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Samson Occom, letter, date and recipient unknown

ms-number: 003111

abstract: In a strongly worded letter to an unidentified correspondent, Occom declares that he and John Tantaquidgeon have been unjustly served with lawsuits.

handwriting: Occom's hand is clear and legible.

paper: Large single sheet is in poor condition, with heavy creasing, staining and wear that results in some loss of text. Tape marks are visible on one verso. Although Occom's hand is clear, the condition of the paper greatly hinders legibility.

noteworthy: There is no dateline, nor any indication of the letter’s recipient.


Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.


Honoured Sir
Brother John Tantaquidgeon
who brings these few [gap: stain][guess: lines] has had a law
suit against [gap: stain][guess: him] I [gap: stain]e upon suspicion of
Debt, and he knew [gap: stain][guess: noth]ing about it, 'til it
was over, it was John [gap: stain] [illegible]h'es doings, he em
ployed one Shoals to carry on the Suit, now
is agreeable to the Laws of this State or any
State [illegible][guess: ?] that a[illegible][guess: may] be sued, and the case tried. and
decided, and the man that sued knows nothing
from first to last, 'til the Execution Comes out
against him, if this will do and countenanced, by
by Law, then any man draw upon, account a
gainst his Neighbour without any Dealings with
him, — and Sue him, get judgement against
him, — Do You Serve one another So? if not, why
Should we be served [gap: hole]— is there no redress, [gap: worn_edge]
[illegible] for the Indians, by the Rulers, if there is
none, I do declare it, I had rather be amongst
the most Wild and uncultivated Indians, in the
Western Wilderness., — I was So served last Spring just
as we were setting off for Oneida and I could not Stop
to see further about it, I thought Sin would be at
their door, but I need Say more — Is there Such a
thing as delivering John from the Paw of Such
unreasonable and Cruel men? — I am Yet

Your very humble Servant
Samson Occom
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.

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.

Tantaquidgeon, John

John Tantaquidgeon, son of Ester Uncas and John Tantaquidgeon, was a Mohegan Indian who acted as a counselor to Ben Uncas III. He married Samson Occom’s sister, Lucy, and they had at least three children. He is a forefather of the modern-day Tantaquidgeon family.

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