Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
David Fowler, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 August 26

ms-number: 766476.2

abstract: Fowler writes to Wheelock, bitterly protesting the treatment he has received for purchasing what Wheelock thinks are too costly items at Mr. Breed’s store.

handwriting: Largely clear and legible, but with many deletions and overwrites.

paper: Wide sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear. Much of the wax seal remains.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: Wheelock’s response, with echoes from this letter, is document number 766476.1.


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


Rev. and Honoured Sir,
I think it very hard that
I must be blamed so much as I have been since my Return
from home, and all for taking up those things at
Mr. Breeds, when I had Orders from Mr. Whee­
lock
to get them, for which I am now accounted
a Devil or proud as the Devil. After you have re­
peatedly and manifestly told me that I should
have whatsoever I wanted; If you denied me when
I came to ask for them; I should not feel half so bad
as I do now, or if you told me in a mild Manner
when I got home: those things which you got
were too good and too costly, you must not have
them, I should not resist you —. You know,
Sir, I have always been governed and ad
vised by you with all ease imaginable. —
—. This brings into my mind what Treat­
ment I met since I came here. yea it is shame
ful, when I have been so faithful to you as if I was
your Negro, yea I have almost killed myself
in Labouring. — I have done hitherto all what
laid in my Power to help you; I think I can
say and believe you too that I have done more
Service to you than all the rest of the Indian
Boys. and now I am too bad to live in the house for
one of my missteps, therefore I must leave you
and your School this very Day and go weeping
in the Road homeward
I am grieved that I have troubled you so much as I have.
I am sorry those things were not denied me at
first and then it would been all well and easy
before now. — But assure you, Sir, you
shall receive Payment from me yearly 'til
every farthing be paid, it shall not be said
all that Money and Pains which was spent
for David Fowler an Indian was for Nought I can
get Payment as well as white Man. O Dear me!
I cant say no more, I am
your unworthy Servant,
David Fowler
David Fowler's
August 26. 1766.
To the Rev.
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
in
Lebanon
Blank page.
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.

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.

Breed, Gershom

Breed was a vendor who traded with Occom and Wheelock. His wares included food, building materials, alcohol, clothing, and finished metal goods. He was a staunch Wheelock supporter, and helped hold and deliver mail for Wheelock, as well as sending his (possibly first-born) son, John McLaren Breed, to Wheelock's school (J. Breed went on to graduate from Yale in 1768). While Occom was abroad, he was more lenient in supplying goods to Mary Occom than other local vendors, such as Captain Shaw, but eventually, he too refused to sell to her on credit.

HomeDavid Fowler, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 August 26
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only