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Gideon Hawley, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1763 January 27

ms-number: 763127

abstract: Hawley writes to tell of Occom's lack of tact in dealing with the Oneidas.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, but mostly clear and legible, with some additions and deletions.

paper: Single large sheet is in good condition, with moderate creasing and staining.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: Signature is abbreviated.

events: Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas


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



Rev. and Honoured Sir,

Your favours of 18th October and 21st November came safe and di­
rect, for which I humbly and heartily thank you. I should have
been glad enough to have heard from you before, but did not
take it illy that you did not write, supposing you had other
business, and other correspondents, that it was of more impor
tance for you to attend to: besides I live so much out
of the way, that it is very Difficult to get a passage for a
letter that is direct and safe. In regard to the visit I sincerely
designed you before now, it has been unvoidably delayed by
such overtures in providence, as at present it is needless
for me to relate — although all my relatives, and many of my
best friends are in Connecticut, I have not been able,
without neglect of more important duties, which could not be
dispensed with, to visit them since October 1758
In regard to Mr. Occom, it is with singular pleasure that I
view him as an ornament to his nation and to christianity,
and am very sorry I never had the happiness of being
acquainted with him. We were in the country of the Six Na
tions
the fall before last at the same time, but such were the
duties of our mission, being straitened for time and having a
great deal to do, that we were separated by the distance of
an hundred miles or near it. However, tarrying in the Coun
try, as I went after he did, when he was come off and seeing
many of the Oneidas in my peregrinations, it being the
season of their going to their hunting places, I had an oppor
tunity of being advised of his preaching, conduct and the reception
he met with, among them; which were quite equal to what
one could expect. and what I communicated, and desired my friend
to write you, concern some what, in his preaching that was
exceptionable, I thought it was best he should hear of; and that
you, being his preceptor, spiritual Father etc. was the most
suitable person to advise him of it. and the vindication
of himself [illegible: for] the reasons Mr. Occom gives I doubt not are just and true,
and I think are satisfactory. A poor man among such a
people without a faithful and skillful interpreter is to be
pitied. However I would use this opportunity to say,
that the irregularities in dress and some other things in the
customs of Indians as they not sinful in themselves, it will
rather be commendable in a missionary to conform to them
in some measure, than at his first going among them to say
much
much very directly against them. The corruption of human Nature and
the sinfulness of it a missionary should expose in all its deformity
as much as possible which will prepare the way for the Gospel.
St. Paul's epistles, especially that to the Romans is the best
model and guide for a missionary.
In regard to your School is gives me very great satisfaction
to hear of its prosperity and I wish that it may flourish
and that it may answer even beyond your expecta -
tions the great and good ends of its foundation. your
second letter gives me great concern because you appear
to be afraid of your schools being a party affair, which
I pray God to prevent — you and I shall find, Sir,
the more we have to do with the world, that by reason of the
jealousy which is inseparable from corrupt nature it will
be impossible for any considerable number to hold an ad-
vantageous confederacy for any length of time in any
affair. And we must be content with dragging along the
most generous affairs not only without the assistance of many
of whom we might justly expect it, but against the oppo
sition of some, who are real friends to the true interest of
religion, because they can’t agree with us as to the me-
thods of promoting it. Indeed, Sir, we need much of that
charity which believeth all things, Loveth all things and en-
dureth all things.
In regard to my Indians my influence over them in-
creases and I see some little fruit, although but little of my
labour; — they increase in number since my settlement
— We have one of our men, who has been as an
Agent to the Court of Great Britain about our lands
and we hope to have our affairs upon a better foot-
ing. I have about Seventy Indian houses and Wigwams
on this tract of Land besides a dozen or more that be-
long to our meeting that live a little off from it —

I am, in very great haste
Rev. Sir,
your very Dutiful Son and
Servant in Christ
Gideon Hawley
Hawley, Gideon

Gideon Hawley was born in Stratford (Bridgeport) CT, the son of Gideon, a descendant of Joseph Hawley, who immigrated to America in 1629, and Hannah Bennett, daughter of Lieutenant James Bennett of Stratford. Hawley's mother died at his birth, and his father died when he was three; he was raised mostly by his older brother. A very good student, Hawley graduated from Yale College in 1749 and was liscensed to preach by the Fairfield East Association. Sponsored by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the Parts Adjacent in America (the New England Company), Hawley accepted a position as schoolteacer in Stockbridge in 1752, under the supervision of the noted theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was a preacher to whites and Housatonic Indians in the region. But because of the contentious politics in Stockbridge, Hawley accepted the NEC's offer to take over the mission among the Six Nations on the Susquehanna, in the multi-tribal town of Onaquaga, where Elihu Spencer has served five years before as missionary. Hawley was ordained in 1754 and acted successfully as missionary and interpreter, but was forced to leave in May 1756 during the hostilities of the French and Indian War. He returned to Boston and accepted a commission as chaplain to Colonel Richard Gridley's regiment, but resigned because of illness. The NEC then sent him to the large plantation of Mashpee Wompanoags at Plymouth, MA, who approved of him and requested his permanent appointment in 1758. Hawley was a staunch supporter of traditional tribal land ownership and Indian rights; the Mashpees enlisted his help in petitioning the Massachusetts General Court for their rights to self-government. During the Revolution, Hawley did not enlist in order to protect the tribe, and in 1789, he succeeded in abolishing Masphee as a "district" subject to state rule and served as the only resident overseer and treasurer until 1795. He opposed the mixing of whites and Indians, as in Stockbridge, which ultimately disenfranchised and drove out the Indians, but insisted the Mashpee Wampanoags learn English, the only language in which he preached, and practice agriculture. He married Lucy Fessenden in 1759; they had five children, four of whom lived to maturity. Their youngest son graduated from Harvard in 1792. Lucy died in 1777 and at age 50, Hawley remarried Mrs. Elizabeth Burchard in 1778, a widow twice over with a large estate. He died beloved and respected by the Mashpee Wampanoags, whose village he helped to sustain.

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.

Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas
HomeGideon Hawley, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1763 January 27
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