Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Eleazar Wheelock, letter to the The New York/New Jersey Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and William Peartree Smith, 1765 January 14

ms-number: 765114.1

abstract: Wheelock writes to the The New York/New Jersey Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge about the missionaries and school masters he has educated at his Indian Charity school, and asks them to allow John Brainerd to solicit funds in Europe to support it. Also included is a note to William Peartree Smith asking him to respond with the Board's decision as soon as possible.

handwriting: Handwriting is, exclusive of the trailer on one recto, not Wheelock’s; it is largely clear and legible.

paper: Large single sheet is in fair-to-poor condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear that results in a slight loss of text.

ink: Ink is a faded black-brown.

noteworthy: The document is a contemporary copy, likely Wheelock's for his records. An editor, likely 19th-century, has inserted brackets in black ink around the third paragraph on one recto, and written in brackets in the left margin “o-mitted in L. y Brd.” He has bracketed the fifth paragraph on one recto, and written “omitted” in the left margin; bracketed the first paragraph on one verso and written “(omitted)" in the upper right corner; and bracketed the third paragraph in the letter at the bottom of page 2 and written “(omitted)” above it. These additions have not been transcribed.

signature: The signature is not Wheelock's.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


To the Honourable Board of Correspondents in the Province of New
York and New Jersey
, commissioned by the Honorable Society in
Scotland for propagating Christian Knowledge


The Memorial of Eleazar Wheelock of Lebanon
in the Colony of Connnecticut, Humbly showeth —
That by the blessing of God upon Endeavours used, the Indian
Charity School
which he has, for several years last past [gap: faded][guess: had in]
his immediate Care, is now increased to the Number 26. And the
prospect both of the increase of their Number, and the usefulness of
the undertaking, as well as the expense of it, is yet growing. That
several of this Number are young Gentlemen whom he apprehends to
be well accomplished for a mission among the Indians. And ten others
of them are Indian Youth, whom he esteems well qualified for school
masters, excepting that some of them yet want age, which Difficulty he
supposes may be well accommodated by their being under the inspec
tion, Direction, and Conduct of the missionaries, and such of the school
masters as are of ripe age and judgement, now ready to be [gap: worn_edge][guess: authorized]
and sent with them.
And Nothing is wanting, but Means of Support for them, in order
to their being sent forth, in their several Capacities, as soon as the
season will allow of it. And your own Thoughts will readily
suggest the great Importance of improving the present Openings in
Providence for that purpose, before our Way be embarrassed by a
Throng of unrighteous Dealers, and such who with no higher View
than to serve their unbridled Avarice, will likely be crowding
into the Indian Country
These are therefore to pray your honourable Board to take it
into consideration, and grant the Concurrence of your Endeavours
with ours in these parts, for the furtherance and speedy accomplish
ment of the design in View. And particularly, that you would grant
Liberty to the Rev. John Brainerd, your missionary, to go to Europe, in
Company with an Indian, from these parts, to solicit the Charities
of such as are of Ability for the support of this School, and such
missionaries and schoolmasters as Divine providence shall
enable us to send. And that you would commission, authorize,
and suitably recommend him, said Brainerd, for that purpose;
and also recommend the design itself to the Charity of God's people
abroad, etc.
I had determined to obtain a Meeting of the Board of Corres
pondents in Connecticut
, and desire them to address you upon this
Head, in the first place; and have no Doubt of their ready Compliance
with the proposal, if it could have been made to them; but after
waiting some Time for an Opportunity to have them together for
that purpose, I find it can't be at present by reason of their
living so remote, and the unusual Body of Snow which has so
filled the Roads, that such a Meeting has hitherto been imprac­
ticable, and I fear will be so, 'til it will be too late seasonably
to accomplish what will be necessary in the Affair before the most
 proper
Memorial to the Board
of Correspondents in New
York and Jersey
. January. 14. 1765
with letter to Peartree Smith Esq.
proper season to embark for Europe.
And moreover I have considered that these young Gentlemen
and Indian youth designed for missionaries and schoolmasters, are yet
all of them, Members of this School, and not under the Direction or
Controul of any Commisioners. whereupon I was of opinion, that
it might be a saving of Time, and as well answer every good purpose
to take this Method which I have fixed upon, and first address
you, and give you the Lead in the Affair, which I hope you will
esteem sufficient Apology for the Manner of my proceeding
therein, and grant such an answer to my prayer, as you shall
think will be most for the Glory of God, and advancement of the
interests of our common Lord, and make as speedy Return of
the same as may be by the post, in order to be laid before the
Board of correspondents
here as soon as they can be convened
after the Receipt of your Doings
All which is with much respect, Honoured Gentlemen,
humbly submitted to your consideration and Determination
by
Your most obedient and
 most humble Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
Dated at Lebanon
in Connecticut
January 14th 1765. Copy
Sir
I am informed that the calling your Board of
Commissioners together is committed to you, which occasions you
the present Trouble. You will see by the prayer enclosed what
is designed, and the Difficulty of proceeding in any other Manner
at present.
If your Board shall see fit to return answer in favour
of my request, I pray you would not fail to make as speedy
Return to me as may be, for I would not fail to have every
Thing done that is necessary and suitable to put Mr. Brainerd
under all Advantages possible to serve the design in the
proposed Tour.
It will be best to direct your Letter by the post.
to the Care of Capt. Daniel Bull of Hartford, or else to
the Care of Mr. Ichabod Robinson of Lebanon
please sir to accept sincere respects from
your unknown Friend and
 very humble Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
William Peartree
Smith
Esq Copy
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.

Smith, William Peartree

William Peartree Smith was a wealthy New York Presbyterian who became one of the founders of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). He was related to William Smith (Senior), who was his father's first cousin, another College of New Jersey Trustee and Eleazar Wheelock’s occasional legal consultant. Smith studied law at Yale and graduated in 1742, but he never practiced as a lawyer: between a large inheritance from his father and marriage to an even wealthier woman, Smith was able to spend his life managing his estate and promoting causes he found worthy. Among these was the College of New Jersey. He was named as a trustee in the 1748 charter, and remained one until he retired at age 70. He was also the secretary of the Presbyterian New York/New Jersey Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, which formally fused with the Trustees of the College of New Jersey in 1769 (although the two were functionally unified much earlier). Like other Presbyterian organizations, the College of New Jersey and the New Jersey SSPCK tended to express a polite tolerance for Wheelock, but did not seriously help or hinder him. Smith moved to Elizabethtown (the location of the College of New Jersey) in 1757, and became politically active as a mayor and, later, a judge. He sided with the patriots during the Revolution.

Bull, Daniel

Daniel Bull was a longtime resident of Hartford, CT, with whom Eleazar Wheelock, Samson Occom, and David Fowler all lodged between at least 1761 and 1765. He was a deacon of the South Church as well as a captain in Connecticut's 1st Regiment. In three letters between 1764 and 1765, Wheelock instructs recipients to direct their replies to the care of Bull in Hartford. Bull appears twice on lists of donations to Yale College for funding construction projects between 1756 and 1761. He may have also been a member of "The Company of Military Adventurers," a group of Englishmen who assembled in Hartford beginning 1763 to obtain grants of land from the Crown following their service in the French and Indian War. He died in Hartford in November 1776.

Robinson, Ichabod
Brainerd, John

John Brainerd was an ardent missionary with an important role in Wheelock's design. He was the younger brother of the famous missionary David Brainerd, who died as a young man after being expelled from Yale and serving as a missionary to New Jersey tribes. John completed his Yale degree and was immediately commissioned to replace David. Even in his own time, he was seen as a man as pious as, but less talented than, his brother, though Brainerd missioned to Indians during a more volatile period, and saw his congregation forcibly removed from their lands in 1755 and relocated at Brothertown in 1758 (this Brothertown should not be confused with the one founded in New York after the Revolution by many Moor's alumni). Brainerd was extremely devoted to the Indian cause. He often had the opportunity to serve wealthy English congregations, but preferred to remain an Indian missionary. He invested signficant sums of his own money into his missions, for which he was never reimbursed. Brainerd was a very prominent Presbyterian figure, active in the Presbytery and Synod of New York, holding several elected positions, and in the Presbtery and Synod of New York and Philadelphia once the two reunified in 1758. He was a Trustee of the College of New Jersey from 1754 until his death, and a member of the New York Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Occom had planned to work with Brainerd in 1750, but political upheaval prevented it. Brainerd was one of several men nominated to accompany Occom to England, but the New York Board refused to let him go. While Brainerd and Wheelock were not close personal friends, the two had a similar interests and a long-lasting correspondence. John Brainerd sent Wheelock his first Indian boys, and also recruited female students in the 1760s. Throughout their lives, Brainerd and Wheelock updated one another on Indian missions, and Brainerd seems to have been one of Wheelock's "point people" in the Presbyterian Church.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter to the The New York/New Jersey Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and William Peartree Smith, 1765 January 14
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only