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Stephen Williams, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 December 11

ms-number: 765661

abstract: Williams writes to recommend a young man as a possible missionary.

handwriting: Handwriting is casual and frequently difficult to decipher.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear. A tear near the location of the seal results in no loss of text.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.

noteworthy: On one recto, Williams refers to “Mr. Brewster” and “Sir Brewster.” These are most likely Charles Brewster, the father of the youth, referred to as “Sir,” whom Williams is recommending.

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

Rev. And dear Sir
your surprising letter is now
before me, upon receiving it — I was ready to say: Great, and
marvelous are thy works, Lord God almighty, just, and
true, are thy ways, thou King of Saints
etc. and Even to put
up that prayer, that All nations might come and worship
before him, who only is holy
etc. what matter is it, of joy, and
rejoicing, that the time is coming, when God, will be more abundantly
feared, and glorified on Earth, than hither to, he has been; when all na­
­tions of the world, shall come as a willing people unto God, and
own, and Honour him, and pay their solemn Adorations to him etc.
the Lord, who is not unrighteous, to forget [illegible][guess: that] work, and La
­bour of Love, which any have showed towards his name
, I trust
will reward, those that have so freely, and generously Given of their
wordly substance, to promote, the noble and pious design of gospeliz
ing, the poor indians etc. — .
dear Sir, your letter came to me last Evening, so that it is impossi
ble for me, to See Sir Brewer — before Mr. Brewer returns; Sir Brewer's
character is good, he is esteemed a pious man, his carriage and
Behaviour very different from the wild airy youths who are rea­
­dy, to despise him, for his Gravity and seriousness, and because he will
not run with him, into [illegible] [illegible] riot etc. —. he is accounted a good
Scholar — calm, and Sedate in his temper — but he is of a tender
or rather broken constitution, occasioned by his able application to
his Studies; what his inclination, would be, as to Such an under­
taking I dont know — nor how his friends, would be disposed I cant
Say, but suspect, they, would be unwilling, he Should engage etc.
but, I shall take an opportunity to talk with the young Gentle­
­man himself, without making a noise about the matter; and if
I find it is worth while, to advertise you of it, I Shall.
my most respect
ful, and affectionate Salutations to yourself, Mrs. Wheelock, and your children.
 from your unworthy Brother and Fellow Servant
Stephen Williams
From Rev. Stephen
December 11. 1765.
For The Rev.
Mr. Eleazer Wheelock

Blank page.
Williams, Stephen
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.

Brewer, Charles
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.


In the diaires of Stephen Williams, Williams mentions speaking with the son of Mr. Charles Brewer "about his undertaking a mission to the indians," and goes on to say that young Mr. Brewer "appears to a modest, & Serious young man."

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