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Joseph Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1775 February 14

ms-number: 775164

abstract: Johnson asks Wheelock to recommend him to John Rodgers so that the latter can petition for donations on Johnson’s behalf.

handwriting: Handwriting is somewhat scratchy, though largely clear and legible. Letter case is occasionally difficult to decipher.

paper: Large single sheet is in fair conditon, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear. There is no loss of text, though the condition of the paper occasionally renders it difficult to distinguish between punctuation and spotting.

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: Some of the contents of this letter are similar to those in manuscript 775165. The trailer is written in Wheelock's hand, as are some random notes in the right-hand margin of one verso.



My kind and worthy Benefactor
with humility, Love and
Gratitude I sit my ſelf down to write few lines to you my
Hondd Patron. (and with much hast. —) I recieved your kind
Letter, dated January 23,d last evening by the hand of M.r
R. Pomery
. for which I give you my hearty thanks, I had
thought that your worthy Perſon had not deſigned to write to me.
or that you had heard ſomething, and did not ſee it in your
way to help me. and I was greatly dejected, and almoſt diſ­
­couraged. but the Lord in whom I trust, whom I fear, Love,
and purpoſe to Serve all my days, hath been pleaſed to mani­
­feſt his approbation, (towards the Noble Undertaking, in
which cauſe, I have given up my all, to bring it about,) in his
provoiding for my relief in a wonderfull manner, even when
I was in the greatest straits and almoſt in Deſpair. — and
Bleſsed be the Name of the God of Iſrael, who hath never
been found Unfaithfull, or unkind. who will provide for
thoſe that doth really depend upon his Divine Beneficence.
Revd, & kind Sir; I have been to New York, and the Lord
hath raiſed up, for me good Christian friends. — I was
in the City 15, Days. and I preached there three diffi­
­rent DTimes. and a Collection was propoſed for my relief
and Encouragement two Diffirent times. and there was a
very honorable Collection made, worthy of the Generous, and
Noble Spirit, of the Wealthy Inhabitants of that renowned
City
. for which kindneſs I bleſs the Lord daily. —
I had Sufficient Collected for me, to discharge all my
debts, and alſo to purchaſe things neceſsary for my preſent Sub­
­ſiſtance. namely little proviſion. — I did not go to New
­york
untill I was quite discouraged waiting for the
anſwers to the Letter I ſent to your worthy perſon. —
I believe that I ſhall have encouragement, the enſuing year
or Seaſon, from the Board of New York, or Philadelphia, I am
not certain howe[illegible]ver, the Revd M.r Rodgers. D.D. [illegible][guess: in]A Pracher
in the Preſbeterian old South Meeting houſe is a Member of that
Honorable Board, who is remarkably friendly. to whom
I humbly, and earneſtly, deſire you would write ſoon
as poſsible, if your worthy Perſon can recommend me. to
him, and make him believe that you think that I am worthy of notice
[illegible][guess: or]and deſerving of Encouragement, I ſhould be [illegible]Exceeding
glad. he believes Me to be worthyDeſerving of Encouragement. I
preached for him three times. and he was very deſireous
of helping me. but he thought proper, that ſomething
Should be had from thee: a Recommendation. — he ſeems
to think if proper Steps be taken. he can obtain for my
help, [illegible][guess: ob] Encouragement — fifty Pound Sterling Per Annum.
befriend me, if you ſee it in your way. —

My loving Patron, I want all help that a poor well
diſpoſed Creature can deſire. I am empty handed. I have
no purſe neither have I any thing to put in one, if I
had a purſe. — nevertheleſs I will step forward. — and
Stagger not. — I am Satisfyed it is beſt for me to know
and ever bear upon my mind that my dependance is
upon the Lord a lone. — O that I may ever live like a
poor Dependant Creature. — having my Eyes, and heart
fixed on the Lord. —
I Shall write to my friends in New York directly.
and I deſire again that you would not fail to write for
the Honorable Board of which I made Mention will
ſet, or meet together by the first of April. when the
Revd Doctr Ro[illegible]dgers will peti[illegible]tion for me. — and he will
do it with double Courage if he has few lines from you.
I know not the Gentlemans Christian Name. but he
promiſed to write to you, and deſired me to write alſo.
but if he has not wrote the sureſt way would be
to Send a Letter to M.r James Lazly, my old Maſter,
who lives in the City of New York. keeping a School there.
and incloſe Doctr Rodgers's Letter therin. be ſo good as
to write full, and get as much help for me as ever
you can from that quarter. or from that Board of
which Mr Rodgers is a Member.. &c: —
 I am pleaſed to ſee the Indians in theſe parts ſo
engaged. I believe that there will be upwards of
Sixty young Indian [illegible]men from the Seven Tribes
that will Sit of from hence by the 13th of March
next
. to be deſtinguished as noble Spirited Indians, who
will do their uttermoſt to get good, and do good, —
who will diſtinguish themſelves from the [illegible][guess: lazzy]
Lazzy crew that refuſes the good offers made to
them in these Latter Days. — Pray for us. that
we may obtain bleſsings from on high. and that we
might be bleſsings on Earth. bleſsings to one another
and bleſsings to many of our Poor Weſtern Brethren
who are periſhing for lack of knowledge. O pray for
me in a more particular Manner. that the Lord would
bleſs me by implanting his divine fear in my heart
and in giving me true humility and Stedfaſtneſs in
the ways of Religion, that he would give me grace
Sufficient for me. &c: — I purpoſe by divine leave
to be at your Reſidence by next Commencement.
with my friend Joſeph Briant.

I am your humble
Pupil, and real wellwiſher
in great haſt. —
Joſeph Johnſon. —
[right]Fr. M.r Jos. Johnſon
 [right]Feb.y 17. 1775.
[right]25 Dollars £7,,10,
[right]4 Crowns — 1,, 6,, 8
 [right]11..6

[below]To the Revd Eleazer Wheelock, D.D.
 [below]and Preſident of Dartmouth College. —
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.

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.

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.

Lesley, James
Brant, Joseph

Joseph Brant studied briefly with Wheelock and went on to be a very influential Mohawk leader. He was born into a prominent Mohawk family, and his connections only improved when his sister, Molly, began a long-lasting relationship with Sir William Johnson. Brant came to study with Wheelock in 1761. He played the part of a model pupil, as he was already partially assimilated and took to his studies quickly. Wheelock had high hopes for him, but in 1763, Brant visited Mohawk country with CJ Smith and never returned. This was likely a result of Johnson's increasing desire to promote only Anglican missionary efforts, as Brant seems to have harbored no ill-will towards Wheelock: Calloway hypothesizes that Brant's influence protected Dartmouth during the Revolution, and in 1800 Brant sent two of his sons to Moor's Indian Charity School. After leaving Wheelock, Brant went on to accumulate influence both as a British civil servant and Mohawk leader (historians debate how much genuine power and influence he had among the Mohawks and Six Nations more generally). The British government employed him as an interpreter, and in 1775, he visited England to argue for Mohawk interests. During the Revolution, he remained loyal to the British and encouraged other tribes to do the same. After the Revolution, when the British abandoned Indian land interests, he battled militarily and politically for Native land rights. Culturally, Brant was very much a pro-assimilation Anglican. He translated the Gospel of Mark, as well as other religious documents, into Mohawk, and lived a generally anglicized lifestyle, although he criticized what he saw as severe moral failings in white society.

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