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Allyn Mather, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 January 18

ms-number: 768118.1

abstract: Mather writes to Wheelock that he is doing well in his studies and is ready to take a tour among the Indians if Wheelock wishes.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, yet very clear and legible.

paper: Small square sheet is in good condition, with moderate staining and creasing, and large tears near the site of the seal.

ink: Black

noteworthy: The trailer is in a different hand and spells the last name as “Marther”.


Reverad & Honoured Sir/
Since my laſt to the Doctor, through
a kind & Indulgent providence, I have enjoied a
good state of health, better than I have for this
long time, I am intirely free from thoſe diſcou­
ragements which I have laboured under in that
reſpect. I am able to follow my studies the little
time that is alloted me with a great deal of
eaſe & delight, and find it no heard thing
to keep way with my Claſs. If the Doctor
thinks beſt in the Spring, I ſhould take a tour
among the Indians in ordor to git there languge, &
acqaintance with there cuſtoms, it would be a­
peaſure to me embrace the same. which know­
ledg or acqaintance parhaps the Doctor may
Judge will be more for my advantage & the Deſign
than what I am able to git while a Freſhman at
College. I Cloſe by aſking of the Doctor continuation of
the Doctors prayers for me at the Throne of
grace, that I might be filled with the love
of God, and love to the Souls of Men––
and so be made Servaſable in my Day &
Generation in a way which will moſt redound
to Gods glory. And with humble Duty
I subſcribe my self.
Your Dutiful Pupil
& moſt obedient humble Servent
Allyn Mather
[bottom]From Allyn Marther
Jany 18th 1768


Mather, Allyn

Allyn Mather was an Anglo-American charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School who had a brief career as a minister before succumbing to illness. Mather arrived at Moor’s in 1766 and entered Yale in 1767. He had a strong distaste for the college: hazing bothered him, and he found the atmosphere singularly unreligious (his dislike was not fleeting: in 1778, he wrote to the Connecticut Courant to criticize the college course of study). Mather volunteered for missions in 1768. He accompanied Ralph Wheelock on his ill-fated third trek to Oneida territory, where Ralph acted intemperately at the tribal council at Onaquaga. Mather then attended Fort Stanwix with Rev. Ebenezer Cleaveland to try to patch up the damage done to Eleazar Wheelock’s agenda by Jacob Johnson. After his adventures, Mather returned to Yale, where he obtained his degree in 1771. However, he did not return to the missionary business: instead, in 1772, he became the pastor of Fair Haven Church, or Fourth Presbyterian, in New Haven, CT. It was a conservative Old Light (or more properly, Old Side) church, largely populated by parishioners who had defected from Jonathan Edwards’ congregation. It is unclear how strongly Mather himself identified with Old Side beliefs; he seems to have described the church to Wheelock as “despised” (773208), but he may have used strong language because he was trying to get out of paying his debt as a defunct charity scholar. Wheelock never seems to have collected from him, nor did he pursue Mather as vigorously as he pursued some other students. In 1779, Mather began having serious health issues, which forced him to travel south regularly. He died in 1784 on one such trip, in Savannah, Georgia.

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.

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