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Sir William Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 June 19

ms-number: 766369.3

abstract: Johnson writes to say that he is in council with some of the Six Nations regarding an "unhappy affair," and that Deacon Thomas was detained on his way to visit Wheelock.

handwriting: Handwriting is informal though mostly clear and legible. The text is dimmed slightly be earlier preservation work.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages appears to be in good condition; however, it has been heavily reinforced, which renders the condition difficult to gauge.

ink: Brown ink is dimmed somewhat by earlier preservation work.

signature: Abbreviated.

noteworthy: When Johnson refers to the "2 Castles," he is referring to both Canajoharie and Fort Hunter. The words “Ind. Miʃ.” is written in pencil on two verso.



Revr.d Sir/
As I am now in Councils with a Number
of the Six Nations, & the whole Mohawk Castle
who are met on a verry unhappy affair, which
I greatly fear will baffle all my endeavours
for peace, and which the Bearer (who is now on
the Wing) will be able to give you some Acc.tt off.
I have only time to let you know that Thomas
an Oneida was so far on his way as this to pay
you a Visit, but was prevented proceeding, on
Acc.tt of the Death of his Uncle, which is to be
in a few days condoled by Me & the [illegible][guess: 2] Mohawk
Castles
, so that it would not be proper for him to
be absent by any means. I write this at his desire,
I hope your son may have found benifit by
the Medicine I sent him, nothing would give
me more pleasure than to hear of its having
a good Effect.

As I am with Sincere regard
Revr.d Sir Y.r Welwiſher
& very Humble Servant

W.M Johnson

P.S my Compliments to M.r}
Kirtland
if with you —}
The Revr.d M.r Wheelock
Blank page.Blank page.
Sr Wm Johnsons
June 19th 1766
Six Nations
The Six Nations (often called the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois) is a confederacy composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. The first five tribes unified at some point before European contact (dates differ by centuries), and the Tuscaroras joined them in 1722, after colonial violence drove the tribe out of Carolina. The Haudenosaunee occupied much of what is now central New York, and, thus, were sandwiched between French, English, and Dutch territories. They allied with the English against the French early on, just as their arch-enemies, the Huron, allied with the French. Despite the Six Nations’ unity, the constituent nations experienced European contact in different ways. The Mohawks and Oneidas, as the two easternmost tribes, had by far the most contact with the English, while the Senecas and Cayugas, the westernmost nations, had little contact with the English (although both hosted French Jesuit missionaries). Mohawk territory was the site of Johnson Hall, the administrative center and home of Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the Northeast. The Oneidas, meanwhile, played host to several prominent Anglo-American missionaries and were thought of as the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe by many colonists. Eleazar Wheelock became fixated on the Haudenosaunee soon after he established Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754. He saw in them the opportunity for a fresh start, since he believed that New England Indians had assimilated to Anglo-American norms in all the wrong ways (too much rum, too little Christianity). Wheelock established contact with the Haudenosaunee through Sir William Johnson and made the Mohawks and Oneidas the focal point of his missionary efforts for much of the 1760s. The American Revolution had dramatic repercussions for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas sided with the British, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the Americans. Since all Haudenosaunee hold membership in both a tribe (Mohawk, Oneida, etcetera) and a matrilineal clan (bear, wolf, and others), the tribes’ divergent alliances brought about political schism and violence within extended families. Furthermore, Haudenosaunee territory was devastated during the war, especially in General Sullivan’s 1779 raid on Cayuga and Seneca territory. After the Revolution, many Haudenosaunee who had affiliated with the British relocated to the Grand River Reserve in Canada, while many of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras remained in New York. The Haudenosaunee at the Grand River Reserve established their own council fire, which operated in parallel with the original council fire at Onondaga. Today, both council fires are still active, and each tribe also has its own independent government (as do displaced Haudenosaunee populations, such as the Oneidas of Wisconsin).
Oneida Nation
The Oneidas are one of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. During the 18th century, they were largely considered the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe. The Oneidas had a rich tradition of indigenous ministers, including Good Peter, Deacon Thomas, and Isaac Dakayenensere, and played host to several Moor’s missionaries, including Samson Occom, David Fowler, Samuel Ashpo, Joseph Johnson, Joseph Woolley, Titus Smith, and Samuel Kirkland (who went on to found Hamilton Oneida Academy, now Hamilton College). They were also the interpreter James Dean’s adoptive tribe. Notable Oneida towns included Onaquaga, Kanawalohale, and Old Oneida. Onaquaga was the central fire of the Six Nations. By the 18th century, it also had a sizeable contingent of Onondagas and Tuscaroras. Good Peter and Isaac Dakayenensere taught there, as did Joseph Woolley. Kanawalohale and Old Oneida were more predominantly Oneida. The Oneidas were involved in several crucial moments in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School. Onaquaga was the site of the 1765 confrontation between Wheelock and the New England Company, in which the New England Company disrupted Titus Smith's mission, first by sending their own missionary, and second by repossessing Elisha Gunn, the interpreter they had agreed to "loan" to Titus Smith. Left without an interpreter, Titus Smith was forced to abandon his mission (Wheelock repaid the favor a few years later by hiring James Dean away from the New England Company). A few years later, in 1769, Deacon Thomas led the Oneidas in withdrawing all their children from Moor's. The Oneidas' departure struck a devastating blow against Wheelock's Indian education plans, and provided more momentum for his shift to educating predominantly Anglo-Americans. The Oneidas sided with the colonists during the Revolution, but they were still affected by the general devastation in Six Nations territory, especially the Sullivan Expedition (1779). After the Revolution, the Oneidas granted tracts of their land to two Christian Indian organizations: the Brothertown tribe, a composite tribe of Moor’s alumni from New England, and the Stockbridge Indians. It was not long before the groups came into conflict with one another. Encroachment from the new State of New York put increasing pressure on Oneida land, and the Oneidas tried to renegotiate their treaties with the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians to compensate. The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians fought back, but by the 1820s all three groups had lost, and many of them relocated to Wisconsin.
Canajoharie

The historical Mohawk village of Canajoharie was located about 50 miles northwest of Albany, New York, in the central part of the state. Today, both a town and village in the same vicinity of the Mohawk village of Canajoharie have taken the Mohawk name, but the location of the present-day village is slightly east of the historical village. Because the village’s name was similar to the Oneida village of Kanawalohale, where David Fowler established a school in 1765, many sources conflate the two villages. Canajoharie, which in English means a washed kettle, was also known by the names Indian Castle and Upper Castle, which refers to the late 17th-century Mohawk fortifications that were built around the town following a series of French attacks during King William’s War. The term Upper Castle served to differentiate Canajoharie from Lower Mohawk Castle located in the Mohawk village of Tionondoroge near Fort Hunter. Canajoharie contained the Indian Castle church, which still stands today and was built in 1769 by the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson, with help from the Mohawk siblings Molly and Joseph Brant, who donated land to the cause. Throughout the span of the 18th century, war, disease, and emigration severely reduced the Mohawk population in Canajoharie, and an influx of both white and non-Mohawk Native Americans resulted in a diverse and ethnically mixed culture. Wheelock's missionary work in this village in the 1760s was headed by Theophilus Chamberlain, while Abraham major, Abraham minor, and Peter (Mohawk) maintained missionary schools near Canajoharie.

Johnson Hall

Johnson Hall, which still stands today, refers to a Georgian house located in the present-day town of Johnstown, New York. It also denoted the small village surrounding the hall that became Johnstown. Its namesake is Sir William Johnson. Following the close of the French and Indian War in 1763, Johnson moved from what was known as Fort Johnson located in the present-day town of Amsterdam, New York to Johnson Hall, which became an important site in the history of Indian-white relations in the area. Johnson lived out the rest of his life there, dying in 1774 following a fraught conference regarding the mistreatment of the Shawnees by the British. Johnson wrote several letters to Wheelock from Johnson Hall with news of the Indians and council meetings with their representatives. David Fowler and Joseph Woolley, missionaries trained by Wheelock who went to work with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), both called on Johnson, spending time at and writing letters from Johnson Hall about their work.

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.

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.

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.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

HomeSir William Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 June 19
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