Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1775 January 23

ms-number: 775123.1

abstract: Wheelock writes that the London Fund is exhausted, but that he has plans laid to provide for Johnson. Wheelock is pleased that Johnson is going to New York and notes that the new boys from St. Francis speak the same language as Johnson’s Indians.

handwriting: Wheelock's somewhat informal hand is small and occasionally difficult to decipher.

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

ink: Brown ink is lightly faded in spots.

noteworthy: This document is possibly a draft or copy for Wheelock's records. Benoni Occom (son of Samson) appears to have written his name on one verso.



My dear Joseph Johnſon
Yours by M.r Fowler & another laſt week by
M.r Ralph Pomeroy came Safe to hand. I have not been
wanting in thoughts and Care for your Help. have laid
Several Plans for it. and doubt not but you will be pro­
­vided for in Due Time — The Fund in London is ex­
­ſted, and the preſent Diſpute forbids any hope of
Such Recruits of it at preſent as I hoped for.
I am glad to hear by M.r Pomeroy that you are gone
to New York — I doubt not but you will find Friends
there — dont fail to let me hear from you as Soon
and as often as you can — and of What Succeſs and
[gap: tear][guess: I]ncouragment you find &c it well may give me Advantage
to help You if there Shall be occaſion — M.r Fowler
is kindly received & treated here and I believe his Situation
is very agreable to him & his wife.
My Affairs hear appear very Incouraging indeed — Mr
Pomeroy can give you Some Acco.t of them —
M.r Fowler finds that my New Boys from S.t Francis
talk the Same Language as Your Indians Speak —
Give my Love to M.r Occom and his and to your Wife.
if our Eye be Single we have nothing to fear — The Lord
bleſs you my dear Son.
I am
 Yours very Affectionately

Eleazar Wheelock

M.r Jos. Johnſon
Benoni
Occom
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.

Johnson, Joseph

Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.

Occom, Benoni

Benoni Occom (also known as Benjamin, Noney, and Nony) was Samson Occom and Mary Fowler’s seventh child and second son. Like Aaron Occom (Benoni’s elder brother, who died in 1771 after a wild young adulthood), Benoni did not live up to his parents’ standards for behavior. Unlike Aaron, he was not sent to Moor’s Indian Charity School; the difference may reflect Samson and Mary’s declining opinion of Eleazar Wheelock. Benoni’s behavior led Samson and Mary to kick him out of the house in July 1780, but the family had reconciled by 1788 (perhaps following 1787 rumors that Benoni had been hanged in Boston for murder). Although Benoni remained at Mohegan instead of moving to Brothertown, later letters from Occom to Benoni suggest that they were close and that Benoni visited his parents frequently. Later in life, Benoni was active in attempts to define Mohegan identity by petitioning to exclude anyone of African descent from tribal membership. His petition in this affair might indicate broader political involvement in tribal matters.

Pomeroy, Ralph

Ralph Pomeroy was the son of Rev. Benjamin Pomeroy and Abigail Wheelock and the nephew of Eleazar Wheelock. Although he was not as involved in Wheelock's mission as his father, he still had close ties to Moor's Indian Charity School. After graduating from the College of New Jersey in 1758 (unlike his brother Josiah, Ralph did not attend Moor's), he was the master at Moor's for a year. Following this tenure, he studied law and became, in effect, Wheelock's lawyer on retainer. During the war, Ralph was a paymaster in the Continental Army. He remained involved in state politics, acting as State Controller after the war. Ralph appears in a letter from Brainerd to Wheelock on March 23, 1757, quoted in McCallum, about a religious revival at the College of New Jersey.

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, Jacob

Jacob Fowler was a Montauk Indian whose life was dramatically shaped by Samson Occom, his brother-in-law. Occom taught Jacob when he was a child, and in 1762, Jacob followed his older brother David Fowler to Moor's. After three years he was approved as an usher in the 1765 examination, and in 1766 he went to assist Samuel Johnson at Canajoharie. He taught among the Six Nations until at least mid-1767. In early 1770, Occom procured him a job teaching at Mushantuxet through the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Jacob taught and preached among the Pequots at Mushantuxet and Stonington until 1774, when Wheelock hired him to teach at Moor's, which had relocated to Hanover, NH as a complement to Dartmouth College. During this time, Jacob also assisted Joseph Johnson with efforts to rally the New England Christian tribes for a move to Oneida territory (the Brothertown Movement). By 1776, there were no Indians enrolled in Moor's and Jacob moved on to serve Governor John Trumbull of CT as a messenger to the Six Nations during the Revolution. After the Revolution, he continued organizing the Brothertown Movement and was among those who initially emigrated in 1784. He was elected clerk at Brothertown, and died sometime in the spring of 1787.

Cooper, Tabitha (née Occom)

Tabitha Cooper (née Occom, formerly Johnson), Samson Occom and Mary Fowler Occom’s third child, married Joseph Johnson, a Moor’s Indian Charity School alumnus and one of the primary founders of the Brothertown Movement. Although her father and first husband both wrote prolifically, surprisingly little information about Tabitha survives. Tabitha was born in 1754, during Samson Occom’s mission to Montauk. We can conjecture that she was literate in English and also familiar with Montauk and Mohegan culture (Mary Fowler Occom was notorious among Anglo-American missionaries for her adherence to Montauk life-ways). In 1773, Tabitha was courted by Joseph Johnson, and the pair married in December 1773. Tabitha maintained their household and raised their two sons (William, b. 1774, and Joseph, b. 1776) in Mohegan, but Joseph Johnson spent little time there: between 1773 and his death in 1776/7, Johnson was very busy organizing Christian New England Indians to emigrate to Oneida territory (the Brothertown Movement). He worked out of Farmington, CT, and often traveled back and forth to Oneida. Laura Murray attributes Johnson’s absence to some kind of tension between him and the community at Mohegan, but there are no indications of such tension in his writings (rather, he expresses a longing to be at Mohegan). Nor should we attribute Johnson’s absence to marital discord. As Murray demonstrates elsewhere, Johnson’s writings and actions illustrate sincere concern and affection for Tabitha: one letter from him to her after their marriage survives, and he delayed his travels to be with her during her second pregnancy. Tabitha did not move to Brothertown, even once it was successfully established in 1783. She remarried to either a George or Joshua Cooper in the early 1800s (by 1807 at the latest), with whom she had two children, Betsy and Charles. None of her children permanently settled at Brothertown: Joseph, her second son by Joseph Johnson, lived at Brothertown between 1797 and 1820 and married there, but he and his wife ultimately returned to Mohegan. Tabitha lived until at least 1816.

Fowler, Esther (née Poquiantup)

Esther Poquiantup was a Mushantuxet Pequot, the daughter of Samson Poquiantup (Pequot, 1725-1787) and Esther (Mohegan, 1725-1822) and sister of Prude Poquiantup Harry (1752-1828). The Poquiantups (also spelled Pouquenup, Pauhqunnup, Uppuiquiyantup) were a prominent family of Christian Indians with one branch living in Groton and the other at Niantic, CT. In 1766, Samson and Esther were living at Groton. Samson was a church deacon who occasionally hosted Occom's religious meetings. We don't know when Esther married Jacob Fowler, a Montaukett Indian, younger brother of David, and Samson Occom's brother-in-law, but we do know that by 1774, Esther and Jacob were living in Hanover, NH, in a Dartmouth College building down the hall from Elizabeth Walcutt and her daughter Lucy. Jacob, who attended Wheelock's School, had become a preceptor there. Esther and Jacob were part of the first group to emigrate from New England to Brothertown in Oneida country. By 1787, Occom refers to Esther as a widow, and lodges frequently at her house.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1775 January 23
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only