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Hezekiah Calvin, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 August 11

ms-number: 766461.2

abstract: Calvin writes about his frustrations with trying to keep a school at Fort Hunter.

handwriting: Handwriting is neat, formal and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition. There is a tear near the remnants of the seal which results in no loss of text.

signature: Signatures on both the body of the letter and the postscript are abbreviated.

layout: Letter begins on one verso, not one recto; one recto is the address page. The first page of the letter (one verso) is in portrait orientation; all other pages are in landscape orientation.

noteworthy: On one recto, in the address to the letter, "V.D.M" after Wheelock's name is an abbreviation for "Verbi dei minister" an informal designation for a Christian minister. The "A.B" after "Sir Wheelock" is an abbreviation for "artium baccalaureus," Latin for bachelor of arts.


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



Much Honoured Sir,
With great Pleasure and satisfaction I take my Pen in
Hand to try to write You a Letter, and thereby to inform you that we arrived at But­
lers berry
the 11th of July Well and safe, and Mr. Pomeroy and Sir Wheelock arrived the 17th
Sir Wheelock went in the Castle to settle a school there, and the Indians were very
much Pleased with his Discourse, and liked very well to have a school there and they
made fair promises that they would send their Children every Day Steady; and
so I entered the Castle 22nd of July in order to open the School, and I told the In­
dians that I should have been glad to opened the school on the 23rd but the Indians
were very loathe to send their Children, for what reason I know not, I went to
the Indians day after Day to get some of their Children to School, but all this
signified nothing, the Indians would make excuses that they had work for
them to do, so that they could not send them yet, but they would send them
Tomorrow, and so on till the 30th I told them I would leave them, that I could
not stay with them Doing Nothing and on the Morrow they sent Five
Children, and so on 'til Mr Wheelock came from the Upper Castle;
And then I related him all what was done, He told the Indians that
Mr Kinne would Preach to them on Sunday following Two of the Clock
in the afternoon, so the Indians gathered but they could get no In­
terpreter, for the Preacher, they got an Interpreter for Sir Wheelock
to interpret what he had to say, and so he told them that it was God’s
Day that he would have it kept for him etc. at last he told them
that he had let them have the benefit of a school master to teach
their Children and when he came in the Castle that he ex­
pected to find a dozen or fourteen Children in the School all
busy with their Books, but at his expectation, he found but
Five Children which made his heart ache and the Indians so
unwilling to send their Children “it seems that they wanted no Schooling and
then he asked them what should he do, must he take away so great a blessing that
was given them or no, but he would fain try them a little longer he would let me
stay with them till the’ fall and so he ended. The Indians replied that they would give
an Answer Wednesday following, and on Wednesday the Indians met they said they
thanked him for his good will in trying to do them a little good but what can we
do there are some that do not want schooling and we are mixed some good and some bad
they said they had been and sought out as many as wanted to have a school and they
said they could send 15 Children to school the greatest part of the time and if
Sir Wheelock thought fit to take me away why they could not help it there was
as many as were at home, by and by the rest of the Indians would come home and likely they would
have a mind to send their Children at School too, they say also that they are
going out to hunt and that they must needs take their Children with them
that they cant leave their Children alone etc. etc. — — — —
Sir if I have missed any thing or said any thing Wrong I hope your Son
will bring it right I cant tell it no straighter. I have now Eighteen scholars which
come very Steady, but it is very hard to bring them to I do my best that I can and
yet the Indians will complain that I am not severe enough will it do for me to
be a thrashing them continually, how oft have I corrected them within a Week
sometimes twice or thrice a Day I hate forever to be a whipping, whipping too
much wont do, I told them if I was not severe enough they must in consequence get a Severer one but I hope Sir in time to bring them to by the help of God
which I cannot do without, all these means wont do, they are stubborn People
sometimes I am ready to give out With these Indians and with the Pains I have, I have
a hard head ache certain time in the afternoon which sometimes is so hard that I
hardly know that I am about etc. The Indians say that I shall not come home these
three years they think that I am their servant and are obliged to keep school for them and yet they wont send their Children
It is true I should be glad to keep School here all my Days but all these things makes me
faint hearted together my wanting to see my father Mother and relations —
Oh! how glad should I be if I could do but a Little good among these savages, but yet
I think Indians will be Indians they will still follow their evil Practices. etc.
But Sir I hope you will overlook the many Blunders I have made in my haste and so re­
membering my Love to your Family and School

I remain Your Dutiful
though unworthy Servant

Hezekiah Calvin
P.S. Please Sir to send me up some stockings
by David Fowler if it pleases the and a pair
of shoes etc. Yours Hezekiah Calvin
August 11th
For the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock
Calvin’s Letter
August 11th 1766
For the Reverend
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock V.D.M.
at Lebanon
Connecticut
Per favour
Sir Wheelock
A.B.
Calvin, Hezekiah

Hezekiah Calvin was one of Eleazar Wheelock's first Native American students. Like Wheelock’s other early Delaware students, he was sent by the minister John Brainerd. Calvin was certified as a schoolteacher on March 12, 1765, and was sent to the Mohawks at Fort Hunter in June 1765. The Mohawks threw him out at the end of September 1766, and he returned to Moor's. Samuel Johnson, an Anglo-American Yale student who replaced Calvin at Fort Hunter, reported that the residents unanimously accused Calvin of being abusive and rude. Calvin, in turn, maintained that the Fort Hunter Mohawks had mistreated him. Calvin’s second stint at Moor’s did not go well. He wrote several confessions for drunkenness and bad behavior, and frequently spoke ill of Wheelock. He left the school in the spring of 1768, and took up residence with the Secutor family (Narragansett) at Charlestown, Rhode Island. Calvin left the Narragansetts sometime late in 1768, presumably after the dissolution of his relationship with Mary Secutor. Wheelock heard reports early in 1769 that Calvin had been imprisoned at Little Ease, NJ, for forging a pass for a Black man (Calvin does not appear in the county records, so either he was never indicted or Wheelock had his information wrong). By 1777, Calvin was in a position of prominence at Brotherton, NJ (a town of Christian Delawares founded under John Brainerd’s ministry). At some point after 1788, Calvin moved west with the Delawares: he may have moved directly to join the Delawares in Ohio territory, or he may have relocated to Stockbridge in 1802 and then moved west.

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.

Pomeroy, Benjamin

Benjamin Pomeroy was a school friend of Eleazar Wheelock and a lifelong supporter of his cause. Like Wheelock, he was a New Light evangelical and a staunch ally of James Davenport, a radical New Light preacher whose beliefs got him in trouble with the law. After graduating from Yale in 1733, Pomeroy received the ministry at Hebron, CT, in 1734, and assisted Wheelock in myriad ways until his own death in 1784. He kept Wheelock's school during 1746, when Wheelock's first wife, Sarah, was dying, and he tutored Occom (primarily in Hebrew) after Occom had completed his studies with Wheelock. Pomeroy also supported Wheelock as a trustee of Moor's, and, later, Dartmouth, and as a member of the Board of the Correspondents in Connecticut for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Pomeroy and Wheelock also had close family connections: Pomeroy was married to Wheelock’s sister, Abigail, and one of Pomeroy’s daughters, Hannah, married David McClure, one of Wheelock's most illustrious graduates. Outside of his liturgical career, Pomeroy served as an army chaplain in the French and Indian War and the Revolution.

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.

Fowler, David

David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.

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