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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Samson Occom, 1771 January 22

ms-number: 771122.1

abstract: A copy of a letter in which Wheelock expresses his sorrow at Occom's repeated and aggravated fall from virtue. Wheelock writes that if Occom and David Fowler will settle their families among remote tribes, Wheelock will pay David as much as any schoolmaster sent by the Boston Commissioners.

handwriting: Handwriting is not Wheelock's. It is neat and legible, with several abbreviations.

paper: Good condition, with very little creasing, staining and wear; right and bottom edges (1 recto) appear to have been trimmed, with insignificant mitigation of text.

noteworthy: Noted as a copy. Contents are nearly identical to those of 771122. A note in pencil at bottom of 1 recto reads “The original is in Conn. Hist. Soc W.D.C.” However, the Connecticut Historical Society does not have such a letter in its collection, so it is highly likely that the original is, in fact, 771122. A letter that is not included in the project is on the verso of the same paper as this copy. That letter is also marked as a copy, and bears a trailer in Wheelock's hand, indicating that both documents are Wheelock's copies for his records.

My dear M.r Occom.
Perhaps y.o little think w.t pain & Sorrow of Heart
I have had on hear.g of y.r repeated & aggravated fall, but I am comfort
=ed a little wth y.e Hope y.t God has given y.o Repentance, but I conclude,
unleſs y.e manifestation of y.r Repentance has been very Public, Clear, Strong,
& evident to every body, y.r usefulneſs is near at an End where yo are.
And it may be one design of God in leaving y.o thus to fall has been to reprove
y.r staying at Home, & in a sort compell y.o to go abroad among remote Tribes,
or else quit y.r Ministry, wh I conclude y.o will never be easie in doing while
y.e Nations are lying in wickedneſs & Perishing for lack of Vision. y.o may
remember I early mentioned to y.o, y.r going among y.e Onondagues, or
some other Nations yre in y.t quater, & said something ab.t y.r taking y.r
Broth.r David & Settling y.r Families in y.t Country, & I felt ſome concern
y.t y.o declined it as I tho't, & have always feard y.t y.o was not to usefully
imployed as y.o might be among remote Tribes. M.r Woodward informs
me of y.r having understood me otherwise, wh must certainly have been
thro’ some mistake — I also always believed y.r B.r David did wrong in
leaving y.t Cause in y.e wilderneſs where he was so acceptable & had so wide
a Door op’ned to him for usefullneſs —
I now propose to y.o & him y.t if y.o will remove & Settle
in any of y.e Tribes where yo may find y.e best Prospect of usefullneſs
I will allow him as much as any of y.e Schoolmasters have who are im=
=ployed among any of y.e Tribes on y.e Sea Shore, by y.e Boston Commiſs
, & will do for y.o w.t Shall be reasonable, & will provide a good
Interpreter to go wth y.o in y.e Spring — Please to let me see yo or hear
from yo as soon as poſsible — This is an aſtonish.g Day of Gods Grace & y.e out
pouring of his Spirit upon y.s Seminary, here y.o may see y.e beginning & bud
=ding of ye Nw Jerusalem. The first appearance of it was upon our getting
into a Settled & Quiet State ab.t a month ago. the Affairs of [illegible]y.s Seminary
never look’d wth so joyfull & encourag.g an aspect, before, as ya now do. I hope
in a little time yo will have oppertunity to see scores of y.r Tawney Breth
=ren, nourished by y.e Breasts of y.s Alma Mater — I can’t tell y.o w.t loads of
sorrow I have been bowed down und.r, on acco.t of y.e falls & miscarriages of so many on
wm I had dependance und.r G.d as Instrumts to help forward y.e g.t design before me. G.d has been
my helper or I should have sunk indeed und.r y.e weight — My D.r Friend, I have had &
born loads on y.r Acco.t. I long to know whether Gd has truly opned y.r Eyes to see y.e wounds y.o
have given y.e Bleſs.d Redeem.r? & wheth.r y.o have & do look upon him wm y.o have peirced &
mourn for w.t y.o have done as for an only Son? & w.t Revenge y.o are exercis.g upon & towards
y.rself in a way of self denial & croſsbearg? My D.r Friend dont now add to y.e offence by set.[illegible][guess: g] [illegible][guess: down]
discourag’d & say yre is no hope of y.r futer usefullneſs. no my F.d resolve on revenge on y.r Lusts,
& especially y.r Pride, & upon y.e Fath.r & auth.r of them. My H.t akes for y.o eno’f to besmere
y.s Paper wth my Hts Blood if y.r were a proper way to expreſs my sorrow, & a way y.t wd
do y.o any good — but I conclude wth Love to y.o & y.r wife, and am for Christs sake
y.r much wounded and afflicted
Friend & Servant

Eleazar Wheelock
Copy —
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.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Fowler, David

David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.

Occom, Mary (née Fowler)

Mary Occom (née Fowler) was a Montaukett woman who married Samson Occom. Although information about her is limited and often comes from male, Anglo-American sources, it offers a tantalizing glimpse of her strength, as well as an alternative to the Eleazar Wheelock-centered narrative of Occom’s life that often dominates the latter’s biography. Mary was born into the influential Fowler family at Montauk, Long Island. She met Samson during his missionary service there (1749-1761). Mary studied at Samson’s school along with her brothers David and Jacob, and was almost certainly literate. She and Samson married in 1751. Wheelock and several other Anglo-American powers opposed their union because they worried it might distract Occom from being a missionary (as, indeed, family life did), and thus many scholars have read in Samson and Mary’s marriage an act of resistance against Samson’s domineering former teacher. Little information about the minutiae of Mary’s life survives, but existing sources speak volumes about her character and priorities. In front of Anglo-American missionaries visiting the Occoms' English-style house at Mohegan, Mary would insist on wearing Montaukett garb and, when Samson spoke to her in English, she would only reply in Montaukett, despite the fact that she was fluent in English. Mary Occom was, in many ways, Wheelock’s worst fear: that his carefully groomed male students would marry un-Anglicized Indian women. It is not a stretch to imagine that Mary provided much of the incentive for Wheelock to begin taking Indian girls into his school, lest his other protégés replicate Samson’s choice. Much of our information about Mary comes from between 1765 and 1768, when Samson was fundraising in Great Britain. Despite promising to care for Samson’s wife and family (at the time they had seven children), Wheelock, by every objective measure, failed to do so, and Mary’s complaints are well documented. Hilary Wyss reads in Wheelock’s neglect (and in letters from the time) a more sinister story, and concludes that on some level Wheelock was holding Samson’s family hostage, in return for Occom curtailing his political beliefs on the Mason Case. Wyss also notes Mary’s remarkable survivance in this situation. Mary drew on various modes of contact, from letters to verbal communication with influential women (including Sarah Whitaker, the wife of Samson’s traveling companion, and Wheelock’s own daughters), to shame Wheelock into action and demand what she needed. One of the major struggles in Mary’s life, and in Samson’s, was with their sons. Both Aaron and Benoni failed to live up to their parents’ expectations. Aaron attended, and left, Moor’s Indian Charity School three times, and both Aaron and Benoni struggled with alcohol and refused to settle down. The Occom daughters did not cause similar problems. Given the nature of existing sources, little is known about Mary after Samson and Wheelock lessened their communication in 1771. Joanna Brooks has conjectured that Mary was likely influential in Samson’s Mohegan community involvement later in life, for instance, in his continued ministry to Mohegan and, perhaps, his increasingly vehement rejection of Anglo-American colonial practices.

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