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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Sir William Johnson, 1767 April 23

ms-number: 767273

abstract: Wheelock discusses hostilities among the Naragansett tribe and asks for Johnson's assistance. He also discusses a possible location to build a school.

handwriting: Relatively clear and formal for Wheelock. Trailer is in a different hand. "Kirtland” is added beneath the trailer in yet another hand, possibly that of Solomon Williams.

paper: Good condition, with minimal wear.


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


Sir
Tobias Shattock of the Naragansett
Tribe
of Indians, now a member of my School
desires me to inform your Excellency — That a
number of his Tribe, and Such as are of the worst
characters in it being instigated by their Sachem
continue to injure and abuse the religious
and Steady part of that Tribe greatly — They
have forcibly taken away the possessions of
many of their neighbours, and taken possession
of their Labours, and Seem designed to ruin
the Tribe as fast as they can — the Indians
there are in Such Difficulty that they know not
which way to turn — Their Eyes are to your
Excellency, under God, to relieve them — Those
English people who have bought Land of their
Sachem
are using every artifice to improve them
— they try to entice the Indians to refer their con
troversies to them for decision: and he fears that,
by delays they will Suffer greatly in their Interest
This Toby appears to be a very honest, Steady,
prudent man perhaps as much so as any of that
Tribe
, he is one of their Council, and I Suppose
has more Influence among them than any Other
of

of them — When your Excellency Shall do me the
Favour which I requested in my last; if you
would please to give Some Council and Direction
in their Case you would greatly oblige them.
I have done nothing towards providing missi
onaries and schoolmasters to Supply the vacancies
in your vicinity, nor Shall I do anything
about it, till I know your mind —
I herewith enclose a Narrative, which please
to accept and Mr. Kirkland can give you account
of late advices from Home respecting this
design, which are too long to write — And
also what measures have been taken to determine
the Place to fix this School. —
It is Strongly Recommended from Philadelphia
to fix it on the Ohio about 30 or 40 miles
below Pittsburgh — what does your Excellency think
of that place? I am with much esteem
and respect,
Your Excellency's
most obedient and most
Humble Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
Sir William Johnson.
To Gen. Johnson April 23rd
1767

Kirkland

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.

Johnson, William

Sir William Johnson was a powerful British colonial official who amassed wealth and influence by integrating into the Mohawk tribe. For a brief window of time (1761-1768), he provided support for Wheelock’s missionary efforts among the Six Nations. He also helped the Brothertown Nation of Indians procure land from the Oneidas. Johnson was born in Ireland in 1715. His family had been part of the Catholic elite, but after William of Orange’s 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne, they at least nominally converted to the Episcopalian Church. In 1738, Johnson emigrated to America to manage his uncle Peter Warren’s estate in Mohawk territory. Over the next decade, Johnson became wealthy in his own right through trade and land sales, acquiring a vast estate crowned by his manor house, Johnson Hall, which became the central location for British and Indian treaty making. In 1745, Johnson began collecting official British titles and positions. He played an important military role in the French and Indian War and was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756 and first baronet of New York in 1757. Much of Johnson’s success was due to his influence among the Mohawks, which he obtained by learning their language and customs and integrating himself into their society. He participated in Mohawk rituals and entered into a common-law marriage with a powerful Mohawk woman, Molly Brant (also called Mary Brant). Because Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) society is matrilineal, this marriage was an essential element of his participation in Indian affairs. Wheelock desperately wanted to wield missionary influence among the Six Nations, and sought to obtain Johnson as an ally in his endeavors. At first, the two found grounds for cooperation. Wheelock sent Occom as a missionary to the Oneidas in 1761 and again in 1762, and sent a substantially larger group of missionaries and schoolmasters in 1765, 1766, and 1767. Johnson, meanwhile, encouraged Haudenosaunee children, including his brother-in-law Joseph Brant, to attend Moor’s. Johnson’s support proved indispensible to missionaries in the field; he helped with supplies, language skills, and relations with the Mohawks and Oneidas. Wheelock also valued Johnson for his influence in Britain, and drew on him for recommendations and public statements of support numerous times. From 1763 on, however, Johnson found himself decidedly uncomfortable with Wheelock’s missionary efforts, and by 1769, their relationship had dissolved completely. In 1766, Johnson was invited to join the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the largest and most influential Anglican missionary society in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world. He began working to place Anglican missionaries, rather than Congregationalist and Presbyterian ones, among the Six Nations, which alarmed Wheelock. Johnson was generally supportive of Native American tribes’ efforts to maintain their land and sovereignty. As the historian Linford Fisher has noted, “virtually every major Native group in southeastern New England successfully petitioned Johnson to act on their behalf during the late 1760s and early 1770s.” Among these groups was the Brothertown Nation, a Christian composite tribe formed by Southern New England Algonquian Moor’s alumni. Johnson helped them negotiate with the Oneidas, which proved essential to their successful land purchase and relocation to central New York.

Shattock, Tobias

Tobias Shattock was a Narragansett leader who briefly attended Moor's Indian Charity School. He died in Edinburgh while trying to protect Narragansett land interests. Like many Moor's students, Tobias was from a powerful family: he and his brother John were the sons of John Shattock Sr., a Narragansett lay minister. Tobias and John received their basic education from Edward Deake at Charlestown and then attended Moor's from December 1766 to the fall of 1767. By all accounts, Tobias was an especially promising student. Both Tobias and John left Moor's to try to defend Narragansett land claims. The Narragansett sachems had run up massive debt over the course of the 18th century, and were trying to sell Narragansett land to the colony of Rhode Island to settle them. Much of the Narragansett Tribe opposed this course of action. Tobias and John Jr. took the lead in the Tribe's efforts to recruit powerful allies for their cause. Tobias appealed to Sir William Johnson and Andrew Oliver, who were able to secure a temporary halt on land sales. Then, with the support of Wheelock, Whitefield, and Sir William Johnson, the brothers set out to plead their case before the Privy Council in London in January 1768. They arrived in Edinburgh on April 15, 1768, where Tobias died of smallpox on May 6. John continued on to London, but was unsuccessful in his appeal. He returned to the colonies where he died in 1770.

Ninigret, Thomas

Thomas Ninigret was the grandson of George Ninigret, the 17th-century Narragansett sachem made famous by his relationship with Roger Williams, the English minister who founded Rhode Island. In 1746, Thomas Ninigret became the Sachem of the Narragansett tribe, a position he would hold until his death. Like his predecessors, Ninigret sold large amounts of historically Niantic land (which the Narragansett sachems took possession of when the Niantics and the Narragansetts merged in 1680) to the colony of Rhode Island. Ninigret also accrued vast amounts of personal debt; his legendary spending is accredited to the time he spent in England receiving education, a period which many of his tribe believe made Ninigret a stranger to the Narragansett way of life. As a result, some Narragansetts attempted to convince the Rhode Island legislature to slow the land sales, and even petitioned for Ninigret's removal from the Sachemship. Wheelock took note of Ninigret's destructive behavior and wrote Governor Hopkins in 1767 to appeal for a moratorium on the sale of Niantic/Naragansett land. Ultimately, land sales did slow as the Narragansett people continued to petition the Rhode Island legislature, but only a small amount of Narragansetts remained living in Rhode Island by 1812. Ninigret, often sarcastically referred to as "King Tom," is remembered as the most costly ruler in the Ninigret line.

Kirkland, Samuel

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.

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