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Samson Occom, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1775 April 14

ms-number: 775264

abstract: Occom writes to express regret that so few Indians are going to Oneida, and that Johnson should, above all, keep peace among the Indians there. Occom also writes that his daughter Olive has married.

handwriting: Handwriting is clear and legible.

paper: Single medium-sized sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing and wear.

ink: Brown ink is faded.

noteworthy: The trailer appears to be in Occom's hand, although it could possibly be that of Mary Occom.



Dear Child
I have only Time to inform you, that thro the
goodneſs of god we are all in good State of Health at preſent, and
your Family is well, and all the Indians are in good Health, I
am Sorry, So few Indians are going up to Onoyda this Spring, yet
I hope they will keep moving up more and more, — Let me know
by the first opportunity, how the Indians apeare now towards
our Indians, and if any thing is in agitation worthy of notice
let us know it, — what ever you do keep Peace among yourſelves
and hear to one another for your mutual good, — Take god with
you in all your Concerns, let his word be your Rule both in
your Religious and Temporal Concerns, inrich your minds with the
word of god — Our Olive has marryed last Night to Solomon Adams
This in utmoſt hast is from your Affectionate Father
Samson Occom
Something about
Land in Oneide
To
Mr Joſeph Johnſon
at onoyda
Oneida Nation
The Oneidas are one of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. During the 18th century, they were largely considered the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe. The Oneidas had a rich tradition of indigenous ministers, including Good Peter, Deacon Thomas, and Isaac Dakayenensere, and played host to several Moor’s missionaries, including Samson Occom, David Fowler, Samuel Ashpo, Joseph Johnson, Joseph Woolley, Titus Smith, and Samuel Kirkland (who went on to found Hamilton Oneida Academy, now Hamilton College). They were also the interpreter James Dean’s adoptive tribe. Notable Oneida towns included Onaquaga, Kanawalohale, and Old Oneida. Onaquaga was the central fire of the Six Nations. By the 18th century, it also had a sizeable contingent of Onondagas and Tuscaroras. Good Peter and Isaac Dakayenensere taught there, as did Joseph Woolley. Kanawalohale and Old Oneida were more predominantly Oneida. The Oneidas were involved in several crucial moments in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School. Onaquaga was the site of the 1765 confrontation between Wheelock and the New England Company, in which the New England Company disrupted Titus Smith's mission, first by sending their own missionary, and second by repossessing Elisha Gunn, the interpreter they had agreed to "loan" to Titus Smith. Left without an interpreter, Titus Smith was forced to abandon his mission (Wheelock repaid the favor a few years later by hiring James Dean away from the New England Company). A few years later, in 1769, Deacon Thomas led the Oneidas in withdrawing all their children from Moor's. The Oneidas' departure struck a devastating blow against Wheelock's Indian education plans, and provided more momentum for his shift to educating predominantly Anglo-Americans. The Oneidas sided with the colonists during the Revolution, but they were still affected by the general devastation in Six Nations territory, especially the Sullivan Expedition (1779). After the Revolution, the Oneidas granted tracts of their land to two Christian Indian organizations: the Brothertown tribe, a composite tribe of Moor’s alumni from New England, and the Stockbridge Indians. It was not long before the groups came into conflict with one another. Encroachment from the new State of New York put increasing pressure on Oneida land, and the Oneidas tried to renegotiate their treaties with the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians to compensate. The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians fought back, but by the 1820s all three groups had lost, and many of them relocated to Wisconsin.
Brothertown Tribe
The Brothertown Nation of Indians was a composite tribe of Southern New England Algonquians that was organized largely by alumni of Moor’s Indian Charity School. Four of the most important organizers were Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Jacob Fowler. The Brothertown Indians lived on land purchased from the Oneidas beginning 1783 until 1831, when the Brothertown Indians moved on to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Brothertown, NY, should not be confused with Brotherton, NJ (sometimes spelled Brothertown), a Christian Indian settlement that John Brainerd established in 1758. The idea of relocating to central New York became increasingly popular in 18th-century New England as Indian tribes saw colonists take more and more of their land. Joseph Johnson began taking definitive steps to organize a migration in the 1770s. Despite reluctance from New England Indians and colonial authorities, Johnson was able to secure a tract of land from the Oneidas -- largely believed to be the most Christian of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations -- and organize a composite tribe from members of seven New England Indian settlements: Niantic, Montauk, Mohegan, Charlestown (Narragansett), Groton (Pequot), Stonington (Pequot), and Farmington (Tuxnis). The first migrants moved to Oneida territory in 1775, just in time to be displaced by the Revolution. Joseph Johnson died in 1776 or 1777 at the age of 25. Nevertheless, the Brothertown tribe made a second attempt after the war, this time with considerably more government support. In 1783, the first 50 settlers arrived in Brothertown. A hundred more followed in 1784, along with the Stockbridge Indians of Massachusetts, a Mahican group. It is important to remember that the Brothertown movement was by no means a mass migration: most New England Algonquians elected to remain. Brothertown’s leaders drew on Algonquian and Anglo-American influences to regulate their town, including policies based on a Connecticut law book and a community ethic emphasizing a communal decision-making process and care for the elderly. However, Brothertown was not a politically tranquil place. In addition to internecine struggles, the Brothertown Indians faced pressure from the Oneidas, who in 1786 tried to renegotiate their treaties with the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians to alleviate demands on land driven by Anglo-Americans in the area. While the Brothertown Indians were able to defend their claim to the land in court, the fact of the matter was that land was becoming scarce. As early as 1791, the Stockbridge Indians began exploring the possibility of moving to the Midwest, and the Brothertown Indians followed suit in 1809. After a series of failed land deals, in 1831 the Brothertown Indians, Stockbridge Indians, and Munsee Indians (a subtribe of the Delaware) were awarded a tract of land in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Brothertown Nation is still based in Wisconsin and is currently struggling to obtain federal recognition.
Oneida

Oneida is a city in Madison County located at the geographical center of New York state. Before European settlement of the area, the Oneida Tribe, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, inhabited a large territory adjacent to nearby Oneida Lake. Around 1533, they built their first village on the south shore of the lake, at or near the mouth of Oneida Creek. At the end of the 17th century, this area began suffering raids by parties from the French colony of Quebec, in a battle to control the fur trade. In 1696, Oneida village was burned by the French. As a result, the Oneidas moved their chief village east of the original site, called Old Oneida, to a new site called Kanawalohale, also known as Oneida Castle, which was fortified by tall palisades and a moat. This is the site of the present-day village of Oneida Castle, a small hamlet west of the city of Oneida in the northwest corner of the town of Vernon. When used in Occom Circle documents, the place name "Oneida" usually refers to the territory inhabited by the Tribe east of Oneida Lake, but can also refer specifically to Oneida Castle. Although the Oneidas sided with the patriots during the Revolutionary War, much of their territory was sold or appropriated by the state of New York. In 1790, the first European settlers moved into the area of Old Oneida village, and the district began to expand. In the 1830s, the state built a feeder from Oneida Creek through the present city site to provide water for the new canal system, which enabled canal boats to ship freight into the town. Eventually, the railroad came through the town and helped with its expansion. This led to the incorporation of the Village of Oneida in 1848 and the establishment of the Town of Oneida in 1896. The town was chartered as the City of Oneida in 1901, and with two more railroad lines transecting the area, it became a thriving manufacturing center for the first half of the 20th century.

Mohegan

Mohegan is a village in southeastern Connecticut at the site of the present-day town of Montville, and is the location of the Mohegan Indian Reservation. The village gets its name from the Mohegan Tribe, or wolf people, who split from the Pequots in the early 17th century under the leadership of the sachem Uncas. In the 1720s, the Mohegans requested the colony of Connecticut provide them with an English educator. An English minister and schoolteacher named John Mason (no relation to Captain John Mason) moved to Mohegan in order to provide English-styled education to the Mohegans, convinced his sponsors, the New England Company, to build a schoolhouse at Mohegan, which eventually served as a boarding school for other Native American children from the surrounding area. During the 17th century, the Mohegan Tribe became embroiled in a complicated controversy over control of Mohegan land — known as the Mason Land Case or, more specifically, Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut — that included the village of Mohegan. The Tribe claimed that it never authorized a transfer of their lands, held in trust by the Mason family, to the colonial government. In 1662, the colony of Connecticut was incorporated by a royal charter, which included the disputed tribal land. The land controversy was revived in 1704 when descendants of John Mason, the original trustee, petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, but the suit was finally decided against the Tribe in 1773. Born in Mohegan, Occom became involved in the Mason Land Case and vehemently argued for the rights of the Mohegan Indians to maintain their land, opposing Eleazar Wheelock and other ministers in the area. Although Occom left Mohegan for a 12-year mission with the Montauk Indians of Long Island, he returned at the end of 1763 with his large family to build a house in Mohegan, establishing it as his base of operations. Even after the creation of the Brothertown settlement in Oneida country, for which he served as minister, Occom continued to commute back and forth from Mohegan; he didn't sell his house in Mohegan and move his family to Brothertown until 1789. Many members of his family remained in Mohegan, including his sister Lucy Tantaquidgeon, who lived there until her death at 99 in 1830.

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.

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.

Adams, Solomon
Adams, Olive (née Occom)

Olive was the fourth child and third daughter born to Mary Fowler Occom and Samsom Occom during their residence in Montauk on Long Island, where Occom served as minister and schoolteacher to the Montaukett Indians. She would have moved with the family back to Mohegan in Connecticut in 1763, but little else is known about her life. From a letter Occom wrote to Joseph Johnson on April 14, 1775 (manuscript 775264), we know that Olive married Solomon Adams, a Farmington Indian. Love reports that they had three children, that Solomon died around 1783, and that Olive lived on her husband's land in Farmington. However, Occom records in his journal for 1786 visiting Olive on his preaching and fundraising tours of New England to raise money for the Brothertown project, and she is living between Old Windsor and Bolton, CT, a location northwest of Farmington and on the other side of Hartford. The following year, Occom twice mentions in his journal "Olive's affair," that he "searched into" it "and Say Writings about it to my Satisfaction," and then "left" it with a Mr. Wadsworth (manuscript 787660.1). Love notes that Olive emigrated to Brotherton, and that her children sold the family plot at Farmington in 1801. J. Brooks speculates that the "affair" Occom negotiated for his daughter probably concerned the disposition of Olive's husband's Farmington lot.

HomeSamson Occom, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1775 April 14
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