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Theophilus Chamberlain, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 October 27

ms-number: 766577.2

abstract: Chamberlain writes from his mission to report a great improvement in school and church attendance. He states that, in light of it, he intends to remain.

handwriting: Handwriting is small and crowded, yet formal and largely legible. Letter case is frequently difficult to decipher, especially with regard to D, S and M. It is also difficult to differentiate between commas and periods.

paper: Large sheet folded in half is in good condition, with light creasing, staining and wear.

noteworthy: On one verso, second line from the bottom, the word God[illegible]ars may be a reference to “Godars,” an element of germanic pagan traditions.


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


Rev. Sir
In a letter of the fourth of this Month I informed
you of a New disposition we were making here with
respect to the schoolmasters and Schools. This was com
pleted and we began to act upon it the thirteenth, and
beyond all Expectation it succeeded so well that our
Schools which at most had not for Some Time exceeded
ten Children, in less than one week exceeded thirty, and
we have now near all the Children who live anything
handy and are not in the Woods. There are indeed two
Families in this castle who have never sent the Children
to School and never would. The Fathers of these Families
(are about forty years of age), men who rarely appear
in Public unless tis to get drunk. Last Week the
Indians met to rejoice together at the Birth of a Child.
I went to the Place where they were assembled, found
these two men not yet intoxicated; and as my Interpreter
was not present asked them in my own broken manner
they had fit to go to School, they both answered they
had three and immediately fell to raising little objections
against sending them to school; all which I did my utmost
to remove; and at Length got a promise, and shall I think
have the Six at School as soon as the hunting season now
commencing is at an End. And there is a prospect that would
Mr. Johnson continue at fort Hunter and no new disgust
takes Place among the Indians either here or there, we
shall in both Places have the Schools attended as con=
stantly as any common Schools in New England. The
Parents now put their Children under our Care, and at
this Place as soon as the Signal for coming to School
has been given, the scholars run to School or else
darest not let me see them for they know the
next is a whipping. The happy Effect of a severer
discipline than has been hitherto used in these Towns
will I hope [illegible][guess: Daly] be more and more apparent.
This seeming Reformation is not confined to the
schools, the People have begin to attend meeting more
universally and more constantly than they have ever
before done since I came to these Parts. I had
threatened to leave them on Account of their Neglect
But cannot (I rejoice at it) now do it without
having it said that I only made an excuse of
that to get away, and would not stay after they were
careful to attend. I cant say that the Indians are
eager or sufficiently careful to attend meeting yet
they do come together in their own Time and where less
than a month ago I had not above a Dozen or fifteen
Hearers I have now nigh a hundred though some of them
whites; for the Dutch in those Parts having no preaching
begin in small numbers to attend our Meetings. They are
a bigoted People and suspicious of our Differing from them
in Principles as we omit God[illegible]ars and other ceremonies
in Baptism. upon the whole the present prospect is such
that nothing short of necessity will prevent my staying
and improving to the utmost the present Juncture.
But when I think how fast my debts increase here dont know
what to think. hope soon to be helped. Duty to Madam Love to all
Rev. Sir
your unworthy Servant
Theophilus Chamberlain
To Rev. Mr. Wheelock

from Rev. Mr. Chamberlain
October 27th 1766
To
The Rev. Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
in
New England
Chamberlain, Theophilus

Theophilus Chamberlain was a Yale graduate and missionary employed by Wheelock. His interest in Indian ministry may have started during the French and Indian War, when he was taken captive by a tribe allied with the French (it is unclear which tribe) at Fort William Henry and spent a year in Nova Scotia. After his return to New England, Chamberlain attended Yale. Wheelock recruited Chamberlain, along with fellow Yale graduate Titus Smith, to spearhead Moor's 1765 mission to the Six Nations. Chamberlain was examined as a missionary on March 12, 1765, and ordained on April 24, 1765. During the mission, he was stationed at Canajoharie (the Mohawk "Upper Castle") and oversaw the mission to the Mohawks. While on his mission, he converted to Sandemanianism, a decision that profoundly shaped the rest of his life. It is difficult to evaluate his efficacy as a missionary: he had high praise for himself, and David Fowler said the Mohawks were affectionate towards him, but Occom described him as overzealous. Chamberlain served the duration of his contract, but clashed with Wheelock afterwards over who was responsible for debts he had incurred on his mission (e.g. transportation costs, support for schoolmasters and interpreters). After departing from Wheelock's service, Chamberlain was ordained as a Sandemanian bishop. He fled to New York and later Nova Scotia during the American Revolution because of his religious and political beliefs. In Nova Scotia, Chamberlain oversaw the establishment of the settlement of Preston.

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, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

Johnson, Samuel

Samuel Johnson was a Yale student who, after first traveling to Canajoharie, taught the school at Fort Hunter (the smaller Mohawk town) from October 1766 until at least February 1767, possibly as late as June. Johnson returned to Yale by July 1767. Wheelock may have provided him with some financial support at college up until the end of 1767, when Johnson and Wheelock parted ways. It is possible that Johnson simply decided he did not want to be an Indian missionary, and, thus, withdrew from Wheelock’s support. It is more likely that the pair split over Wheelock’s treatment of his students. Johnson’s last letter to Wheelock expressed his opposition to Wheelock’s plan to pull Avery and McClure out of college for missions (767667.5); Johnson may have feared he would meet the same fate. Four years later, he wrote to Samuel Kirkland about Wheelock’s mistreatment of Crosby, whom Wheelock expelled from Dartmouth, and David Avery, whom Wheelock required to repay large portions of his tuition because his health prevented him from serving as a missionary. Johnson graduated from Yale in 1769, was ordained the same year, and served as a minister at New Lebanon, New York and West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 1780, he converted to the Shaker faith, along with his wife, their children, and much of his former New Lebanon Congregation.

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