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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to David Fowler, 1766 August 26

ms-number: 766476.1

abstract: Wheelock replies to Fowler’s complaints of mistreatment in Fowler’s letter of the same day.

handwriting: Hand is small and loose, with many abbreviations and superscripts.

paper: Large sheet is in good condition, with light yellowing and wear.

ink: Dark brown.

noteworthy: This letter is written in response to a letter from David Fowler (document 766476.2).


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



David Fowler
I this minute received yours and am Sorry to find
that you are not yet come to your right Temper of mind,
— Who has called you a Devil, or Said you are as proud as the
Devil Since you came here? Who has ever Said that you have
not behaved well in the main since you lived with me, or
that I have not sat as much by you and expected as much
benefit to the Grand design as by any Indian I ever Educated
or there has there been any Indian that I haven't been more friendly
to than to you and your character — Have I ever said that you have not done
more for my Benefit than all the Indians I ever had etc.
and now you say I am too bad to live in the House for one
of my missteps therefore I must leave you and your School that very
Day and go weeping in the Road homeward — Now David
consider a Little. is this Just comely and reasonable Treat­
­ment of me. Have I said worse of you or to you than that I was
afraid that the [illegible][guess: Bid] of [guess: your] [illegible] aspired after such grandeur as was not
for the glory of God and could not consist with the good of the general
design in View — that when I had given you leave to get every
thing that you Wanted for the design and told you I begrudged you
nothing that was necessary for you — that you should affect to clothe yourself
and Hannah like Courtiers and when you knew that I had been already
reproached through the Country, as I have been only for letting you wear
an old Velvet Coat that was given to you — I told you that the Eyes
of All Europe and America were upon you and me too. and the Eyes of
thousands who are unfriendly and will not fail to Catch at any
occasion to reproach me and the design —I told you it was no
interest of mine but only the honour and interest of Christ that I was
pleading for, and the success of that cause which has been so long on my [illegible]
and in which I have so much laboured and worn out myself — and which certain
­ly as nearly concerns you as me to labour to promote — did you
not when I was only inquiring whether it was prudent and best for you to
have so many as 4 pair of shoes at once rise up and with a very unbe
coming Air go out the Room and Say I will have no shoes I'll wear
Indian shoes — and how you and Hannah have Spent your free Hours
yesterday and today I know not — Or how you will live or
when you will serve together I know not I wish your setting out were
more in the meekness and Humility of Christ — as for my own part great
as the prospects of your usefulness are, (and they are very great
if you will take God with you.) I dont at all desire you should return
to Oneida with your present Tempers — nor am I at all afraid but I
can fully Vindicate my own Reputation, take what course you will —
I suppose you cant reasonably think it unjust if the Whole and
plain Truth comes to the Light of the world, if I am put upon my
own Vindication — nor do I think you can feel very easy
if you should go 'til you return to me again which I promise myself
you will do as Soon as you return to God. My Heart is the same
and as full of kindness and Good will towards you as ever it has
been. and I am as ready to do anything that will honour Christ
and promote the salvation of the Souls of the poor Indians as
ever I was — but I have no notion of sending any man who is
aiming to set up himself instead of Christ Jesus as the object of their worship
and when you Will appear the Same as you have heretofore done
you Will find me the same
I am
your sincere Well wisher
Eleazar Wheelock
Letter to David Fowler.
at his Study. August 26. 1766.
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.

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.

Fowler, Hannah (née Garrett)

Hannah Fowler (née Garrett) was a Pequot woman who married David Fowler. The Garrett family boasted sachems and interpreters and was influential among the Stonington Pequots. Hannah grew up among the Charlestown Narragansetts, as her parents had affiliated with that tribe (a not-uncommon occurrence, given the close ties between the groups, especially in the realm of Christian spirituality). At Charlestown, Hannah received her basic education and was recruited for Moor’s Indian Charity School. She studied at the school from 1763 until she married David Fowler in 1766. Hannah and David’s marriage is especially noteworthy because it is the only instance where a female Moor’s student married a Native American missionary from Moor’s and joined him on missions — which had been Wheelock’s intent in admitting Native American women in the first place. Hannah assisted David on his mission to Kanawalohale from the time of their marriage in 1766 until his departure for Montauk in 1767. In 1783, the pair moved to Brothertown, where their house was the town center. Both Fowlers proved influential in town affairs, and their children and grandchildren also played a central role in the town’s administration.

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