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The Chiefs at Onaquaga, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 December 29

ms-number: 765679

abstract: The Onaquaga chiefs write to tell Wheelock of Joseph Woolley's death.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear that results in a minor loss of text.

ink: Brown-black.

signature: There are multiple signatures, but all are first names only. It appears that the signatures are all in the same hand that has written the letter.

noteworthy: The identities of the chiefs are uncertain, although it is possible that Isaac is Isaac Dakayenensere; that Peter is Gwedelhes Agwirondongwas, aka Good Peter; and that Thomas is Deacon Thomas.



Father,
You What hath befell us is very
difficult, you made our Hearts glad when you
sent us a teacher to inſtruct our children, we
were likewise glad that he determined to spend
his life with us, that so our children might learn
to read, he appeared to be a very serious young Man,
but he is Dead, which very much grieves our
Hearts — Father, it is a very great loſs to us indeed
for he was a very sober Man, a very good Teacher, he
underſtood ye Book well, which but a few do, we
fear their are none will equal his place — We think,
Father, it was not our fault, t,was God that determi,
ned it, he set ye bounds, that none could paſs Bu[gap: tear][guess: t]
Joſeph is dead and what can we say more; we thin[gap: tear][guess: k]
perhaps God did this to try us, he sent one amoung us,
who had but a Short Time to live, to see how we
Should be affected with it; when the time is come
all means fail, and no help can be found —
Father, concerning what you wrote to us about building
him an houſe, and fenceing a paſture; [illegible]we had not
done it, but had determined to [illegible]help him about
theſe things if he had lived — Father we Send
our Regards to you and to the other Miniſters
who aſſiſt you —

[left]Preſent in Councill
{Addam
{Iſaac
{Peter
{Thomas
{Jacob
{David &c
Received March 30. 1766
Blank page. Blank page.
From the Cheifs of
onohoquage Jany 14
Dec.r 29.th 1765Joſeph Wooleys
Death

To —
The Rev,d Eleazer Wheelock
Lebanon
David

David was a chief at the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) town of Onaquaga. Because Onaquaga was home to an array of tribes, it is unclear which tribe David belonged to most closely. He was likely an Oneida, but could have been a Tuscarora. His name is preserved in Anglo-American sources because he was signatory to a letter informing Eleazar Wheelock about the death of Joseph Woolley in 1765.

Dakayenensere, Isaac

Isaac Dakayenensere was a chief and spiritual leader at Onaquaga. Dakayenensere worked closely with Good Peter to minister to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) community at Onaquaga, a predominantly Oneida town with a diverse population. After converting during the 1740s, both men took up the mantle of evangelism and Christian education at Onaquaga. They cooperated with Gideon Hawley, an Anglo-American missionary, throughout his missions in the 1750s, and in the 1760s they began writing to Wheelock for missionaries and assistance with farming. They received Joseph Woolley, who kept school at Onaquaga from late August/early September of 1765 until his death at the end of that November, but they do not seem to have received the promised farming assistance. Dakayenensere’s daughter, Neggen Aoghyatonghsera (alias Margaret or Peggie) married Joseph Brant, a Moor’s alumnus and famous Mohawk war chief. In some scholarship, Isaac is misidentified as a Mohawk.

Agwirondongwas, Gwedelhes

Gwedelhes Agwirondongwas, also known as Good Peter, was an Oneida Christian leader who played a prominent role at Onaquaga (a composite Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, town in Oneida territory) throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. He received missionaries from Eleazar Wheelock and worked with Samuel Kirkland, a Moor’s alumnus who conducted a mission to the Oneidas from 1766 until his death in 1808. Elihu Spencer, a Yale-educated Anglo-American missionary, converted Good Peter to Christianity in 1748 and taught him to read and write Mohawk (a language very similar to Oneida). By 1757, Peter was preaching and leading services among the Oneidas. Along with Isaac Dakayenensere, another Oneida Christian leader, Good Peter sought missionaries (and, more especially, husbandry aid) from Eleazar Wheelock. He carried messages for General Schuyler during the Revolution, and was imprisoned by the British. After the Revolution, he worked vigorously to oppose illegal Oneida land sales and general exploitation by the state of New York. Good Peter worked closely with Samuel Kirkland throughout his mission and served as one of his deacons, even though he was cognizant of and opposed Kirkland’s role in promoting illegal land sales.

Thomas

Thomas was an essential figure in Oneida Christianity and an important ally for Samuel Kirkland. While it is unclear when he converted to Christianity, by the 1750s he was preaching and leading services at Kanawalohale. By all accounts, he was a compelling speaker and talented at rendering Christian theology in terms compatible with Oneida cosmology. Thomas was instrumental in supporting Kirkland's mission: he often protected the Anglo-American missionary and helped him translate his ideas more effectively. Thomas also played an important role in the history of Moor's. His daughter, Hannah, was a student there, and in July 1768 he visited her. He returned the following January to pull her out of school following her mother's death, and he took the remaining five Oneida children with him. Later statements by Oneida chiefs (reported to Kirkland and David Avery) made clear that a large part of the Oneidas' reason for withdrawing their children was Wheelock's harsh discipline. Thomas was also present for Ralph Wheelock's 1768 outburst at Onaquaga, and was Avery's 1772 source for what had taken place there. Despite his disagreements with Wheelock, Thomas continued to support Kirkland's mission. Thomas was killed by British troops in 1779 while on a diplomatic visit to the Mohawks at Kahnawake (a site across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal). His murder gave the Oneidas yet another reason to side with the colonists during the 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.

Woolley, Joseph

Joseph Woolley was a Delaware who died of consumption while keeping school at Onaquaga. He came to Wheelock in 1757 as a replacement for John Pumshire, and although Wheelock labeled him as "fit for college" in late 1761, he never attended. In the fall of 1764, Joseph went to the Six Nations with Kirkland to learn the Mohawk language and keep school, and in March 1765, he was officially approved as a schoolmaster and returned to Onaquaga to teach. He was very popular there, but died unexpectedly in late November 1765. Joseph was engaged to Hannah Garrett, who later married David Fowler, but a letter from David (765302.2) suggests that Joseph may also have pursued Amy (David's object of interest before Hannah).

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