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David Avery, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1771 June 6

ms-number: 771356

abstract: Avery writes about his upcoming ordination and possible mission. He relates news of Occom and David Fowler, with brief excerpts of a letter from Fowler.

handwriting: Handwriting is formal, clear and legible.

paper: Four large sheets of paper have each been folded in half to make four pages. The address is on a separate, single sheet. The paper is in good condition, with mostly light creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Dark-brown.

Rev,d & hon,d Sir,
About three weeks past I received
Doctor Wheelock's letter, dated 22 of april; for
which I return a gratful tribute of Thanks. —
This was very timely, and gave me to
understand a little, tho' not fully, the Doctr[illegible][guess: [inline]e]'rs's
mind & pleasure respecting my Des‐
tiny. His other Letter, refered to in this
which I have, is yet on the way. —
It gave me the most sensible sorrow
to hear that all of my letters to Dartm.o
have fell short. — What is the mean‐
‐ing of Providence in this I can't tell. — Have
wrote again and again, representing the State
of affairs in these parts, giving an account
of God's work in a particular Parish, and expreſsing
the earnest desire of that poor, needy, desti‐
‐tute People that I tarry longer with them a
little while longer, that I may know what
my Rev,d Patron would advise and direct to. —
I have been, and am still, exceeding loath to
do any the least thing contrary to his Pleasure
to whom am under the most inviolable
obligations, next to Almighty God. —
The Rev,d M,r Buell being in New England
I could not consult him 'till this week. Now
I have laid before him my affairs and
taken his Advice in this case, which is,
That I tarry about two months on the
Island and then return to N..w Hampshire.
This advice I have concluded to follow.
M.r Buell informs me he saw Rev,d M,r
Patten and M,r Woodward, whom he
discourſed on the point, and they were
of opinion that it would not, likely, be
displeasing to the Rev,d Doctor if I
should tarry for such reasons as he
gave them — (viz) My not being in a con‐
firmed state of health sufficient to go
upon an Indian Miſsion in the
heat of summer. — And the late happy
revival of Religion in Ketehebonack, which
appears to be a particular Call to labor
with them a little longer. —
(Bleſsed be God the Work still goes on
and there is a prospect of ingathering of souls.)
If I should go to Dartmouth now, by what I can
learn, my ordination could not conveni‐
‐ently be attended before Commencement,
and without that I should not be prevailed
upon to take a miſsion.— Perhaps it may
be thought best this ordinance should be so‐
lemnized at that time when the Corporati
shall be together; which I most earnestly
request may be done; for I am much ex‐
‐ercised about preaching barely by virtue
of a Licence.
With respect to my going under
Boston Board, I know not what to say—
I should, by all means, chuse to con‐
‐sult the Corporation on the head.—
As it is a very delicate point, so I shall
indeavour to manage it.— That Letter
not having come to hand in which
the Proposal was made, Rev,d M.r Buell
did not know what advice to give.
If by going under that Board I must in the
least break connexions with him, whom
it is my honor to call my Rev,d & Worthy Patron
I could not indure the thought of it— but if
it shall be thought best, on the whole, to an‐
swer the general Design in view — it is likely
I shall be willing to comply with the propo‐
‐ſal.— It has given me much of the Heart‐
‐ach that somethings are as they are,— but
God's Government is over all, according to In
‐finite Wisdom — the iſsue therefore must,
and can't but, be for his Glory; yea, for a
greater Display of Divine Glory than other
‐wise there would be if it were not for some
dark Scenes.. This consideration bears my
Spirits up, or it seems, I could not, at times, sub‐
‐sist — Let Zion and her Sons, rejoice in their
King/ — The Rev,d Doctor mentioned a pro‐
‐posal lately made to him of my taking
a tour to S.t John's River this summer,—
and asked me what I think of it? —
If I knew what prospects there are [inline]ofor
doing good there were, — the situation
of the Indians — the air — accomoda‐
‐tions, &c I should be better able to form
a judgment.— But as my health is
but tlow, being attended with a constant
Fever, much exposed to take Cold,
and unable to undergo much hard ser‐
‐vice by reason of a weakening Disorder
which has long afficted me— And
also as I have no companion to go as
a preacher with me, as I know of, or
could likely be obtained this season, it does
not appear Duty for me to undertake the
journey at present.— My heart says 'Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do'?— Wherever
Providence gives the Lead, I am willing to
follow — but, alas! I know so little, or no‐
thing, how to read divine Providences or get
an answer to prayer that am afraid, many
times, I am not in the way of Duty —
It appears to me I should be the happiest
of many mortals if I only knew what God's Plea‐
‐sure is respecting my situation & Destiny
in the world.— At present He is laying out
a great variety of work for me, the least of all
his servants, is it not Duty to perform it?
Thro' Divine Favor, my health is in some
measure recovered — am able to preach
every sabbath and several Lectures.—
The awakenings in Ketehebonack
still continue in several instances,
tho' perhaps not so great as some time
past.... As I presume the Doctor has
before this time received my Letters
I need give no farther account of God's
Work in these parts, save that there
is, of late, a very great revival in
Southold‐Town, under Rev,d M.r Storrs'
ministry.— I expect to go there next
week, God willing— I find it a very great
advantage to me to live here in this Day of
the Outpouring of God's bleſsed Spirit. —
When People's Ears are open it is easy
Preaching to them. — It has rejoiced
the hearts of many that God has revived
his work in the College last Winter— O,
what an happy omen for good! —
After I received the Doctor's Letter, I
sent a line to David Fowler with a Desire that
he would give me an honest, faithful acco.t
of the late State & Character of M.r Occom
and he wrote me the following —
—"I can't tell you any bad thing of him. —
He is, as it were, crying out to Sinners in a
private manner — he don't preach
as yet, but I hope he will. He seems
to injoy a newneſs of life again.—
He goes from one Place to another ex‐
‐horting the People, that is, among
the Indians. — He has entirely aban‐
‐doned spirituous liquors — he uſes
none, nor keeps any in the house.=
I shall likely give you a better Nar‐
‐rative of his Character at my return
from the main shore."
I know nothing, Sir, but what
this account is entirely just — But
nothing has been done to wash
away his Stain in these parts, or in any other
that we have hear'd of.— Rev,d M,r Buell
heard little if anything about him when
on the main. — Perhaps M:r Woodward is
able to give a more particular account of
M.r Occom than I can, and better able to
judge whether it will be for the Good and
honor of the Cause to improve him as a
miſsionary — it seems to be a very great
frown of heaven that his usefulneſs has
been prevented.—
David Fowler appears much as uſual—
with respect to his being deeply humbled &c I
am not able to say — he manifests a very
great regard for the Indian Cause — and has
some bitter reflexions on his rash conduct
in the Wilderneſs.— I have not said much
to him about his conduct, because am
very ignorant of what the Foundation
or pretentded foundation of it was. If
he was to see and converse the Re[illegible][guess: vr]'end
Doctor, am quite inclined to think he
would make gospel satisfaction.—
His natural Temper is well known to be
violent and sometimes his Paſsion
blinds his reason. — respecting him‐
self he writes me,
"If I can pay off my Creditors this
year I deſign to go off this Island next
year, either to Mohegan or the Wil‐
‐derneſs: I don't think of going any
where this year."
East-Hampton judge he is very un‐
steady and fickle, roving and wandering
But by converse with David, am of opinion his
unsteadyneſs was much owing to his too small
salary and the Indians living a good deal upon
him. — He does not keep the School at Montauk;
he thinks,"if he did, it would be to none effect —
The Indians seem to be curſt — they don't ad‐
‐mire any thing that would be beneficial
to them, either temporal or temporalspiritual."—
Imagine if he should visit the Doctor it might
answer some valuable Purpose — accordingly
shall recommend it to him.— I can't
but think he means to act honestly — He is
now somewhat involved in Debt; but he
follows Fishery & hopes to raise something
on the land to defray his charges this sea‐
‐son.— Thus, Sir, I have given the best account
respecting him am able to do.—
If it shall be judged best to ordain me at
Commencement, would not the Doctor
think proper to appoint some of the
Rev,d Corporation the ordination ser‐
‐mon? — Would it please him to
pitch upon the Rev,d M,r Pomroy?
But I mean not to dictate — shall be
perfectly well suited with Doctor Whee‐
's appointments.— If this Plan
should be agreable to him, it would
lay me under farther obligations of
Gratitude, if by any means, I might
have intelligence of it — but am
afraid these Letters will suffer the same
misfortune as the other.—
It gives me unspeakable Joy to hear M.r Ripley
is hopefully religious! If this is the case,
What extensive service may the Man of his
rare abilities do for God, if God goes with him!
We hear the work of God is powerful in several
Places upon the Continent...
People are liberal and very kind to me in theſe
parts — O, how good is the Lord to the evil and
unthankful! — Oh! for an humble heart!
a meek and lowly spirit!— the Benevolence,
[inline]ye Love, [inline]ye Pity and Compaſsion of Jesus Christ to‐
‐wards dying men! — my Soul burns with
ardor to do something for my Maker and
The Reverend M,r Brown gives very kind
and affectionate Salutations to the Reverend
Doctor Wheelock — He is a Father to me —
Please, Sir, present Duty to Honored Madam,
and continue daily to pray for,
Rev,d & hon,d Sir,

Your very dutiful
and most obedient
humble servant

David Avery
Rev,d D,,r Wheelock
From M.r David Avery
June 6. 1771.
To The Revd Eleazer Wheelock D:D.
Preſident of Dartmouth Colledge
Blank page.
Avery, David

David Avery was one of Wheelock's charity scholars and had a long career as a Congregationalist minister. He studied at Moor's and Yale, where he was David McClure's classmate, and received his Masters from Dartmouth in 1773. Avery went on several missions to Indian tribes before his health forced him to retire. His first mission, before his final year at Yale, was to Kanawalohale as a schoolteacher in the summer of 1768. While there, he attended the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix as Wheelock's representative. After graduating, he served on Long Island around Smithtown. He was ordained August 29, 1771, at Dartmouth. Wheelock then sent him to the Oneidas for eleven months (September 1771 to August 1772), primarily to find out why the Oneidas had withdrawn their children from Wheelock's school. However, Avery's health was failing, and at some point between August 1772 and March 1773, he withdrew from Indian missionary service. In response, Wheelock charged him part of his tuition. Avery lived an exciting life after he left Wheelock's service. The Sabbath after the battle of Lexington (April 19 1775), he bade his Gageborough congregation farewell, mustered twenty men, and led them to Boston where he preached to the entire army. He enlisted as a chaplain, although he also fought in battle and served as a medic. He left the army in February 1780, and spent the rest of his life in a variety of pulpits, with a stint under the Massachusetts Domestic Missionary Society.

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.

Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

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.

Buell, Samuel

Buell was a popular Presbyterian minister during the second half of the 18th century in Long Island, as well as a close friend of Samson Occom. He was ordained in November 1743, and was a popular itinerant minister before settling at Easthampton. He preached at Occom's ordination, published the sermon in 1761 to raise funds for Occom (he also wrote the letter addressed to Bostwick prefacing his publication), and stayed in close contact with Occom even after Occom's public break from Wheelock. Occom's diary is full of references to visiting Buell and to their close friendship. During the Revolution, Buell was the only minister on Long Island for 40 miles, and was very active in assisting the American cause. He also founded Clinton Academy on Long Island in 1785, which was the first private school chartered by the New York Board of Regents. This academy was also remarkable in that it admitted women. Multiple historical sources have misconstrued Samuel Buell as Sol or Solomon Buell, likely because Buell sometimes signed his name Sa.l, a creative abbreviation of Samuel. However, there was no Reverend Solomon Buell in Easthampton, or, it seems, Long Island, in the second half of the 18th century: Samuel had no brothers, and were there to be two Reverend S. Buell's within 10 miles of one another during the same period, related or not, doubtlessly someone would have commented on it. In addition, the handwriting in letters ascribed to "Sol" and those assigned to Samuel is identical. Lastly, the only source besides collection manuscript 765530.3 describing a "Solomon Buell" is an anthology of letters from the Revolution, which contain letters from a Rev. Sol. Buell, or S. Buell, about aiding the American cause. These letters correspond well with descriptions of Samuel's life in an 1809 biography of his life, and, as he was the only Reverend but one for 40 miles during the Revolution, it is likely that these letters belong to him.

Woodward, Bezaleel

Bezaleel Woodward was an integral figure at Dartmouth College and the greater Hanover community; and like that of Eleazar Wheelock, Woodward’s career consisted of a blend of education, religion, and local affairs. After attending Moor’s and graduating from Yale in 1764, he became a preacher. Upon his return to Lebanon in late 1766, he began to hold various positions at Moor’s and became the first tutor of college department in 1768. Woodward later was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Dartmouth College, as well as a member and clerk of the Board of Trustees. In 1772, he solidified his connection to Wheelock even further by marrying Wheelock’s daughter, Mary. Woodward also held numerous titles outside of the school. He was an elder of the Presbytery and attained multiple appointments in the local court system. A natural leader, Woodward was an influential member and clerk of several committees, representing both Hanover and the Dresden college district. He was thus a leading figure in the Western Rebellion, promoting several towns’ secession from New Hampshire and union with Vermont. Although Woodward resigned from his professorship in 1778, supposedly disassociating himself from Dartmouth while he engaged in politics, it was merely a formality. Upon Wheelock’s death, Woodward acted as president of the college from April to October 1779. Woodward continued to perform many of the executive tasks even after Wheelock’s son and successor, John Wheelock, took over the position, and also held the late Wheelock’s post of treasurer. Claiming to be finished with politics, he officially returned to Dartmouth as tutor in 1782, and performed the president’s duties while Wheelock was abroad in 1782 and 1783. Nonetheless, Woodward continued to participate in local affairs — in 1783 he unsuccessfully attempted to have the New Hampshire General Assembly approve Dresden’s status as a separate town; and in 1786, he became the county treasurer and register of deeds. Woodward remained a prominent figure at Dartmouth and the surrounding area throughout his life. He was, for instance, involved in the construction of Dartmouth Hall in 1784, and was part of the committee formed in 1788 to regulate the contested use of the fund raised by Occom and Whitaker in Great Britain for Moor’s. Woodward died August 25, 1804, at the age of 59.

Pomeroy, Benjamin

Benjamin Pomeroy was a school friend of Eleazar Wheelock and a lifelong supporter of his cause. Like Wheelock, he was a New Light evangelical and a staunch ally of James Davenport, a radical New Light preacher whose beliefs got him in trouble with the law. After graduating from Yale in 1733, Pomeroy received the ministry at Hebron, CT, in 1734, and assisted Wheelock in myriad ways until his own death in 1784. He kept Wheelock's school during 1746, when Wheelock's first wife, Sarah, was dying, and he tutored Occom (primarily in Hebrew) after Occom had completed his studies with Wheelock. Pomeroy also supported Wheelock as a trustee of Moor's, and, later, Dartmouth, and as a member of the Board of the Correspondents in Connecticut for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Pomeroy and Wheelock also had close family connections: Pomeroy was married to Wheelock’s sister, Abigail, and one of Pomeroy’s daughters, Hannah, married David McClure, one of Wheelock's most illustrious graduates. Outside of his liturgical career, Pomeroy served as an army chaplain in the French and Indian War and the Revolution.

Ripley, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Ripley was a charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School who became one of Dartmouth College’s first professors and Eleazar Wheelock’s son-in-law. After a brief stint at Moor’s proper, Ripley entered Yale in 1768. He undertook several short missions to the Canadian tribes in the early 1770s to seek out a new source of Native American students for Wheelock. His longest mission, from May to September of 1772, garnered 10 students from Kahnawake, the Catholic Canadian settlement. Ripley was an important figure in Dartmouth’s early history: in addition to serving as preceptor of Moor’s from 1775 until 1779, he was a tutor at Dartmouth from 1772 until 1782, a trustee of Dartmouth from 1775 until 1787, and the College’s professor of divinity from 1782 until 1787 (sources differ as to whether Ripley was ever formally ordained). He was also very involved in the political conflicts that characterized the town’s early history. Ripley died in 1787, at age 37, after being thrown from a sleigh.

Storrs, John
Patten, William
HomeDavid Avery, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1771 June 6
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