abstract: Dodge writes regarding his trip to Oneida country, the danger from small pox, and a meeting with Sir William Johnson.
handwriting: Handwriting is formal and clear.
paper: Wide sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, yellowing and wear.
signature: Dodge spells his name “Phinehas" rather than "Phineas."
layout: The second page of the letter is on two recto, not one verso.
safe at this place laſt sater[illegible]day was a week Joyfully receved.
and moſt kindly welcom.d by ye Rev.d & very dear Mr
Kirtland we paſt ye smallpox with little danger by
going round Albany city it was at every houſe from
thence to Schenactady but thro a kind providence the
wind favour.d our paſing at every place whare the
infect.n was, till we came to schaenactady whare appeard ye
greateſt danger as the smoak of ye chimneys drove down
to the ground I apprehended it not prudence to paſs thro
the town enquir.d at ye firſt houſe for some by way
to paſs ye town was told we might likely croſe 3 miles
up ye River, not w.hout some difficulty, Johnſon was for
ventring thro but while I was conſidering what to do I coud
not but obſarve a freſh breaze yt carried all ye smoak direct
-ly from this new way similar to w.t we had before experin.d
which plainly intimated that providence pointed that way.
Which we pursue.d without much trouble. From this inſtea
nce I cou:d not but reflect upon ye Goodneſs & wiſdom of
an allwiſe & sover⇑eign God in preſarving & delivering his
creatures tho ever so evil & unthankfull. May I be in=
[illegible]inabled to eye Gods holy hand in all his works ⇑both of prov.e & grac
years paſt. we have had a very diſagreable veſit from
some of thoſe poor wretches as mr Kirtland will informe
you in his. which Inſtance I hope has been maid a bleſſing
to me. I am very well contented at preſent, am not in ye
leaſt diſcourag.d, only want an honeſt heart to improve
my diſtinguiſhed priviledges. ye [illegible]late rupter ocaſiond by some
of Satons Emiceries seems to have a very good effect upon
others which affords an encourag.g proſpect yt tho. the
divil or strong man armed is loth to give up ye caſtel
yet I hope a stronger then he will E,er long enter in
and spoile his goods & become maſter & governour.
I lodgd at mr Robinſes on my Jurney he sends all
reſpect to ye Doc.t mr Wheelock, kept Sabbiath at
Nobletown went to hear Mr Smith who sends all due
reſ[illegible]pects to you. deſires all that belong to your family
or school to make his houſe their home when ever thay
paſs thatis way, as did mr Robins alſo. I wated on Sir
William agreable to your orders was their 4 or 5 hours before
I could see him, he sd but little, speaking of your Doct
ship sd, he thoughts it was a very rair inſtence for a
deſenter to have that Honour conferd on them.
went that night to Eſqr Butler lodgd their he would
not let me go away. could not go to Cherry vally the
riding was so bad — That ye Lord may crown your labours
with Honour & succes is ye humble prayer of him, who begs
leave to subſcribe him selfe,
your moſt obed.t [illegible][guess: H.l ] sarvt
3 Nov.r 1767.
The Revd Eleazer Wheelock DD.
Phineas Dodge was an Anglo-American charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School who served Samuel Kirkland as a schoolmaster at Kanawalohale twice, in 1767/8 and again in 1771. Phineas was the youngest son of Amos Dodge, a carpenter in Windham, CT. As was the case for other charity scholars, Moor’s afforded Dodge with an education he likely could not have accessed otherwise. While many of Dodge’s classmates attended Yale, Dodge himself did not, though it is unclear why. Dodge was sent to Oneida in 1767 to replace David Fowler as schoolmaster at Kanawalohale, but returned that spring as both he and Samuel Kirkland, the missionary in charge, were ill. He did not work for Wheelock again. However, he stayed in close contact with Kirkland, and served as his schoolmaster in 1771. Again, his health cut his mission short, and he retired from missionary service to keep school in Windham, CT, until his death in 1773. Dodge seems to have been exceptionally religious: his letters to Kirkland are predominantly abstract and religious in nature, with local news thrown in and little personal information.
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.
Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.
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.
Captain John Butler was a prominent military officer and loyalist. He was born in New London, CT in 1728, and he received his education there. John’s father, Captain Walter Butler, had served well under Sir William Johnson, prompting Johnson to endorse the family. When Sir William became Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1755, he appointed John Butler and his brother, Walter Butler, Jr., as captains in the Indian Department; the two fought in the battle of Lake George on September 8 of that year. John Butler commanded Indian forces throughout the French and Indian War, and he often acted as an interpreter. He became Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs and a Lieutenant Colonel of the militia. While he lived in NY, he hosted various figures on their journeys to the Oneida Nation. When Sir William died in 1774, General Guy Carleton, the military governor of Quebec, appointed John Butler as the interim Superintendent of Indian Affairs; Sir William’s nephew, Guy Johnson, replaced him in July of 1776. In the summer of 1775, Colonel Guy Johnson, John Butler and his son, Walter, escaped to Canada, but the Revolutionaries seized Butler’s property and carried his wife and children to Albany, where they remained under surveillance. Captain Butler continued to be involved with Indian forces during the Revolutionary War. He commanded Butler’s Rangers, a loyalist special forces team that fought alongside Indians, and he is known for leading the Rangers in the Wyoming Massacre of 1778 in Wyoming Valley, PA. In 1779 the Americans released his family during an exchange of prisoners. They reunited in Niagara, where Butler maintained his headquarters during the war and remained thereafter. Butler secured compensation from London for the property losses he suffered due to the Revolution, and he lived the remainder of his life as a notable citizen in Niagara, serving as judge of the district court and Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He died near Niagara in May of 1796.
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.