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Joseph Fish, letter, to Nathaniel Whitaker, 1766 July 30

ms-number: 766430

abstract: Fish writes to Whitaker about his mission to the Narragansetts, and about the visit he and his wife made to Mrs. Whitaker.

handwriting: Handwriting is formal and clear, yet it has been dimmed by preservation work. The trailer appears to be in Whitaker's hand.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages has been heavily reinforced, which makes it difficult to gauge the condition of the paper. It appears to be in poor condition, with heavy staining, creasing and wear that results in some loss of text.

ink: Brown ink is faded, and dimmed by the reinforcement.

noteworthy: An unknown editor has written the letter X in spots on the document. These edits have not been included in the transcription.

signature: Fish signs the document three times: once in full, twice with initials.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


Rev. and Dear
 Sir,
It was my unhappiness that I could not find a
leisure hour or two, for free conversation [gap: hole][guess: with] you, before you Em
‐barked for England. your Departure and important design, lay wi[gap: tear][guess: th]
Weight upon my Mind, as it has done ever Since. And it was m[gap: tear][guess: y]
fixed purpose to let you know my special Regard and Concern
for you and cause, by earlier writing: but have been so p[gap: worn_edge][guess: er]
‐petually crowded with business, chiefly of a public nature;
that I cant say I have been at Liberty to write you,
when opportunity presented, 'til now I snatch a few minutes
for that purpose.
 The Situation of the Indian Charity School, Doings of the
Board, missions etc.: I leave to the hands that are employed
in those public affairs; which, conclude, you will here‐
with, have full account of.— Only observe, That the day of
the Dear and excellent Mr. Kirtlands Ordination, appeared
to me very glorious, promising great and good events. — Can[gap: tear][guess: t]
but hope the issue will be, The Advancement of the Re‐
deemers Kingdom. —
 While Such important Steps are taken, to carry the
Gospel among the Savages, of far distant Tribes, it may,
perhaps afford you and Friends; some additional pleasure,
to hear that Learning and Religion are hopefully, reviving, a‐
mong some of the Indians near at hand
 besides the Indian School and Lectures, among the Indians
of my own parish, which I've had the Care of for Many years,
At the earnest Request of the Honourable Commissioners Boston,
I have for nine months Past, been much engaged for the
Indians of King Ninigrets Tribe, in Charlestown Rhode‐
‐Island
; where there are above Seventy Indian Families and
more than Three hundred Souls, pretty much in a Body
together.— Authorized as above, I appointed them an
English Schoolmaster, of good Capacity and well disposed, for
the business, (to be Supported by the Commissioners,)— Set them
up a commodious schoolhouse, in which, (though unfinished,)
the Master lives and the School is Steadily kept. He had, last
winter, (in a private house,) above fourscore Indian scholars
in a day, and about 120 that came to School, at times,
and their Proficiency at Reading and Writing was very consi‐
derable. That last being chiefly called off to business, this
Summer, he has, of a smaller class, about Thirty that
generally attend his School and the number is increasing.
 I visit and Preach to them about once a month —
Have a considerable assembly of Serious, Attentive In‐
dian Hearers, who profess Satisfaction, beyond my Thought.
For they have had Religion Among them these Twenty
years, and an Indian ordained Minister, for a number of years:
but they are all of the separate Stamp,— Very Ignorant:
scarce any of them able to read a word,— unhappily leavened with,
yea full of false Religion, — tenacious of their wild Imaginations
and visionary things, (which they cannot bear to hear touched,
though they'll readily hear the opposite Truths,) And, 'til now,
Set against, at least, mortally afraid of the Standing Ministers.—
So that I must think my self highly favoured, by the Respect
they show to my person and Regard for my Labours among them.
Am in hopes they will, by little and little, come off from their
wild notions, and have a relish for nothing but Truth.
 Oh that I may have no other View but their best good,
and the Redeemers Intrest. —
 I have been much in Journeying, Since you left us.
Last Week, returning, with my Wife, from visiting our children
New Haven, we Spent an hour at your house, Chelsea. And
had the pleasure of Dining and conversing with your Dear
Wife: It afforded us real Satisfaction, to See Mrs. Whitaker,
with her Little ones all about her, [illegible] not only in perfect
Health, but more especially, to find her cheerful, Sociable
and entertaining, (as usual,) — Evidence that She has happily
overcome the late Severe Trials of parting with her best Friend.
She Seems really to enjoy herself as well as your absence can
admit, — your very desirable Children appear with that
Decorum that be[illegible][guess: comes] a well ordered Family. It is rare to See So
fine, So lovely a Child, as that of yours, which you never Saw.
Mr. Woodward, ('til now unknown to me,) appears to be Sui‐
tably attentive to the good of the Family. — I thought him
quite an agreeable, Obliging young gentleman. — On the Whole,
was well pleased with the economy of your house.—
May you, in due season, return successful, and happ[gap: tear][guess: ily]
find your Tabernacle in peace. —
 My Time is Out— Have only to wish you much [gap: tear][guess: of]
the Divine presence, The smiles of Heaven on your Im‐
portant undertaking,— The Hearts and Hands of all
Britain for new full supplies.— That you may, in all res‐
pects, conduct with the utmost prudence and Fidelity, — Be
kept unspotted from the Vanities of the World, And return
to us richly laden with the virtues, the Rarities of our
mother Country, And am, Dear Sir, with high Esteem,

your very Sincere Friend and unworthy Brother,
Joseph Fish
P.S. My hearty Regards to the Rev.
Mr. Occom — am really glad
to hear that he Stands firm, — be‐
haves so well, and meets with so
much Respect. — The Lord keep
him from Pride, Self-Exaltation,
and the Vices of the Place and Times.—
Yours and his J. F.
I know not of any Other Man, that I am acquainted with in London
or Europe, except the Rev. Mr. Whitefield: Am very glad and thank‐
ful that he takes proper Notice of you, and So much befriends the
cause. Let my k[gap: tear] Love and Service be acceptable to him. J. F.
Rev. N[gap: tear][guess: athaniel Whitaker]
From Rev. Mr. Joseph
Fish
Stonington
July 30 1766

Fish
To
The Rev. Mr. Nathaniel Whitaker
In
London
To be left at the New England Coffee House
Fish, Joseph

Joseph Fish was a moderate Congregationalist minister who held the pulpit at North Stonington, CT, from 1731 until his death in 1781. He is notable as 1) an ally of Wheelock and a member of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, 2) a moderate in the throes of the Great Awakening, and 3) a missionary to the Pequots and Narragansetts. The first point requires no explanation; the second two are closely related. Fish graduated from Harvard in 1728 and took a temporary post at Stonington in 1731. He was so popular with the congregation that they offered him a permanent position. For the first 10 years of his ministry all was well, but the Great Awakening segmented his congregation. The problem was that Fish was not strongly opposed to or strongly in favour of the Awakening, which led his church to split into not two, but three factions. As Fish's congregation dwindled so did his salary; however, when other congregations offered him their pulpits, what was left of the North Stonington congregation interfered, jealously guarding Fish's services. In addition to his career as a minister, Fish acted as a missionary to Native Americans throughout his life. From the 1730s on, he delivered sermons to the nearby Pequots and employed a schoolmaster for them (his employees included Moor's alumni John Shattock Jr. and Jacob Fowler). In 1765, Fish also began preaching to the Charlestown Narragansetts. He secured financial support from the Boston Board of the New England Company to open a school there as well, and hired Edward Deake to fill the post. However, Fish did not get along well with the Narragansetts, who had an established indigenous ministry, led by Samuel Niles and based around separatist principles. For Bible-centric Fish, illiterate and popular Samuel Niles was a ministerial nightmare. Fish and Deake served the Narragansetts until the mid-1770s, when the tribe politely requested that they stop.

Whitaker, Nathaniel

Nathaniel Whitaker was an outspoken Presbyterian minister with a long and wide-ranging career. Between his ordination in 1755 and his death in 1795, Whitaker ministered to five different congregations. His longest tenure was at Chelsea, CT (near Norwich), from 1761-1769, during which he joined Occom on his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Britain. While in Chelsea, Whitaker was very involved in Wheelock's project. The two engaged in frequent correspondence, and Whitaker served on Eleazar Wheelock's Board of Correspondents in Connecticut, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School. At one time, he was Wheelock's presumed successor, but Dartmouth's Trustees demanded that Wheelock appoint another. Wheelock, in part due to his strongly-held belief that Native Americans were childlike and rash, was convinced that Occom needed an Anglo-American supervisor on his fundraising tour. After several candidates turned down the job, Wheelock selected Whitaker. He proved to be a poor choice; he was, by many accounts, a difficult man to get along with, and many of Wheelock’s British allies, including George Whitefield and the English Trust (the organization that took control of the money Occom raised in England) preferred to deal with Occom, although Whitaker insisted on handling the tour’s logistics. Furthermore, in Britain, Occom was the obvious star of the tour, and it was unclear to many why Whitaker asserted himself so prominently. Whitaker’s poor decisions seriously alienated the English Trust and increased their suspicion of Wheelock’s later dealings and treatment of Occom. He gave the English Trust the impression that they would have control over money raised in Scotland (which was in fact lodged with the parent organization of the SSPCK), and he was the executor of the “Eells Affair,” a plan initiated by the CT Board of the SSPCK to bring the money that Occom and Whitaker raised back to the colonies by investing it in trade goods and selling them at a profit (Eells was one of the merchants who was to help with the resale of goods). The English Trust learned about the plan by reading letters that Whitaker had given them permission to open in his absence, and were immediately shocked. The wording of certain letters made it appear that only a percentage of the profit from the resale of the goods would go towards Moor’s Indian Charity School, but beyond that detail, the English Trust was scandalized at the thought of money raised for charity being invested in trade. The English Trust blamed Whitaker entirely for these affairs, and issued specific instructions for Occom to notarize all documents requiring Whitaker’s signature. In short, they wanted Occom to supervise Whitaker, when Wheelock had envisioned the opposite relationship (both Occom and Whitaker seem to have ignored their instructions, preferring to have as little contact with one another as possible). In 1769, a year after his return to Connecticut in 1768, Whitaker found himself dismissed by his Chelsea congregation (likely because he had spent two and a half years away from them). He went on to serve several more congregations before his death in 1795. Whitaker was an outspoken Whig, and during the Revolution he published several pamphlets on his political opinions.

Whitaker, Sarah (née Smith)

Sarah Whitaker (maiden name Smith) was the wife of the prominent Presbyterian minister Nathaniel Whitaker. They had seven or eight children, the first being born in 1756. She wrote to him and raised their children while Nathaniel was away on his fundraising tour with Samson Occom (1765-1768). She must have lived at least until the birth of their last child, Jonathan Whitaker (born December 10, 1771), but she does not appear in the historical record after that time.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

Ninigret, Thomas

Thomas Ninigret was the grandson of George Ninigret, the 17th-century Narragansett sachem made famous by his relationship with Roger Williams, the English minister who founded Rhode Island. In 1746, Thomas Ninigret became the Sachem of the Narragansett tribe, a position he would hold until his death. Like his predecessors, Ninigret sold large amounts of historically Niantic land (which the Narragansett sachems took possession of when the Niantics and the Narragansetts merged in 1680) to the colony of Rhode Island. Ninigret also accrued vast amounts of personal debt; his legendary spending is accredited to the time he spent in England receiving education, a period which many of his tribe believe made Ninigret a stranger to the Narragansett way of life. As a result, some Narragansetts attempted to convince the Rhode Island legislature to slow the land sales, and even petitioned for Ninigret's removal from the Sachemship. Wheelock took note of Ninigret's destructive behavior and wrote Governor Hopkins in 1767 to appeal for a moratorium on the sale of Niantic/Naragansett land. Ultimately, land sales did slow as the Narragansett people continued to petition the Rhode Island legislature, but only a small amount of Narragansetts remained living in Rhode Island by 1812. Ninigret, often sarcastically referred to as "King Tom," is remembered as the most costly ruler in the Ninigret line.

Deake, Edward

Edward Deake was an Anglo-American missionary and schoolmaster born in Rhode Island in 1732. After receiving reluctant approval from the Narragansett tribal council for the support of a schoolhouse and schoolmaster on Nov. 26 1765, Reverend Joseph Fish, who had been living among the Narragansetts, hired Edward Deake to serve as schoolmaster to the tribe in Charlestown, Rhode Island. Funded by the New England Company, Deake taught his students to read English, write, and cypher, following the pattern of other missionary schools for Native people in New England. Out of 151 school-aged Narragansetts, 53 students, boys and girls, attended Deake’s school. Deake regularly consulted a council of Indians for input on the best course of action for educating his students. In addition to his 24 pounds per year salary, Deake also received living quarters for himself and his family in the schoolhouse. After Tobias Shattock left for England in 1767, Deake became the main recruiter among the Narragansetts for Wheelock’s school, often corresponding with Wheelock to recommend students. But the Narragansetts, under the leadership of the charismatic Native preacher Samuel Niles, soon became disillusioned with Fish and Deake, distrusting the purpose and motivations of the school and fearing the colonial appropriation of their lands and right to self-government. In 1770, Narragansett leader John Shattock Sr. told Fish that the Narragansetts wanted Deake to leave, and attendance at Deake’s school evaporated in the next few years. Finally, on January 2, 1776, Deake requested relief from his position as schoolmaster and left soon after. There is some evidence he moved to New York state and worked as a minister. Deake died in 1794.

Niles, Samuel
Fish, Rebecca (née Pabodie)
Woodward, Bezaleel

Bezaleel Woodward was an integral figure at Dartmouth College and the greater Hanover community; and like that of Eleazar Wheelock, Woodward’s career consisted of a blend of education, religion, and local affairs. After attending Moor’s and graduating from Yale in 1764, he became a preacher. Upon his return to Lebanon in late 1766, he began to hold various positions at Moor’s and became the first tutor of college department in 1768. Woodward later was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Dartmouth College, as well as a member and clerk of the Board of Trustees. In 1772, he solidified his connection to Wheelock even further by marrying Wheelock’s daughter, Mary. Woodward also held numerous titles outside of the school. He was an elder of the Presbytery and attained multiple appointments in the local court system. A natural leader, Woodward was an influential member and clerk of several committees, representing both Hanover and the Dresden college district. He was thus a leading figure in the Western Rebellion, promoting several towns’ secession from New Hampshire and union with Vermont. Although Woodward resigned from his professorship in 1778, supposedly disassociating himself from Dartmouth while he engaged in politics, it was merely a formality. Upon Wheelock’s death, Woodward acted as president of the college from April to October 1779. Woodward continued to perform many of the executive tasks even after Wheelock’s son and successor, John Wheelock, took over the position, and also held the late Wheelock’s post of treasurer. Claiming to be finished with politics, he officially returned to Dartmouth as tutor in 1782, and performed the president’s duties while Wheelock was abroad in 1782 and 1783. Nonetheless, Woodward continued to participate in local affairs — in 1783 he unsuccessfully attempted to have the New Hampshire General Assembly approve Dresden’s status as a separate town; and in 1786, he became the county treasurer and register of deeds. Woodward remained a prominent figure at Dartmouth and the surrounding area throughout his life. He was, for instance, involved in the construction of Dartmouth Hall in 1784, and was part of the committee formed in 1788 to regulate the contested use of the fund raised by Occom and Whitaker in Great Britain for Moor’s. Woodward died August 25, 1804, at the age of 59.

Whitefield, George

George Whitefield, the English itinerant preacher who helped spark the Great Awakening, was an essential supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s project. Whitefield studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the pioneers of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. He was ordained in 1736, and he made the first of his seven trips to America two years later. While abroad in 1740, Whitefield founded an orphanage in Georgia, and went on a preaching tour during which he met Wheelock and spread ideals that prompted the Great Awakening. Although Whitefield was ordained in the Church of England, his enthusiastic preaching style and charismatic personality made him a controversial figure, and traditional clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic censured him. Nonetheless, he continued to be an important contact and friend of Wheelock’s, and his dedication to Wheelock’s vision was evident. He contributed money to the cause, secured various other funders, and donated an eighty-pound prayer bell to the school. More importantly, Whitefield not only suggested to Wheelock the idea of a fundraising tour in Great Britain, he hosted Occom and Whitaker shortly after they arrived in England, provided a house for them to reside in for the remainder of their tour, and introduced the pair to influential figures such as William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth. Whitefield tabernacle’s was the setting of Occom’s first sermon in England on February 16, 1766, and many believe that Whitefield wrote the introduction to a pamphlet printed in London during the campaign (although he was not credited). Whitefield continued to be involved in Wheelock’s work until he died in Newburyport, MA in September of 1770.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
HomeJoseph Fish, letter, to Nathaniel Whitaker, 1766 July 30
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