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Joseph Johnson, letter, to John Rodgers, 1775 February 15

ms-number: 775165

abstract: Johnson writes of his intention to move with several tribes to lands granted by the Oneidas, and that he has been in touch with Wheelock regarding a recommendation.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, crowded and frequently difficult to decipher, with many deletions and additions.

paper: Single large sheet is in fair condition, with moderate-to-heavy staining, creasing and wear. Wear at especially heavy creasing leads to some loss of text.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: This document appears to be a draft. Some of the contents of this letter are similar to those of manuscript 775164. Sums appear upside-down at the bottom of one verso; the letter is written around these sums. The identity of “Avery” on one verso is uncertain, although it is likely David Avery. The identity of "Fitch" on one verso is uncertain, and so he has been left untagged.

To Doctrthe Revd Doctr Rodgers at New York
Revd and kind Sir; with [illegible] humility, Gratitude and Love, I sit my
self down to write to your worthy Perſon. through the goodneſs
of the great God of mercy I, and my little family are in health; and I hum
bly hope that by the same goodneſs you and yours have been, and Still are
in health, and proſperity. — kind Sir, I have ever retained your worthy Perſon
in my mind with pleaſure, since, I have had the honour of being aquainted with
you. and I bleſs the Lord in whom I humbly hope, I have been enabled by his own
divine grace, to put my whole Trust, that he hath graciously given me such a Good & real Earthly friend
in time of need as your worthy Perſon hath been, and I hope still will be. — if I was not Satisfy
[gap: tear][guess: d] in my Mind, of your good will to me ward and to my poor deſpiſed Brethren I should not trouble you with my Scribles
but now with pleaſure I write to you as unto the beſt friend or Benefactor that I
have in this world of trial, Sorrow and [illegible][guess: wants] trialand various viciſitudes. I heartily thank you
for all your Tokens of Love, pity, and reſpects that you shewed to me ward, and to
ward my poor brethren, when I was in the city of New York [illegible] and I daily bleſs the Lord
that he gave me favour in the Eyes and hearts of his People there, God full
well knew my neceſsituous Circumſtances, and there he mercifully
relieved me, and greatly encouraged me to go on still, in his Service,
wherever he in his Providence should call me. and not to ſtagger. —
verily, verily, I have abundant reaſon to rejoice in the goodneſs of the
Lord, who regardeth the cauſe of thoſe that trust in his holy Name. — O that I might
be enabled to live to his praiſe all my Days, and afterward, be graciously
recieved up into Glory, where I [illegible]shall praiſe him throughout the
endleſs [illegible]Ages of Eternity without inturruption, and without ceaſing
Amen. — Revd Sir, I got safely home by the 5th of January [illegible]and found
[gap: worn_edge][guess: al]l well. I preached four times by the way. 3 times at New haven, [gap: worn_edge]
once at Eaſt haven, but It is not the Cuſtom I percieve in these parts [gap: worn_edge]
conſider of a traveling labourer, however, I am thankfull that my mind is not chiefly set upon
the things of time and Sense. and so am not disappointed, nor in the leaſt disquieted. I have been to several Towns of my Indian
Brethren since I have been at home, and have consulted with them, about
worldly affairs, and I have also preached to them alſo the Goſpel of our Lord
Jeſus the Christ. — my Indian brethren seems to be really engaged to go
[illegible]On in proſecution of the Deſign which I made known to you when I
was at your Reſidence — and we do fully purpoſe if god willing to set of from hence
or from these Parts by the 13th of March next [illegible].
I take it for granted and I believe that there will be [illegible] upwards of [illegible][guess: 5]60 young men from the several Tribes
who will go with Reſolution into the weſtern Country, as first Set
­tlers of the Land granted to us by the Onoidas. — however there
is [illegible]58 able working men that purpoſes to go from the following Tribes.
[gap: worn_edge][guess: i]n whoſe words I believe we may rely. from Mohegan 10. from Naraganſet
20. from Montauk on Long Iſland 13, from Nihantuck 5. from farm
10. and there is two other Tribes who confeſs that they are So
deeply involved in debt that they cannot go this Seaſon, but fully
purpoſes to go soon as poſsible. that is grotton and Stonington. [illegible]
— I was there last thurſday and had conference with them about the affair and I ſhall
go their again next Saturday, and tarry over the Sabbath with them.
and I shall propoſe conditions and I believe that there will be a
small number from thoſe two Tribes. the Revd M.r Occom will
Preach t[illegible]here next Sabbath. and he will propoſe condition to them
[illegible] and their Creditors so as they may go and take Poſseſs
[gap: worn_edge][guess: i]on with the Reſt of us. I hope that their will be nigh seventy in
the whole tho it is little uncertain Poverty hinders many it is thought the beſt way in the first Place for[illegible][guess: Young]

men that are able to endure hardſhips to go and work or br[gap: worn_edge]
the way through, or prepear a Sort of Shelter for themſelves and the[gap: worn_edge]
to live in, and to raiſe little Some wh[illegible][guess: at] to eat for them and [gap: worn_edge]
and after w[illegible]foundation is laid [illegible] the aged men and womenthen we can with leſs difficulty
and children [illegible] move up with our families, and the[illegible] may the
aged Men, and women go leaning upon their Sons as An[illegible][guess: cors]
I feel really engaged on my Part, and greatly encouraged. The pro­
­ſpects of great future good to my poor brethren in these parts,
and alſo thoſe that inhabit the weſtern wilderneſs animates
my Soul to preſs forward. I greatly deſire the Proſperity of my
sinking Nation. — O that I might by the Grace of God, be beneficia[gap: worn_edge][guess: l]
[gap: stain] to the bodies, but to the precious, exceeding precious Sou[gap: worn_edge][guess: ls]
of my [gap: stain][guess: p]oor indian Brethren. —
Revd and kind Sir. — I would further enform you that I recieved a
Letter from my Hond Patron the Revd Eleazer Wheelock D. D and
Preſident of Dartmouth College the 13th of this Instant. the Extract
of which I send you with even every word. — Dartmouth College Jany
23. 1775
. My dear Joſeph Johnſon &c: &c: — — — I had a favoura
ble oppertunity to return an Anſwer, the next Day. — I [illegible]acquainted him
how the Lord had proſpered me [illegible] New York and had given me friends
there. and [illegible] made Mention of your worthy Perſon good will towards me, and alſo to [illegible][guess: wards] and what you
towards my Poor Brethren. — I enformed him that you deſigned to try
to get [illegible] ſomeThing for meMy [illegible]Support And for my Encouragements from the
Honorable Board at Philadelphia, or New York, I was not certain, —
[gap: worn_edge]ever I deſired him to write soon as poſsible to your worthy Perſon
on my behalf, and recommend me to notice, and regard if I was
deſerving. [illegible] I [illegible][guess: wrote to] enformed him, that the BHonorable Board would
meet by the first of April. — and I doubt not, but that he will
write to you[illegible] [below]But let [illegible] The Lords will be done concerning that Matter. I doubt not but that you will do your uttermoſt to get me a Support. [below]while I shall be in the service of our Lord.
If I have encouragement from that Honorable Board I will bleſs the
Lord, and rejoice in his goodneſs, if not I will still love, and
trust in his holy Name, and service him with all my might. and not
be discouraged, nor repine. for he will do the thing, that is [illegible]right
with me and for me. — my Purpoſes and neceſsituous Circumſtances I'll write
on other Paper by itself. — O kind Sir, ever Pray for me, that the God
of Love, would give me Grace Sufficient for me. give my Thanks, and becoming
Reſpects to your honoured, Beloved, and kind Conſort and great regards to all
your family. and love to all enquiring friends

I am, kind Sir
your well wiſher, and humble Servant and humble Pupil
as it were.
Joſeph Johnſon an Indian of the
Mohegan Tribe.

[bottom]36/0 7/6
[bottom]17.6 5/ 24/10
[bottom]18:6 5
[bottom] 17:6 3/0
[bottom]48/0 2/6
[bottom]37/9 1/3 27.10
[bottom]10:3 2/6 12/5
[bottom]48:0 6:3
[bottom]18:6 Averys debt
[bottom]10:38:Fitches D.t 19:6 30/4
[bottom]£1:8:9 6/ 12
[bottom] £1:11:9 1.6
[bottom] 6 13.6
[bottom] £1 17:9

P.S. there was some Gentlemen that gave encourage
ment, that they would try to get Bibles and Pſalm books
if any was want- -ing by thoſe that go Next march. and
I have acquainted my Indian friends of the good will of Gentlemen
at New York. — and They Indians rejoice at such glad [illegible]tidings.
if there is any so well diſpoſed as to give us [illegible][guess: shuch] beſt
of gifts we will greatly rejoice, and try to make good uſe
of them. moſt of us are so poor that we cant purchaſe Bibles and [illegible] [illegible]
[illegible] to come
60 [illegible][guess: of Each I] believe will be [illegible][guess: wanting] Send them to [illegible] I and [illegible]

[left]to Dr. Rogers.

To the Revd Mr Rodgers D.D.
in the City of New York.—
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.

Avery, David

David Avery was one of Wheelock's charity scholars and had a long career as a Congregationalist minister. He studied at Moor's and Yale, where he was David McClure's classmate, and received his Masters from Dartmouth in 1773. Avery went on several missions to Indian tribes before his health forced him to retire. His first mission, before his final year at Yale, was to Kanawalohale as a schoolteacher in the summer of 1768. While there, he attended the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix as Wheelock's representative. After graduating, he served on Long Island around Smithtown. He was ordained August 29, 1771, at Dartmouth. Wheelock then sent him to the Oneidas for eleven months (September 1771 to August 1772), primarily to find out why the Oneidas had withdrawn their children from Wheelock's school. However, Avery's health was failing, and at some point between August 1772 and March 1773, he withdrew from Indian missionary service. In response, Wheelock charged him part of his tuition. Avery lived an exciting life after he left Wheelock's service. The Sabbath after the battle of Lexington (April 19 1775), he bade his Gageborough congregation farewell, mustered twenty men, and led them to Boston where he preached to the entire army. He enlisted as a chaplain, although he also fought in battle and served as a medic. He left the army in February 1780, and spent the rest of his life in a variety of pulpits, with a stint under the Massachusetts Domestic Missionary Society.

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, 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.

HomeJoseph Johnson, letter, to John Rodgers, 1775 February 15
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