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Samuel Kirkland, letter, to Peter Thacher, 1794 March 13

ms-number: 794213

abstract: Kirkland writes to Thacher about his return from Boston to the mission at Oneida, his plans for building the Hamilton Oneida Academy, the formation of an Association of clergymen in the vicinity, and a letter of complaint against him sent to the Board by a group of Indians.

handwriting: Handwriting is not overly formal, yet it is clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing and wear that interferes somewhat with the legibility of the text. Older preservation work also results in a slight dimming of the text.

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: A small fragment of paper bearing the letters “me” was torn from the left edge of two recto and is affixed to the center of two verso. It forms the word “some” on two recto, line 13.

Revd Sir,

After a fatiguing Journey,
in my return from Boston, thro' divine goodneſs,
I arrived here in safety the first instant; and
found my family in health.. kept Sabbath at
the settlement of Chirten, & aſsisted in celebrating the
sacrament of the Lords supper. It being too late
when I arrived on Saturday evening, to send to Kanon­
, to notify the Christian Indians, who are
in good standing, very few Indians were preſent.
 Attended two days the last week, with the Trustees
of H. O. Academy. they have unanimously agreed
to erect their building the enſuing seaſon [illegible][guess: :] a con­
siderable part of the materials are already collected.
 It has been for some time proposed, & in contem­
plation, for the young Clergymen settled in this
vicinity to form into an aſsociation, or Presbitery,
for the purposes of promoting Evangelical principles
ministerial fellowship, & fraternal affection;
and unitedly to guard, as much as poſsible against the
baneful Influence of wild, deſigning zealots,
with which th [illegible][guess: e] young, but flourishing settlements
in this frontier are much threatened. — Particularly
the methodists — & Baptists, (& such as appear to be
of the lowest claſs), are travelling thro' almost every
part of this extenſive frontier. . It will not be
uncharitable to say, they bear the signature of
erroneous teachers & blind guides. —
It will undoubtedly give you pleaſure to be
informed that this Aſsociation is nearly completed:
altho' but four in number to make the begining;
Viz. Revd Meſsrs Dan Bradly, Joel Bradly,
Aſahel Norton. & myself. . all settled our
Congregation, in what was formerly called
Whitestown — & vicinity of Oneida.
 This Aſsociation will afford an oppurtunity
for the numerous settlements in this quarter, who
are destitute of a preached Gospel, to apply for
aid & council, without the trouble of sending several hundred
miles, & sometimes wait[illegible]ing half a year before they
can receive an anſwer. —
 Our Aſsociation, will tend to give the Indians
a favourable idea of the gospel ministry & its impor­
tance; Their attendance only upon two ordinations,
in the neighbourhood, & particularly thoſe who
came as delegates, or meſsengers, from Oneida &
Brothertown, produced the kindest Effects. —
 Last week had several Conferences with Indians who
came to viſit me. Friday went to oneida— preached on
Lords day — an in the evening rode 20 miles to meet
the superintendant of Indian affairs, lately from the
westward, & very deſirous of an interview with me, &
some Indians from Grand River— . —
 Several Indians ha[illegible]ve told me, that a private
letter has been wrote from oneida To the Board,
with complaints against me,— and that Mr
conniv'd at their conduct — while aided
by one of Mr Occums partiſans; — Ex-parte. Complaints,
and Ex-parte evidence dont wear the aspect of
candour, nor the complexion of integrity. —
As it was formerly said, our "law does not
condemn a perſon unheard, I trust the
Hon.le Board will favour me with a Copy
of their letter, before they act upon it.
 My informants, deſired me, to say nothing
upon the subject, but to wait & see if they
would be honeſt eno' to acknowledge it.
They [illegible]receved me with their uſual warmth of
affection — and as yet have not discloſed a
single word of their private letter. —
There are several of the french party — & so [gap: tear][guess: me]
that are fallen under cenſure, who are ve[gap: tear][guess: ry]
bitter against me; — & particularly one of
Mr Occums partiſans whose iniquity I was
obliged to reprove, & expose. — But amidst all
their diviſions & animoſities — I have the affection
& confidence of the better part, as much as ever
I had, & in some inſtances much more. —
 I shall write you again e'er long upon the
Subject.— I cannot add to the respect
with which I am, Revd S.r

Your obedt hum Servt
S. Kirkland
Revd D.r Thacher
Mr S kirkland
March 13 1794

Revd Doctor Thacher

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.

Thacher, Peter
Bradly, Dan
Bradly, Joel
Norton, Asahel
Chapin, Israel
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.

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.

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