abstract: Wheelock writes of Kirkland’s visit and of his progress on his mission among the Oneidas. He also relates news of Whitaker's and Occom’s wives, as well as other business related to the Charity School.
handwriting: Informal handwriting is small and crowded, yet mostly clear and legible. Letter case is frequently difficult to decipher.
paper: Two large sheets each folded in half to make four pages are in good-to-fair condition; moderate staining, creasing and wear — including old tape gum — has been much improved by recent preservation work.
noteworthy: It is uncertain to where Wheelock refers, in reference to Kirkland's mission, when he mentions "that Town," and so it has been left untagged. However, it is possibly Kanawalohale. An unknown hand has added a note in pencil after the trailer on four recto. This note has not been included in the transcription. This document is possibly a draft.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
Rev. and dear Sir.
His State of Health is better than it was — he seems
at last fully convinced that he must, for a while, abate
of his Labours and Fatigues, or soon quit the whole
that the Indians of that Town are almost universally
attached to him — can't bear a word of his leaving
them — they have made great Proficiency in the
Schools in [illegible] Reading and Singing — of the
latter he Says, I cant Speak too well — it is quite beyond
what any will conceive, unless they could hear them —
he Says, he hears no Such Singing in the Country. —
they carry three parts with great exactness — And
many of them yet eager to improve further in the
Art — This is all New, and beyond what was ever yet
known among Indians — many of them Say, they never
knew Such pleasure before — that it is worthwhile to
be Christians, if they had nothing more by it, than the
pleasure of Singing praises to God — And to assist
them further Mr. Kirtland has already begun, and designs
to go on, to translate Psalms and Sacred Hymns into their
Language, and fit them to Tunes — This is surprising and
affecting to Some, that come among them, from foreign
Tribes — At present there is a great Reformation among
them as to their Morals#— there have been no more than
two drunk belonging to that Town, Since December 15th and
one of them was the only one of that Town, who op
posed Mr. Kirtlands measures — on that Day Mr. Kirtlan[gap: worn_edge][guess: d]
vice) called the Town together, and told them, if they would
all of them, men and women, Old and Young, agree, and solemnly
engage to leave of their drunkenness, and enable him,
to put Such Determination in Execution, by appointing
6 or 8. of their chief men to be with, and assist him
therein, with full power to Seize all intoxicating Liquor,
and destroy it, or dispose of it as he should think proper,
he would tarry with them; otherwise, he would leave
them. Hereupon after 4 Days consideration, they
unanimously appointed 8, whom Mr. Kirtland No‐
minated, who have been very Officious, and faithful
in the affair. And the success of this Step has been
Such, that, notwithstanding about 80 kegs or casks
of Rum have Since that Time been carried through that
Town, and offered to Sale, and in a number of instances
offered freely, as a present, and their Acceptance Strongly
urged, yet they have Never in one instance been pre‐
vailed upon to Accept it: Steadily replying, when urged
to it, "It is contrary to the minister's word, and our
agreement with him." A Number have publicly
made confession of their past drunkenness, and other Vices.
— And to two in particular, above the rest, Mr. Kirtland
Hopes, God has granted Repentance unto Life.
of Old Oneida, where Mr. Kinne was Sent last spring
but left them for want of Health (as I informed you)
Two of the principal men of that Town have removed
to live under Mr. Kirtlands instruction. the rest of the
Town are generally in opposition to the Reformation begun, and
Kirtland as the instrument of it — The Enmity is So great, that
near Relations as Brothers and sisters have not visited one another, since
the aforesaid Agreement. — a Number of that Town have been
trying every Artifice to overthrow, and prevent the progress of, the
Reformation; on which account Mr. Kirtland designs, after a
very Short visit to return himself, and not Trust the Affair
to a Stranger/ I take this account from his own mouth.
— Mr. Kirtland Says that the Charge of transporting pro‐
visions, besides his own Fatigues about it, has been fully equal
to the first cost of them. I have used the utmost caution and Prudence
as to expenses. and the Same Frugality in my own family as I used
when you was acquainted with it. The missionaries and schoolmasters
have also, So far as I can find, been prudent. dear Mr. Kirtland, I
think, has, to a fault, been cautious of Expending Christ's money for
his own comfort. he has also provided for David and his wife, and
Joseph Johnson all this year in that Savage Country; and finds
himself often obliged to do Something for the poor Starved wret
‐ches, when they come to See him. And blessed be God, he is now
animated with the Hopes of a glorious harvest among them by
and by. may divine Grace and mercy to the poor Creatures, exceed
his most Sanguine Expectations.
you went away, I used to take Goods for the School upon my
own Credit, and charge them to the School as it wanted . by
this means my public accounts appeared as they did. but this year
I have taken Goods, in part of pay, for the Bills I have drawn, and
have also paid those arrears with them, by which means my Debt
is become due to the School, So that my next public accounts
will appear in a view which I should not choose . viz. a consi‐
derable balance due to the School, while I Shall have nothing
in my Hands, I am not anxious in the Affair, I trust all will come
right by, and by. — The conduct of Divine Providence
wisdom, and goodness. oh! how great the Depth! how large the
Vol[illegible][guess: ume][illegible][guess: Is]! how Sweet! how Safe! how blessed to trust in him.
April. 18. I herewith enclose Letters from Messrs. Smiths and Scott
that Friends may know a little how Friends think and
talk on this Side the water. and what they devise. those
Gentlemen I understand have large Tracts of unsettled Land,
near the Place they Speak of, and it is supposed they would
make a large grant to the School, — I have Sent you a Copy
of my answer to them, that you might be better able to
form a Judgement on what they write. —
April. 23rd Yours of January 20. came to hand 19th instant with
a Bill of Exchange for £20 sterling from Robert Hodgson apothecary on
John Prince of Salem and another of £5..5..0 from Samuel
Parmiter in your favour endorsed to Henry Sherburn Esq..
yours of February 12. came to hand. 20th instant. — In which
you have furnished me with many Arguments of praise to our
great Benefactor. — I have heard nothing of any other
orders you mention —
taking the most prudent and Effectual Care of any Such
interests as come into my Hands. but perhaps you
are not aware how great the necessary expenses of
this Year have been, and I think when you come
fully to understand what has been done you will have
no cause to regret them. money is not squandered away
for Nothing here I look upon my Obligations in the matter to be most
Sacred and [illegible][guess: teach] all concerned to look upon and treat them as being Such — as Soon as the accounts can be Settled I Shall transmit
This afternoon Mr. Kirtland set out on his Return to Oneida he appears
to be much [illegible][guess: worn], to that degree that I thought it prudent he should preach but once in this visit
however he finds he has recruited a little Since he left the Indians. He is comm‐
issioned to open the Affair of a Settlement for this School
and if he meets with anything worthy to be transmitted you will
have it. }he designs if possible to Introduce Joseph Johnson into a School at old Oneida, and take Moses Mohawk who has been in a
School at Canajoharie to be with him. as he is not yet fully perfect in the Oneida Language
who [illegible][guess: may][illegible][guess: also] assist David in the School
you suspect never was So in thought word or Deed that I ever knew or had
the least reason to suspect — If your suspicions arise from any
hint in my Letter — you misunderstood it, for it respected no
man on that Side the water — and the Tables are all Since turned and
it is of no Importance now whether ever you think of the right man.
however; I Supposed you would readily guess who he was. —
was living Some months ago, but in a low State of health. I
conclude he has no considerable interest of his own to leave
moral Character has been much Traduced of late in this Country
He is represented as a Debaucher — that he is married in England and devoted to
pleasure etc. It would be very friendly if you would wipe off that Reproach by
a Line —
Ardour of affection towards those great and worthy Gentlemen
who compose the Trust, which you informed [illegible][guess: me]
ha[illegible][guess: s] been lately formed — I bless the Lord that by his Love he has press them and
their estates and all their Influence into his service —
how precious will their Names be to ages yet
unborn who may Eternally reap the Benefit of that which the world
may [illegible] Term their great condescension —
Home. Since Mr. DeBerdts of October 10. before these from you. but you encourage
one to Expect one from Mr. Whitefield and answer from Mr. Keen very soon
Mrs. Whitaker lodged here two nights this week, in as Good Health
as usual, Your Little Son rode home with her — She informed
me that Mrs. Occom was also well and Family — give my Love
to Son Occom and tell him that Aaron behaves exceeding well —
a Little Bundle of Something for his wife came to my Hand
yesterday which I Shall carefully forward —
old fashioned Love in Abundance from, My Dear Sir
April 16. 1767.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moses was a Mohawk Indian and Wheelock student who was part of the mission to the Canajoharie, Onaquaga, and Cherry Valley areas from 1765-1766. He taught the displaced Oneidas under Good Peter and Isaac Dakayenensere at Lake Otsego (next to Cherry Valley), along with Smith and Gunn. He taught reading and writing to between eight and 12 students. Although Joseph Woolley was initially supposed to teach this school, he fell ill and Moses replaced him. Moses also subbed for Woolley when Woolley visited the Tuscaroras. Like the other schoolteachers, Moses left over the winter of 1765 and returned to Wheelock, but he was back at Canajoharie by the next fall to teach with Samuel Johnson and Jacob Fowler. Theophilus Chamberlain speculated they could set up a third school for Moses, but this did not come to pass because by December 1st, less than a month after Chamberlain’s letter, Moses had traveled to Wheelock and back to Fort Hunter delivering letters. The Indians at Fort Hunter would not take him as a teacher because they preferred Johnson and distrusted unknown teachers after their experience with Hezekiah Calvin (according to Johnson). Moses appears to have continued working in the area, because in 1768 he refused Aaron Kinne’s request that he act as interpreter.
Aaron Occom was Samson and Mary Occom’s prodigal second child and oldest son. He was born in 1753, during Samson’s mission to the Montauketts of Long Island. The Occoms entered Aaron in Moor’s Indian Charity School when he was seven, in the hope that he would “be Brought up.” However, Aaron proved ill-suited to school, and returned home in October 1761. He had two more brief stints at Moor’s Indian Charity School: the first in December 1765, after Samson departed for his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Great Britain, and the second in November 1766, when Mary found herself unable to control Aaron’s wild behavior (which included attempting to run away with “a very bad girl” and forging store orders in Mary’s name). After his last enrollment at Moor’s, Aaron ran away to sea. He had returned to Mohegan by November 1768, and at age 18, he married Ann Robin. Aaron died in 1771, leaving a son also named Aaron. Samson periodically entertained the idea of apprenticing Aaron to a master, but never seems to have done so. One letter written by Aaron survives: an epistle to Joseph Johnson, another young Mohegan who studied at Moor’s.
Henry Sherburne was an influential New Hampshire politician who supported Wheelock's agenda from 1761 until his death in 1767. He was an extremely well-connected man: his mother was a Wentworth and his father was a Sherburne, two of the most powerful families in New Hampshire. Henry Sherburne began working as a clerk in the New Hampshire court as soon as he graduated from Harvard. He went on to become a judge and the Speaker of the New Hampshire Assembly. During the Great Awakening, Sherburne became one of George Whitefield's disciples. Whitefield then introduced him to Wheelock in 1761. Sherburne used his influence to secure support for Wheelock from the New Hampshire Assembly, and raised private donations in his colony (he did not succeed in gaining much support from the Assembly because Benning Wentworth, the governor at the time, was an Anglican and strongly opposed Congregationalists). One of Sherburne's sons was a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1776, as was one of his nephews (the son of his brother John Sherburne, trustee of Dartmouth from 1770-1777).
William Smith (Jr.) was the son of William Smith, the eminent New York lawyer. He graduated from Yale in 1745, and joined his father as a successful lawyer in New York City. He had little contact with Eleazar Wheelock until 1766, when he began lobbying for Wheelock to relocate Moor’s Indian Charity School to Albany, NY. Wheelock ultimately rejected Smith’s offer because the only tribes near to Albany were the Six Nations, who were spurning Wheelock’s advances, and because Wheelock considered the city too morally corrupt to play host to a religious institution. William Smith Jr. had an illustrious political career in New York and Canada. After his father retired from the Governor's Council in 1767, Smith Jr. filled his post. He tried to avoid becoming involved in party politics, but eventually supported the Loyalist side during the Revolution (after much reluctance to take any public stance), and, in 1780, he was made Chief Justice of New York. After the war, he launched a successful career as Chief Justice of Canada. He is noteworthy as one of the few American Loyalists to succeed politically after the Revolution.
Sarah Whitaker (maiden name Smith) was the wife of the prominent Presbyterian minister Nathaniel Whitaker. They had seven or eight children, the first being born in 1756. She wrote to him and raised their children while Nathaniel was away on his fundraising tour with Samson Occom (1765-1768). She must have lived at least until the birth of their last child, Jonathan Whitaker (born December 10, 1771), but she does not appear in the historical record after that time.
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.
Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.
General Phineas Lyman was a longtime friend of Eleazar Wheelock’s and a supporter of his school. He was born in Durham, CT in 1715 and studied law at Yale. After graduating in 1738, Lyman became a tutor then successful lawyer, and he managed a law school in Suffield, MA. When Suffield was incorporated into Connecticut, Lyman became involved with the Connecticut General Assembly. He served in the French and Indian War, commanding 5,000 Connecticut troops, and was integral in the battle of Lake George in 1755 although General Johnson was credited with the victory. After the war, General Lyman went to England in search of acknowledgment for his war endeavors, and to secure land on the Mississippi or Ohio River for himself and fellow officers. Lyman assured Wheelock he would endeavor to incorporate his school into the territory. However, in April of 1769, Lord Dartmouth wrote to Wheelock indicating that General Lyman had excluded the school from his plea; Sir William Johnson had denounced Wheelock for supposedly deterring Indians from ceding their property. In 1774, after 11 years of negotiations, General Lyman finally obtained the grant for the Mississippi and Yazoo lands; nonetheless, Wheelock had already established his school in New Hampshire. In 1775, General Lyman died en route to the newly acquired territory in West Florida.
Robert Keen was a London wool merchant and an ardent supporter of George Whitefield, the eminent evangelical. Although it is unclear when Keen and Whitefield first came into contact, by the 1760s Whitefield was writing to Keen frequently. In 1763, Keen, along with Daniel West, was given the task of managing Whitefield’s religious enterprises in London (specifically, his Tottenham Court Chapel and the Tabernacle, another London church), which they continued to do after Whitefield’s death. Keen was also one of the four executors of Whitefield’s affairs in England (along with West and Charles Hardy). As a result of his relationship with Whitefield, Keen was introduced to Occom and Whitaker upon their arrival in February 1766. He was a member of the informal committee that collected donations before October 1766 and provided Occom and Whitaker with advice on their route and strategies. Keen also became a member of the English Trust, the formal organization formed in October 1766 to safeguard donations. As secretary and deputy treasurer of the Trust, Keen played an important role in transmitting accounts and correspondence between the Trust and Wheelock during the tour and the long process of Wheelock’s relocation to New Hampshire. Along with fellow Trust members Samuel Savage and John Thornton, Keen continued to provide financial support to Wheelock after the Trust had been exhausted.
Dennys DeBerdt was a London merchant of Dutch descent, a dissenter who took an avid interest in American affairs and politics. Although he was not especially prominent in British eyes, many Americans, including Wheelock, venerated him as a valuable ally. DeBerdt tried to help Wheelock secure a charter for Moor's, but his efforts failed because the Connecticut Assembly was opposed. Otherwise, DeBerdt helped Wheelock in much the same way as other supporters did: he collected and forwarded donations and circulated information. He also hosted Occom, Whitaker, and J. Smith on their fundraising tour. In 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly elected DeBerdt as their agent in London, a post he held until his death in 1770. He also served as an agent for the Assemblies of Connecticut and Delaware. He frequently advocated for American interests in London, and was instrumental in the repeal of the Stamp Act. DeBerdt invested heavily in American trade, with poor results for his estate. Perhaps because he was a Dissenter and enjoyed limited opportunities in England, he thought American religious freedom was well worth defending. Virtually all correspondence between DeBerdt and Wheelock dates from between 1757 and 1763. DeBerdt's last letter to Wheelock was written in 1763, and Wheelock wrote to DeBerdt only sporadically after that (his last two letters are dated October 1765 and February 1767). It is not clear why the two men stopped corresponding.
George Whitefield, the English itinerant preacher who helped spark the Great Awakening, was an essential supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s project. Whitefield studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the pioneers of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. He was ordained in 1736, and he made the first of his seven trips to America two years later. While abroad in 1740, Whitefield founded an orphanage in Georgia, and went on a preaching tour during which he met Wheelock and spread ideals that prompted the Great Awakening. Although Whitefield was ordained in the Church of England, his enthusiastic preaching style and charismatic personality made him a controversial figure, and traditional clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic censured him. Nonetheless, he continued to be an important contact and friend of Wheelock’s, and his dedication to Wheelock’s vision was evident. He contributed money to the cause, secured various other funders, and donated an eighty-pound prayer bell to the school. More importantly, Whitefield not only suggested to Wheelock the idea of a fundraising tour in Great Britain, he hosted Occom and Whitaker shortly after they arrived in England, provided a house for them to reside in for the remainder of their tour, and introduced the pair to influential figures such as William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth. Whitefield tabernacle’s was the setting of Occom’s first sermon in England on February 16, 1766, and many believe that Whitefield wrote the introduction to a pamphlet printed in London during the campaign (although he was not credited). Whitefield continued to be involved in Wheelock’s work until he died in Newburyport, MA in September of 1770.
Mary Occom (née Fowler) was a Montaukett woman who married Samson Occom. Although information about her is limited and often comes from male, Anglo-American sources, it offers a tantalizing glimpse of her strength, as well as an alternative to the Eleazar Wheelock-centered narrative of Occom’s life that often dominates the latter’s biography. Mary was born into the influential Fowler family at Montauk, Long Island. She met Samson during his missionary service there (1749-1761). Mary studied at Samson’s school along with her brothers David and Jacob, and was almost certainly literate. She and Samson married in 1751. Wheelock and several other Anglo-American powers opposed their union because they worried it might distract Occom from being a missionary (as, indeed, family life did), and thus many scholars have read in Samson and Mary’s marriage an act of resistance against Samson’s domineering former teacher. Little information about the minutiae of Mary’s life survives, but existing sources speak volumes about her character and priorities. In front of Anglo-American missionaries visiting the Occoms' English-style house at Mohegan, Mary would insist on wearing Montaukett garb and, when Samson spoke to her in English, she would only reply in Montaukett, despite the fact that she was fluent in English. Mary Occom was, in many ways, Wheelock’s worst fear: that his carefully groomed male students would marry un-Anglicized Indian women. It is not a stretch to imagine that Mary provided much of the incentive for Wheelock to begin taking Indian girls into his school, lest his other protégés replicate Samson’s choice. Much of our information about Mary comes from between 1765 and 1768, when Samson was fundraising in Great Britain. Despite promising to care for Samson’s wife and family (at the time they had seven children), Wheelock, by every objective measure, failed to do so, and Mary’s complaints are well documented. Hilary Wyss reads in Wheelock’s neglect (and in letters from the time) a more sinister story, and concludes that on some level Wheelock was holding Samson’s family hostage, in return for Occom curtailing his political beliefs on the Mason Case. Wyss also notes Mary’s remarkable survivance in this situation. Mary drew on various modes of contact, from letters to verbal communication with influential women (including Sarah Whitaker, the wife of Samson’s traveling companion, and Wheelock’s own daughters), to shame Wheelock into action and demand what she needed. One of the major struggles in Mary’s life, and in Samson’s, was with their sons. Both Aaron and Benoni failed to live up to their parents’ expectations. Aaron attended, and left, Moor’s Indian Charity School three times, and both Aaron and Benoni struggled with alcohol and refused to settle down. The Occom daughters did not cause similar problems. Given the nature of existing sources, little is known about Mary after Samson and Wheelock lessened their communication in 1771. Joanna Brooks has conjectured that Mary was likely influential in Samson’s Mohegan community involvement later in life, for instance, in his continued ministry to Mohegan and, perhaps, his increasingly vehement rejection of Anglo-American colonial practices.
Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.
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.