abstract: Whitaker writes about his disappointment in Occom’s return from his mission, and endorses the proposal to send Kirtland on a mission. Whitaker notes that those not involved in missionary efforts are too quick to judge when those efforts fail.
handwriting: Handwriting is formal and clear.
paper: Large single sheet is in good condition, yet there is moderate wear around the edges, and some heavy creasing.
noteworthy: Although this letter is from Whitaker to Peck, the trailer is in Wheelock's hand.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
Redeemer among Men so the Enlargement of it by sending his Knowledge
among the poor benighted Savages demands our serious and critical Attention.
This is what has engaged the Minds of some of the most worthy and useful
Men our Nation hath produced, instance Dr. Colman, Sergeant, Brainerd,
and others, and by their experience and labour in Indian Affairs, others, who
have been desirous to spread the Savour of Christ's Knowledge among them
have been lead to various projects for this purpose, all of which have had
some suitableness to this happy End; and doubtless all of them in the plan, or
in the Execution of it have had their Defects which have been more easily
discovered by the Spectators than by the Actors, and especially when the
Events have discovered their Impropriety; and when this has been the case
those who have learned too little of the Difficulty and weight of such Under-
takings have been too ready to condemn the Undertakers as rash or foolish
etc. and the plan as being poorly executed, whence if they had been the Actors
the Stage might have been much less entertaining, and much less been affected
by them —
as rash, conceited, presumptuous, imprudent and the like? especially if any of
his Schemes (which in his Undertaking, you know, are very many) should
miscarry, even though this should happen by the Influence, not to say the
Fault, of others. You, dear Brother, must be very sensible that the Return
of Mr. Occom without pursuing his mission has been, and is grievous to us; and
we would have done any thing in reason to have forwarded it; But so
it is; he is returned and the Season is too late for him now to go, as he has
a numerous Family to provide for and little to do it with. Therefore it was
thought by some of the Commissioners who happened to be together, and by
some of the rest who have been consulted at other Times, that nothing could
so well supply this Defect and answer the End in View (which was procuring
some Indian Youth for the School from the Mohawks, Senecas, and some
of the remote Tribes, and to conciliate their friendship, and especially to the
design of sending missionaries among them etc.) as to send Mr. Kirtland
with one of the Indian Youth with him now before the Winter sets in
which circumstance forbid calling the Commissioners together on this
occasion as they live remote some of them. This Advantage farther is
proposed by Kirtland's and Joseph the Indian Youth's going, that they may
learn the Seneca Language and by living with them may show their kind
ness to them, and procure their friendship.
industry so great, that there is not the least Scruple with me, but he will
obtain a Degree at New Jersey College next fall, especially as he hath
leave of the president to be at disposal other Ways if thought best, and
case is peculiar, and will require Abatements to be made if Needed, as he designs
on a mission and is supported by Charity, and besides he will be much improved
by this Tour as is likely from his active and industrious Turn, and as he
will have an Indian Scholar with him. These considerations render it
highly probable that there will be no Difficulty as to his Degree, and there-
fore I hope his kind and generous Benefactors will not think hard,
though he turns aside a little from his peculiar Studies, and that they will
continue their Benefactions, and so lay up for themselves in Store a good
Foundation against the Time to come. You know Dear Brother, that every
thing that is done in this Affair must be done on the highest probability which the Actors can find in the case
and not on Certainties, and if they judge well and God shows by the Events, that
he favours the design, Men will be ready to applaud the Managers, but
if otherwise they must expect Blame how well soever they have judged
But I hope those who have been so generous in contributing to this good
design have leaned to judge more according to Truth. I dare to
say this for Mr. Wheelock, that uprightness, Integrity, Caution, and single
ness of Eye to the grand point, free of selfish Motives from worldly Gain
has ever appeared to influence him in this great and weighty Undertak
ing, since I have been acquainted with him which has been ever
since the School became the Object of public Attention, and I believe
I have had as great an Intimacy, and as thorough an insight into his
motives projects and Ends as any Man living, or as any could have, or
wish to have; and I would add that of all the Schemes he hath
prosecuted since my acquaintance (and they have been many in
this new and difficult Affair) few, very few if any have miscarried
which he has had the Direction of, or turned out to the disad
vantage of the cause. In a Word I verily believe the sending of
Mr. Kirtland will be no disadvantage to him, and will be much to
the furtherance of the cause of Religion. You may make such
a use of this Letter as you shall think will add most to the
Advantage of the design, only take Dear Mr. Smith's Opinion about
it, and I need not tell you not to let it see the public —
Peck. October 1764
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.
Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.
John Sergeant was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1710. He went on to receive two degrees in theology from Yale, in 1729 and 1732. He was serving as a Yale College tutor when the New England Company sponsored him, along with Timothy Woodbridge (who was John Eliot’s great-grandson), to missionize in Mohican country in western Massachusetts, a mission that lasted 40 years. Konkopat, a Mohican sachem who worked with English ministers in the Connecticut River Valley, finally convinced his tribe to allow missionaries to come into their community. Within two years, the NEC began Stockbridge, a Christian Indian town that would help christianize Indians and foster defenses against the French and their Indian allies. The NEC proposed settling four British families in Stockbridge to keep Sergeant and Woodbridge company as well as to serve as "models of civility" for the Indians. These families were led by Ephraim Williams, a speculator in Indian lands. Sergeant married Williams's teenage daughter, Abigail. Because of Williams's interest in acquiring Native lands, many Stockbridge Indians became suspicious of Sergeant. Overall, though, the Indians were favorably disposed towards developments at Stockbridge. Sergeant went on to learn the native language and translated religious texts for Indian use. In the 1740s, several Oneida families sent their children to Stockbridge to study at Sergeant’s Indian boarding school. In 1744, Sergeant and several Stockbridge Indians visited Onaquaga and established relationships between their communities. For the next decade, however, the Williams family exploited the Indians and secured thousands of acres of Mohican lands. When Sergeant died in 1749, the Williams family took control of the Indian school and its funds. Due to poor management, the Stockbridge boarding school soon closed. The noted theologian Jonathan Edwards succeeded Sergeant in 1750 as the Stockbridge Indian missionary.
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.
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.
Samuel Finley was a Scottish colonist in Ireland who came to North America with his parents at the age of 19. He is best known for his work as a Presbyterian minister and as the fifth president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Finley spent his early life as a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania preaching in the vigorous style of the Great Awakening. While there, he also headed an academy which gained respect among the academic community. In recognition for this work, Finley was given an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow. This interest in academia led Finley to become one of the original trustees of the College of New Jersey, of which he was named president in 1761. Finley died five years later at the age of 51.
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).
Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.
David Brainerd was a Presbyterian missionary who became a New Light martyr and inspired Wheelock to work for Native American education. He was the older brother of the longer-lived but lesser-known John Brainerd, who provided Wheelock with his first Native students. In the early 1740s, David got caught up in the New Light tide at Yale, and was subsequently expelled for describing men in positions of authority as unsaved. Because ministers to English congregations had to have a degree from Harvard or Yale, David became a missionary to Native Americans instead. His missions attracted substantial attention, and in 1744 the Newark Presbytery ordained him so that he could receive funding from the Society in Scotland for Propagating Chrisitian Knowledge (SSPCK). Between April 1743 and November 1746, when he became too ill to serve, David conducted missionary efforts among various tribes in the mid-Atlantic region, most notably in New Jersey. After his death from tuberculosis in 1747, David became something of a martyr. New Light Congregationalists, especially, saw David's expulsion from Yale as unjust and his commitment to Native Americans as divine. In 1749, Jonathan Edwards published a biography of David together with David's diary, and the text quickly became part of the New Light canon. Education was central to David Brainerd's ministry, and he was among Wheelock's several inspirations. In 1745, Brainerd sent Wheelock a copy of his journal.