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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Andrew Oliver, 1756

ms-number: 756900.1

abstract: Wheelock writes about the new Indian charity school, and relates the progress of his students and his hopes for an incorporation from the Crown.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small and occasionally difficult to decipher.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining and wear, and heavy creasing.

noteworthy: Although the letter is not addressed, the recipient has been judged to be Andrew Oliver from the contents. This document is on the same paper as manuscripts 756190, 756900.2 and 756520. It appears to be a draft.

layout: One recto and verso of this document is on the second recto and verso of the paper. That is, if the paper containing all four letters were to be read as a book, this letter would be pages three and four.


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


Honoured Sir.
In Col. Henchman's to me (Dated Boston July 30. 1756)
is the following Paragraph "I was desired Some time since
to write to you from The Gentlemen the commissioners for the Indian
Affairs
, Which I unhappily forgot and Omitted — but now inform
you that they desire you would write to them of the circumstan‐
ces of The two Children with you and what you apprehend
may be the best way to promote their instruction — and
the Good Ends proposed by you and Others in this Important
Affair, and the Methods you think to go in, in order to ac‐
complish it. And if they Like the Scheme etc. they will doubt‐
less do what they can out of the Fund in their Hands to
Encourage it — If you will write to the honourable Andrew Oliver Esq.
who is treasurer to the commissioners he will communicate it in order
to their meeting and doing what they Shall esteem necessary
for them in the Affair." —
Sir I look upon the condescension kindness and care of the
honourable commissioners herein expressed as a Smile of Heaven upon
The grand design. and now gladly take this op‐
portunity to inform your honour and others desiring it, of
the particulars mentioned, So far as consists with the limits
of a letter, and Should be glad I had the opportunity to do
it otherwise than by general hints and such large
omissions of many things of importance.
The Two Indian Boys with me are of The Delaware Tribe. Sent
to me by the Rev. John Brainerd December 1754 After much
Pains taken by him to procure them and many disappointments
which delayed their Coming, consequent upon my desire Three
years ago last May, with a view if God Should mercifully
Smile upon the design, to their being fitted for the Gospel ‐
ministry Among the Indians. and a hope it might be a lead to
something further done in favor of the Education of a Number of them.
The considerations Moving Me to it were — The obligations lying upon
New England — and Their public Guilt on account of past neglect — which, I cant
but think God has been in a very especial manner pointing at and testifying against in permitting the Savages from
year to year to make Such Ravages, and Spoil of us, &c
— The many and great advan‐
tages in sending to them by their own Children — against whom
they have No Such Prejudices as are constantly found to be a mighty
Impediment in the way to the success of an English mission among them —
Their children can talk their Language — know their customs — can
live and fare as they do — no Trouble nor charge to procure and
Support Interpreters — and herein we shall do that which will be to
them the moſt convincing Proofs and demonstrations of the sin‐
cerity of Our Intentions — they be under the best Advantage
to counteract Jesuits — Attack their respective Notions in the
English interest. — etc. etc. etc. And I was not a little encoura‐
ged in the Affair by the success of the Endeavors I [illegible]'d
by the assistance of the honorable commissioners in the Education of
Samson Occom who has been useful to them beyond what
could have been reasonably expected of an English man.
less than half of the Expence Soon after I Sent for these Boys I visited Mr. Joshua More of
Mansfield and invited him to devote a part of his large estate to such a

Purpose he was pleased with the proposal and bought a Small
Tenement in the Center of this Place for which he gave £500
Old Tenor and made a Deed of it to Col. Elisha Williams Esq. The Rev.
Misters Samuel Moseley Benjamin Pomeroy and myself for the
Foundation use and Support of a Charity School for such
a purpose forever — and we covenanted with him and his Heirs to
Improve that and all other Donations made to said school for that Purpose —
at which School we proposed they should be instructed
in reading Writing and such whose parts and dispositions as should invite us to it. in all Liberal Arts and Sciences and especially
in the knowledge and practice of Christianity and be fitted
for the Gospel ministry
under the Conduct of the
most Learned and Godly master we can obtain — and that
in this School they be treated in all respects as English
scholars excepting with respect to their Lodging and Some things in which
Prudence Shall dictate, a conformity to their own Nation —
to be Expedient — we have got subscriptions for about £500 lawful
money, towards a Fund for the Support of a master — and think that £1000
with the Improvement of Mr. More's Grant and such
Gifts as we may reasonably Expect
if the thing design prosper. will be sufficient but we are advised by Gentlemen
Learned in the Law that Some kind of Incorporation by Civil authority is
necessary. and by[illegible] Advice of his honour our Late Governor Woolcott, and others we have
consulted the honourable William Smith Esq. of New York who advises that an
Incorporation can't be had from a Corporation
but proposes two methods for the remedying the Difficulty among ourselves 1. by a Delegation of the exercise of part of
the [illegible][guess: Original]] Power of [illegible] governor and Company. . or 2. by two sets of trustees the one to have
the fee of the Land by Deed and to Declare their trust by Deed to another
Lot after the manner that Lands are appropriated to the use of churches
in the Southern Colonies. but advises that an Incorporation from the
Crown if it can be had is much more eligible. and we have considered the distemp
ered and Divided Sentiments of the present Day with respect to Religious
matters — and that Either of the two former methods proposed if they can be come into will
not be so likely to Invite charitable Donations as some foundation
that is more known and more Certain and that if this can be obtained there is a prospect of a number of [illegible] Donations soon and that there are such
political as well as Religious reasons as we persuade ourselves
will Induce his Majesty to incorporate us, if his Ear can be had.
Accordingly we have provided materials for that Purpose and sent
them to the Care of the Rev. President Burr, which we suppose are
gone some weeks ago — The Duplicate to which I have Sent to
the Care of Col. Henchman Esq. &c
The education of these boys when they came to me was, I think
much to the honor of Mr. Brainerds mission. they have since behaved
well and make good proficiency in learning Nothing appears but
the pains and expense bestowed upon them will be to good Purpose
especially upon the Younger of them.
I have Sent for, and daily Expect, another, Whom Mr. Brainerd thinks to
be full as Likely as Either of these. and thus Sir I have, though imperfectly
answered the desire of the honourable commissioners [illegible][guess: and] if the account be not so par-
ticular in any [illegible: [guess: respect]] as they desire if they will please to hint it to me I will
gladly give [illegible] full information as they Shall desire please to give most respectful
Salutations to those Good Gentlemen the honourable commissioners and accept the same =

Wheelock, Eleazar

Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.

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.

Brainerd, John

John Brainerd was an ardent missionary with an important role in Wheelock's design. He was the younger brother of the famous missionary David Brainerd, who died as a young man after being expelled from Yale and serving as a missionary to New Jersey tribes. John completed his Yale degree and was immediately commissioned to replace David. Even in his own time, he was seen as a man as pious as, but less talented than, his brother, though Brainerd missioned to Indians during a more volatile period, and saw his congregation forcibly removed from their lands in 1755 and relocated at Brothertown in 1758 (this Brothertown should not be confused with the one founded in New York after the Revolution by many Moor's alumni). Brainerd was extremely devoted to the Indian cause. He often had the opportunity to serve wealthy English congregations, but preferred to remain an Indian missionary. He invested signficant sums of his own money into his missions, for which he was never reimbursed. Brainerd was a very prominent Presbyterian figure, active in the Presbytery and Synod of New York, holding several elected positions, and in the Presbtery and Synod of New York and Philadelphia once the two reunified in 1758. He was a Trustee of the College of New Jersey from 1754 until his death, and a member of the New York Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Occom had planned to work with Brainerd in 1750, but political upheaval prevented it. Brainerd was one of several men nominated to accompany Occom to England, but the New York Board refused to let him go. While Brainerd and Wheelock were not close personal friends, the two had a similar interests and a long-lasting correspondence. John Brainerd sent Wheelock his first Indian boys, and also recruited female students in the 1760s. Throughout their lives, Brainerd and Wheelock updated one another on Indian missions, and Brainerd seems to have been one of Wheelock's "point people" in the Presbyterian Church.

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.

More, Joshua
Williams, Elisha
Moseley, Samuel

Rev. Samuel Moseley was the minister of the Second Church (also called the Canada Society) in Windham, CT (reincorporated as Hampton in 1786), from 1734 until his death in 1791. After graduating from Harvard in 1729, he kept school in Dorchester, MA and served as chaplain at Castle William until his ordination in 1734. It is a testament to his ministerial abilities that he was able to keep the post until his death in 1791, especially since he held a conservative view of church hierarchy (he even considered Episcopalian ordination), doubtlessly a difficult stance to maintain during the tumultuous period of the First Great Awakening. Moseley was an early proponent of Eleazar Wheelock’s plan for a charity school. He worked with Wheelock and Benjamin Pomeroy to solicit George Whitefield’s support in the 1750s, and he was a member of the original board entrusted with the land deeded by Joshua More. Moseley was also one of the ministers who examined Samson Occom prior to his ordination in 1759, and he was named to the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge when it was formed in 1764. In 1767, there was a potentially awkward incident when the New England Company hired Ebenezer Moseley, Samuel’s son, to conduct a mission to the Onaquaga -- a village to which Wheelock had also sent a missionary. However, Wheelock interpreted the spiritual coup as a political machination by the Boston Board and did not hold E. Moseley responsible. Due to the low volume of letters between Wheelock and S. Moseley, it is unclear whether this incident affected their relationship.

Pomeroy, Benjamin

Benjamin Pomeroy was a school friend of Eleazar Wheelock and a lifelong supporter of his cause. Like Wheelock, he was a New Light evangelical and a staunch ally of James Davenport, a radical New Light preacher whose beliefs got him in trouble with the law. After graduating from Yale in 1733, Pomeroy received the ministry at Hebron, CT, in 1734, and assisted Wheelock in myriad ways until his own death in 1784. He kept Wheelock's school during 1746, when Wheelock's first wife, Sarah, was dying, and he tutored Occom (primarily in Hebrew) after Occom had completed his studies with Wheelock. Pomeroy also supported Wheelock as a trustee of Moor's, and, later, Dartmouth, and as a member of the Board of the Correspondents in Connecticut for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Pomeroy and Wheelock also had close family connections: Pomeroy was married to Wheelock’s sister, Abigail, and one of Pomeroy’s daughters, Hannah, married David McClure, one of Wheelock's most illustrious graduates. Outside of his liturgical career, Pomeroy served as an army chaplain in the French and Indian War and the Revolution.

Woolcott, Roger
Smith, William Sr.

William Smith (Sr.) was a famous New York lawyer and philanthropist who played an important role in establishing the College of New Jersey (which he served as a trustee) and King’s College (a project he abandoned once it became clear that the institution would be dominated by Episcopalians). He provided Eleazar Wheelock with some legal advice in the late 1750s and early 1760s, and his son, William Smith (Jr.), was a major proponent of Wheelock’s relocating the school to Albany, NY. William Smith immigrated from England to America in 1715 and earned his AM from Yale in 1722 (AB 1719). Despite potential as a minister and academic—he served as a tutor at Yale and was even offered the presidency of the college in 1724—Smith instead turned to the law and became one of the most eminent legal minds in New York and the mid-Atlantic. He was also very involved in New York City politics: he was an active participant in the Presbyterian faction and held several formal offices. He was Attorney General of New York in 1751 and a member of the Governor’s Council from 1753 until 1767. In 1763 he was made a judge. Several of William Smith’s political and legal activities affected Samson Occom’s life and career. First, he assisted Wheelock in legal problems surrounding the Joshua Moor estate (left to Wheelock by Moor, the school’s original benefactor) in the late 1750s. Second, he wrote a letter of recommendation for Occom prior to his aborted 1761 mission to the Oneidas. On less positive notes, William Smith was the counsel for Connecticut in the Mason Land Case, the 70-year legal battle that dispossessed the Mohegan tribe of much of its territory and which Occom vigorously opposed. More generally, he seems to have had a low opinion of Occom.

Frederick, George William

George William Frederick (King George III) became heir to the throne of England in 1751 upon the death of his father Frederick, Prince of Wales. He became King George III of England in the fall of 1760 at age 22, following the death of his grandfather King George II. George III passed many important edicts during his reign including that of the Royal Marriage Act of 1772; the Treaty of Paris in 1762, which ended the Seven Years War; the Stamp Act of 1765; and the Townshend Duties of 1767. However, he is most well-known for being the reigning monarch during the Revolutionary War. After the surrender of British forces to the Americans in 1782, George III considered abdicating the throne, but chose not to do so because he felt it would be too detrimental to Britain. The last 30 years of George's life were plagued with illness. In 1788 he had the first of many attacks of insanity, now believed to have been caused by an inherited disease known as porphyria. With George III unfit to rule, it was decided that his son George would become regent, an arrangement which was made permanent in 1810. King George III died on January 29, 1820 at the age of 81 after a reign of nearly 60 years (the third longest in British history). He was succeeded by his son George IV.

Burr, Aaron Sr.

Aaron Burr, Sr. is known as the founder of Princeton University (formerly College of New Jersey). He is technically Princeton's second president, but his predecessor, Jonathan Dickinson, died during his first year in office so the responsibility of Princeton's organization fell to Burr. Prior to his presidency at Princeton, Burr was a Presbyterian minister in Newark, New Jersey. He became acquainted with Jonathan Dickinson and was the youngest clergyman of the original trustees of Princeton when Dickinson established it as a classical school. Burr took over the running of the college in October 1747, upon Dickinson's death. One year later Burr was formally elected as president of the college. Burr served as both the president and pastor of the college until 1755 when, at the request of the trustees, he ceased his duties as pastor in order to devote more time to the college. Burr established the first entrance requirements, the first course of study, the first set of rules and regulations, and supervised the erection of the first building, Nassau Hall. Burr also moved the college to its permanent home in Princeton, New Jersey. Burr died only ten years after the founding of Princeton, at the age of 41.

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