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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Messrs. Peck, Mason, and Austin, 1766 November 5

ms-number: 766605.2

abstract: Wheelock writes, for possible publication, to correct assertions made by the New England Company about its relationship to, and support of, Occom.

handwriting: Handwriting is small and informal, yet mostly clear and legible. It is not Wheelock's.

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

ink: Dark-brown.

noteworthy: The contents of this document are nearly identical to those of manuscript 766605.2.

signature: The signature is not in Wheelock's hand.

events: Occom’s First Mission to the Oneidas, Occom leaves his studies, Occom’s Mission to the Montauks, Occom’s Mission to the Montauks, Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


Dear Messrs. Peck
Mason and Austin
 Sirs
Mr. Peck has favoured me with a Copy of Mr. Whita‐
ker
's Letter to you, and by that I have an account of Mr. Oliver's Letter to
Governor Mauduit, and it seems a little strange that the Honourable Board
in whose Name he wrote so long accounted Mr. Occom to be in
their Pay, and yet after all make so many mistakes in their histo
ry of him, and that too when it is the Result of a Meeting, and designed
as their Testimony of Facts, sent to the Honourable Society in London
to Certify them so circumstantially, as that they might not be
imposed upon by deceivers.
Some defects in their Narrative you may see by comparing
the following particulars with what they assert.
1. Mr. Occom (as well as many others of that Tribe) was un
doubtedly a Pagan 'til he was above Sixteen years old. And had never
so much as heard that there was such a person as Jesus Christ.
2. None ever said anything to me about taking Mr. Occom under
my instruction, or was ever any way moving in that Matter, that I
ever knew of, but his Mother, before he came to live with me upon Trial.
3. Mr. Pomeroy never had any concern, but only as a Friend, when
my Family were unable to bear the Burden of the School, by
Reason of sickness, he did at my desire, take the School, with my
son-in-law (Mr. Maltby) the Master of it to his House, where
it continued, as I remember the better part of a year. But he depen‐
ded upon me to Support Mr. Occom, and it was at my risk as
much as ever.
4. Mr. Occom had been long confined by sore sickness, before he
came to me, and was then, and all the Time he was with me in a Low
state of Health, though in the main mending, 'til he went from me
to serve them as schoolmaster and public Teacher, at Mon
tauk
, on Long-Island. And he was in as good state of Health
when he went away as I ever knew him to be. And it was
by the Importunity of Mr. Horton missionary of the Honourable Society in
Scotland
that I was persuaded to let Mr. Occom go to take his place
there.
5. Mr. Occom after he had officiated some time as a preacher there,
was ordained by the Presbytery of Suffolk County on Said Island, and
still continues to be a Member of the Same:
6. The ministers in this Government had no hand in Sending Mr. Occom on
his first mission to the Six Nations. See the account of that in Mr.
Bostwick's Letter to the praeses of directors and printed at the End of
Mr. Randalls Sermon before the Society in Scotland January 3 176[illegible][guess: 3]
7. Mr. Occom was as much in the Pay of the Boston Commissioners before
the New York Commissioners sent him on this mission as he was afterwards
so far as I ever knew. And his circumstances were as needy 'til
he was relieved by that public Contribution at New York as ever I knew
them to be. Nor did I ever understand that the New York Commissioners
ever asked consent of the Boston Board to Send him
8. The Boston Commissioners paid only part of his Debts, when application
was made to them after his Return from that mission, and I believe only
a lesser part of them.
9. He could not have continued in their service nor in any other, if he
had received no other Support but that which he had from them.
10. As to the Report that he was a Mohawk etc., and that large Contri
butions were made to me on that Account I have never yet heard that
there has been such a Report in this Country but only what came
from the aforesaid Commissioners — And how a Report that he was a
Mohawk etc. came to be published in England, and transmitted here
in the Public Prints, I can only guess.
As to their resigning him to me and putting him out of their hands
when they had him in their Service as well as pay, only on my telling
them I could employ him better, abundantly evidences their high esteem
of my good Judgement and Fidelity, at least before I so unhappily cracked my
Credit, by declaring publicly in the most populous Towns in that and the
Neighbouring Government that he was a Mohawk lately Emergent out
of gross paganism etc., in order to get large Contributions for this
School
.
These hints so far as I know are true, and I thought proper you should
have them and make such Improvement of them as your prudence shall
direct. And if you think it necessary you may publish them or
any part of them. Although I confess the entering into a public Quarrel
with those Gentlemen, is so unnatural and incongruous to the design
of building up, and enlarging the peaceable Kingdom of Christ which
we all profess to have in view, that I exceedingly dread it, if the
Glory of God and the interests of the Redeemers cause dont evidently
require it.
I herewith enclose a Letter to Mr. Oliver, a true Copy of which
I also enclose that you might know the Contents in which you will
see I desire a Copy of his aforesaid Letter to Governor Mauduit, and also that
you are desired to wait on him for that purpose please Sir to
favour me herein, and make return and advise me of your success as
soon as may be.
I have also desired Mr. Oliver to remit £10 of the annual allow
ance of that Board for the use of this School, which I have
reason to expect he will not refuse, Since he has made two Remit‐
tances without the Least objection since he wrote the aforesaid Letter
to the Honourable Society in London. If he should refuse that, or a
Copy of his Letter, or both, you will enquire and know his reasons
for it. And I hope agreeable to your wonted goodness, excuse the
Trouble herein given you, by, My dear Sirs
Your much obliged and very humble Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
Letter to Messrs. Peck
Mason and Austin
November 5. 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.

Peck, Moses

Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.

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.

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.

Oliver, Andrew

Andrew Oliver was an influential Boston merchant and politician, who was a member of several societies that funded Eleazar Wheelock, including the Boston Board of the New England Company (treasurer) and Massachusetts General Assembly (secretary). Oliver played an important political role in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts and, as a firm advocate of Indian missions, attended multiple conferences with Indian tribes. He believed that Anglican and Dissenter missionaries and societies could cooperate, and after Oliver and Wheelock were introduced in 1756, Oliver helped Wheelock access funding from the New England Company, the Massachusetts Assembly, and the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Their relationship deteriorated, however, when the London Board of the New England Company turned against Wheelock late in 1765. Wheelock became aware of the London Board’s change of heart through the “Oliver letter,” a letter purportedly written by Oliver (actually written by Ebenezer Pemberton) that was “injurious” to the characters of Wheelock, Whitaker, and Occom. In 1765, Wheelock also lost his funding from the Massachusetts Assembly. It is unclear what role Oliver played in these events. On the one hand, the breach between Wheelock and the New England Company coincided with the collapse of Oliver’s political career over his attempts to enforce the Stamp Act. Oliver may have been too preoccupied to be involved in the London Board’s change of heart; after all, Boston mobs were burning him in effigy. On the other hand, if Oliver was not involved, it is more difficult to explain why his correspondence with Wheelock ended abruptly in 1767 or why Wheelock lost funding from the Assembly and the London Board at the same time. Oliver would be the obvious link; but of course, Wheelock had many detractors in Boston and another explanation is certainly possible.

Mauduit, Jasper

Jasper Mauduit was born in London, England, and served as Agent in London for the Province of Massachusetts Bay from 1762 to 1765. Englishmen appointed as agents in the 18th century were often merchants with trading interests in America. In this capacity, Mauduit represented the interests of the colony to the British government and was the complement of the colony's royal governor. Agents also solicited royal approval of enactments passed by colonial legislatures, were a source of information, and represented colonial interests in British courts. Mauduit then served as Governor of the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America (New England Company), a powerful missionary society active in the colonies from 1649-1786 that supported a range of efforts, including the missionary work of Wheelock's alumnus Samuel Kirkland, as well as Occom's education at Moor's and his salary during his time with the Montauks on Long Island. In his capacity as governor, Mauduit received a controversial letter on October 2, 1765 from the Boston Commissioners of the Company, signed by Andrew Oliver, that downplayed Wheelock’s role in Occom’s conversion and education. Wheelock pushed back against these claims, writing to many correspondents about the situation, though we do not have a record of Mauduit's position. In response to this controversy, Occom wrote his short Narrative to verify the facts of his life and conversion.

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.

Occom, Sarah

Sarah Occom was Samson Occom's mother. There is some evidence that she was a member of the Groton Pequots, a remnant of the once powerful Pequot Tribe that was decimated by the war with the Puritans in 1636-37. (The Pequots and Mohegans were once a unified people until the Mohegan chief Uncas and a band of followers split off after a dispute with Sassacus, who became sachem of the Pequots.) One genealogy gives Sarah's birthdate as 1694, her maiden name as Wauby Sampson, her father as Sabientouset II (known as General Samson) and her mother as Hannah Wequot Uncas, of the line of the Mohegan's first sachem. Sarah married Joshua Occom (or Tomockham), a Mohegan, and they may have had up to five children: Joshua Jr., Samson, Jonathan, Lucy, and Sarah. In Samson's "Short Narrative" of his life, he notes that his parents "led a wandering Life up and down in the Wilderness" around Uncas Hill. Sarah was an early convert to Christianity during the revivals that swept the area, and Occom recounts that when he told her he wanted education in order to serve his Tribe, she went to Wheelock in nearby Lebanon, CT, because she heard "he had a Number of English youth under his Tuition," to request he take in her son. By 1743, Sarah was a widow, and Samson continued to visit and stay at his mother's house in Mohegan through the 1760s, though one source gives her death as 1782.

Horton, Azariah

Azariah Horton was an Anglo-American missionary who conducted a 10-year mission (1741-1751) to the Montauketts and Shinnecocks of Long Island before being replaced by Samson Occom in 1750. After graduating from Yale in 1735 and briefly preaching in Turkey, NJ, Horton was ordained and commissioned by the New York (later New Jersey) Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) to serve as a missionary on Long Island. His territory was extensive: in addition to the Montauketts and the Shinnecocks, Horton ministered to Indian tribes on the Wyoming and Delaware rivers where the Brainerd brothers were later quite successful. Horton kept a diary during the first three years of his mission (1741-1744) in which he records his extensive travels between sites. By the late 1740s, however, he was residing solely at Shinnecock and spending almost all of his time there. Perhaps his health had decayed and he was unable to travel, or perhaps he had simply given up on his mission (the sources are unclear). Whatever the cause, his neglect left the Montauketts ripe for Samson Occom’s missionary efforts. Horton encouraged Occom’s ministry, and the two stayed in contact (Occom visited him at least once, in 1760). However, when Horton retired, the SSPCK retired his mission with him. They believed that it was a fairly fruitless enterprise, which is likely at least part of the reason why they were disinclined to pay Occom for his efforts. After leaving Montauk, Horton became the pastor at Bottle Hill, NJ (sometimes described as South Hanover). He retired of his own volition in October 1776 and moved to live with his son in Chatham, NJ, where he died in 1777 after being exposed to smallpox while ministering to the dead and dying in George Washington’s army.

Bostwick, David

David Bostwick was a popular Presbyterian minister in New York—so popular, in fact, that two congregations fought over him and the New York Synod had to intervene. He was the president of the New York Board of Commissioners for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowlege. Bostwick encouraged Occom's mission to the Oneidas; took up a collection at his church for Occom, which reached over 60 pounds; and lent his name to a recommendation for Occom to Sir William Johnson. When Samuel Buell published his sermon from Occom's ordination, it was prefixed with a letter addressed to David Bostwick outlining Occom's character.

Occom’s First Mission to the Oneidas
Occom leaves his studies
Occom’s Mission to the Montauks
Occom’s Mission to the Montauks
Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Messrs. Peck, Mason, and Austin, 1766 November 5
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