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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Dennys DeBerdt, 1763 March 5

ms-number: 763205.1

abstract: Wheelock writes to request that DeBerdt show his proposal regarding a tract of land to various gentlemen in England. He also mentions the need for books, globes, and maps; and that Smith, Occom, and Ashpo are all on missions.

handwriting: Handwriting is informal and somewhat messy; there are several deletions and additions.

paper: Single small sheet is good condition, with light creasing, staining, and wear.

ink: Brown ink is overwritten in spots with bolder black-brown ink.

noteworthy: Given the informality of the hand and the numerous additions and deletions, it appears that this is a draft.


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



My Dear Sir
Since my last to you My School has
appeared with a more Encouraging aspect than ever
there having been for Some Time evident marks of
a Spirit of Conviction in the most of my Scholars and in
several instances, much reason to think there has been a Saving
Change . The Instance which I menti­
­oned in my last of the young Mohawk appears
more and more evident. and Joseph Woolley gives
me reason to think that very lately he has
indeed passed from Death to life. My Pleasure in them and in doing for them
is indeed very great. Such a School
I never before Saw. —
The enclosed proposal I desire you would show to
Dr. Giffords, Mr. Savage and Mr. Whitefield
if he be yet in England and make what
use and Improvement of it you shall think
proper. I greatly long to have it accomplish­
ed. are there more near his Majesty who
would favour and Promote it? there are so
many and so weighty arguments in favour of it, that it cant
but obtain his Majesty's Counten­
nance if they were but Justly represented to him
Mr.Smith of Boston gave me a hint that
among other expressions of kindness towards this School
there was Some talk of Collecting a Library
for it, which would indeed be very acceptable.
as it is very much wanted. and if God who has the [illegible] of [illegible]in his [illegible][guess: Hand] Should put
it into the Hearts of any to accomplish it
I hope Some generous Soul will also think of
the necessity we are in of a pair of Globes and
a Set of good maps.
and as you are sensible the weight of Charge
upon me, for the Support of this design is not
diminishing diminishing but increasing So I trust you
will not be wanting to promote and encourage
Such assistance for me as Shall be needful
and within your Power.
I hope by the blessing of God on the Labours
of Messrs. Smith, Occom, and Ashpo I shall
have the pleasure to inform you of that
which shall be refreshing and which shall justify you and
all those by whose Charity and Labours
of Love this design has been supported hitherto,
that what you have done has not been in vain. —
I am indeed eager to supply the savages world
with Godly missionaries
Dear Sir. of what vast importance is it that
godly, Skillful, faithful Men Should have
the Lead in the great affair? Oh! let us pray
incessantly that the Lord of the harvest would send
Such Labourers, and mercifully prevent all
the mischiefs which are to be feared from blind, carnal self-seeking
men.
Dear sir pray for
 yours in the dearest Bonds
Eleazar Wheelock
Letter to Mr. DeBerdt
March 5. 1763.
with a proposal for
a Tract of Lands, etc.
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.

Woolley, Joseph

Joseph Woolley was a Delaware who died of consumption while keeping school at Onaquaga. He came to Wheelock in 1757 as a replacement for John Pumshire, and although Wheelock labeled him as "fit for college" in late 1761, he never attended. In the fall of 1764, Joseph went to the Six Nations with Kirkland to learn the Mohawk language and keep school, and in March 1765, he was officially approved as a schoolmaster and returned to Onaquaga to teach. He was very popular there, but died unexpectedly in late November 1765. Joseph was engaged to Hannah Garrett, who later married David Fowler, but a letter from David (765302.2) suggests that Joseph may also have pursued Amy (David's object of interest before Hannah).

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Dennys DeBerdt, 1763 March 5
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