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Nathaniel Whitaker, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1764 August 22

ms-number: 764472.1

abstract: Whitaker writes an informal letter regarding matters including the Mason Land Case and the Jewett controversy.

handwriting: Handwriting is largely clear and legible, although letter case is occasionally difficult to discern.

paper: Small single sheet is in good condition, with light creasing, staining and wear.

noteworthy: "D.V." is an abbreviation for the latin phrase "Deo volente," or "God willing." The word "fortasse" means "perhaps."

events: Mason Land Case, Jewett Controversy


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



Rev. and [illegible][guess: Dear] Brother
Your's by Isaiah Uncas I received last night; Sent
him Straight down to mohegan to See his Dad. and Mr.
Occom
, and to know the reason why he does not Send up
David; etc. I Shall D.V. go to mohegan tomorrow if
the season allow — the rain has prevented monday and Tues­
day — Dear Brother Jewett Sets out this morning for Ipswich to
See his Son who lies at the point of Death — pray has­
ten affairs about David we must go, D.V. next monday
I Shall use my philosophy to bind the Load on your
Thing — I Saw Mr. Jewett last Thursday at Mohegan
I talked with him of Occoms affairs — he thinks that the
Indians hold the Land under the Government and that the fee
ought to be in the Government and thinks they should be quite satisfied
that it is Secured to them by the Government while they Shall
See fit to possess it — He fears least the Sachem Should Stick
his Tomahawk into somebody (fortasse Occom) I forgot to
desire Mr. Occom to Send you in writing what terms
would please him about the Land. Mr. Jewett desired him
to give in a written complaint against Mr. Clelland in
order that he might write to the Commissioners and they appoint Some
to hear and judge etc. — Mr. Occom said he would — Should
you not give me something to show that you
want that legacy left by my honoured father and that you desire
me to receive it — it is given to your School on condition it goes on
and is like to prosper — Please to get this certified by Some justice etc., if
you think best — but let me have it this week — I don't know
what to write; take my heart and read it — I love you
all — Mr. Clelland wrote me, and mourns that you did not go
down and try to make peace — we all well
N. Whitaker



To the
Rev.
Eleazar Wheelock
At
Lebanon
Colony of Connecticut
The government of the colony of Connecticut was organized into an upper house, comprised of the governor and other magistrates; and a lower house, comprised of representatives from towns. Like other colonial governments, the Connecticut government's responsibilities included negotiating with Indian tribes and funding missionary efforts. Naturally, the Connecticut government had a substantial impact on both Occom's and Wheelock's lives. For Occom, the colony's most defining act may have been the Mason Case. For Wheelock, it may have been the colony's refusal to support a charter for Moor's Indian Charity School. The Mason Case or Mason Controversy was a land dispute between the colony of Connecticut and the Mohegan tribe that formally lasted from 1703 until 1773. The Controversy spanned most of Occom's life and ended with the Mohegan tribe losing legal control of almost all their land. Although the case became very complicated, in brief, it was a question of whether the Mohegans had entrusted their land to John Mason, a private individual and ally of the tribe, or to the colony of Connecticut. If the lands were in trust to Mason, then Mason and his heirs could protect Mohegan land rights. However, if the lands were in trust to the colony, then the colony could do with them as they pleased. In 1703, the colony forcibly expelled Mohegans from their land and redistributed it for towns and private property. For the next 70 years, the Mohegan tribe appealed the case in both Connecticut and London. The colony took increasingly aggressive steps to maintain control over the land, including ignoring a 1721 royal order to return it and interfering in Mohegan succession to make sure that Ben Uncas, a man who was not inclined to oppose the colony on the Mason issue, became sachem. The ensuing dispute over sachemship split the tribe into two different settlements. Occom was born in 1723, at the height of the controversy over the sachemship. Because he and his father both participated in the Mohegan tribal council, the Mason Case and the problems it brought must have played a substantial role in Occom's young adulthood and also affected his later missionary career. (In 1764 and 1765, Occom was censured by the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge for speaking openly about the Mason Case.) Wheelock also had a difficult relationship with the colony of Connecticut. While Connecticut's government helped quite a few missionary efforts, it rarely gave Wheelock any kind of support (and never any money). Wheelock initially sought a charter from Connecticut in 1758. However, Connecticut would not grant a charter without royal support, and Wheelock's allies in England would not seek royal support without a Connecticut charter. In 1764, Wheelock again petitioned the CT Assembly for incorporation (legal control over the town his school was in). Again, they refused. The 1764 rejection likely stemmed from the Mason Case because Wheelock, via Occom, was implicitly on the side of the Mohegan tribe. The Connecticut government also rejected Wheelock on several more minor matters related to funding and legal power. It is not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that part of Wheelock's motivation for leaving Connecticut was his inability to obtain support from the colony's government.
Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was established in 1730 to support local missionary efforts. It was the SSPCK's first board in the British colonies in America. The SSPCK later founded a New York Board (1741) and a Connecticut Board (1764). Although Wheelock lobbied for a New Hampshire board after his 1770 relocation, by that time the SSPCK had had enough of him and his request was denied. The Boston Board of the SSPCK sponsored many missionaries to Native Americans, including David and John Brainerd. However, it did not provide very much support to Wheelock or his school, in large part because Wheelock and Charles Chauncy, chair of the Boston Board, clashed over Congregationalist politics. The Boston Board did provide £20 to support Samson Occom and David Fowler on a 1761 mission to the Six Nations to procure Moor's students, but it was then reluctant to support the boys Occom and Fowler obtained. The Board eventually paid £58.10.1 in 1762. They never gave money to Wheelock again. Wheelock was instrumental in forming the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK in 1764, over which he exerted considerable influence. From that point forward, he was largely able to avoid dealing with the Boston Board of the SSPCK. The The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America is also called the Boston Board in some letters, and most secondary sources have mixed the two Boston Boards. This is an easy mistake to make since both are sometimes called the Boston Board and vigorously opposed Wheelock. However, the general confusion in the literature means that any secondary source's statement on either board should be taken with some skepticism.
Moor’s Indian Charity School
Moor’s Indian Charity School was a grammar school for Native Americans that Eleazar Wheelock opened in North Lebanon, Connecticut in 1754. The school was named for Colonel Joshua Moor, also spelled More, who donated the land and school building. Moor’s was essentially an expansion of the grammar school that Wheelock opened in 1743 to support himself during the fallout from the First Great Awakening, when Wheelock, who'd participated in itinerant ministry during the Awakening, had his salary confiscated by the colony of Connecticut. In December of that year, Samson Occom asked Wheelock to teach him as well. Wheelock's work with Occom was so successful that Wheelock decided to replicate the experiment with other Native American boys. He accepted his first Indian students in 1754, and in 1761 began taking female students as well. Wheelock believed that in time, his school would become just one part of a larger missionary enterprise. He planned to send his Anglo American and Native American students to various tribes as missionaries and schoolmasters, with explicit instructions to pick out the best students and send them back to Moor’s to continue the cycle. His ultimate goal was to turn his school into a model Christian Indian town that would include farms, a college, and vocational training. However, Wheelock’s grand design did not survive the decade. Wheelock lost the vast majority of his Native American students; he fought with many of the best, including Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, and other former and current students accused him of subjecting Native Americans to disproportionate amounts of manual labor. In 1769, perhaps due to concerns about corporal punishment, the Oneida withdrew all their children from Moor’s. When Wheelock relocated to Hanover in 1769, only two Native American students came with him, and it became clear that Wheelock’s focus was on Dartmouth and that Dartmouth was for white students. After Wheelock’s death in 1779, Moor’s Indian Charity School receded further into the background as John Wheelock, his father’s reluctant successor, stopped taking Indian students. Some Native American students were enrolled in Moor’s until 1850, when the school unofficially closed.
Mohegan

Mohegan is a village in southeastern Connecticut at the site of the present-day town of Montville, and is the location of the Mohegan Indian Reservation. The village gets its name from the Mohegan Tribe, or wolf people, who split from the Pequots in the early 17th century under the leadership of the sachem Uncas. In the 1720s, the Mohegans requested the colony of Connecticut provide them with an English educator. An English minister and schoolteacher named John Mason (no relation to Captain John Mason) moved to Mohegan in order to provide English-styled education to the Mohegans, convinced his sponsors, the New England Company, to build a schoolhouse at Mohegan, which eventually served as a boarding school for other Native American children from the surrounding area. During the 17th century, the Mohegan Tribe became embroiled in a complicated controversy over control of Mohegan land — known as the Mason Land Case or, more specifically, Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut — that included the village of Mohegan. The Tribe claimed that it never authorized a transfer of their lands, held in trust by the Mason family, to the colonial government. In 1662, the colony of Connecticut was incorporated by a royal charter, which included the disputed tribal land. The land controversy was revived in 1704 when descendants of John Mason, the original trustee, petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, but the suit was finally decided against the Tribe in 1773. Born in Mohegan, Occom became involved in the Mason Land Case and vehemently argued for the rights of the Mohegan Indians to maintain their land, opposing Eleazar Wheelock and other ministers in the area. Although Occom left Mohegan for a 12-year mission with the Montauk Indians of Long Island, he returned at the end of 1763 with his large family to build a house in Mohegan, establishing it as his base of operations. Even after the creation of the Brothertown settlement in Oneida country, for which he served as minister, Occom continued to commute back and forth from Mohegan; he didn't sell his house in Mohegan and move his family to Brothertown until 1789. Many members of his family remained in Mohegan, including his sister Lucy Tantaquidgeon, who lived there until her death at 99 in 1830.

Lebanon

Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

Whitaker, Nathaniel

Nathaniel Whitaker was an outspoken Presbyterian minister with a long and wide-ranging career. Between his ordination in 1755 and his death in 1795, Whitaker ministered to five different congregations. His longest tenure was at Chelsea, CT (near Norwich), from 1761-1769, during which he joined Occom on his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Britain. While in Chelsea, Whitaker was very involved in Wheelock's project. The two engaged in frequent correspondence, and Whitaker served on Eleazar Wheelock's Board of Correspondents in Connecticut, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School. At one time, he was Wheelock's presumed successor, but Dartmouth's Trustees demanded that Wheelock appoint another. Wheelock, in part due to his strongly-held belief that Native Americans were childlike and rash, was convinced that Occom needed an Anglo-American supervisor on his fundraising tour. After several candidates turned down the job, Wheelock selected Whitaker. He proved to be a poor choice; he was, by many accounts, a difficult man to get along with, and many of Wheelock’s British allies, including George Whitefield and the English Trust (the organization that took control of the money Occom raised in England) preferred to deal with Occom, although Whitaker insisted on handling the tour’s logistics. Furthermore, in Britain, Occom was the obvious star of the tour, and it was unclear to many why Whitaker asserted himself so prominently. Whitaker’s poor decisions seriously alienated the English Trust and increased their suspicion of Wheelock’s later dealings and treatment of Occom. He gave the English Trust the impression that they would have control over money raised in Scotland (which was in fact lodged with the parent organization of the SSPCK), and he was the executor of the “Eells Affair,” a plan initiated by the CT Board of the SSPCK to bring the money that Occom and Whitaker raised back to the colonies by investing it in trade goods and selling them at a profit (Eells was one of the merchants who was to help with the resale of goods). The English Trust learned about the plan by reading letters that Whitaker had given them permission to open in his absence, and were immediately shocked. The wording of certain letters made it appear that only a percentage of the profit from the resale of the goods would go towards Moor’s Indian Charity School, but beyond that detail, the English Trust was scandalized at the thought of money raised for charity being invested in trade. The English Trust blamed Whitaker entirely for these affairs, and issued specific instructions for Occom to notarize all documents requiring Whitaker’s signature. In short, they wanted Occom to supervise Whitaker, when Wheelock had envisioned the opposite relationship (both Occom and Whitaker seem to have ignored their instructions, preferring to have as little contact with one another as possible). In 1769, a year after his return to Connecticut in 1768, Whitaker found himself dismissed by his Chelsea congregation (likely because he had spent two and a half years away from them). He went on to serve several more congregations before his death in 1795. Whitaker was an outspoken Whig, and during the Revolution he published several pamphlets on his political opinions.

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.

Uncas, Isaiah

Isaiah Uncas was the son and heir apparent of the Mohegan sachem Ben Uncas III. He was at Moor’s Indian Charity School from 1760 until at least 1767. Unlike most other Moor’s students, Isaiah was not in training to be a missionary; rather, Wheelock’s purpose in admitting him was likely to strengthen his ties to the Mohegan ruling family. However, Isaiah proved to be such a poor student that he only received two years of education before being transferred to farm work. Isaiah died in 1770, and the Mohegan tribe elected to install a tribal council rather than selecting another sachem, in large part because ties between the Uncas family and the government of Connecticut had resulted in vast land losses for the Mohegans (these land losses were the cause of the Mason Case).

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.

Fowler, David

David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.

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.

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.

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.

Whitaker, Jonathan
Mason Land Case
This enduring and complex controversy begins with an ambiguous agreement of September 28, 1640 in which Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, either gives or entrusts a large tract of the Tribe’s territory to the Colony of Connecticut, to be overseen by Major John Mason, a long-time advisor to the Mohegans. Over the years, Mason’s heirs, on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe, resist the Colony’s claims that it owns the lands through a series of suits and appeals. In 1743, Occom attends hearings of the case, which has split the Tribe into opposing factions. The case is finally decided in the Royal Courts in London in 1773 against the Mohegans.
Jewett Controversy
This crisis comes to a head in 1764 when Occom returns to Mohegan from Montauket and gains a following among the Indians and English. Robert Clelland, schoolmaster at Mohegan, fears he is being supplanted, and his patron, the minister David Jewett, thinks Occom is interfering and not sufficiently respectful. More importantly, Occom supports the Mohegan tribe’s claims in the Mason Land Case, in which Jewett, who opposes them, stands to lose considerable property. Finally, Jewett brings an official complaint to the Boston Board of Correspondents for the Society in Scotland for progagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), which employs Clelland, and to his own employers, the New England Company. The Connecticut Board of Correspondents for the SSPCK (of which Jewett was a member) tries Occom, and acquits him on all charges except that of involvement in the Mason Case. Despite a nominal reconciliation, bitter feelings linger between Occom and Jewett.
HomeNathaniel Whitaker, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1764 August 22
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