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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1772 May 23

ms-number: 772323

abstract: Wheelock writes to Thornton regarding several matters, including Thornton's warnings about Wheelock’s son Ralph, and Thornton's offer to pay Wheelock’s debt. He gives news of Occom and other potential missionaries.

handwriting: Small, formal handwriting is not Wheelock's; it is clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to moderate staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Black-brown. On two verso, the ink has burned away the first word of the second line of the third paragraph.

noteworthy: This letter is marked “Copy.” Comments about Ralph Wheelock are very similar to those written to Thornton in manuscript 772523.

signature: The signature is not Wheelock's.



My dear & Hon:d ſir//
Your very kind and refreshing favor of
Feb.y 28 came safe to hand the 16 Inst:t a few days after my
return from Connecticut. You write, dear ſir, like one who
really understands the things whereof you write: And I
verily believe you have learnt what in some measure what
walking with God & living upon God mean, & to know
many of the devices of our subtle enemy& and watchful adv=
[illegible]versary, & the many ways we do or may give him ad=
vantage against us, in these things I heartily join with
you & I long to come up sides with you in the experi=
ence of them. But in nothing do you more testify
the sincerity & strength of brotherly Love & christain friend=
ship than in that unresevedneſs with which you tell me
"you think my parental regard for my son Ralph, has
blinded my eyes to some misconduct of his;" but I
think dearſir, you ought to have gone further & hinted
(at least) some instance or instances, & not suffer me to be
an Eli. I cant so much as gueſs at an instance you
can mean. perhaps you was afraid it might fret a wound
that is just healed, but I aſsure you, you have no need to
be upon the reserve on that Acco:t I have been often tried
with suggestions and charges of this kind which have ori=
ginated only from one who never could be perswaded to
refer the matter to any impartial decision. And I verily
believe, were you examine into that matter you would find
the matter Charge as groundleſs, as was the report that M.r K–d
was starving thro' my defect, while your hands & mine
were constantly open for his supply & nothing was wanting
but his accepting it at any time.
I have by no means been blind to his im=
perfections, nor wanting in sorrow on that Acco:t & I hope I have
not failed of using utmost endeavours to cure them; but
[left]To Esq.r Thornton
[left]May 23. 1772.
I think I must in justice say, I know of no blot upon his
moral or religious Character. The most religious sort of people are his
closest and most intimate friends. But it is likely he
will not stand in the way of any long, he has been almost
two years on the verge of Eternity, and is now given over, & his
case pronounced incurable by Physicians. He has looked upon
such treatment to be hard & unchristain and has greatly longed &
earnestly plead & intreated to be informed what he has done to de=
serve it from man, but never has obtained it to this day. I ask
your prayers for him that the severe dis[illegible]ciplin he has been so
long held under from the hand of God, may become effectual to
purge away his Droſs &c.
I am much obliged to you for your Extract
from D.r Erskine's Letter — M.r K.d is doubtleſs much im=
posed upon. He told me on his return from Boston last
Octb.r
that he knew nothing of his having received part of his
support from the Scotish Society nor did he understand him=
self to be in any Connection with them. to the same purpose
he told others.
There has been I hear a Clamor in Boston
that this school is or will soon be in episcopal hands, &
the principal reason I have heard aſsign'd as the ground of
their confidence that it will be so, has been because a num=
ber of the honble Trust in England are of the denomination;
But these I imagine are only conjectures of men of a party
spirit, who measure all others by themsellves. I trust the
providence of God will refute all such Calumnies in due
time.
Meſs.rs Maccluer & Frisbie were seperated to the
sacred ministry by solemn fasting & prayer, with laying on
hands of the Presbytery, in this place, last Wednesday. I
am now waiting for advice from the board of Correspondents
in New Jersie
, that they have provided a Misionary & Inter
preters to accompany them, which I expect by a special
post on which advice these young men expect to set out on
a Journey of about 800 miles.
I wrote you la Hasty line from Hartford some
weeks ago, in which I informed you of a great & glorious work
of God's grace at New Jersie College, a Seminary which
God has honor'd with such seasons from time to time, above
any on the Continent.
Your kind offer, good ſir, to discharge
my personal debts for me, has reached my very
heart, how great is that goodneſs that has honor'd
you with ability & a will to do it. I pray the Lord
to reward you, & he will not be forgetful to do it. I thank­
fully accept it, & will draw on you for it, as soon as
I can know what my Acco.ts are.
M.r Occom is near 200 Miles from me, Mohe=
gan
(in which he lives) is under the care of the London Board in Bos­
ton
who imploy the neighbouring ministers as their miſsionaries
to preach Lectures to them & other parties of Indians on the
Sea Shore. If I should encourage M.r Occom to do any
thing, as a Minister in pay, it would not fail to give
great offence.
By the favor of a friend I was favor'd
served with a Copy of a vote of the Society in Scotland, dated
Edenb.r Jan.y 28. 1771 wherein they continue £50 to M.r
Kirkland & grant £20 to M.r Occom thro' the hands of their
board in Boston; which I hear they neglect to pay & I
don't think they ever will.
When I was in Connecticut I had a good Acco:t
of his Character, & Conduct of late, I shall be glad to serve
him in any thing within my power. I wish with all
my heart he was disposed to take a long tour to a
remote tribe near Muskingum to which these young
men are appointed, and a Tribe which speaks his
Language.
I will write him & inform him of your Concern
for him, & friendly thoughts towards him, & will propose to
him his accepting such a miſsion.
Governor Wentworth wrote me some months ago
that he had sent by a veſsel for 12 Indian Boys for this
School
from S.t John's &c. & that he thought probable he
should obtain them. I have yet heard nothing of the
succeſs of this attempt.
M.r Ripley a young preacher,
one of my Pupils, designs by divine leave to set out on his
miſsion to Canada in Ju[illegible]ne or July, with mr Taylor who was
for some years a Captive there, & on that as well as many

other Acco:ts suitable to be imployed in that service, by these
with the aſsistance of Governor Wentworth (who has earnestly re=
commended the design to the Commander in cheif there) & also
of m.r Austin a pious young minister at Mont Real & other
friends to the cause in those parts. I hope in God a way
may be op'ned, to obtain Children from those Tribes: perhaps
the greatest difficulty will be from the opposition of their
preists.
The Narrative herwith enclosed is an un=
questionable truth extensively known & universally beleived
in that part of the Country. I was personally acquainted
with the subject of it in her low estate; & since her re=
moval to Lebanon have been intimately acquainted with
her, & my heart often refreshed by her discourse for a
number of years before I left Connecticut.
It is not poſsable you should have the Acco:t with
[gap: tear][guess: all] that life & spirit, thus at 2.d hand, as you might have it
from the original with the many Circumstances & natu­
ral remarks, which a present sence & impreſsion of the things
themselves enable her to make which can never be fully
described by pen.
And with this I present my Duty to
you & the Rest of the honble Trust. And am with
high esteem & much Affection

Your much obliged, &
most obedient
Humble Servant

[illegible]Eleazar Wheelock
Copy
To John Thornton Esq.r
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.

Thornton, John

John Thornton was born in Yorkshire on April 1, 1720. As a young man, Thornton inherited money from his father Robert Thornton, who was the Director of the Bank of England, which he used to begin his career as a merchant. In 1753, Thornton married Lucy Watson, with whom he had four children. Watson had a Christianizing influence on Thornton, which ultimately led to his 1754 conversion to evangelical Anglicanism under Henry Venn, the curate of Clapham. Thornton's and Venn’s sons would continue their fathers’ religious traditions, going on to form the “Clapham sect,” an influential group of evangelical Christians who championed social reforms. As a result of his conversion, Thornton pursued charity just as much as trade, a major part of which involved managing the English Trust that oversaw the funds Occom and Whitaker collected for Wheelock’s Indian Charity School. Thornton met and hosted Occom several times during his stay in England, and eventually became the Treasurer of the Trust. After Wheelock moved the School to Hanover, however, he focused on the establishment of Dartmouth College to educate Anglo-American men as missionaries, and was accused of using the Trust's funds to this end. This shift in focus contributed to the rift that developed between Occom and Wheelock upon Occom’s return to America –- a rift Thornton tried to repair. Thornton thought of Occom as an equal and, in his role as Treasurer of the Trust, often reminded Wheelock of Occom's vital role in securing the funds that made the School possible. Thornton financed Occom's further missionary activities and insured that Wheelock did not forget Occom's hard work and Christian morals. In addition, Wheelock –- who knew that Occom respected Thornton –- often called upon the merchant when he himself could not convince Occom to undertake further missionary activity. The exchanges between Wheelock and Thornton ended once Wheelock had used up the funds that Occom had raised in England, yet Occom and Thornton kept in touch up through the Revolutionary War, with Thornton remaining one of Occom's most prominent supporters. He died on November 7th, 1790 as one of the wealthiest men in England, despite giving away nearly half his salary each year. In 1828, Thornton's role in the establishment of Dartmouth was memorialized in the College's naming of Thornton Hall.

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, Rodulphus

Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.

Erskine, John

John Erskine was a prominent clergyman in the Church of Scotland. He came from a wealthy family, but despite his eventual inheritance decided to dedicate his life to the evangelical revival in Great Britain and America. In the mid-1730s, Erskine attended Edinburgh University where he took arts courses and began the law program, but in 1742, he transferred to divinity hall (after finally convincing his family of his desire to join the clergy). He was a leading member of Scotland’s Popular party, which opposed the law of patronage and supported popular votes for the clergy. By 1768, he became the party’s unofficial leader. Erskine was known for his dissemination of books with the hope of propagating religious ideas, and he used his influence to encourage booksellers to publish or print further editions of evangelical works at affordable prices. He regularly donated books to Harvard, Yale, the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), Dartmouth, and Dickinson College, as well as Eleazar Wheelock’s Indian School. He served as one of the chief directors for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), securing funds for Indian Affairs and donating £600 to Wheelock's school in 1765. However, he objected to what he perceived as Wheelock's promotion of Presbyterianism as opposed to the Church of England. Nathaniel Whitaker worried about how Erskine's objection would affect the funds provided to Wheelock by the Trust in England. Still, Erskine remained committed to Native American causes and was present at the death of John Shattock in 1768, one of two Narragansett brothers who travelled to England in the hope of preventing the Niantic Sachem from selling further Niantic lands to the colony of Rhode Island. By the end of the 1760s, Erskine had become disillusioned with Wheelock and his school, and expressed displeasure with Wheelock's management of donated funds. He feared that Dartmouth would fall under Episcopal influence and questioned Wheelock's frankness in his procurement of the College’s charter. He was also disappointed that Occom and Kirkland were the only two distinguished missionaries with ties to Wheelock. When Erskine decided that Dartmouth College, with which Moor’s had merged, was not serving the intended purpose of providing a Christian education to Indians, he stopped providing funds. Throughout his life, Erskine penned pamphlets, sermons, and five theological treatises. During the Great Awakening, Erskine established relationships with a number of ministers in America, and because of these contacts became sympathetic to the American cause against Great Britain.

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.

Frisbie, Levi

Levi Frisbie was a very intelligent and unreligious charity scholar. He came to Wheelock with substantial schooling already, and after a few months at Moor's, Wheelock sent him on to Yale. There, Frisbie excelled academically. However, he never wanted to be a missionary. He arrived at Moor's sometime during April of 1767, and by May 5, he was already writing Wheelock asking to be released from missionary obligations. While at Yale, this trend continued: Levi went so far as to confess to Wheelock that he was not even a church member. Although he was not passionate about Scripture, he was quite the classicist. Under the name Philo Musae, he would write Wheelock long chains of heroic couplets styled on epic about the Indian mission. In 1769, Levi went on his first mission (a short stint to the Oneidas). Shortly thereafter, Wheelock pulled Levi out of Yale to help make up Dartmouth's first class. Levi graduated in 1771, and was ordained with David McClure in May 1772. He and McClure set out on a mission on June 19, 1772, but Levi fell ill immediately and stayed at Fort Pitt. It is unclear whether he rejoined McClure on the mission. The two men returned to Hanover on October 2, 1773. Levi stayed involved with Wheelock and the Indian mission for a few years, but by 1776, he had assumed the pulpit at Ipswich, where he remained for the rest of his life. Levi's poetry appears at the end of Wheelock's 1771 Narrative, as well as in McClure and Parish's biography of Wheelock.

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.

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.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

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