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Robert Clelland, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1762 March 12

ms-number: 762212

abstract: Clelland writes that Ben Uncas is given over to drunkeness and wants undesirables to settle on Mohegan land. He suggests that Wheelock should encourage Occom to use his influence with the Sachem.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is small and stylized, yet mostly clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear that results in a minor loss of text.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: There are several underlinings that appear to have been added at a later, likely 19th-century, date; these underlinings have not been included in the transcription. Clelland's intention with regard to the word "Guardines" is uncertain, and so it has been left unmodified in the modernized transcription.


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


Rev. Sir
Having opportunity of my good friend Ashpo, I
could not be restrained from troubling you with a few lines, as to our present
Circumstances in Mohegan, Our truly good and worthy gentlemen Guardines to
this tribe is about leasing some of Lands, all of them is determined that none
shall be tenants here, but those that are men friendly to our ministry and willing
to Support the Gospel amongst us, men that will both by example and council
promote religion, virtue, Sobriety, and industry amongst our natives; —
Our sachem and 2 more of his council are for men that are enemies to our
worthy minister and would (in their power) starve all the Godly ministers in the
Land, men that Deny our Christian Sabbath; A standing Gospel ministry
and the Christian Sabbath, seems to be the mark and Butt many of our Neighbours
shoot at, I trust the Great King of his Church, will protect and Defend and constant
ly provide this Land with a Learned Converted and Converting ministry
I am sorry to Say our sachem grows worse and worse, Drinking very
much increases upon him, and thereby has got himself much out of credit, He
is told he is a free people, and none can restrain him from Drink etc. and
indeed he goes on contrary to the repeated reproofs of Mr. Jewett’ and others
and against warm and affecting Letters from 2 of his overseers, But despises
all admonition and regards neither the Laws of God or man. He is a Dead
weight against every thing that is good amongst us
King Ben is about Sending over for Mr. Occom to assist in getting
Quakers etc. on the Land, I persuade myself Mr. Occom is a man of better
sense than to join in such an affair, so says Mr. Jewett, so says our good
overseers, if he interposes it will be very affecting to many of Mr. Jewetts Godly
parishioners who has given in a Memorial against such men to our guar=
:dines, as to further particulars, the Bearer can fully inform you —
It is the expectation of Esq. Adam’s (and Mr. Jewett who has wrote you)
and who both desired me to write also, and had not the Bearer been going
Directly to you should waited on you myself, I say it is their expectation
that you should write Mr. Occom to use his interest with Ben etc. not to
contradict the overseers, for their Heart is set for the Good of the tribe, these
men the sachem is for, has set him against Mr. Jewett and I and his over‐
seers also, I trust you will see it proper to write a Letter for Mr. Occom
and the [illegible: [guess: >rather]] that Mr. Jewett will be at Boston, when Mr. Occom comes to
Mohegan — as to our friend Ashpo though he differed as to church Government for=
=merly, yet I loved him, as a man of solid sense, and often conversed with him
and used to say he had so much reason and sound Judgement, that he would see
his mistake, and I believe he no sooner saw it but he acknowledged, in opposi
tion to all the clamour and reflections that has been unjustly cast on him, He —
with the greatest sedateness Answered all the calumny and accusations, his —
people or accusers laid against him, He with an undaunted, Christian, meek,
spirit, not only bears patiently, But even like a Hero despised and despises
their bitter and severe and unchristian reflections — turn over
Ashpo is a man the most exemplary of any in the fields none in it such a
head of a family for reading Gods word before them His Knowledge in Scripture is
considerable and I trust he will be of great Service amongst his Brethren Acc=
=ording to the flesh, may God be pleased to open a Door for his usefulness, He as
well as Mr. Jewett and I suffers the displeasure of the sachem, But he is imposed upon
I could be of great Service here if duly encouraged by the Children’s regular atten
dance, I am a poor imperfected Creature, But I can truly say to the utmost of my
abilities skill and prudence have I exerted myself amongst them, as doth the Rev.
Mr. Jewett, they are a people exalted to Heaven in point of privileges, but most
of them tread them under foot, They many of them [guess: essay] after the example of their
poor sachem think themselves Free to Serve their appetite and wont be controlled
I have only one word further to trouble you with leaving you to further Particu
=lars to the Bearer, and that is that our Gentlemen Guardines are determined to set
apart a Small lot for the School:master. which Ben and the forementioned 2 counse
llors opposes, But I suppose they will do it as they are all spirited for the thing
If you think it proper to mention it to Mr. Occom (if you write) I shall be thank
ful. It is melancholy to see the Life King Ben lives, God Change him
May God be pleased to Lengthen out your valuable and precious Life to see
further of the good fruits of your indefatigable and unwearied Labours for
christianizing the savages in the Land, I Believe you will have a high Seat
in the house not made with hands, a great Degree of Glory, you are now acting
your part so well that at your exit and leaving this Stage of action the Spectator’s
will clap their hands, you will have a general, applause, a massy weight of
Glory is reserved for you, I Beg an interest in your prayers that I may be
faithful, and my desire is to be useful,
I am Rev. and Dear Sir
your most obliged humble servant
Robert Clelland
PS prudence will say though
the sachem should know nothing
as to this Letter
Blank page.
Mr. S. Clelland’s
Ben Uncas’ poor drunken
Creature, would have me
write Mr. Occom not to
Suffer bad folks to settle
Mohegan March 1762
To
The Rev.
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
Lebanon
Clelland, Robert

Robert Clelland was the Scottish schoolmaster at Mohegan who became a contentious figure. He began as schoolmaster in 1752, supported by the Boston commissioners of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Clelland resided in an apartment that was either adjacent or close to the school, and although he had a limited income, the Colony provided him with bread daily. Clelland had a close relationship with Reverend David Jewett, the white minister at Mohegan who oversaw the school and often lectured there; both Clelland and Jewett supported Connecticut in the Mason Case. However, Clelland conflicted with many other leaders in Mohegan. He repeatedly wrote to Eleazar Wheelock complaining about Ben Uncas III and his drunkenness, even though the sachem did not oppose the colony in the Mason Case and Clelland typically supported him. Clelland also developed a hostile relationship with Samson Occom; notably they held opposing positions during the Mason Case. Occom brought concerns regarding Clelland to the commissioners’ attention. He claimed the schoolteacher preferred the paying English students to the point that their presence was displacing Mohegan pupils, and criticized other ways in which Clelland ran the school. On September 19, 1764, the commissioners voted to release Clelland of his duties as schoolmaster. Notwithstanding, he remained until he was dismissed again on July 5, 1765. Occom’s involvement with Clelland’s dismissal further disrupted what was already a contentious relationship between him and Jewett. Clelland appears to have remained in Mohegan even after his dismissal.

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.

Ashpo, Samuel

Ashpo was born into a very powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and became an influential Mohegan preacher. He was converted at Mohegan during the Great Awakening, and became a schoolteacher among the Indians at Mushantuxet from 1753 until 1757 and from 1759 until 1762, when he left to attend Moor's. Between 1757 and 1759, he worked as an interpreter, and supposedly struggled with alcohol. He attended Moor's for only six months, and then continued his teaching and missionary career on successive trips to Chenango (the first was cut short because of violence in the region). On July 1, 1767, the Connecticut Board dismissed him from their service because of further charges of drinking. He continued to preach successfully to various New England Indian tribes until his death in 1795. The variations of his name exist in part because Ashpo is an abbreviated form of Ashobapow.

Jewett, David

David Jewett was a white minster at Mohegan who developed a hostile relationship with Samson Occom. He become the pastor of the North Church in New London, CT (now Montville) in 1739. Jewett initially served as the clergyman for the English congregation, and attempts to merge the white church with the local Indians were unsuccessful. In 1742, when plans to establish a pastor for the Indians also proved to be futile, Jewett became the minister for them as well, supported by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America (New England Company). Indians received religious materials, and many, including Sarah Occom, Samon's mother, became members of his parish. In 1756 when Connecticut gathered a regiment to go to Crown Point, Jewett served as chaplain. He also became a member of the Connecticut Board of Correspondents of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) when Wheelock assembled it in 1764. In addition to his role as minister, Jewett oversaw Robert Clelland’s school at Mohegan, which became one source of his animosity toward Occom. Occom criticized Clelland’s performance as schoolmaster, implicating Jewett as the supervisor, and Jewett rejected Occom’s intrusion. Furthermore, since Occom had been appointed to preach at Mohegan, several Indians as well as English, primarily those who sided with the Indians in the Mason Case, left Jewett’s church to follow Occom, as Jewett supported the Colony due to his land interests. Jewett brought charges against Occom to the Boston Board of the SSPCK and to the New England Company Commissioners, and the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK tried Occom in March of 1765. They found Occom to be innocent except for his involvement in the Mason Case; therefore, the Board declared that Jewett must write to the Boston Commissioners again to clear Occom. Although Jewett assented to the task, he did not pen the letter until Wheelock pressured him that June. While Jewett and Occom’s relationship was officially mended, bitterness remained until Jewett’s death in 1783.

Uncas, Ben III

Ben Uncas III was the Mohegan sachem from 1749 until his death in 1769. He was heir to Sachem Ben I (elected 1721) and Sachem Ben Uncas II (elected 1723). The Ben Uncas dynasty was characterized by an informal quid pro quo with the colony of Connecticut, in which the sachems won the colony’s backing in exchange for tacitly accepting the Colony’s control of tribal land. Because Ben II was a proponent of Anglo-American style education, Ben Uncas III received quite a bit of training as a boy in hopes that he might become a missionary. He did not, but he did keep school at Mohegan from 1739 until his election in 1749. His sachemship, like that of his father and grandfather before him, was characterized by his involvement (or lack thereof) in the Mason Case, a 70-year-long (1704-1773) legal battle between the Mohegan Tribe and the Colony of Connecticut over who controlled the Mohegan tribe’s lands. The Colony maintained that it controlled the land, and since the Ben Uncas line did not question that claim, the Colony supported their sachemships over others (John Uncas II and Mahomet II, specifically) who would have opposed the colony more vehemently. This support proved critical, as Ben Uncas II and III both faced significant opposition from within their tribe. The colony also benefited: because the supposed sachem did not oppose its claim, it could more easily portray the anti-sachem, pro-Mason party as illegitimate rabble rousers. The argument over who ought to be sachem expanded beyond politics to accommodation of the English. Thus, the sachem party was characterized by its approbation of Robert Clelland, the schoolmaster appointed by the New England Company (NEC), and David Jewett, the NEC-backed minister at nearby New London. (It is ironic, in this light, that Clelland wrote so frequently to complain about Ben Uncas III’s drunkenness and opposition to Jewett. Perhaps Clelland thought Mohegan politics so irrelevant that he failed to realize that he and Uncas were yoked together). Ben Uncas III died in 1769, and the Mohegan tribe blocked the colony of Connecticut from establishing his son, Isaiah Uncas, as sachem in his stead. At Ben Uncas III’s funeral, the pallbearers (Samson Occom among them) dropped his coffin unceremoniously in front of the delegation of Connecticut officials.

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.

HomeRobert Clelland, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1762 March 12
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