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David McClure and Levi Frisbie, letter, to Samson Occom, 1772 May 28

ms-number: 772328

abstract: McClure and Frisbie write to suggest that Occom join them on the mission soon to be undertaken near the Ohio.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, yet formal and clear.

paper: Single sheet is in fair-to-poor condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Brown-black ink fades in and out.


Rev.d & dear ſir //
[top]To Rev.d [illegible] Samson Occom
May 28. 1772
You have doutleſs been informed of the good
desire of the Indians who live near the Ohio, to have english Miſsio=
naries tCome among them to instruct them in the great truth of the
Gospel [illegible] & of the applications they have
repeatedly made in the Synod of New York to send them Miſsio=
naries for that purpose; we your friends, educated with reference to
the important design of spreading abroad among them the knowledge
of the only true God & his Son our bleſsed Redeemer, tho' in our=
selves every way unworthy & unqualified for so important a busineſs
were the last week solemly ordained with a design to set out
for that Country [illegible][guess: abroad] in a short time. The undertaking is great —
but we hope we trust in God for support & Strength & that he
will mercifully preserve our Lives amid the many dangers we
[illegible]expect will surround us; We think we are moved hereto from
a desire to reclaim be instrumental to reclaim those poor deluded [illegible][guess: im‐]
[illegible][guess: matals] from their ignorance & Barbarism to a knowledge of the Gospel.
We heartily [illegible][guess: re]join in every opening of divine providence for this de‐
sirable End.
And as, Sir, we understand that not far from the
place where we are going there are a Tribe of Indians who talk
the Mohegan Language, wAnd where probably th a Miſsionay
espeially one whose native Language is their own would meet a kind reception
among [illegible]: We would therefore take this Opp.y to
manifest how very agreeable to us it would be, should
you think but to make a trial with us [illegible]. And we are
perswaded that accord.g to human probability the prospect
of your being eminently survivable among them is very
great. Your Influence would be much greater than
any english miſsionary's would be. the prejudice they
naturally imbibe & which have amog many tribes proved an
effectual bar against their cordial reception of English Miſ‐
sionaries would have no room to exercise itself Should You
go [illegible]. We shall probably continue some time among
them should the arrangments of God in his providence should
not forbid
if we can with safety continue [illegible]
And we hope, Sir, you will [illegible][guess: please] think favorablely
of such a project & that ye Lord your way will be clear your way & your [illegible] inclin'd to comply
with the present agreeable opening. We earnestly ask
your fervent Prayers for us [illegible] yt God would graciously
manifest his favor & guide & direct us thro' all our way & makes us
instrumental of great Good among the Heathen.
[illegible][illegible] [illegible: [guess: are]]
with much Affection & Esteem Your Cordial Wellwisher[illegible: [guess: s]]
 in this Lord —
D. M:C– Levi Frisbie
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.

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.

HomeDavid McClure and Levi Frisbie, letter, to Samson Occom, 1772 May 28
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