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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Dennys DeBerdt, 1762 December 18

ms-number: 762668.1

abstract: Wheelock discusses, among other things, the states of various missions, and the progress of the Indian Charity School.

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

paper: Large single sheet is in fair-to-poor condition, with moderate-to-heavy staining, creasing and wear that leads to a minor loss of text.

ink: Black.

noteworthy: Given the informality of the hand, the number of additions and deletions, and the lack of an address, this document is likely a draft.

events: Occom's Second Mission to the Oneidas


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



My very dear Sir.
Yours, of July 28. refreshed me much
I heartily regret the loss you have sustained the Death of your worthy
godly and Skillful pastor. may the Lord of the harvest
provide Guides for his people who Shall be zealous
and Skillful to promote and defend his Sinking Cause in the world.
Mr. Occom returned from his mission Some Time
ago, I haven't had opportunity to see him Since. he was
soon Sent by the Presbytery to preach to an English
Settlement on Hudsons River about 60 or 80 miles
above New York where God has of late in a very won‐
derful manner received his work. he returned from
his mission sooner than he intended, on account of the
present Ruffle which the Oneidas are in, being engaged in
a war with Some of the Nations back of them, and on
account of their extreme Poverty they having nothing to
live upon but what they get by fishing fowling and hunting
an untimely frost having cut of their Corn last year. he had no
way to come at them to preach to them but by
followed them from Place to Place in their Hunts, and by
poor living though they were as kind to him as they could be and especially by lying upon the wet ground his
old rheumatic disorders returned etc. # he designs (I hear)
to visit them again in the Spring.
Mr. Forbes who the Scottish Comissioners in Boston sent
missionary to Onaquaga, is also returned, I hear
after he had gathered a church there he left
the Indians in a great Ruffle, and the children which they had been
attempting to teach were all dispersed with their Pa[gap: hole][guess: r]ents in their
hunting Rambles. perhaps Dr. Chauncy will by little
and little receive conviction that he is too
confident of the success of his Plan, and too Sudden and
free in condemning others who have again and again made
trial of the very same Scheme, and the most they have got
to compensate their Toil and expense has been their
useful point of Knowledge viz that such a method will not
do yet. may God graciously direct in the Important Affair, and Save those
who are concerned in it from Falling into Parties and obstructing
and hinder one another.
My School is in a flourishing state at present. my number of Charity scholars
is 25. Mr. Charles Jeffery Smith of Long Island has lately refused
a Class at College for the sake of keeping this Indian School gratis
He designs to Devote himself and a plentiful Fortune to the ser‐
vice of his Redeemer as a missionary among the pagans. he has thoughts of Taking
an Interpreter for his use from the School, and support him with
himself at his own expense. I esteem him remarkably accomplished
and turned for such a Service. I expect but little real good to be
done among the savages by Gay, and inexperience youth, the Lord mercifully
prevent the mischiefs which Such threaten the cause. I informed you Some
# he found nothing more than this discouraging
and had reason to think he saw some good Effects of his Labours
among them the last year
Some Time ago of the Tour which Friend Ashpo had made to Chenango and
of the Religious concern Among the Indians there consequent thereon and that
a number were hopefully savingly converted. There was a very fierce
per[illegible]enting Spirit in the other party which arose to such a height against
(as I was credibly informed last week) the Christian Party were obliged
to withdraw from them and have settled in a Town by themselvess
about 60 miles below them on Susquehanna River. there they use with
out a Bible, and without any that could read it if they had one.
I have taken Friend Ashpo into this School, and esteem him a well
experienced and well established Christian, he is here by the advice of
an Ecclesiastical Council we convened last summer to examine and advise him. I expect we shall send him
to those Indians next Spring. And our dear Mr. Smith of Boston has
engaged £20 Sterling towards the support of his mission provided
it cant be otherwise done. there is also in this school a young mohawk, whom
we call Joseph Brant of a family of distinction in that Nation
who has been for some time under Religious impressions, and of
late almost persuades me to call him a real saint he seems to
breathe the very spirit of the Gospel. Mr. Smith is unwearied in his
Endeavors to promote Religion and learning in this school.
Mr. James Lesley a Scots Gentleman with whom you have had some
acquaintance went out of the school to make way for Mr. Smith to
keep it gratis and is now in the parish school. I expect when Mr. Smith
leaves it Mr. Lesley will take it again.
I have amidst a thousand avocations prepared for the press, a short
Narrative of this School, expect it will be [illegible][guess: b]ut in a little time
you and others may expect the Sight of it as soon as may be after
it is printed.
If there be anything in this that will gratify good Dr. Giffords
or Mr. Savage please to let them have the sight of it. I wrote
each of them some ago and hope my Letters haven't miscarried
you and they will easily see in what a Hurry I write
If Dr. Mr. Whitefield hasn't yet left England salute him
most heartily in my name. I expect by his to Mr. Smith to
see hi[gap: tear][guess: m] here in a short time.

I am Dear Sir, with the most sincere respect
 Yours in the dearest Bond,

Eleazar Wheelock
P.S. my School hues
Day by Day under God only
and the charities of Gods people
without any settled fund for
its support and God is my
only Refuge.

Mr. Dennys DeBerdt

Letter to Mr. DeBerdt.
 December 18. 1762.
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.

DeBerdt, Dennys

Dennys DeBerdt was a London merchant of Dutch descent, a dissenter who took an avid interest in American affairs and politics. Although he was not especially prominent in British eyes, many Americans, including Wheelock, venerated him as a valuable ally. DeBerdt tried to help Wheelock secure a charter for Moor's, but his efforts failed because the Connecticut Assembly was opposed. Otherwise, DeBerdt helped Wheelock in much the same way as other supporters did: he collected and forwarded donations and circulated information. He also hosted Occom, Whitaker, and J. Smith on their fundraising tour. In 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly elected DeBerdt as their agent in London, a post he held until his death in 1770. He also served as an agent for the Assemblies of Connecticut and Delaware. He frequently advocated for American interests in London, and was instrumental in the repeal of the Stamp Act. DeBerdt invested heavily in American trade, with poor results for his estate. Perhaps because he was a Dissenter and enjoyed limited opportunities in England, he thought American religious freedom was well worth defending. Virtually all correspondence between DeBerdt and Wheelock dates from between 1757 and 1763. DeBerdt's last letter to Wheelock was written in 1763, and Wheelock wrote to DeBerdt only sporadically after that (his last two letters are dated October 1765 and February 1767). It is not clear why the two men stopped corresponding.

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.

Chauncy, Charles

Charles Chauncy was an eminent Boston divine, the most zealous proponent of Old Light doctrine, and Wheelock's lifelong rival. Born into functional Puritan royalty -- his grandfather, also Charles Chauncy, had been president of Harvard in the seventeenth century -- Chauncy had every social connection possible. He entered Harvard himself at age 12, graduated in 1721, and became copastor at the First Church of Boston in 1727. From this pulpit, he launched his attacks on New Light Congregationalists. While the Old Light/New Light schism was deep, Chauncy alone saw the split as a cosmic battle between good and evil. His notable polemics include his 1743 work, “Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England," as well as a 1744 open letter against George Whitefield. Chauncy had a long, bitter conflict with Wheelock. Wheelock was among those specifically named in Chauncy's attacks, and Chauncy used every avenue possible to frustrate Wheelock's plans for Indian education. As chair of the Boston Board of Correspondents for the SSPCK, Chauncy had plentiful opportunities to frustrate Wheelock, and was likely the impetus for Wheelock's creation of a Connecticut Board in 1764. Notable clashes between the two men included: 1) In 1761-1762, the Boston Board reneged on a promise to fund the education of a certain number of Indian boys. 2) In 1762, Chauncy formed his own society -- the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America -- and competed with Wheelock for sources of funding (specifically, a fund left by the late Peter Warren). This society planned to a) set up English day schools in Indian country and b) bring Indian boys back to English towns to be educated. Given the overlap with Wheelock's own goals and methods, it is fortunate for Dartmouth's history that Parliament denied Chauncy's society incorporation. For what is perhaps the most often cited letter on the feud, see Chauncy to Wheelock, 762165.

Smith, Charles Jeffery

Charles Jeffery Smith was an independently funded Presbyterian missionary and itinerant preacher. After his father's early death, Smith inherited a large private income. Instead of enjoying a life of leisure, he chose to complete his education at Yale and then become a missionary. After graduating, he taught at Moor's Indian Charity School, gratis, for a few months in 1763. His first mission, and his only mission among Indians, was a 1763 endeavor to the Six Nations, accompanied by then-student Joseph Brant as an interpreter. However, Pontiac's War forced them to return. Although Smith continued his missionary career, he focused on slaves in the Mid/South-Atlantic region and English-colonist congregations. Smith held several important roles in Wheelock's Grand Design. He was Wheelock's heir-once-removed (after Whitaker) in Wheelock's 1767 will, and was proposed as Occom's companion on the 1765 fundraising tour. Wheelock consulted Smith about the location of what was to be Dartmouth College (Smith proposed Virginia or South Carolina), and solicited him as an envoy to the Six Nations in 1768; when Smith refused, the job fell to Ralph Wheelock, who severely alienated the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Sir William Johnson. Smith's residence was in Virginia at the time of his death, but he actually died in Long Island while visiting his family, from a gunshot wound sustained while hunting. It is unclear whether this was murder, an accidental shot, or suicide.

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.

Smith, John

John Smith was an affluent Boston merchant who supported Wheelock’s school throughout the 1760s. It is likely that Smith and Wheelock were introduced by George Whitefield or someone similarly involved in evangelical and missionary efforts in the British Atlantic world: John Smith made somewhat regular trips to London for business, and had been in contact with Whitefield since the 1740s. Like the other Boston merchants who supported Moor’s Indian Charity School (including Moses Peck, William Hyslop, and Nathaniel Eells), Smith traded with Wheelock and kept him up to date on political developments in Boston, especially as they concerned attitudes towards Moor’s Indian Charity School. However, Smith was better educated (and likely more affluent) than the other merchants that Wheelock worked with, and, correspondingly, played a more important role than his brethren in Wheelock’s efforts. Smith publicized the school independently (his letter to an unnamed friend, catalogued as 764318.2, is one of the most cited letters on the organization of Moor’s) and assisted Wheelock in publishing the Narratives. John Smith’s greatest contribution to Wheelock’s design was his support during Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Smith set out for Britain in July 1765 to improve his health, and while there, acted as a vanguard for Occom and Whitaker. He managed their correspondence, suggested destinations, and served on an ad hoc advisory council that included George Whitefield, Samuel Savage, Robert Keen, and several other influential men. The pace of the journey caught up with John Smith, however, and he died in 1768 while in Britain.

Brant, Joseph

Joseph Brant studied briefly with Wheelock and went on to be a very influential Mohawk leader. He was born into a prominent Mohawk family, and his connections only improved when his sister, Molly, began a long-lasting relationship with Sir William Johnson. Brant came to study with Wheelock in 1761. He played the part of a model pupil, as he was already partially assimilated and took to his studies quickly. Wheelock had high hopes for him, but in 1763, Brant visited Mohawk country with CJ Smith and never returned. This was likely a result of Johnson's increasing desire to promote only Anglican missionary efforts, as Brant seems to have harbored no ill-will towards Wheelock: Calloway hypothesizes that Brant's influence protected Dartmouth during the Revolution, and in 1800 Brant sent two of his sons to Moor's Indian Charity School. After leaving Wheelock, Brant went on to accumulate influence both as a British civil servant and Mohawk leader (historians debate how much genuine power and influence he had among the Mohawks and Six Nations more generally). The British government employed him as an interpreter, and in 1775, he visited England to argue for Mohawk interests. During the Revolution, he remained loyal to the British and encouraged other tribes to do the same. After the Revolution, when the British abandoned Indian land interests, he battled militarily and politically for Native land rights. Culturally, Brant was very much a pro-assimilation Anglican. He translated the Gospel of Mark, as well as other religious documents, into Mohawk, and lived a generally anglicized lifestyle, although he criticized what he saw as severe moral failings in white society.

Lesley, James
Gifford, Andrew

Andrew Gifford was the leading Baptist minister in England in the 18th century. He was born in Bristol, the son of Emmanuel Gifford (1673–1723), a Baptist minister, and his wife, Eleanor Lancaster (1662–1738); and grandson of Andrew Gifford, also a Bristol Baptist minister. He served as a Baptist minister in Nottingham (1725–1726) and Bristol (1727-1729). In January 1730, Gifford became Baptist minister at Little Wild Street, London, but was ostracized because of charges of sodomy that were never proven, and in 1736, he formed a new congregation in Eagle Street, where he remained as pastor for the rest of his life. Also a noted coin collector, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and was appointed assistant librarian in the British Museum in 1757. With the fortune of his second wife, Gifford encouraged an educated Baptist ministry through his support of Bristol Baptist College. His unusual combination of Calvinist theology with evangelical passion made him a partisan of George Whitefield, whose "Eighteen Sermons" (1771) Gifford edited; it was a volume that sold widely in England and America. He also supported Wheelock's missionary efforts; in his "Narrative" for June 1764, Wheelock records that Gifford sent the school “a neat Pair of Globes, and a valuable Collection of Books," and appeals to him for help in advancing the School's interests in London. Gifford was one of several prominent clergymen who befriended Occom and Whitaker on their fundraising tour in England. Occom records hearing Gifford preach, preaching at his church, and dining and lodging at his house. A measure of Occom's affection for Gifford is that he and Mary Occom named their youngest son Andrew Gifford (b 1774 in Mohegan).

Savage, Samuel

Samuel Savage was a London merchant and a member of the English Trust, the body formed to oversee money raised by Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker in England between 1766 and 1768. His shop was on Gun Street, in Spitalfields, and he was likely a weaver. Few other personal details are known. Like most of Eleazar Wheelock’s English contacts, Savage was a follower of the evangelical George Whitefield, transatlantic celebrity of the First Great Awakening, and it was through Whitefield that Savage became involved in Wheelock’s initial attempts to gain a charter in the 1760s. Once Occom and Whitaker arrived in London in February 1766, Savage was part of the informal committee that handled their correspondence and suggested targets for fundraising. He was also made a member of the Trust when it was formally established in 1766. Savage, like John Thornton, continued to provide Wheelock with financial support after the fund was exhausted in 1775. Although most of the Englishmen who worked with Whitaker and Occom found Whitaker insufferable and praised Occom, Savage displayed a marked preference for Whitaker. Like Wheelock, he was worried that Occom would become prouder than he thought was appropriate for an Indian, and he expressed concerns that Whitaker had not been paid enough to compensate for his long absence from his family (no similar concerns about Occom’s family were voiced). Since Savage’s views on Occom were very close to the New England norm and represent a deviation from most Englishmen’s views, one is tempted to conclude that he had spent time in America or had been born there, but that is pure conjecture.

Whitefield, George

George Whitefield, the English itinerant preacher who helped spark the Great Awakening, was an essential supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s project. Whitefield studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the pioneers of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. He was ordained in 1736, and he made the first of his seven trips to America two years later. While abroad in 1740, Whitefield founded an orphanage in Georgia, and went on a preaching tour during which he met Wheelock and spread ideals that prompted the Great Awakening. Although Whitefield was ordained in the Church of England, his enthusiastic preaching style and charismatic personality made him a controversial figure, and traditional clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic censured him. Nonetheless, he continued to be an important contact and friend of Wheelock’s, and his dedication to Wheelock’s vision was evident. He contributed money to the cause, secured various other funders, and donated an eighty-pound prayer bell to the school. More importantly, Whitefield not only suggested to Wheelock the idea of a fundraising tour in Great Britain, he hosted Occom and Whitaker shortly after they arrived in England, provided a house for them to reside in for the remainder of their tour, and introduced the pair to influential figures such as William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth. Whitefield tabernacle’s was the setting of Occom’s first sermon in England on February 16, 1766, and many believe that Whitefield wrote the introduction to a pamphlet printed in London during the campaign (although he was not credited). Whitefield continued to be involved in Wheelock’s work until he died in Newburyport, MA in September of 1770.

Occom's Second Mission to the Oneidas
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