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Samson Occom, letter, to a Minister of Albany, 1791 December 26

ms-number: 791676

abstract: Occom writes that he cannot attend an ordination due to ill health, that he has moved to Munhegunnack (or New Stockbridge), and that many Indians are coming to New Stockbridge to hear preaching.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, but mostly clear and legible. The letter “a” is frequently unclosed at the top, which causes it to look like the letter “u.”

paper: Single large sheet is in poor condition, with heavy creasing, staining and wear that results in some loss of text. Repairs have been made on particularly heavy creases.

ink: Brown ink is faded.

noteworthy: The identity of the minister to whom Occom writes is unknown.



Revd and much eſteemed Sir,
I dont think I Can be at the ordination, in Balls­
Town
, it is a long way, and I am old, and Lame, and I muſt be
at the Preſbytery next March at Albany if live, and Shall be
well; I want to be at the ord[illegible][guess: e]rnation; and one or two of our men
with me but it Cant be so now — I am now moving my Family to
Munhegunnack or New-Stockbridge, I told you it was Calld Tuſ­
c[illegible][guess: a]rora, but that is not the Proper name of it, — Capt Hindrick who
will deliver this to You, is one of our Church; he is juſt Come
from the weſtward, amongſt the Indians, and he has a large Tract
of [gap: tear][guess: land] offerd him if he and his people would move there — I think
it woud be [gap: tear][guess: a fine open]ing for the Goſpel, — Our Church have
willingly and Cheerfully adopted the Confeſsion of Faith of the
Preſbyterian Church of the United States in America. They Joy­
fully put themſelves under the Care and inſpection of Albany
Preſbytery
— And thankfully receive the Goſpel Fellowſhip
open'd for them — And from This Time, we Shall look upon our­
Selves one of the leaſt Branches of the Religious Family of the
Preſbyterians in America — — We are trying to inſtruct our Children
in Letters, but we are very weak, we want a little help — one Jo–
Quinney
keeps the School, without any Proſpect of Reward,
and he [gap: hole][guess: is] our Singing Maſter too, and he is Inſtructing the People
in Sin[gap: hole][guess: ging] Conſta[gap: hole][guess: ntl]y, two or three Evenings every week and
he demands no pay — and he and his Family, are very deſtitute
of Cloathing, — Our Profiſsers keep on Steady in Religion, and
our Church and Society rather increaſes, — our Singers are
in want of Psalm Books — what harm woud it be, if You wou'd
try to beg a few, amongſt Your Friends and Neighbours in
Albany, we uſe Dr Watts's Psalms altogether — I have no
more to Say at this Time, — Pray for us — This with much
Esteem is from
your most unworthy fellow Labourer
in the Goſpel of Jeſus —
Samson Occom
PS.
 Capt Hindrick is our Elder, and Joſeph Qunney
is our Deacon; We have but very little Buſineſs
[gap: worn_edge]Elder and Deacon, and think, one of each is enough for the
[gap: worn_edge]

Janr 8
Sir
 The fore going was Sent by Capt Hindreck, but was
oblidged, to return back, and forgot to give it, to Samuel
Littleman
, who, I Conclude Call'd upon You, in his way to
New-Jerſey — There Seems to be a Strange inclination among
the Indians, to hear the word of God preach'd, the Come to our
meets from Tuſcarora, most all of them, which they nev[gap: worn_edge][guess: er]
did before, and Mr Kirklands People come very thick too
and they deſire, that I might Spend Some Sabbaths, — great
many Come to our meeting to Day, tho Mr Kirkland went there
this morning, and they know of his Coming, — Mr Kirkland is
going away again, and I Shall go to his People next Sab
bath — Several of them, have [gap: hole][guess: a] great Deſire to Join us in
full — and Some of Mr Sargeant's people are Coming to us alſo, and
they will Join us in full, — I have an Evening School for the
young People, and a Number comes, I am Inſtructing to read &
to Speak Engliſh proper, and Come on well —

I am &c —
Samſon Occom
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.

Aupaumut, Hendrick

Hendrick Aupaumut, most likely a descendant of the Mohawk chief Hendrick, was a Mahican Indian who was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1757. He was educated by the Moravians and became very involved in tribal affairs and relations with the United States. Along with other Stockbridge Indians, Aupaumut fought as part of Captain William Goodrich’s company in the Revolutionary War, rising to captain in 1778. In 1777, when Joseph Quanaukaunt became sachem, Aupaumut became a member of his council along with Peter Pohqunnoppeet and John Konkapot. He also became close friends with Samson Occom and would often host the preacher or translate his sermons when the latter visited New Stockbridge, to where the Stockbridges moved in the mid 1780s. In 1787 he was one of nine Indians to write to Occom declaring their faith and asking Occom to become their minster. He was also one of the Indians to sign the proclamation that Occom, Pohqunnooppeet, and David Fowler carried during their tour to raise funds to support Occom as their pastor. By the 1790s, Aupaumut was acting as an agent for the United States. He helped the government combat Tecumseh and his brother Elskwatawa, and he fought under General Harrison in the War of 1812. Both conflicts interrupted the various land deals between tribes, as well as treaties and other negotiations, in which he was involved. Although he encouraged Indians to convert to Christianity and learn English, Aupaumut opposed leasing land to whites. Occom and Aupaumut agreed that the Stockbridges must move west to escape the influence of outside cultures, and to preserve their Christianity. In the 1820s, Aupaumut led land deals with Wisconsin tribes, and he finally moved west in 1829 along with the remainder of the Stockbridge tribe.

Watts, John
Quinney, Joseph
Littleman, Samuel
Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

Sergeant, Jr., John

John Sergeant Jr., like his father, served as a minister in Stockbridge, MA. In 1773, Stephen West, the minister to the Stockbridge Indians since 1757, decided to leave his post and turned over ministering duties to John Sergeant Jr. Stockbridge, MA, which John Sergeant Sr. helped establish, failed as a Christian Indian town when the Stockbridge Indians lost ownership of their land. When the Oneida Tribe offered the Stockbridgers land in central New York after the American Revolution, many of them moved to the Brothertown and New Stockbridge settlements. The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge funded Sergeant Jr. in 1787 to continue serving as a minister to the Stockbridge Indians who moved to New York. Sergeant travelled from Stockbridge, MA, to New Stockbridge every year to serve as their minister. In 1788, the Stockbridge Indians at New Stockbridge were divided in their support for Occom or John Sergeant as the town’s minister. Mohican sachem Hendrick Aupaumut led the community members who favored Occom. According to Sergeant, 30 members of the Tribe were in favor of Occom while 50 were in favor of him (later, half of Occom’s supporters defected to Sergeant). The relationship between Sergeant and Occom was contentious, with Occom disliking Sergeant’s manner of preaching. Occom moved to Munhegunnack or New Stockbridge in 1791 and suggests in a letter that many of Sergeant’s supporters were shifting support to Occom. In his sermons, Sergeant blamed the Indians’ loss of land on what he described as their drunkenness and idleness. He suggested that the whites’ encroachment on their lands was God’s punishment for their sins. Sergeant remained the New Stockbridge minister until his death in 1824.

HomeSamson Occom, letter, to a Minister of Albany, 1791 December 26
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