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

ms-number: 765159.2

abstract: Woolley writes that the two boys who were to come to the school are delayed because of winter snow and the risk of smallpox. He also remarks on the progress of his mission, his admiration for the Tuscaroras, and the wish of the Oneidas at Chenango to have Samuel Ashpo return to them.

handwriting: Handwriting is largely clear and legible.

paper: Wide sheet, folded vertically to make four pages, is in good condition, with light yellowing and wear. A large portion of the seal remains.

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: This letter is a follow-up to 765159.1, written on the same day by Woolley. It is not wholly certain that the two letters were written by the same hand, although it is likely.


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


Rev. Sir
After Peter told me the two Tuscarora Boys were
going with him and had written the first Letter I was told
that he had now bidden them to stay until he returns,
and if he likes the Place will come and fetch them. What
he intends to do with the two I cannot tell for they
live as he goes on his Way to New England. But I believe
this is the reason why he left them, because I had said it
was hard for them to go seeing they never had the Small­
­Pox and I was not willing they Should carry it to your
house. Moreover they were naked and the season is very
bad — they have not blankets enough at home to keep them
warm — and what is this — they have to go Matter of hundred
Miles through the Woods — the Snow three Foot deep.
I said this after the Sachem had concluded they should go —
and the eagerness of their going. I pitied the poor Children —
and knew I should be in the Blame if they caught the Pox and
carried it to your house.
The Tuscaroras are People of Civilty, I like them exceeding
well, some of them had a Mind I should live with them
but I could not, seeing I was sent to learn the Mohawks Lan
­guage and they have many kindness towards me
Sir I cannot satisfy you in writing, I had rather talk with
you Face to Face. Many Things I want to say I cannot
commit to Paper Peter is in great hurry
I went to Chenango which is about 15 Miles, about the 28
of November
to see my Relations, and tarried a Week; they
inquired of me what became of Samuel Ashpo, that used to come
among them, "we want to see him very much and hear the
Word of God preached unto us; they wanted to know when he
would come again. I told them I did not know, peradventure
he may come next Spring.
I have not a quarter discharged, his Being in haste,
I have not the exercise of my Faculty; but if you can
understand my Meaning it is well etc. I am
Sir,
Your very humble servant
Josephy Woolly.
Blank page.
from Joseph Woolley
February 9: 1765
To — The Rev.
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
in Lebanon
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.

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.

Ashpo, Samuel

Ashpo was born into a very powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and became an influential Mohegan preacher. He was converted at Mohegan during the Great Awakening, and became a schoolteacher among the Indians at Mushantuxet from 1753 until 1757 and from 1759 until 1762, when he left to attend Moor's. Between 1757 and 1759, he worked as an interpreter, and supposedly struggled with alcohol. He attended Moor's for only six months, and then continued his teaching and missionary career on successive trips to Chenango (the first was cut short because of violence in the region). On July 1, 1767, the Connecticut Board dismissed him from their service because of further charges of drinking. He continued to preach successfully to various New England Indian tribes until his death in 1795. The variations of his name exist in part because Ashpo is an abbreviated form of Ashobapow.

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