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Blackleach Burritt, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 March 27

ms-number: 766227

abstract: Burritt, reluctant yet undecided regarding Wheelock's invitation to become a missionary among the Indians, requests more information.

handwriting: Handwriting is largely clear and legible; however, letter case is frequently difficult to decipher, especially with regard to the letter S.

paper: Large single sheet is in fair condition, with moderate staining, creasing and wear. There is some repair work on one verso along particularly heavy creases.

ink: Black ink is faded.


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


Rev. and worthy Sir
I received yours of March 12 wherein you informed me there
was 3 missionaries wanting; to send among the Indian Tribes,
and you desired me to take the Matter into consideration, to
see If I could find myself willing to undertake such a work;
I have thought much about it since then, both Sleeping and waking,
I must confess it appears a great undertaking, but a laudable
one for those that are qualified: may God succeed you in prosecuting
the Affair, and qualify Labourers, and Send them into the Heathen
Country, and give them the light of the knowledge of his son.
I am in GREAT MEASURE unqualified for such an undertaking,
for it needs the wisdom of the serpent mixed with the
innocence of the dove in a peculiar manner. I but lately Come out of
College, and have not Studied divinity long, and suspect my
Knowledge in divinity is not Sufficient; but If you cannot get
others, I dare not at present Say I will not undertake, for I know
that most men are backward to undertake in that business,
God can work by weak means and oft times does that the praise
and Glory may Redound to himself. It is lamentable to see how the
Gospel is treated by it's professors, where it is freely promulgated, and
to think there are thousands that are perishing for lack of vision.
Please Sir to inform me (by the Bearer or the first opportunity) in
these 4 Points. 1 whether the Indians Petition for missionaries,
secondly, how they treat them, and their messages, thirdly how missionaries fare
as to shelter, food, and lodging, and fourthly how much you allow them, for I
have no money of my own to support myself with, If the prospect
of being useful appears considerable, I feel myself favourably inclined
I am going home to see my Parents about it this week, I know not
how to Spend time to go on a Journey now, if I do I fear I shall not
be prepared for Examination this may Coming. if you
must have a positive answer before Election please Sir to
tell me if not I will Give you an answer then, if you will be at
Harford, I beg Liberty being in haste to subscribe myself your
Sincere Well-wisher and very Humble Servant
Blackleach Burritt
PS Please Sir to give my compliments to Sir Wheelock your son,
and sir Kinne. Sir Potter and Yale send suitable regards to
Mr. Wheelock, and Compliments to Sir Wheelock and Kinne
March 27 AD 1766
Letter from Mr. Blackleach.
Burrett
. March. 27. 1766.
Burritt, Blackleach
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, Rodulphus

Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.

Kinne, Aaron

Aaron Kinne was a Congregationalist minister and scholar who, like Titus Smith and Theophilus Chamberlain, worked as a missionary for Wheelock after graduating from Yale. After his 1765 graduation, he taught and studied at Moor's for a year before making two trips as a missionary in 1766: one to Maine to report on the local Indian tribes, and one to the Oneidas, the latter being cut short by poor health. He returned in the summer of 1768 to substitute for Samuel Kirkland. Kinne was ordained in 1770 and became the minister of the Congregationalist church at Groton, Connecticut, where he served until he was dismissed in 1798. He also became a prolific scholar, and during the Revolution, served as chaplain to American troops, including those massacred at the Battle of Fort Griswold. After dismissal from Groton, Kinne lived in a variety of locations in New England and was sporadically employed as a missionary. He died in Ohio while visiting one of daughters.

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