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Joseph Woolley, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 February 9

ms-number: 765159.1

abstract: Woolley gives an account of his progress at Onaquaga, and writes that Good Peter is ready to bring four boys to the school now that peace among the Nations is settled.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is small, yet clear and legible.

paper: Single sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: Woolley writes a follow-up letter on the same day (manuscript 765159.2), alluding to a change in plans. The identity of the Sachem to whom Woolley refers is uncertain, and so he has been left untagged. The identity of the Master to whom Woolley refers is uncertain, 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
Good Peter has now made ready to go to New Eng‐
‐land
with four Boys, two Mohawks Boys and two Tuscarora Boys, and he is
afraid you are most out of Patience in waiting this long. He has made
all possible Haste for their March, soon after we heard, that Peace is settled
among the Nations; and hardly had a Time to smoke a Pipe, as he calls it.
Small-Pox prevents my coming home this Time — I hear it
is in Albany and about those Towns where I know must necessarily
pass. Two of those Boys have never had it, and they are mind to go
seeing, they can lie out better than I. Furthermore, they have
a care for me, inasmuch, as I am not yet well seasoned to it.
I have lived with the Sachem almost three Months and have but
yet a little knowledge of their Language: I have moved my Quarters
to another Family by his consent, for several disadvantages, which,
I cannot now Number.
I told the Sachem soon after I arrived here, that I had a mind
to teach their Children to read and write in English, as long as I
tarry with them.— He made this Reply, — that they knew how to read
and write in their own Language already, which is the same, but not
the Same Tongue; and there is no necessity of such Pains to be
taken with us: Therefore he is not willing they should be taught any o‐
‐ther Tongue besides their own.
I am teaching three Young Men of the Delaware Tribe, the one of
which is half a Mohawk, these are desirous to understand the English
Bible, and they have made a good Proficiency.
Sir, I have been well ever since I came, I have had no such ill Turns, as when
I lived in Lebanon.— I have ran in Debt, at Cherry Valley, one
blanket one Pair of English Shoes and a little Soap, and three dollars
in this Place, as I believe, I would have perished if I had not done thus,
and I knew you love me more than that.
Sir I have no more to say worthy of your Attention, but that
Please Sir, to give my Duty to Mrs. Wheelock, to my kind Master, and Love
to the rest of the Family etc.—
I remain — your
most obedient
 and humble servant

Joseph Woolley.
P.S. Please Sir to over‐
‐look the Errors into which the
exit of my Pen has run, consider
it is my natural Infirmity.
 J.W

from Joseph Woolley
February 12th. 1765

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).

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.

Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

Agwirondongwas, Gwedelhes

Gwedelhes Agwirondongwas, also known as Good Peter, was an Oneida Christian leader who played a prominent role at Onaquaga (a composite Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, town in Oneida territory) throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. He received missionaries from Eleazar Wheelock and worked with Samuel Kirkland, a Moor’s alumnus who conducted a mission to the Oneidas from 1766 until his death in 1808. Elihu Spencer, a Yale-educated Anglo-American missionary, converted Good Peter to Christianity in 1748 and taught him to read and write Mohawk (a language very similar to Oneida). By 1757, Peter was preaching and leading services among the Oneidas. Along with Isaac Dakayenensere, another Oneida Christian leader, Good Peter sought missionaries (and, more especially, husbandry aid) from Eleazar Wheelock. He carried messages for General Schuyler during the Revolution, and was imprisoned by the British. After the Revolution, he worked vigorously to oppose illegal Oneida land sales and general exploitation by the state of New York. Good Peter worked closely with Samuel Kirkland throughout his mission and served as one of his deacons, even though he was cognizant of and opposed Kirkland’s role in promoting illegal land sales.

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