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Elizabeth Walcutt, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 November 25

ms-number: 769625

abstract: Walcutt writes that she is preparing her son to attend Wheelock's school.

handwriting: Handwriting is somewhat scrawling, though largely clear and legible. The superscripts are occasionally difficult to decipher.

paper: Small square sheet is in fair condition, with moderate staining and wear. There is a large tear on the right side of one recto, which results in no loss of text. Large portions of the wax seal remain.

ink: Brown-black ink is somewhat faded.

noteworthy: The manuscript number is based on the date in the trailer, written in Wheelock’s hand: November 25. However, in the dateline, it is uncertain what numbers Walcutt deletes and/or adds.


Revd & Dear Sir
I Recivd your favour of the 19 inſtant and
am glad you have Determind the matter thus
far and Shall be uſing my Endeavour to be
geting him in Readyneſs againſt you please
to Call for him as the uncertainty whether you
would take him at all was mor of a Dificuty
at preſent than his maintainence which I hope
I Shall be abel to Do well Enough with till
the Spring if I have my he[illegible]th and Strength
H What makes me most anſious to get him
away as Soon as poſibel is that he may be
under more Strict goverment the Reinſ of
of which I think are held with tow Laxt w[illegible]
hands as to Books one frind and anther has
Supplid him So that as yet I have had
no occaſion to get as you were pleas[illegible][guess: d]
give orders may the Lord Crown all
with his Bleſsing is the Deſire of Red
Sir
your unworthy frind and well
wisher
Eliz Wallcut
from Mrs E. Walcott.
Nov.r 25. 1769
Wallcut, Elizabeth (née Marshall)

Elizabeth Wallcut was the sister of Colonel Thomas Marshall, a Revolutionary war patriot, and the niece of Susanna Wheatley, mistress of the African slave and poet Phillis Wheatley. Born in 1721 into a Boston family of tradespeople of moderate means and education, Wallcut married and had three sons, Christopher, Benjamin and Thomas, and one daughter, Lucy. Through the Wheatleys, Wallcut was connected to the Christian Evangelical and Indian-mission circles in New England, and was close to Phillis Wheatley. According to family accounts, Wallcut was a person of strong character. In 1770, she sent her youngest son Thomas, then 12, to attend Moor's Indian Charity School, recently removed to Hanover, New Hampshire. Though promising, Thomas was not a good student, and in June 1774, Wheelock sent him, with Levi Frisbie, to Canada to learn Indian languages. Wallcut and her daughter Lucy moved to Hanover as caretakers of the Indians boys, including several Abenakis who had come from Canada to increase the flagging population of Natives at the School to almost 20. They shared lodging with the Indian boys and Jacob Fowler, a former Wheelock pupil and then teacher at the School, and his wife Esther. Thomas entered Dartmouth in 1775, and after he took a job in a hospital in Albany in 1776, Wallcut and Lucy moved back to Boston. Wallcut's son Benjamin was taken prisoner by the British and her son Christopher was killed in battle in 1777. There is some evidence that Phillis Wheatley took refuge in Wallcut's house in Boston after the British left in 1777, and that John Peters, Wheatley's husband, tried but failed to retrieve Wheatley's second manuscript of poems from Lucy. After the War, Wallcut ran a "dame school" in Boston for the children of prominent families. The Boston City Directory for 1789 lists "Walcutt, Widow, school-mistress, Purchase-street."

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.

HomeElizabeth Walcutt, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 November 25
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