Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Isaac Dakayenensere and Adam Waonwanoron, 1765 August 19

ms-number: 765469

abstract: Wheelock notes that he is pleased to hear the Indians want to build a mill and practice husbandry. He also recommends Jospeh Woolley as a schoolmaster.

handwriting: Handwriting is informal, small and tightly spaced, with several deletions and additions.

paper: Large sheet folded in half like a book is in good condition, with light wear and staining.

ink: Dark black-brown, the ink bleeds through to opposite sides.

noteworthy: Given the amount of deletions and additons, this is likely a draft. There is a partly illegible note added after the trailer in a different, likely 19th-century, hand; this note has not been transcribed. The identities of "David" and "Peter" are uncertain and so they have been left untagged; however, it is likely that they are David Fowler and Gwedelhes Agwirondongwas (Good Peter).


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


My Brethren,
Yours of July 31. I received yesterday and I am
very glad to understand that the Indians intend to
cultivate their Lands, and that they desire to have mills and to be helped in setting
up husbandry. but am Sorry to hear of your disap­
pointment, and of the misunderstanding that occas­
ioned it. — which was by means of an unskillful
Interpreter — I understood by Joseph Woolley
that the reason why he had no more Boys to teach
last winter was because the chief man did not
favour it [illegible: and] thought it not best to teach them Eng­
lish and I had understood before that the Indians did not
seem to be much disposed to practice husbandry. —
and when I represented
to Peter and David the great importance of it to the Indians
if they would I told them I would do all I could to help them and that I did not Doubt but the English would
assist them in Building Mills, getting Tools, and
teach the Indians to use them and also
set up a blacksmith Among them etc. I See
they liked it well but I did not know that
the rest of the Indians would. And I expected
they would Send me word before I did any
thing about it for that I have waited forever since — I sent for the Men as soon as I received your letter
[illegible: [guess: whom]] I had thoughts of employing they came this morning to see me but the master
workman who is a very good man is got into a poor state of
health, and not likely to be well enough very soon
and also his Son is not well and is just going to sea for his

health. If I had known what I now hear from you 4 months ago they
would likely have been with you about the [illegible] before now.
however the chief workman desires Mr. Smith and Mr. Gunn would
look out a Suitable place for the mills and See if they can
find suitable Stones for a grist mill and Send
me word. Whether they can find a good Place
how far, they must go for the stones etc. and
also where the Irons may be had whether nearer to you than Albany
And they both will be ready to come to you as Soon
as the season and their Family State will
allow of it. provided that Mr. Smith and Mr. Gunn
shall write me that which is encouraging, respecting the Place that
the Indians still desire it. —
#If you like him for your School master
and will build him a House and fence him a lot of
Lands so that he may keep a cow or two which may
give milk in the Spring, that will help these men to
live while they are about your work. —
#Joseph Woolley is accounted a very honest Young man, and
is well accomplished to teach Young Children I hope
the Indians will be very kind to him —
I am Glad to hear of your kind Reception of
Mr. Smith I hope the Indians will Love him much and treat
him as Gods messenger to you.
I give My Love to you and all among
the Indians Who Love our Lord Jesus Christ
And am
 Your Brother
Eleazar Wheelock
Letter to Dakayenen­
sere
. and Adam
Waonwanoron

at Onaquaga
August 19. 1765
Blank page.
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.

Dakayenensere, Isaac

Isaac Dakayenensere was a chief and spiritual leader at Onaquaga. Dakayenensere worked closely with Good Peter to minister to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) community at Onaquaga, a predominantly Oneida town with a diverse population. After converting during the 1740s, both men took up the mantle of evangelism and Christian education at Onaquaga. They cooperated with Gideon Hawley, an Anglo-American missionary, throughout his missions in the 1750s, and in the 1760s they began writing to Wheelock for missionaries and assistance with farming. They received Joseph Woolley, who kept school at Onaquaga from late August/early September of 1765 until his death at the end of that November, but they do not seem to have received the promised farming assistance. Dakayenensere’s daughter, Neggen Aoghyatonghsera (alias Margaret or Peggie) married Joseph Brant, a Moor’s alumnus and famous Mohawk war chief. In some scholarship, Isaac is misidentified as a Mohawk.

Waonwanoron, Adam

A resident of the Oneida community in Onaquaga, New York, and cosigner, with Isaac Dakayenensere, of correspondence with Wheelock requesting advice on and assistance with farming, milling, and religious education.

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).

Smith, Titus

Titus Smith was a Yale graduate whom Wheelock trained and ordained as a missionary and sent to the Six Nations with the 1765 mission. Together with Theophilus Chamberlain, a Yale student with whom he was examined and ordained, Smith led the band of newly-examined schoolteachers and ushers into the Six Nations to set up day schools. After Ebenezer Moseley replaced him, Smith retired from the missionary life and became an itinerant preacher in Connecticut until 1768, when he converted to Sandemanianism and was re-ordained. Because of his religion (Sandemanians opposed violence), as well as his Tory politics, Smith found himself in danger when the Revolution broke out. His family fled to Long Island, and from there to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Smith lived out his remaining years.

Gunn, Elisha

Elisha Gunn was a gunsmith who resided in Onaquaga for a number of years and served as an interpreter for several different missionary societies. Although he was a well-known interpreter in missionary circles, there is little information about him. He is identified as a resident of Montague, MA, where his three children were born, but he and his family seem to have spent much of the 1760s living in Onaquaga. It is unclear where Gunn learned Haunenosaunee (Iroquois) languages, but his services were certainly in high demand: he was the interpreter over whom the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK and the Boston Board of the New England Company clashed in 1765. One of Wheelock's main goals was to train missionaries who could serve as their own interpreters, because he believed that existing interpreters were too scarce, too expensive, and too untrained in theology. What little we know of Gunn certainly supports Wheelock's arguments. He seems to have been one of the few available interpreters (if not the only one), his services cost the New England Company £50 sterling a year (more than three times Occom's salary at the same time), and his surviving letters show a reliance on extremely phonetic spelling and suggest a lack of formal education. NB: One genealogical website puts Gunn's birth year at 1723, a decade earlier. It would be easy for a researcher to mix 1723 and 1733, especially if the record is poorly written, and neither year is unreasonable.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Isaac Dakayenensere and Adam Waonwanoron, 1765 August 19
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only