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Samson Occom, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1772 January 27

ms-number: 772127.1

abstract: Occom updates Wheelock on his travels. He notes that he hopes to visit as soon as he can make longer trips, and to attend Indian congresses at Stockbridge and at Sir William Johnson’s.

handwriting: Occom's hand is formal, clear and legible.

paper: Large single sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: There are red wax-pencil markings along the left side of one recto.



Revd & Honrd Sir

I have only Time to let you know, that I
am now in Boſton, Came here, this Day a Week, and Shall
Stay till nex Monday by the importunily of Friends, —
I left my Family 3 Willegibleeeks next fryday in tolerabele good
Health thro mercy, — I am much troubled with my old
ails at Times, Yet I am able to ride Short Journies, and
I have work enough Preaching both among the Indians &
Engliſh, and there is great attention among the People, —
I fully intended to Come to See you the fall paſs, but my
difficulties Came upon me about the Time I was to Set out,
as Soon as I am able to ride So far I will Come to See You —
for I want much to see, how you Go on in the Grand Cauſe
I Cant be eaſy, till I See with my Eyes, and not only hear with my
Ears, — Be Soo good as to let me hear, where Mr McCluer
and his Collegue are and what they are a doing, —
A Wampum of Friendship Flew from Maſsipi thro,
wVarious Tribes of Indians, Came to our Hands about Six
Weeks ago, and we Receiv'd it Cordially, — Several Tribes
of Indians are to hold a Congreſs Next march at Stock‐
Bridge
, and a grand Congreſs is to be at Sir William Johnsons
Some Time next June or July, — and if I am able, I intend
to be at Both of 'em — I am, Revd & Honrd Sir
your moſt obliged and very
Humbl Servt
Samſon Occom
To the Revd
Docr Wheelock
PS M.r Peck and his Lady send thier kind regards to
you and yours
From M.r Occom
Jany 27. 1772
To
The Revd Docr Wheelock
Preſident of Dartmouth
College
Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is small liberal arts institution in Hanover, New Hampshire. It has about four thousand undergraduate students taking courses in Arts and Sciences, and another two thousand in graduate schools in the Sciences, Comparative Literature, and Liberal Studies, as well as the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. It is a member of the Ivy League, and the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. The charter establishing the College was signed in 1769 by John Wentworth, Royal Governor of New Hamsphire, who wanted an academy of higher learning in the colony. Its founder, Eleazar Wheelock, was a Congregational minister from Connecticut who, after his success in educating Samson Occom as a school teacher and Indian missionary in the 1740's, started Moor's Indian Charity School in 1754 to continue what he regarded as a divine mission to educate Native boys and girls to become missionaries. As the school grew, Wheelock began looking for a new location closer to Indian Country where he could expand. But in the 1760's he became disillusioned by the relative failure of his progam and began turning his attention to the education of Anglo-American men as missionaries. After a protracted search, he secured the royal charter in New Hampshire and in 1769 moved his family and base of operations to Hanover, where he established the College. It is named for William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who contributed to the funds raised by Occom and Whitaker on their fund-raising tour of Great Britain in 1766-68 and became a member of the London Trust that administered those funds. The College's charter announced its purpose as "the education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes in this land [in] all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and christianizing children of pagans…, and also of English youth and any others." But Wheelock's priorities were, in reality, the reverse. While he gave public notice in 1770 that "My Indian charity school … is now become a body corporate and politic, under the name of DARTMOUTH COLLEGE," he created this parallel structure to allow him to use the funds that were collected specifically for the education of Indians. Only around 75 Native students enrolled at the College before 1972, when it rededicated itself to educating Indians and established the Native American Studies Program. This is also the year Dartmouth went co-ed. Occom was angry and embittered at Wheelock’s abandonment of his “great design,” for which he had sacrificed so much. Their relations cooled after Occom’s return from England, and he never visited his mentor again, or, for that matter, Dartmouth College.
Boston

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.

Stockbridge

Stockbridge is a small town on the Housatonic River in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts. The area was the home of the Mohekanew or Muh-he-ka-nuk people (people of the continually flowing waters), also known as the Mahicans, (or Mohicans and not to be confused with Mohegans from the Connecticut area), who had been driven there because of tensions with the Mohawk tribe over the expansion of the fur trade with the Dutch in the 17th century. European traders and settlers in the area brought disease and land greed, weakening the Mahicans and their traditional lifeways. In 1734, a missionary named John Sergeant from New Jersey came to live in the Mahican village of Wnahktukuk, baptizing those who accepted his teachings. In order to survive in a rapidly changing world, the Tribe accepted the misson and in 1736, the town of Stockbridge was created, named after a village in Hampshire, England, the last of the "praying towns" in Massachusetts, also known as "Indian Town." It was, for the English, strategically located along a military trail to Canada and created a Protestant buffer against Indian allegiance to the Catholic French. Sergeant built a church and schoolhouse, and brought four English families to settle there, ostensibly as models. Wappinger, Nipmuck and Tunxis Indians joined the community and the Mahicans made Stockbridge their chief village. They and the other Native peoples who lived there were called the "Stockbridge Indians." With the end of the French and Indian war, new settlers flooded into the town, buying up land and excluding the Indians from town government; the experimental community became divided into white and Indian neighborhoods. Although the Massachusetts General Court promised that the land given to the Indians as a reward for their service in the recent war and held in common would never be sold, that agreement was breached. In 1774, Indians from seven praying towns––Charlestown, Groton, Stonington, Niantic, Farmington, Montauk, and Mohegan––who were also in debt and dispossesed, accepted the invitaion of the Oneidas to settle on their lands in central New York state, but were driven back by the Revolution and retreated to Stockbridge. Eventually, in 1783 many Stockbridge Indians moved to Oneida lands and founded "new" Stockbridge near the Brotherton settlement established by Occom and other Mohegan Indians. Stockbridge, MA, was a destination for many of the missionaries trained by and associated with Wheelock and his Indian school, and eight Stockbridge Indians enrolled at Dartmouth College between 1771 and 1780. In 1778, Daniel Simon, a Narragansett Indian, one of five children in his family to go to Wheelock's Charity School, and the first Indian educated by Wheelock to receive a degree from Dartmouth College in 1777, was licensed to preach and taught at Stockbridge. As late as 1785, Occom recounts in his journals traveling to Stockbridge, MA to preach and visit Sergeant, Jr. and Kirkland, and finds the Indians "scattered," many removed to Oneida country.

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.

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.

McClure, David

David McClure was an Anglo-American charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School. He went on to become a minister, and remained exceptionally loyal to Eleazar Wheelock throughout his life. McClure is important as a primary source on Moor’s Indian Charity School: his diary (more accurately, an autobiography that he composed between 1805 and 1816) includes eyewitness accounts of the school, Samson Occom’s home life, and Separatist worship among the Charlestown Narragansett. McClure also became Wheelock’s first biographer (Memoirs of the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, 1811). McClure was a typical charity scholar, in that he attended Moor’s primarily to obtain an education that his family could not have afforded otherwise. After a year at Moor’s, McClure enrolled in Yale, where he attended sporadically between 1765 and September 1769, when he received his degree. After graduating, McClure kept school at Moor’s (then in New Hampshire) for several years, until he undertook his only career mission in 1772. McClure was exceptionally ill-suited to the missionary business. He was a city boy from Boston, and was so unfit for farm labor at Moor’s that Wheelock had him copy out correspondence instead. Aside from a brief 1766 foray into teaching at Kanawalohale under Samuel Kirkland’s tutelage, McClure’s only mission was an aborted sixteen month effort (1772-1773) to proselytize the Delaware of the Muskingum River, during which he spent far more time preaching to Anglo-American congregations. McClure had a long career as a minister, teacher, and writer. He remained close to Wheelock throughout his life: he married into Wheelock’s family in 1780, served as a trustee of Dartmouth from 1778 until 1800, consistently informed Wheelock of Dartmouth’s PR problems, and took Wheelock’s side in his dispute with former charity scholar Samuel Kirkland.

Johnson, William

Sir William Johnson was a powerful British colonial official who amassed wealth and influence by integrating into the Mohawk tribe. For a brief window of time (1761-1768), he provided support for Wheelock’s missionary efforts among the Six Nations. He also helped the Brothertown Nation of Indians procure land from the Oneidas. Johnson was born in Ireland in 1715. His family had been part of the Catholic elite, but after William of Orange’s 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne, they at least nominally converted to the Episcopalian Church. In 1738, Johnson emigrated to America to manage his uncle Peter Warren’s estate in Mohawk territory. Over the next decade, Johnson became wealthy in his own right through trade and land sales, acquiring a vast estate crowned by his manor house, Johnson Hall, which became the central location for British and Indian treaty making. In 1745, Johnson began collecting official British titles and positions. He played an important military role in the French and Indian War and was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756 and first baronet of New York in 1757. Much of Johnson’s success was due to his influence among the Mohawks, which he obtained by learning their language and customs and integrating himself into their society. He participated in Mohawk rituals and entered into a common-law marriage with a powerful Mohawk woman, Molly Brant (also called Mary Brant). Because Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) society is matrilineal, this marriage was an essential element of his participation in Indian affairs. Wheelock desperately wanted to wield missionary influence among the Six Nations, and sought to obtain Johnson as an ally in his endeavors. At first, the two found grounds for cooperation. Wheelock sent Occom as a missionary to the Oneidas in 1761 and again in 1762, and sent a substantially larger group of missionaries and schoolmasters in 1765, 1766, and 1767. Johnson, meanwhile, encouraged Haudenosaunee children, including his brother-in-law Joseph Brant, to attend Moor’s. Johnson’s support proved indispensible to missionaries in the field; he helped with supplies, language skills, and relations with the Mohawks and Oneidas. Wheelock also valued Johnson for his influence in Britain, and drew on him for recommendations and public statements of support numerous times. From 1763 on, however, Johnson found himself decidedly uncomfortable with Wheelock’s missionary efforts, and by 1769, their relationship had dissolved completely. In 1766, Johnson was invited to join the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the largest and most influential Anglican missionary society in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world. He began working to place Anglican missionaries, rather than Congregationalist and Presbyterian ones, among the Six Nations, which alarmed Wheelock. Johnson was generally supportive of Native American tribes’ efforts to maintain their land and sovereignty. As the historian Linford Fisher has noted, “virtually every major Native group in southeastern New England successfully petitioned Johnson to act on their behalf during the late 1760s and early 1770s.” Among these groups was the Brothertown Nation, a Christian composite tribe formed by Southern New England Algonquian Moor’s alumni. Johnson helped them negotiate with the Oneidas, which proved essential to their successful land purchase and relocation to central New York.

Peck, Moses

Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.

Peck, Elizabeth (née Townsend)
HomeSamson Occom, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1772 January 27
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