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Edward Deake, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 June 1

ms-number: 767351.1

abstract: Deake writes to recommend admittance for the son of Samuel Niles into the school.

handwriting: Formal hand is clear and legible. The handwriting is the same as that in 765566.1, 767115.1, 767552, 767559, 767562.2, 767630.2, 767660.2, and possibly 767231, 767251 and 768371.2.

paper: Single sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Brown-black.



Revd ſr,

Samuel Niles has a mind his son
should come to your school, after a little time
more; that he may be furnish'd with a greater
degree of learning than I'm able to give him; he's
an Ingenious Boy of about fourteen years of age, for
ability to learn Inferior to none of his colour. He
can read tolerable well in ye Bible: a line, or
too that he wrote this day I've Inclos'd for you
to look upon; if you pleas. He's now learning
to Cypher. — He's on every account as pleasant
a Youth as one in any in the whole Tribe.
These in ye greatest hurry may aſsure you that
I am with great respect (Revd ſr ) yr most
obedient humble Servt

Edwd Deake
from M.r Edw.d Deake
June 1. 1767.
Deake, Edward

Edward Deake was an Anglo-American missionary and schoolmaster born in Rhode Island in 1732. After receiving reluctant approval from the Narragansett tribal council for the support of a schoolhouse and schoolmaster on Nov. 26 1765, Reverend Joseph Fish, who had been living among the Narragansetts, hired Edward Deake to serve as schoolmaster to the tribe in Charlestown, Rhode Island. Funded by the New England Company, Deake taught his students to read English, write, and cypher, following the pattern of other missionary schools for Native people in New England. Out of 151 school-aged Narragansetts, 53 students, boys and girls, attended Deake’s school. Deake regularly consulted a council of Indians for input on the best course of action for educating his students. In addition to his 24 pounds per year salary, Deake also received living quarters for himself and his family in the schoolhouse. After Tobias Shattock left for England in 1767, Deake became the main recruiter among the Narragansetts for Wheelock’s school, often corresponding with Wheelock to recommend students. But the Narragansetts, under the leadership of the charismatic Native preacher Samuel Niles, soon became disillusioned with Fish and Deake, distrusting the purpose and motivations of the school and fearing the colonial appropriation of their lands and right to self-government. In 1770, Narragansett leader John Shattock Sr. told Fish that the Narragansetts wanted Deake to leave, and attendance at Deake’s school evaporated in the next few years. Finally, on January 2, 1776, Deake requested relief from his position as schoolmaster and left soon after. There is some evidence he moved to New York state and worked as a minister. Deake died in 1794.

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.

Niles, Samuel
Niles, Jr., Samuel
HomeEdward Deake, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 June 1
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