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Jacob Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 June 15

ms-number: 769365

abstract: Johnson writes about the prospect of war among the western nations of Indians.

handwriting: Somewhat informal handwriting is largely clear and legible.

paper: Single sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. A good portion of the seal remains.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.



Rev. & Hon.
Sir the state of my Family & my own very
Indifferent state of health has been & is the
Reaſon why I have not ſeen you ſir at Lebanon
e'er now My wife has been & is poerly & 2d
Daughter who is under the Drs Care My Negro
man & Chief ſtay in my outdoor buſsineſs
D[illegible][guess: i]yed laſt week after 9 days illneſs ſo that I am
left weak —- I have ſent 3 or 4 Letters to let you
know of theſe things —- I came as far as Newent
with my Daughter but coudnt come further
The Dr being at Preſton &c & I was obligd alſo to
be at Home —- And beſides as Mr Huntington
I ſuppoſe is gone for Oneida & Mr Kirtland I
will probably be down the Latter end of this Month
or begining of next I propoſe to ſee you then
if poſsible —- The Times look threatning at Home
& abroad —- our help is in God onely —- ſome great
overture seems to be near —- The Nation & Land
seems ripeing faſt for deſtruction —- if meer ſovereign
grace does not interpoſe —- It will likely be trouble­
ſome if not dangerous for The Miſsionaries among
The Indians this ſummer The ſix nations to be
ſure the oneidas expect war & we hear the
fereign Indians are muſtering for that purpoſe
about & beyond Detroit The quadruple alliance
carries an ominous aſſpect —- But our God can yea
we may be ſure will over-rule all for Zions good
& his own glory and that's enough to quiet our minds
I am Yr &c J— Johnſon
Pſ. I have ſir heard nothing from you either by
word or letter ſince I came thro' Lebanon — I
know not but my Letters &c have all Miſcarried
I ſuppoſe Mr Kinni didnt go ſo far as Lebanon
as I expected —- I hope ſir however you have heard
the Reaſons of my not comeing & ſo I reſt till
I ſee or hear from you ſir—-
Rev.d Jacob Johnſon
June 15, 1769
To
The Rev & Hon.d
Dr Eleaz.r Wheelock
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.
Six Nations
The Six Nations (often called the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois) is a confederacy composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. The first five tribes unified at some point before European contact (dates differ by centuries), and the Tuscaroras joined them in 1722, after colonial violence drove the tribe out of Carolina. The Haudenosaunee occupied much of what is now central New York, and, thus, were sandwiched between French, English, and Dutch territories. They allied with the English against the French early on, just as their arch-enemies, the Huron, allied with the French. Despite the Six Nations’ unity, the constituent nations experienced European contact in different ways. The Mohawks and Oneidas, as the two easternmost tribes, had by far the most contact with the English, while the Senecas and Cayugas, the westernmost nations, had little contact with the English (although both hosted French Jesuit missionaries). Mohawk territory was the site of Johnson Hall, the administrative center and home of Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the Northeast. The Oneidas, meanwhile, played host to several prominent Anglo-American missionaries and were thought of as the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe by many colonists. Eleazar Wheelock became fixated on the Haudenosaunee soon after he established Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754. He saw in them the opportunity for a fresh start, since he believed that New England Indians had assimilated to Anglo-American norms in all the wrong ways (too much rum, too little Christianity). Wheelock established contact with the Haudenosaunee through Sir William Johnson and made the Mohawks and Oneidas the focal point of his missionary efforts for much of the 1760s. The American Revolution had dramatic repercussions for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas sided with the British, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the Americans. Since all Haudenosaunee hold membership in both a tribe (Mohawk, Oneida, etcetera) and a matrilineal clan (bear, wolf, and others), the tribes’ divergent alliances brought about political schism and violence within extended families. Furthermore, Haudenosaunee territory was devastated during the war, especially in General Sullivan’s 1779 raid on Cayuga and Seneca territory. After the Revolution, many Haudenosaunee who had affiliated with the British relocated to the Grand River Reserve in Canada, while many of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras remained in New York. The Haudenosaunee at the Grand River Reserve established their own council fire, which operated in parallel with the original council fire at Onondaga. Today, both council fires are still active, and each tribe also has its own independent government (as do displaced Haudenosaunee populations, such as the Oneidas of Wisconsin).
Quadruple Alliance
The Quadruple Alliance mentioned by Jacob Johnson in his letter of June 15, 1769, refers to a Shawnee-led confederacy of Ohio Indians, including Delawares, Cherokees and Creeks (historians also mention Mingoes), formed in the wake of the pan-tribal resistance of Pontiac’s war (1763-65). That conflict forced the British to modify some of their draconian policies, but many tribes were enraged by the terms of the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768, which gave Britain control of the land south of the Ohio River. Led by the Shawnees, the most powerful of the anti-Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) nations, warriors gathered each spring at the Scioto River from 1769 until the outbreak of Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774 to encourage and plan resistance to British and Haudenosaunee control of the Ohio River area. This was not the formal name of this ephemeral but powerful confederacy; rather, Johnson is making a comparison to a European alliance of the same name, one of several in Western history, formed in 1718 by Great Britain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Netherlands to counter Philip V of Spain who sought to nullify the peace agreements reached after the War of the Spanish Succession. The Ohio Indian confederacy stoked fears among white settlers of further violence and disrupted missionary efforts in the Ohio River region where Wheelock was sending his graduates.
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.

Groton

Groton is a town located in southeastern Connecticut between the Thames and Mystic Rivers. This land was originally settled by the Niantic tribe, who were forced out in the early 1600s by the Pequots. During the Pequot War in 1637, Captain John Mason’s soldiers and Indian allies attacked the Pequot’s Mystic fort, burning down the fort, killing mostly women and children, and largely displacing the Pequots. John Winthrop Jr. and his Puritan followers first settled Groton in 1646 as part of New London. In 1705, the General Court allowed the Groton inhabitants to incorporate as a separate town due to its increased population. The town was named Groton after Winthrop’s England estate. Farming, shipbuilding, and maritime trading sustained the Groton economy throughout the eighteenth century. Beginning in 1712, land disputes between the Connecticut government and the Pequot tribe in Groton ensued, and the Pequots sent many petitions and grievances to the Connecticut government. Legal battles concerning the colonists’ leasing of the 1,700 acres on which the Pequots lived continued throughout the 18th century, as missionaries came to the area to teach religion and establish schools. After the Revolutionary War, many Groton Pequots joined other Connecticut tribes and moved to the Brothertown settlement in upstate New York.

Detroit

Detroit, the most populous city in Michigan, is located in the southeast corner of the state. It sits on the southwestern shore of Lake St. Clair, with the Detroit River running through it. Originally inhabited by the early Mound Builder peoples, the area attracted the French who built a series of forts at strategic locations in North America to keep the British from moving west out of New England and to establish a monopoly on trade with the Native peoples. The area known as "le detroit" or the straits, where the river narrows, became a major French post, close to the surrounding Great Lakes and connecting waterways. In 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac got permission to establish Fort Ponchartrain there and offered protection and trading opportunities to the Huron, Miami, Ottawa and Chippewa Tribes, who built villages around the fort. French priests also used the fort as a base for converting Indians to Catholicism. European settlers also flooded in; by 1765, Detroit was the largest city between Montreal and New Orleans and rich in furs for trading. During the French and Indian War, British troops captured Montreal from the French and pushed west to take Fort Ponchartrain, which they renamed Fort Detroit. Many of the surrounding Indian tribes transferred allegience to the British, but were continually stirred up by the French, who had retreated to the Mississippi valley, and by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the powerful Indian confederacy. In 1761, General William Johnson, British superindendant of Indian Affairs, was deputed by General Amherst, the military leader of the war, to make several trips to Detroit, bringing gifts and medals to the Indians in the area. For these trips, Johnson journeyed by boat; thus, Occom mentions the Detroit river, on which Johnson travelled. With the conclusion of the war in 1763, Indians in the area around Detroit feared the loss of French protection and British incursion west of the Appalachian Mountains. Led by Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Tribe, many Indians in Ohio Country attacked Fort Detroit, but could not hold it because the French could not resupply them with ammunition. This attack is considered the beginning of Pontiac's Rebellion; soon the Senecas, the westernmost Haudenosaunee, and the Delaware and Shawnee Tribes also attacked British settlements in western Pennsylvania. Though Pontiac surrendered to the British in 1766 and the rebellion was quashed, letters from Jacob Johnson to Wheelock and Thomas Huntington's journal, both dated 1769, indicate the danger to Wheelock's potential missionaries because of the ongoing tensions between the British and the western Indians, occasioned by hostilities originating from Indians in the area around Detroit under French influence.

Oneida

Oneida is a city in Madison County located at the geographical center of New York state. Before European settlement of the area, the Oneida Tribe, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, inhabited a large territory adjacent to nearby Oneida Lake. Around 1533, they built their first village on the south shore of the lake, at or near the mouth of Oneida Creek. At the end of the 17th century, this area began suffering raids by parties from the French colony of Quebec, in a battle to control the fur trade. In 1696, Oneida village was burned by the French. As a result, the Oneidas moved their chief village east of the original site, called Old Oneida, to a new site called Kanawalohale, also known as Oneida Castle, which was fortified by tall palisades and a moat. This is the site of the present-day village of Oneida Castle, a small hamlet west of the city of Oneida in the northwest corner of the town of Vernon. When used in Occom Circle documents, the place name "Oneida" usually refers to the territory inhabited by the Tribe east of Oneida Lake, but can also refer specifically to Oneida Castle. Although the Oneidas sided with the patriots during the Revolutionary War, much of their territory was sold or appropriated by the state of New York. In 1790, the first European settlers moved into the area of Old Oneida village, and the district began to expand. In the 1830s, the state built a feeder from Oneida Creek through the present city site to provide water for the new canal system, which enabled canal boats to ship freight into the town. Eventually, the railroad came through the town and helped with its expansion. This led to the incorporation of the Village of Oneida in 1848 and the establishment of the Town of Oneida in 1896. The town was chartered as the City of Oneida in 1901, and with two more railroad lines transecting the area, it became a thriving manufacturing center for the first half of the 20th century.

Johnson, Jacob W.

After graduating from Yale in 1740, Jacob Johnson studied theology, became a New Light preacher, and undertook some missionary work among the Mohawks. He was a very radical New Light: he believed in visions and dream interpretation, called himself a seer and, later in life, wore a girdle of hair in imitation of John the Baptist. From 1749 until 1772, he served as the minister at Groton, CT, and remained active in Native American missionary efforts. In the fall of 1768, Jacob Johnson went on a brief domestic fundraising tour with Joseph Johnson (perhaps intended to echo Occom and Whitaker’s tour of Britain, 1765-1767). Jacob Johnson is best remembered for his conduct at the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768, an enormously important treaty at which the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) sold a large amount of land, most of it belonging to other tribes, to the British, represented by Sir William Johnson. The treaty also resolved a contested boundary between Connecticut and Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania’s favor. Jacob Johnson was not Wheelock’s first choice of delegate. However, after several others declined the post, he was chosen to accompany David Avery, then on a mission at nearby Canajoharie. At the gathering, Jacob Johnson engaged in at least four points of serious contention. First, he strongly urged the Haudenosaunee not to sell their land, in direct contradiction of Sir William Johnson and the British Crown’s wishes. Second, he then urged them to sell their land — but only to Wheelock for the use of the Indian Charity School. Third, he tried to interrupt efforts to settle the PA/CT boundary, because he was involved with the interested CT party (called the Susquehanna Company). Fourth, he refused to drink to the king’s health, and gave a bizarre toast calling into question the justice of the monarchy. In the volatile climate leading up to the Revolution, none of his actions went over well. In the aftermath of the Treaty, Wheelock tried to distance himself from Jacob Johnson’s actions, but Wheelock’s relationship with Sir William Johnson still fell apart. (F.C. Johnson, Jacob Johnson’s great-grandson and biographer, has argued that it is unfair to hold Jacob Johnson wholly responsible for these events, as Wheelock and Sir William Johnson diverged on many important political and religious issues). After the Fort Stanwix Treaty, Jacob Johnson accompanied Kirkland on a mission to the Mohawks and Oneidas that lasted until April 1769. He was relatively proficient in the Mohawk (and, thus, Oneida) language, and made a valuable missionary. Like many other missionaries employed by Wheelock, Native-American and Anglo-American alike, Jacob Johnson disagreed with Wheelock about the financial compensation for his mission, and their relationship seems to have disintegrated at this point. In 1772, Johnson was dismissed from his post at Groton. He then resumed his involvement with Connecticut efforts to settle Pennsylvania territory, and became the first minister of Wilkes-Barre, PA, a Connecticut settlement in the contested region (now Wyoming County, PA). He remained there for the rest of his life, excepting a brief period during the Revolution when he sought refuge in CT (1778-1781).

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.

Huntington, Thomas

Thomas Huntington was Eleazar Wheelock’s maternal cousin. He graduated from Yale in 1768, and, in the spring of 1769, he went on a brief mission with Levi Frisbie and John Mathews to relieve Samuel Kirkland among the Oneidas at Kanawalohale. However, the situation at the time was so volatile that Kirkland could not leave, and Huntington went home after a month. After deciding that a missionary career was not for him, Huntington built a sizable fortune in Ashford, CT, through medicine and trade. He eventually settled in Canaan, CT, where he lived to the age of 91 while practicing medicine and business. Franklin Dexter, the biographer of Yale’s graduates, characterizes him as “somewhat eccentric.”

Kirkland, Samuel

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.

Kinne, Aaron

Aaron Kinne was a Congregationalist minister and scholar who, like Titus Smith and Theophilus Chamberlain, worked as a missionary for Wheelock after graduating from Yale. After his 1765 graduation, he taught and studied at Moor's for a year before making two trips as a missionary in 1766: one to Maine to report on the local Indian tribes, and one to the Oneidas, the latter being cut short by poor health. He returned in the summer of 1768 to substitute for Samuel Kirkland. Kinne was ordained in 1770 and became the minister of the Congregationalist church at Groton, Connecticut, where he served until he was dismissed in 1798. He also became a prolific scholar, and during the Revolution, served as chaplain to American troops, including those massacred at the Battle of Fort Griswold. After dismissal from Groton, Kinne lived in a variety of locations in New England and was sporadically employed as a missionary. He died in Ohio while visiting one of daughters.

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