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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
walohale
, 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
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
Sergeant
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
 Secrty
Mr S kirkland
March 13 1794

Revd Doctor Thacher



 Boston
Hamilton College
The Hamilton Oneida (or H.O.) Academy, founded in 1793 by the missionary Samuel Kirkland, was the original incarnation of present-day Hamilton College, chartered in 1812 and the third oldest college established in New York State. It is located in the village of Clinton, near Utica in central New York, and was named for Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the US Treasury and a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy. It is a private liberal arts college that offers a Bachelor of Arts degree. Kirkland was Wheelock's most famous Anglo-American student, who served as missionary to the Oneida Indians for 40 years. He planned the academy as a school for the children of Oneidas and the numerous white settlers coming into the area, and in 1793 travelled to Philadelphia to present his proposal to President George Washington, who approved, and to Hamilton, who agreed to be a trustee and lend his name to the school. Its first 20 years were difficult, and it never served Kirkland's original purpose, which was to provide education for the Oneidas, very few of whom attended.
Methodism
Methodism is an 18th-century revivalist movement founded by John Wesley that sought to reform the Church of England from within, but separated in 1795 to form a vigorous and influential Protestant sect. The movement was led by Wesley and his brother Charles, who were joined for a time by the English evangelist George Whitefield, all of whom had connections to the North American colony of Georgia. Their open air, extemporaneous preaching of personal, experiential redemption and the necessity of a new birth attracted many people who felt neglected by the Anglican Church in England and by the Congregational and Presbyterian churches in New England. As a New Light minister, Wheelock supported the revivalist movement, but many in the upper eschelons of society, whom Wheelock wanted to interest in his "great design" of Indian conversion, regarded it and Methodism in particular as partisan and overly radical. Some Native evangelists were drawn to Methodism in the 18th-century, though Occom remained a staunch Presbyterian all his life. In particular, William Apess (1798-?), a mixed blood Pequot, turned to Methodism during the Second Great Awakening (1800-1830s), and became an ordained Methodism minister and preacher, a prolific writer, and the leader of the Mashpee Indian revolt of 1833, which represented a noteworthy push for Indian self-governance.
Baptists/Seventh Day Baptists
The Baptists were a dissenter sect that became especially popular in New England after the First Great Awakening. They diverged from Protestant belief mainly in insisting that only believers should be baptized, and that it should be done by immersion in water and not by sprinkling or pouring water, but they represented the most radical of the radical New Lights and were known for lay preaching and personal spirituality. Wheelock and most of his former students were more moderate New Lights and opposed this sort of radical Christianity. Occom, however, had many connections with Baptist ministers in central New York. On his preaching tour in 1774, he records visiting several Baptist ministers, largely white, and speaking to large crowds, sometimes in the woods. He also records meeting with a "Seven Day Baptist" minister. The Seventh Day or Sabbatarian Baptists differ from Baptist beliefs mainly in observing the Sabbath on Saturday, in accordance with the ten commandments. Baptist belief held a strong attraction for Native peoples because it protected their autonomy and embraced preaching and leadership by lay people. Divides over theology became problematic at Brothertown, where Occom’s moderate sect clashed with the more Baptist sect over whether or not to lease their land to Americans. After Occom’s death, Samuel Ashpo, a Baptist Mohegan minister known for his separatism, began spending more time at Brothertown and built up a substantial Baptist congregation there.
Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was established in 1730 to support local missionary efforts. It was the SSPCK's first board in the British colonies in America. The SSPCK later founded a New York Board (1741) and a Connecticut Board (1764). Although Wheelock lobbied for a New Hampshire board after his 1770 relocation, by that time the SSPCK had had enough of him and his request was denied. The Boston Board of the SSPCK sponsored many missionaries to Native Americans, including David and John Brainerd. However, it did not provide very much support to Wheelock or his school, in large part because Wheelock and Charles Chauncy, chair of the Boston Board, clashed over Congregationalist politics. The Boston Board did provide £20 to support Samson Occom and David Fowler on a 1761 mission to the Six Nations to procure Moor's students, but it was then reluctant to support the boys Occom and Fowler obtained. The Board eventually paid £58.10.1 in 1762. They never gave money to Wheelock again. Wheelock was instrumental in forming the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK in 1764, over which he exerted considerable influence. From that point forward, he was largely able to avoid dealing with the Boston Board of the SSPCK. The The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America is also called the Boston Board in some letters, and most secondary sources have mixed the two Boston Boards. This is an easy mistake to make since both are sometimes called the Boston Board and vigorously opposed Wheelock. However, the general confusion in the literature means that any secondary source's statement on either board should be taken with some skepticism.
Oriskany

Oriskany was an Oneida village in northern New York, located at the junction of the Mohawk River and the Oriskany Creek. Its name is derived from "oriska," the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) name for nettles. Oriskany developed on the Oneida Carry, an Indian trading route that ran from the Mohawk River to Wood Creek, part of a larger system of Indian trails that led from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes. The English constructed Fort Stanwix in 1758 to protect the Oneida Carry from the French, and a few years later, the village of Oriskany appeared. Its residents benefited from the constant influx of traders who traveled along the Oneida Carry. Samuel Kirkland visited Oriskany during his extended time as a missionary among the Oneidas. In 1777, Oriskany was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle. English forces, primarily composed of an army of Senecas and Mohawks led by Joseph Brant, tried to invade New York by way of Oriskany. An army of patriots and Oneidas unsuccessfully engaged them at Fort Stanwix. After what became known as the Battle of Oriskany, Mohawks burned the village. The battle widened the existing divide between different Haudenosaunee tribes. As a result, Oriskany is often known as "A Place of Great Sadness" in Haudenosaunee oral histories. Oriskany was reestablished in 1784 by wealthy Americans as a base for trade with the Oneidas, even though the Oneidas disputed American claims to the village. It has since developed into the present-day village of Oriskany in New York's Oneida County.

Boston

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.

Kanawalohale

Kanawalohale was a village located in the present-day town of Vernon in central New York state. In the 18th century, it was an Oneida village located about 60 miles west of the Mohawk village Canajoharie. Because the village’s name was similar to the Mohawk village of Canajoharie, many sources conflate the two. Founded in the mid-18th century, Kanawalohale was made up of a cluster of about 40 homes along the Oneida Creek, south of Oneida Lake. The name means head on a post in reference to an enemy soldier's skull displayed in the village. In 1765, David Fowler established an Indian school in Kanawalohale, where Wheelock’s son, Ralph, worked. Between the years of 1765 and 1767, Kanawalohale hosted many of Wheelock's missionaries including Samuel Kirkland, Joseph Johnson, David Avery, and Aaron Kinne. The Indians of Kanawalohale used their relationship with missionaries such as Kirkland to gain prestige over the formerly central Oneida village, Old Oneida. Kirkland often wrote in his journal about the dialogues he had with the Indians at Kanawalohale, who refused to receive his teachings silently. The Christian Indian population grew throughout the 1760s with at least 200 Indians attending church in the village. In 1780, Joseph Brant, a Mohawk allied with the British, led a war party against the revolting colonists, with whom the Oneidas had allied, that destroyed the Oneida village of Kanawalohale. This area is known today as Oneida Castle.

Whitestown
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.

Brothertown

Brothertown was a multi-tribal Indian settlement in the center of what is now New York state. In the 1760s, Indians in New England and New York were devastated by war, disease, and European settlement, and many who had converted to Christianity believed that pressures and influences from surrounding European settlers impeded them from living Christian lives. The Brothertown Indians began as a group of Christian Indians including members of the Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Montauk, Tunxis, Wangunk, and Niantic tribes. In the 1770s, led by Occom and Joseph Johnson, this group of Indians moved to land granted to them by the Oneida in New York. They named the land Brothertown to both reflect their intention to live with fellow tribes as brothers and also to pay tribute to Brotherton, a Delaware Indian reservation in New Jersey that served as an inspiration for the Christian Indian settlement. When the Revolutionary War began, the Indians of Brothertown sided with the Patriots, and as a result, British sympathizers burnt the Brothertown settlement in 1777. After this, many Brothertown settlers moved east while others remained and fought alongside the colonists.In the 1780s, many more New England Indians, including Occom and his family, moved to Brothertown and the nearby settlement of New Stockbridge, forming a town government, church and schools. In the early 1800s, the state of New York began to purchase tracts of Oneida land, and the Indians were forced to leave New York and settle in Greenbay, Wisconsin.

Grand River, Canada

Grand River is a tributary of Lake Erie located in southern Ontario. The Mohawks called the river O:se Kenhionhata:tie, meaning Willow River. It was not until the end of the French and Indian War that British colonists began establishing permanent settlements on the Grand River. Thawendanegea, a Mohawk Indian also known as Joseph Brant who studied at Wheelock's Indian School, convinced many members of the Six Nations to side with the British during the American Revolution, and in what was known as the Haldimand Proclamation, the British granted the Haudenosaunees a tract of land along the Grand River for their loyalty. In 1796, the Six Nations ceded Joseph Brant the ability to sell off some of their land and to invest the profits. Disputes regarding Native land rights along the Grand River continue into the 21st century. In a 1794 letter from Samuel Kirkland to Peter Thacher, Kirkland writes that he met with several Indians from Grand River regarding the Oneida mission.

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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