abstract: Avery writes to express his desire, and list his reasons, for going to college rather than early into missionary work.
handwriting: Handwriting is formal, clear, and legible.
paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.
ink: Dark brown.
layout: Pages one and two of the letter are on one recto and verso; however, the third page of the letter is on two verso, not two recto. The address is on two recto.
going to College, are some of them new to me; and eſpe‐
cially my Shortſghtedneſs is such, & Judgment of Af‐
fairs so inmature , I am quite unfit for an Anſwer.
It will be a great Diſappointment of my expectations
according to the Plan and Agreement I came upon, not
to spend any more time at College. If I rightly re‐
member, the Agreement was, that I should be fit
ted for College — and spend the major part of the
term of four years there, and then to receive the
Honors of College, if accounted worthy of them. This
would be neceſsary for a common Recommendation,
at leaſt among People and Gentlemen in North-Ame‐
rica, where I might be known; &c. if it should ever
happen I might not be engaged in a Miſsion, or if I
should — And it would be an Advantage in gitting
into Buſineſs in thoſe parts, if upon some sufficient
reaſon I should not purſue the Deſign. The Diſlike,
and evil Suſpiceon of many who profeſs Friendſhip
to me, and are not Friends to the Deſign, will be raiſ‐
ed againſt the Plan, and will be apt to think hard of
Mr Wheelock, (tho' the Reaſons should be given) and
so the School and Cauſe might be reproached. The
cruel tongues of many would then be set on fire, (as o‐
thers like diſpoſed have been,) and "say, Mr Wheelock
would not treat one of his own Sons so, who should be de‐
ſigned for the same Work: But were there not some lu‐
crative Views somewhere at the Bottom, things would
not be so." Tho' the Deſign has gained ground, and
of thoſe parts, will not be so senſible of it, 'till by and by;
and not only so, but, Sir, will not the School and we, who
have gone so far, be looked upon in a diminitive Light
by the College? I imagin it will be a great Advantage
to git an Acquaintance with Scholars, that when they
shall leave College and enter into Buſineſs abroad,
one might be of service to another. And, may I expreſs
the Paſsion — How comforting and supporting will
Friendſhip be to one in the lonly Deſert! It is but a short
Seaſon I can have to git an acquaintance with any Body
special within two years and half here — and to be sure
I muſt be under poor Circumſtances among the Pagans.
And will not an acquaintance with Men of Learning
be of great Advantage to one, who muſt be so much ex‐
poſed in a crafty World as a Miſsionary? There are
several Exerciſes of Improvement at College, we have not
here; tho' they are not abſolutely neceſsary for one who
expects to spend all his Days among Heathen; yet would
they not be servicable and inlarging to the Mind? What
you said, Sir, as to the Mathematicks, it give me Satiſ‐
faction — To have a tolerable acquaintance with them
I suppoſe is sufficient — Other Studies would be more agre‐
able, as well as profitable — I can eaſily, (and indeed,
it would be too black Ingratitude not to) believe your
Plans and Schemes to be the moſt for my Profit, and
to fix me for Uſefulneſs. And was the School fixt
and set up, it would not give me the leaſt Uneaſi‐
neſs, If I did not go to College at all: But untill
that is done, would it not be beſt, all things conſidered,
that we should spend a little time at College, as was pro
poſed, and agreed to, when we entered the School? Mr
Kirtland often (with tears) laments his short Acquain
tance with Claſsical, Scholaſtice Studies; and thinks
it to be neceſary for a Miſsionary, as well as any
other Calling in Life.
Affair — I can with the greateſt Submiſsion and Reſig‐
nation to Mr Wheelock reſign the whole Matter to your
parental Goodneſs, and Judgment. I rejoice I have yet
a Patron who knows better what is beſt for me, than myſelf:
deſire to go to College, as hath heretofore been propoſed: And,
if there be any Weight in them,/ with the profoundeſt Reverence
I begg they may be conſidered —
had to return you, my moſt sincere and hearty Thanks for
your Expreſsions of tender Care and Concern for my Health.
Your moſt obedi‐
ent, moſt dutiful,
and very humble
Mr Eleazar Wheelock,
From David Avery
May 26.th 1767
David Avery was one of Wheelock's charity scholars and had a long career as a Congregationalist minister. He studied at Moor's and Yale, where he was David McClure's classmate, and received his Masters from Dartmouth in 1773. Avery went on several missions to Indian tribes before his health forced him to retire. His first mission, before his final year at Yale, was to Kanawalohale as a schoolteacher in the summer of 1768. While there, he attended the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix as Wheelock's representative. After graduating, he served on Long Island around Smithtown. He was ordained August 29, 1771, at Dartmouth. Wheelock then sent him to the Oneidas for eleven months (September 1771 to August 1772), primarily to find out why the Oneidas had withdrawn their children from Wheelock's school. However, Avery's health was failing, and at some point between August 1772 and March 1773, he withdrew from Indian missionary service. In response, Wheelock charged him part of his tuition. Avery lived an exciting life after he left Wheelock's service. The Sabbath after the battle of Lexington (April 19 1775), he bade his Gageborough congregation farewell, mustered twenty men, and led them to Boston where he preached to the entire army. He enlisted as a chaplain, although he also fought in battle and served as a medic. He left the army in February 1780, and spent the rest of his life in a variety of pulpits, with a stint under the Massachusetts Domestic Missionary Society.
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.
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.