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Solomon Williams, letter, to Andrew Oliver, 1751 October 7

ms-number: 751557

abstract: Williams gives his opinion of the recent decision by the Boston Commissioners to send Samson Occom on a mission to Susquehanna and to pay him 20 pounds sterling per annum. He notes that, though Occom intends to marry, he has assured Williams this would not interfere with his missionary work.

handwriting: Loose, informal handwriting is frequently difficult to decipher. There are several deletions and additions

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

ink: Brown.

noteworthy: As noted in the trailer, this document is Williams's copy of his own letter.

events: Occom’s Marriage


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



Honoured Sir
On the 7 of September I received from you the vote of the Honourable Commissi­
oners
respecting Samson Occom signifying
that the said Samson (upon the de
sire of the Rev. Mr. Pemberton of New York)
their [guess: Judination] that He should go on a mission to Susquehanna and offi
ciate as a catechist, and that They have voted
him after the Rate of Twenty pounds Sterling
per Annum and are pleased to desire My opinion
respecting Their votes. I take leave to Inform
you That Samson when he was last here
intimated his desire to Marry a woman at
Montauk. I advised him to be Cautious in
choosing a wife lest he should Put himself in
such circumstances as Might Render him less
able to answer the design of his Education
it being uncertain where the Commissioners
would employ him. he said his Marrying there
would not prevent his readiness to go where
the Commisioners should please to send him
Either on the Island or the Main. I am not
so acquainted with the prospect of his doing
service at Susquehanna as to be able to Judge
whether his going there
be advisable I know not [illegible][guess: but]. The salary may at present be Sufficient to Support
Him. In these Things I beg to be excused from
offering my advice. I desired only to know what the plea
sure of the Commissioners was that I might
be able to direct him so long as They thought fit
to give him their orders through My hands.—
I am Sir with all due respect your humble servant
Solomon Williams
Copy of My letter to
Mr. Oliver October 7 1751
Williams, Solomon

Solomon Williams was a Congregationalist pastor in Lebanon, CT from 1722 until his death in 1776. As pastor at Lebanon, Williams rose to prominence as a theologian and engaged in extensive correspondence and debate with some of the most eminent minds of the day. He was one of the rare truly moderate New Lights during the Great Awakening: he managed to maintain the respect of both Charles Chauncy, the rabid anti-revivalist, and George Whitefield, the famous evangelical. Williams also established a library in Lebanon and a very well-known grammar school, which became something of a feeder for Yale. Williams supported Eleazar Wheelock and Moor’s Indian Charity School through much of the 1750s and 1760s. He was something of a mentor to Samson Occom, and he became president of Wheelock’s Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK). It is unclear why Williams is not named as a trustee of Moor’s in Wheelock’s 1768 will; perhaps Wheelock feared that Williams would not outlive him. Williams continued to run the Connecticut Board even after Wheelock relocated to New Hampshire in 1770. Despite the SSPCK’s disappointment in Wheelock, Williams and Wheelock seem to have remained on cordial terms. Their correspondence ceased in 1772, after Wheelock tried (and failed) to open a New Hampshire Board to replace the one in Connecticut (with, it might be added, the Connecticut Board’s blessing).

Oliver, Andrew

Andrew Oliver was an influential Boston merchant and politician, who was a member of several societies that funded Eleazar Wheelock, including the Boston Board of the New England Company (treasurer) and Massachusetts General Assembly (secretary). Oliver played an important political role in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts and, as a firm advocate of Indian missions, attended multiple conferences with Indian tribes. He believed that Anglican and Dissenter missionaries and societies could cooperate, and after Oliver and Wheelock were introduced in 1756, Oliver helped Wheelock access funding from the New England Company, the Massachusetts Assembly, and the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Their relationship deteriorated, however, when the London Board of the New England Company turned against Wheelock late in 1765. Wheelock became aware of the London Board’s change of heart through the “Oliver letter,” a letter purportedly written by Oliver (actually written by Ebenezer Pemberton) that was “injurious” to the characters of Wheelock, Whitaker, and Occom. In 1765, Wheelock also lost his funding from the Massachusetts Assembly. It is unclear what role Oliver played in these events. On the one hand, the breach between Wheelock and the New England Company coincided with the collapse of Oliver’s political career over his attempts to enforce the Stamp Act. Oliver may have been too preoccupied to be involved in the London Board’s change of heart; after all, Boston mobs were burning him in effigy. On the other hand, if Oliver was not involved, it is more difficult to explain why his correspondence with Wheelock ended abruptly in 1767 or why Wheelock lost funding from the Assembly and the London Board at the same time. Oliver would be the obvious link; but of course, Wheelock had many detractors in Boston and another explanation is certainly possible.

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.

Pemberton, Ebenezer Jr.

Ebenezer Pemberton was a New Light minister who wrote the infamous "Oliver letter" to try to discredit Samson Occom during the latter's 1765 fundraising tour. He also opposed Wheelock's efforts to obtain funding from the Massachusetts Assembly. After graduating from Harvard in 1721, Pemberton served a five-year stint as chaplain at Boston's Castle William (Fort Independence). In 1726, First Presbyterian Church in New York hired him, although they allowed him to be ordained Congregationalist in Boston. Pemberton served First Presbyterian until 1753, when battles within the Presbyterian Church drove him out. He is noteworthy as the only minister in New York who welcomed George Whitefield, transatlantic superstar of the First Great Awakening, into his pulpit. While in New York, Pemberton was a member of the New Jersey Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. This board hired several missionaries, including David Brainerd, John Brainerd, and Azariah Horton, and established the College of New Jersey (which awarded Pemberton an honorary D.D. in 1770). Pemberton also preached at the ordination of John Brainerd, a Presbyterian minister with whom Wheelock worked closely. After the fissure in his congregation, Pemberton returned to the comforts of Congregationalism in Boston at the Old North Church (also known as the New Brick Church, and not the same Old North Church connected to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere). Pemberton joined the New England Company once he reached Boston. Along with other New England Company board members, he discouraged Occom's fundraising tour. He was also the author of the 1765 letter attempting to discredit Occom and Wheelock. Pemberton opposed Wheelock's efforts to secure money from the Massachusetts Assembly on at least two occasions, once in 1762 and once in 1766. After Andrew Oliver retired from the New England Company around 1770, Pemberton took over as de facto secretary. The Revolution forced Pemberton to give up his pulpit. He was a Tory, and Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts was a loyal member of his Boston congregation. The rest of the congregation was not pleased by Pemberton's politics. From February 1774 on, Pemberton was more or less in early retirement, and he died a few years later. Pemberton should not be confused with 1) his father, Ebenezer Pemberton Sr., who was minister at the Boston Old South Church, or 2) Israel Pemberton, a wealthy Philadelphia businessman who gave money to Moor's.

Occom’s Marriage
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