abstract: Ralph writes to his father from New York City regarding meetings with donors, including the Earl of Stirling, as well as with George Whitefield, who is also trying to secure funds. He mentions that Occom is arriving from Long Island to preach.
handwriting: Handwriting slants upwards, and is bold and mostly legible.
paper: Paper is in good condition despite heavy creasing and some tearing near location of seal, which results in a minor loss of text.
ink: Strong, dark brown-black
noteworthy: As noted by its author, the letter is written hastily and contains many variant spellings and abbreviations. In the fourth-to-last line of one recto, the meaning of the abbreviation beginning "Ob." is uncertain. It is uncertain to whom "Capt. Wheelock" refers, and so he has been left untagged.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
Rev. and honoured Sir//
I arrived safe on Wednesday Evening with a good
State of Health. Thursday morning waited on
my Lord, the Earl of Stirling, he appeared very Kind,
and good; promised all his help and assistance engaged
to draw an Instrument, and to get subscriptions
by setting an example himself, the interest of
should be remitted, quarterly or Yearly at your
desire, to the Amount of 25 or 30 £ per annum
full of Zeal for the Cause, has wrote to Mr.
Erskine on the Head, and says "in his Letter send
as soon as may be 200 or 300 £ for the use of
Mr. Wheelock's School or the fat is all in the
fire etc. he is very sorry you did not write
more particular on the Head, he is out of health
much crowded with company, will write by the
Post soon, longs to see you will return to
Philadelphia 10 days hence, from thence South Carolina
from thence to Boston, he gave me for my
use, (Ob.[illegible] not the school's) 10 £ NY. currency and I
find is in the town engaged. and putting in
a word at every opportunity for the School.
made public mention of it in his Prayer
* when my Lord has accomplished his design promised
Immediately to write.
something considerable might be done in
Town for the School Capt. Wheelock has
wrote Mr. Noel will give you the Books as
he had them for London. will send as
soon as may be.
utmost haste, the bearer is waiting
from your dutiful Son
have more time next week.
Mr. Whitefield Sent for him from the Island.
he is to Preach on the morrow.
please Sir if you have opportunity by
all means write a circumstantial
Letter to Mr. Whitefield he will
tarry 10 Day or a fortnight
excuse you will see I am in great [illegible][guess: haste]
December 30th 1763
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.
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.
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.
John Erskine was a prominent clergyman in the Church of Scotland. He came from a wealthy family, but despite his eventual inheritance decided to dedicate his life to the evangelical revival in Great Britain and America. In the mid-1730s, Erskine attended Edinburgh University where he took arts courses and began the law program, but in 1742, he transferred to divinity hall (after finally convincing his family of his desire to join the clergy). He was a leading member of Scotland’s Popular party, which opposed the law of patronage and supported popular votes for the clergy. By 1768, he became the party’s unofficial leader. Erskine was known for his dissemination of books with the hope of propagating religious ideas, and he used his influence to encourage booksellers to publish or print further editions of evangelical works at affordable prices. He regularly donated books to Harvard, Yale, the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), Dartmouth, and Dickinson College, as well as Eleazar Wheelock’s Indian School. He served as one of the chief directors for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), securing funds for Indian Affairs and donating £600 to Wheelock's school in 1765. However, he objected to what he perceived as Wheelock's promotion of Presbyterianism as opposed to the Church of England. Nathaniel Whitaker worried about how Erskine's objection would affect the funds provided to Wheelock by the Trust in England. Still, Erskine remained committed to Native American causes and was present at the death of John Shattock in 1768, one of two Narragansett brothers who travelled to England in the hope of preventing the Niantic Sachem from selling further Niantic lands to the colony of Rhode Island. By the end of the 1760s, Erskine had become disillusioned with Wheelock and his school, and expressed displeasure with Wheelock's management of donated funds. He feared that Dartmouth would fall under Episcopal influence and questioned Wheelock's frankness in his procurement of the College’s charter. He was also disappointed that Occom and Kirkland were the only two distinguished missionaries with ties to Wheelock. When Erskine decided that Dartmouth College, with which Moor’s had merged, was not serving the intended purpose of providing a Christian education to Indians, he stopped providing funds. Throughout his life, Erskine penned pamphlets, sermons, and five theological treatises. During the Great Awakening, Erskine established relationships with a number of ministers in America, and because of these contacts became sympathetic to the American cause against Great Britain.
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.