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Andrew Oliver, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1757 November 28

ms-number: 757628.1

abstract: Oliver writes that he does not approve of an ordination for Samson Occom at present, since only the Niantics would benefit. There is no allowance now for a new mission.

handwriting: Very formal, neat and clear.

paper: Moderate-to-heavy creasing and staining. Some tearing around remnants of seal, leading to minor loss of text.

signature: Abbreviated


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


Rev. Mr. Wheelock
 Sir
The important Affairs of the
General Court now sitting, require the At­
tendance of so many of the commissioners
that I despair of their meeting to consider
of the Contents of your Letter, while the
Bearer remains in Town. I can therefore
only give you my private Opinion, that
I think it would not be convenient to
ordain Samson Occom at present, while
it seems that the Niantic Indians only
are like to reap the benefit of his Services:
for as that is the case, it is a question
whether or no it is not calling him off
from a Service, wherein he is already full
as useful. There is another reason which
determines me for a delay, and that is,
that there is no Allowance stipulated for
Blank page. this new mission: and before that can
be done the Commissioners should know what it is
he expects, and be likewise acquainted
with the importance of the mission and
its extensiveness among the Indians.

I am
 Sir your very humble servant
Andrew Oliver
Honourable Andrew[gap: tear] Oliver's Letter
November 1757—

To the Rev.
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
At
Lebanon
General Assembly of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay
The Massachusetts General Assembly was the legislative branch of the colony of Massachusetts. One of its responsibilities was distributing available funds to missionary societies. Naturally, the Massachusetts Assembly became the site of several conflicts between Wheelock and his Boston rivals, the New England Company and Chauncy's Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Wheelock's dealings with the Massachusetts General Assembly related primarily to the Peter Warren fund. Sir Peter Warren (who was, incidentally, Sir William Johnson's initial employer in America), died in 1752 and left a fund of £750 to the Massachusetts Assembly for the education of Indian children. The Assembly ignored this fund until 1761, when it began distributing the interest Warren's legacy had accumulated. Andrew Oliver, the Assembly's secretary and the New England Company's treasurer, was at this time friendly to Wheelock and alerted him to the fund's existence. Wheelock applied for the money and received a total of £291.12 between 1762 and 1765 for the support of Indian students, including several members of the 1765 expedition to the Six Nations. In 1762, Charles Chauncy tried to claim the fund for his missionary society, the short-lived Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America. That society folded and Wheelock continued receiving the money. In 1765, the Assembly stopped rewarding Wheelock the Warren interest. Instead, it distributed the money to Rev. Forbes, a minister affiliated with the New England Company. It is no coincidence that the Assembly's decision coincided with Wheelock's breach with the New England Company. For whatever reason, in 1765 the New England Company became very hostile to Wheelock -- perhaps because they opposed Occom's fundraising tour. The New England Company had enormous influence in the Massachusetts Assembly through Andrew Oliver, and was likely behind the Assembly's decision to cut Wheelock off from the Warren fund. Wheelock applied to the Massachusetts Assembly for funds again in 1772 and 1773. While some interested individuals did offer Wheelock money, the Assembly rejected both his petitions, likely because of Wheelock's rivals in Boston. It is important to keep in mind that although the Massachusetts Assembly did not fund Wheelock after 1765, they still supported various missionaries and missionary societies.
Niantic Tribe
The Niantic tribe is an Algonquian-speaking Native American group that inhabited southern New England, specifically southeast Connecticut and Rhode Island. They used the Niantic River and the Long Island Sound as a fishing source and grew corn, squash, and beans. The invasion of the Pequots divided the Tribe into the Eastern Niantics living in southwest Rhode Island and the Western Niantics living in Niantic, Connecticut. They were further divided when the Pequot and Mohegan Tribes favored the Dutch and English, respectively; the Western Niantics allied with the Pequots, while the Eastern Niantics sided with the Mohegans and Narragansetts, but mostly remained neutral in the conflicts with the colonists. The Pequot War of 1636-39 devastated the Western Niantic population, which supported the Pequots during the war, and the surviving members of the Western Niantic Tribe were put under Mohegan control. After Metacom's War in 1675-76, the surviving Narragansetts fled to the Eastern Niantics in large numbers, mixing the tribes. Initially, English preachers had little success in assimilating and converting the Niantic people despite preachers and a schoolhouse in their village, but after 1741, preachers influenced by the Great Awakening began holding revival meetings in nearby Lyme. Around this time, the local Lyme minister, Reverend George Griswold, renewed his efforts to convert the Niantics and claimed that these revivals had lead to the conversion of twenty or more Indians by 1744. In the following years, the Niantics established their own unofficial church distinct from the local churches funded by the English government and private religious organizations. To further these independent Christian Indian congregations, Gideon Qequawcom built a meeting place for Christian Indians in the middle of Niantic village, and the Niantic Indian minister, Philip Occuish, served as a preacher to the Christian Niantics. As with many Christian Indians, many Niantic meetings occurred not in an official church or meeting house, but in wigwams and other Indian homes. After Occom's ordination, he served as an itinerant preacher to the Niantic Tribe. Several Niantic Indians attended Moor's Charity School, including Hannah Poquiantup and Hannah Nonsuch. In the 1770s, many Niantic Indians followed Occom and Joseph Johnson to upstate New York where they settled Brothertown. Connecticut declared the Tribe extinct in 1870 and sold its 300 acre reservation, the Black Point Peninsula of East Lyme. In 1886, its burial ground was also sold and desecrated. In 1998, 35 Connecticut families claiming Niantic heritage joined together to petition the government for tribal recognition, which, as of 2014, has not been granted.
The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America
The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America was a missionary society active in America from 1649 until 1786. It was first called the "New England Company" in 1770. Most secondary literature uses that name for convenience and to distinguish it from other missionary societies. The company was first chartered in 1649 as the "President and Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England," largely in response to John Eliot's missionary efforts. After the Restoration (1660), it was rechartered as the "Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America." The New England Company was very powerful and influential, in large part because it was a coalition between Anglicans and Dissenters. It supported a range of missionaries from the Mayhews to the Sergeants to Moor's alumnus Samuel Kirkland. After the Revolution, the New England Company refocused its attentions on New Brunswick and Canadian Indians. Wheelock had a very rocky relationship with the New England Company. Initially, it supported Wheelock's efforts. The Company funded Occom's education at Moor's and paid him a small salary during his time among the Montauketts. However, from 1765 onwards, its relationship with Wheelock rapidly deteriorated. The Company opposed the fundraising tour of Great Britain and went so far as to interfere with it by sending a widely circulated letter to England questioning Occom's background. The New England Company also interferred with Titus Smith's mission to Onaquaga by sending a rival missionary, Mr. Moseley, and stealing Titus' interpreter, Elisha Gunn. In 1767 it formally withdrew its financial support from Wheelock on the grounds that the fundraising tour had raised sufficient money. It is unclear what led the New England Company to suddenly change its stance towards Wheelock. Perhaps it wanted exclusive power over missionary distribution in New England, or perhaps it was thought that focusing on education over numbers in the field was counterproductive. Most secondary sources have conflated the New England Company's Boston Board and the Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge's Boston Board, an easy mistake to make since both are sometimes referred to as the Boston Board and both vigorously opposed Wheelock. Any secondary source's statement about either should be carefully researched.
Lebanon

Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

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.

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.

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.

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.

HomeAndrew Oliver, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1757 November 28
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