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Elisha Gunn, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 September 2

ms-number: 767502.3

abstract: Gunn writes to introduce an Oneida chief.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is largely clear and legible.

paper: Single medium-sized sheet is in fair condition; it is thin and fragile with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. The remnants of the wax seal appear to have preserved a fingerprint.

noteworthy: It is uncertain to whom Gunn refers when he mentions "Rev. Smith," although it is possibly Titus Smith.



Rev.d Sir
The Barer hearof Tho.[illegible][guess: c, e] King a Chief of the
the Onoyeda Tribe living at Onoh—ge arived
at my Houſe laſt Wenſday on his Jorneey to Boſton,
and Expected that I Should have Borne him Company,
But I Cant by Reaſon of my Indiſpoſsion of Body
I adviſed him to go By the way of Lebanon Thinking You Would not Take
it amis, Wee ware in hopes of finding M.r Chamberlain
hear to acompany him to your Houſe But he is
Not at home, I Should Be Glad to Come Down
My Self if I was Able, he is a man of Value
and I hope may find favour [guess: wheair] Ever he goes,
he Deſires that You.ll pleaſe to send inan Indan Boy
with him to Boſton if you have any of the Mohawk
Tribe
that can Speak Engliſh
as to Other pirtickculars See The Rev.d
M.r Smiths letter

theſe from Your Humble Ser.t Eliſha Gunn
To The Rev.d M.r
Eleazer Wheelock
PS
S.r You Seemed to Tthink in Your leter that I
had bin Shy of Your Houſe, if I am So, it is
without any Juſt Grownds for it, I Neaver was
within twenty miles of Your Houſe But twice
in my life the firſt time I Called to see You
the second Time I and was kindly Treated the
Second Timse I intended to have keep.t Sabbath
at Your Houſe But Stop.t at Lebanon By a
Storm and paſt Your Houſe a Sabbath Evening
with Some Company that would not Stop
and was loath to Brake Company E Gunn


from M.r Eliſha Gun
Sept.r 2. 1767.

To
The Rev.d Mr Eleazer Wheelock
Att
Lebanon
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.
Mohawk Nation
The Mohawk Nation is one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. As the “eastern door” of the Confederacy, or easternmost Haudenosaunee nation, the Mohawks were perceived throughout the colonial period as a gateway to wider alliances, trade, and religious influence with the Six Nations as a whole. Thus, they received heavy missionary attention from Jesuits, Anglicans, and Congregationalists as early as the 17th century. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the Mohawks and Six Nations more generally were a point of heated competition between Britain and France, as well as between Protestant Christian sects. Wheelock sent several missionaries and schoolmasters to the Mohawks between 1765 and 1767, including Theophilus Chamberlain (Anglo-American), Hezekiah Calvin (Delaware), Abraham Major and Minor (Mohawks), Peter (Mohawk), Moses (Mohawk), and Johannes (Mohawk). The two main towns or "castles" that the mission was based at were Canajoharie and Fort Hunter. Two of the most important figures in Mohawk history as it pertains to Moor’s Indian Charity School were Sir William Johnson and Joseph Brant. Sir William Johnson was the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Northeast, one of the most powerful men in British North America. He married into the Mohawk Tribe and had substantial influence among the Six Nations. Initially he supported Wheelock’s missionary project, but by 1769 he was endorsing Anglican missionaries instead. Joseph Brant was Sir William Johnson’s brother-in-law. He was the first of 19 Mohawk students at Moor’s, where he studied from 1761-1763. Although his time at the school was short, Brant entertained a deep affection for it. He went on to be an influential Mohawk war chief and may have protected Dartmouth College from raids during the Revolution. The Revolution fractured the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, with some tribes siding with the colonists and others with the British. The Mohawks sided with the British, and many of them, Joseph Brant included, relocated to the Grand River Reserve in Canada after the war. There was also a substantial Mohawk settlement established by 1700 at Kahnawake in New France (Canada), which hosted Jesuit missionaries. The Kahnawake Mohawks were often called “Canadian Mohawks” and Wheelock recruited students from them after his move to Hanover.
Onaquaga

Onaquaga (more than 50 different spellings have been documented) was a cosmopolitan Indian town on the Susquehanna River, now the site of the town of Windsor, New York. It was initially established as an Oneida settlement by those seeking an alternative to the power politics of Kanawalohale, the new chief village of the Oneidas, and Old Oneida, the former capital. However, from the end of the 17th century onwards it became an immigration destination for displaced Indians from a wide range of tribes. Yet, from the late 1760s onward, Onaquaga’s cosmopolitan composition proved to be its undoing. The community was fragmented by disputes over the extent and the proper style of Christian practice, with Sir William Johnson and Joseph Brant (who owned a farm at Onaquaga) urging Episcopalianism and the New England Company urging Congregationalism. An influx of Mohawk immigrants in the years after the 1768 Fort Stanwix treaty led the inhabitants of Onaquaga to side with the Crown in the Revolution, rather than with the colonies as most Oneida towns did, and it became Joseph Brant’s base of operations. The town was destroyed by the Continental Army in 1778 as part of the wave of violent retaliation for British and Indian attacks on frontier communities that culminated in General Sullivan’s ravaging of Cayuga and Seneca territory. The area was resettled by Americans after the Revolution.

Boston

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.

Lebanon

Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

South Hadley
Gunn, Elisha

Elisha Gunn was a gunsmith who resided in Onaquaga for a number of years and served as an interpreter for several different missionary societies. Although he was a well-known interpreter in missionary circles, there is little information about him. He is identified as a resident of Montague, MA, where his three children were born, but he and his family seem to have spent much of the 1760s living in Onaquaga. It is unclear where Gunn learned Haunenosaunee (Iroquois) languages, but his services were certainly in high demand: he was the interpreter over whom the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK and the Boston Board of the New England Company clashed in 1765. One of Wheelock's main goals was to train missionaries who could serve as their own interpreters, because he believed that existing interpreters were too scarce, too expensive, and too untrained in theology. What little we know of Gunn certainly supports Wheelock's arguments. He seems to have been one of the few available interpreters (if not the only one), his services cost the New England Company £50 sterling a year (more than three times Occom's salary at the same time), and his surviving letters show a reliance on extremely phonetic spelling and suggest a lack of formal education. NB: One genealogical website puts Gunn's birth year at 1723, a decade earlier. It would be easy for a researcher to mix 1723 and 1733, especially if the record is poorly written, and neither year is unreasonable.

Smith, Titus

Titus Smith was a Yale graduate whom Wheelock trained and ordained as a missionary and sent to the Six Nations with the 1765 mission. Together with Theophilus Chamberlain, a Yale student with whom he was examined and ordained, Smith led the band of newly-examined schoolteachers and ushers into the Six Nations to set up day schools. After Ebenezer Moseley replaced him, Smith retired from the missionary life and became an itinerant preacher in Connecticut until 1768, when he converted to Sandemanianism and was re-ordained. Because of his religion (Sandemanians opposed violence), as well as his Tory politics, Smith found himself in danger when the Revolution broke out. His family fled to Long Island, and from there to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Smith lived out his remaining years.

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.

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.

Smith

Unidentified Smith.

HomeElisha Gunn, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 September 2
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