lads
which were so fond of coming laſt fall; but none
of y[illegible] them Deſire to come before Spring, adviſe
me what you Deſire about them, before then
if poſsible; nomore at preſent.

I remain yours to ſerve Theoph Chamberlain
To Rvd E. Wheelock
To
Rvd Mr Eleazer Wheelock
In Lebanon
From Rev.d Chamberlain
Dec.r 23. 1765

Blank page.
Chamberlain, Theophilus

Theophilus Chamberlain was a Yale graduate and missionary employed by Wheelock. His interest in Indian ministry may have started during the French and Indian War, when he was taken captive by a tribe allied with the French (it is unclear which tribe) at Fort William Henry and spent a year in Nova Scotia. After his return to New England, Chamberlain attended Yale. Wheelock recruited Chamberlain, along with fellow Yale graduate Titus Smith, to spearhead Moor's 1765 mission to the Six Nations. Chamberlain was examined as a missionary on March 12, 1765, and ordained on April 24, 1765. During the mission, he was stationed at Canajoharie (the Mohawk "Upper Castle") and oversaw the mission to the Mohawks. While on his mission, he converted to Sandemanianism, a decision that profoundly shaped the rest of his life. It is difficult to evaluate his efficacy as a missionary: he had high praise for himself, and David Fowler said the Mohawks were affectionate towards him, but Occom described him as overzealous. Chamberlain served the duration of his contract, but clashed with Wheelock afterwards over who was responsible for debts he had incurred on his mission (e.g. transportation costs, support for schoolmasters and interpreters). After departing from Wheelock's service, Chamberlain was ordained as a Sandemanian bishop. He fled to New York and later Nova Scotia during the American Revolution because of his religious and political beliefs. In Nova Scotia, Chamberlain oversaw the establishment of the settlement of Preston.

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.

Calvin, Hezekiah

Hezekiah Calvin was one of Eleazar Wheelock's first Native American students. Like Wheelock’s other early Delaware students, he was sent by the minister John Brainerd. Calvin was certified as a schoolteacher on March 12, 1765, and was sent to the Mohawks at Fort Hunter in June 1765. The Mohawks threw him out at the end of September 1766, and he returned to Moor's. Samuel Johnson, an Anglo-American Yale student who replaced Calvin at Fort Hunter, reported that the residents unanimously accused Calvin of being abusive and rude. Calvin, in turn, maintained that the Fort Hunter Mohawks had mistreated him. Calvin’s second stint at Moor’s did not go well. He wrote several confessions for drunkenness and bad behavior, and frequently spoke ill of Wheelock. He left the school in the spring of 1768, and took up residence with the Secutor family (Narragansett) at Charlestown, Rhode Island. Calvin left the Narragansetts sometime late in 1768, presumably after the dissolution of his relationship with Mary Secutor. Wheelock heard reports early in 1769 that Calvin had been imprisoned at Little Ease, NJ, for forging a pass for a Black man (Calvin does not appear in the county records, so either he was never indicted or Wheelock had his information wrong). By 1777, Calvin was in a position of prominence at Brotherton, NJ (a town of Christian Delawares founded under John Brainerd’s ministry). At some point after 1788, Calvin moved west with the Delawares: he may have moved directly to join the Delawares in Ohio territory, or he may have relocated to Stockbridge in 1802 and then moved west.

Abraham

Abraham major (aka Abraham primus), a Mohawk Indian, served as an usher or junior teacher along with Abraham Secundus and Peter. All three kept separate schools. Abraham major's school, a short ride from Abraham minor’s, was outside of Canajoharie; it began Friday, July 12, 1765. As of July 17, 1765, he had 15 or 16 students, primarily male. These schools seem to have operated from July 1765 (they were still traveling in June, and Theophilus Chamberlain described their schools in late July) until December 1765, when Chamberlain reported that the Abrahams had departed, and that Abraham major was in Schoharry. Both Abrahams' schools were taken over in 1766. Abraham major must not be confused with Greater Abraham, a high-ranking Mohawk, the brother of King Peter Hendrick and uncle of Chief Abraham (not to be confused with Little Abraham, the Moor's student), who lived in Canajoharie at the same time.

Abraham

Abraham, known as Little Abraham, was an usher or junior teacher along with Abraham major and Peter. All of them kept separate schools. Abraham major's school began Friday, July 12, 1765, and presumably Little Abraham’s began at or around the same time. Little Abraham’s school was a two mile ride from Canajoharie, and as of July 17 1765, he had 11 or 12 students of both genders. These schools seem to have operated from July 1765 (they were still traveling in June and Chamberlain describes their schools in late July) until December 1765, when Chamberlain reports that the Abrahams have departed. Both Abrahams' schools were taken over in 1766. Little Abraham then taught a school at Willheske, 8 or 10 miles below Fort Stanwix, for an indeterminite time. He is not to be confused with another Little Abraham, the Canajoharie Mohawk who was Sachem from 1755 until his death in 1780.

Moses

Moses was a Mohawk Indian and Wheelock student who was part of the mission to the Canajoharie, Onaquaga, and Cherry Valley areas from 1765-1766. He taught the displaced Oneidas under Good Peter and Isaac Dakayenensere at Lake Otsego (next to Cherry Valley), along with Smith and Gunn. He taught reading and writing to between eight and 12 students. Although Joseph Woolley was initially supposed to teach this school, he fell ill and Moses replaced him. Moses also subbed for Woolley when Woolley visited the Tuscaroras. Like the other schoolteachers, Moses left over the winter of 1765 and returned to Wheelock, but he was back at Canajoharie by the next fall to teach with Samuel Johnson and Jacob Fowler. Theophilus Chamberlain speculated they could set up a third school for Moses, but this did not come to pass because by December 1st, less than a month after Chamberlain’s letter, Moses had traveled to Wheelock and back to Fort Hunter delivering letters. The Indians at Fort Hunter would not take him as a teacher because they preferred Johnson and distrusted unknown teachers after their experience with Hezekiah Calvin (according to Johnson). Moses appears to have continued working in the area, because in 1768 he refused Aaron Kinne’s request that he act as interpreter.

Johannes

Johannes was a Mohawk who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School from 1761 until 1765. He was approached as an usher (junior schoolteacher) on March 12, 1765, in the Moor’s graduation orchestrated by Wheelock in preparation for a mass mission to the Mohawk and Oneida. Johannes kept school at Old Oneida during the summer of 1765, but did not continue his post. A variety of Anglo-American Moor’s-affiliated missionaries, including Aaron Kinne and David Avery, sought his services as an interpreter, but there is no indication that Johannes accepted any of their invitations. It is more likely that, like other Haudenosaunees (Iroquois) who studied at Moor’s, Johannes rapidly reintegrated into Haudenosaunee society. Shortly after returning to Haudenosaunee territory, Johannes was too preoccupied with managing his family’s horses to serve as an interpreter (manuscript 765673), and a few years later, he was unable to respond to Aaron Kinne’s request because he was out hunting (manuscript 768363.1). Thus, in Johannes’ disappearance from Anglo-American records, we can read a polite rejection of the assimilation project that was Moor’s Indian Charity School’s raison d’etre.

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.

Butler, John

Captain John Butler was a prominent military officer and loyalist. He was born in New London, CT in 1728, and he received his education there. John’s father, Captain Walter Butler, had served well under Sir William Johnson, prompting Johnson to endorse the family. When Sir William became Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1755, he appointed John Butler and his brother, Walter Butler, Jr., as captains in the Indian Department; the two fought in the battle of Lake George on September 8 of that year. John Butler commanded Indian forces throughout the French and Indian War, and he often acted as an interpreter. He became Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs and a Lieutenant Colonel of the militia. While he lived in NY, he hosted various figures on their journeys to the Oneida Nation. When Sir William died in 1774, General Guy Carleton, the military governor of Quebec, appointed John Butler as the interim Superintendent of Indian Affairs; Sir William’s nephew, Guy Johnson, replaced him in July of 1776. In the summer of 1775, Colonel Guy Johnson, John Butler and his son, Walter, escaped to Canada, but the Revolutionaries seized Butler’s property and carried his wife and children to Albany, where they remained under surveillance. Captain Butler continued to be involved with Indian forces during the Revolutionary War. He commanded Butler’s Rangers, a loyalist special forces team that fought alongside Indians, and he is known for leading the Rangers in the Wyoming Massacre of 1778 in Wyoming Valley, PA. In 1779 the Americans released his family during an exchange of prisoners. They reunited in Niagara, where Butler maintained his headquarters during the war and remained thereafter. Butler secured compensation from London for the property losses he suffered due to the Revolution, and he lived the remainder of his life as a notable citizen in Niagara, serving as judge of the district court and Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He died near Niagara in May of 1796.

Smith

Unidentified Smith.

Gage, Thomas

General Thomas Gage is best known for leading British troops during the early years of the American Revolution, but he also played a major role in shaping colonial North America prior to American independence. Gage was born to a father of the same name, the first Viscount Gage, and his wife, Benedicta Maria Theresa Hall, in 1719/1720, in Gloucestershire, England. Viscount Gage was born Catholic, but he and his wife converted to the Anglican Church prior to the birth of Thomas. At age eight, Gage was sent to Westminster School, where he stayed until 1736, and in 1741 he entered the British military by purchasing a lieutenancy. After the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, Gage was sent to North America under the command of Major-General Edward Braddock, where he was involved in several disastrous battles, including the British defeat in the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga. In 1763, after the outbreak of Pontiac’s War, Gage took over as commander-in-chief for all of North America when Jeffrey Amherst, his predecessor, was recalled because of his abusive treatment of Native Americans. In this capacity, Gage began regulating settlers’ relations with Native tribes, especially the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederacy, and regularly corresponded with the superintendents, including Sir William Johnson. In 1764 and 1765, several of Wheelock’s correspondences indicate that missionaries needed to obtain permission from General Gage before proceeding into Indian country. Gage was also concerned with growing discontent among British colonists in the east, and increased the presence of British troops in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, he was instrumental in shaping British policy toward the colonists, including closing the port of Boston and allowing British soldiers to quarter in the homes of colonists. From 1774 to 1775, Gage served as the military governor of Massachusetts, where he was responsible for sending British troops to Lexington and Concord and for the costly British victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Shortly thereafter, Gage was replaced by General Sir William Howe, and returned to England where he was eventually commissioned as a full general in 1782, and died on April 2, 1787 in London.

HomeTheophilus Chamberlain, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 December 23
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only