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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Samson Occom, 1772 February 24

ms-number: 772174.1

abstract: In response to Occom's query/admonition, Wheelock asserts that the first and most important purpose of the college is Indian education.

handwriting: Handwriting is small and informal, yet mostly clear and legible.

paper: Single sheet is in fair condition, with moderate staining, creasing and wear that results in some loss of text.

ink: Brown-black ink is heavily faded in spots.

noteworthy: This letter is written in answer to manuscript 771424. An editor, likely 19th-century, has added the note “Wheelock 1772” to one verso; this note has not been included in the transcription.



Rev.d & dear Sir.
I've only Time amidſt a continual Crowd of
Buſineſs to acknowledge the Receipt of Your kind Fav.r of y.e 5.th
Inſtt
and add in anſwer to your Queſtion, viz. "Whether
Dartmouth College is for the Indians or white people" or both
equally alike."
I thought my dear ſir, you had fully known my Object
to be the Indians which has been invariably the Same from
the firſt. They are also the firſt object in the Charter. Theſe
Lands are all given for that purpoſe, and will be so used
for them So long as there Shall be indians upon the
continent to partake of the Benefit — I have not taken
a Step nor Struck a Stroke Since I have been here but with
that view — In that Cauſe I am worn out, and have now
riſqued all my Eſtate — The Plan ins ſuch that all the Benefit
done or propoſed to be done to the Engliſh is Subſerviant in
the B[gap: tear][guess: eſ]t Manner to the Indian Cauſe; and greatly adds to
and increaſes my Ability to help the Indians and that many
ways, inſomuch that I hope in God to be able to Support
an Hundred Indians and Youths deſigned for Indian ſervice
on Charity in a little Time — handt you Seen my late
Narrative — You may have one at Hartford if you
will Send, and in that be informd what I have been
& now am about — My Heart is broken & Spirits Some
‐times almoſt overwhelmd with the Behavior of Some I have
taken unwearied pains for — perhaps God intends to waft
them away from this Land — but however that may be
my Reſolution yet continues to follow them with my Endea
‐vors for them as Long as I live, and I beleive in ſo doing
I am unto God a Sweet Savor of Chriſt, though they
all periſh after all that can be done to Save them.
Governor Wentworth who is a great Friend to the Cauſe
writes me that I may expect 12. Indian Boys from
St
ſ.t Johns next Spring — I have Sent for 20 from
Canada — I expect Some from other Quarters also in
the Spring — My Hope is in [illegible][guess: g][illegible][guess: G]od alone & my work
is with him — I had this winter the very meloncholly
account of your Son Aarons Death — I Sympathize
with you in it and pray God to Sanctify it to you
and Yours — Accept my Love to You & Mrs Occom
I wiſh You to enjoy all that divine Teaching and
Influence which is needful in all the pious Labors you
are or may be ingaged in for the upbuilding the Cauſ
of the Redeemer. And am with great Sincerity
Your hearty Friend & Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
Rev.d M.r Occom
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.
Hartford

Hartford is the capital city of Connecticut, located in the central part of the state. The land that would become Hartford was first inhabited by the Saukiog Indians (Saukiog was also the name of a village on the Connecticut River) along with the Podunks to the east and the Tunxis to the west. The Dutch explorer Adriaen Block was the first European to visit Saukiog, and by the early 1620s, the Dutch had established a fort in the area. They brought with them a smallpox epidemic that killed many Native Americans. By the mid-17th century the Dutch, outnumbered by the English, had retreated south. In order to protect themselves against the powerful Mohawk and Pequot Indians, tribes around Saukiog allied with the English. By 1635, the Puritan preacher Thomas Hooker and one hundred of his followers moved into the area, first calling their new home Newtown but later changing it to Hartford after Hertford, England. In a 1638 sermon, Hooker claimed that the new Connecticut government should authorize itself according to the consent of the people, words that inspired Connecticut’s Fundamental Orders, considered America’s first written constitution. Missionaries began to preach to the Tunxis near Hartford in 1670. By 1734, Indians at Hartford requested and received English ministers for reading and religious instruction, and used the missionary interest in their community to their advantage in several ways. Minister Samuel Woodbridge reported that Indians at Hartford would attend his church and learn to read if they had the proper clothing, and the New England Company sent blankets and primers as encouragement. Hartford served as the meeting place for Congregational ministers associated with Wheelock and his School to examine the acceptability of Native missionaries, such as Mohegan minister Samuel Ashpo. In 1775, Joseph Johnson went to the Hartford Assembly to deliver letters declaring the allegiance to the colonists of the Indians who had moved to upstate New York.

Saint John

Saint John is the largest city in New Brunswick, Canada, located on the mouth of the Saint John River on the Bay of Fundy. While several Europeans entered the harbor in the 16th century, it was French explorers who arrived there on the feast day of St. John the Baptist in 1604 and named the river after the saint. The first permanent French settlement began on the east side of the harbor, now Portland Point. It was fortified in the 1630s and became a trading post with the Wolastoqiyik Tribe (also called Maliseets and the St. John Tribe). In 1758, the settlement was occupied by the British and renamed Fort Hendrick, which was destroyed by American revolutionaries in 1775, then replaced by Fort Howe. Settlement began to expand in 1783 when British loyalists established Parr Town and Carleton around the harbor. These two communities joined in 1785 to become Saint John, named after the river, Canada's first incorporated city. After a religious revival among the Indians was reported there in 1767, Wheelock solicited the help of New Hampshire governor John Wentworth to recruit Native students from the area to replace the Oneidas, who left his school en masse in 1769.

Canada

Canada is a country located in the uppermost part of the North American continent bordering the United States to the south and the state of Alaska to to the west. Native peoples occupied Canada for tens of thousands of years prior to European arrival in 1497 when John Cabot, an Italian navigator commissioned by the English, set out to find the northwest passage. The name "Canada" derives from a Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) word "kanata," meaning village or settlement. Throughout the 17th century, Canadian land changed hands among French Catholics, French Huguenots, the English, and Native peoples. Then, in 1754 the French and Indian War erupted in North America, an extension of the European conflict between Great Britain and France, which Great Britain won. According to the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the war, France was forced to cede all of its territory east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. The various provinces that developed in the geographic area confederated in 1867 as the country of Canada, which became independent of Britain in 1931. Today, it is both a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, a member of the British Commonwealth, recognizing the Queen of England as its head of state, a multi-ethnic country recognizing its Native inhabitants as "First Peoples," and officially bilingual. Wheelock looked to Canada as a source of Native recruits after the Oneidas withdrew their children from his school in 1769. Wheelock himself, as well as other associates, went on recruiting parties and brought back students from the Mohawk community at Kahnawake, near Montreal, the Abenaki community at St. Francis, now Odanak, and the Huron community at Lorette near Quebec. While the rumblings of the American Revolution threatened to interrupt future missions, the positive relations already established brought Canadian tribes into the orbit of Wheelock's influence. He also argued that their presence in the town of Hanover, on a direct river route from Canada to Massachussetts, was the best safeguard against Indian attack from Canada. For the next 80 years, boys from the community of St. Francis made up more than half of the Indian students attending Dartmouth and preparatory schools funded with its monies.

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.

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.

Occom, Aaron

Aaron Occom was Samson and Mary Occom’s prodigal second child and oldest son. He was born in 1753, during Samson’s mission to the Montauketts of Long Island. The Occoms entered Aaron in Moor’s Indian Charity School when he was seven, in the hope that he would “be Brought up.” However, Aaron proved ill-suited to school, and returned home in October 1761. He had two more brief stints at Moor’s Indian Charity School: the first in December 1765, after Samson departed for his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Great Britain, and the second in November 1766, when Mary found herself unable to control Aaron’s wild behavior (which included attempting to run away with “a very bad girl” and forging store orders in Mary’s name). After his last enrollment at Moor’s, Aaron ran away to sea. He had returned to Mohegan by November 1768, and at age 18, he married Ann Robin. Aaron died in 1771, leaving a son also named Aaron. Samson periodically entertained the idea of apprenticing Aaron to a master, but never seems to have done so. One letter written by Aaron survives: an epistle to Joseph Johnson, another young Mohegan who studied at Moor’s.

Wentworth, John

Sir John Wentworth was the last of the Royal Governors of the Province of New Hampshire. He served as governor from 1767-1775, succeeding his uncle Benning Wentworth. He also shares a name with his grandfather, John Wentworth (1671-1730), who served as Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of New Hampshire from 1717-1730. During his tenure, Wentworth worked to develop the interior of New Hampshire through the creation of the five original counties, the granting of tracts of land and the building of roads between the seacoast and the Connecticut River. He also secured the land and signed the charter for Dartmouth College in 1769. Wentworth remained loyal to the crown throughout his time in office. The increasing tensions created by his loyalist sentiments in the years leading up to the American Revolution eventually ended his reign as governor in 1775. Wentworth was later appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Samson Occom, 1772 February 24
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