Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Levi Frisbie, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 May 3

ms-number: 767303

abstract: Frisbie writes to express gratitude for Wheelock's favors, his wish to do honor to the school, and his hopes to become useful as a missionary despite lacking "the grace of God" in his heart.

handwriting: Handwriting is largely clear and legible. The trailer is in an unknown hand.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing and wear.

ink: Brown-black.


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



Rev. Sir
Agreeable to your Advice, and
Desire, I attempt to address you with a few broken Li­
=nes. I am sensible I am unable to render that Respect
(either with my Tongue or Pen) which is justly due to you;
but yet I look upon myself bound in point of Gratitude
as well as on other Accounts to testify my sense of your
kindness to me by every token of Respect, and act of
Obedience that I am capable of. and as I trust you
will put me to nothing but what is just so I
shall endeavour to perform your Will with the ut­
most Freedom and Dexterity. and since you have
been pleased to receive me into the School,
notwithstanding I am utterly undeserving of
such a Favour, I desire to return you the most
grateful Thanks, as all the acknowledgement I
am capable of making you at present for such a
kindness. and God grant I may so conduct my­
self at all times and under all Circumstances
that I may be an Honour to the School, to Religion
and to you my great Benefactor. Conscious of my
own Impotency I desire you would be mindful
of me in your ardent Requests to Heaven, that
God would abundantly replenish me with his
grace, that I may be made the Instrument in his
Hand, of converting Multitudes of the Poor benighted
Savages to Himself; that I may be endowed with

Blank page. all that Courage, Fortitude, and Love, to God and the
Souls of the poor Savages as may be necessary
in order to my being serviceable in carrying on
such and Important Work. One great bar in the
way to my becoming serviceable in this Affair (and
perhaps this is enough without any other) is that
I have the greatest Reason to fear that I have not
the Grace of God in my Heart; without which I Shall
not only be miserable to all Eternity, but also be
unable to do any thing in this grand and interesting
Affair; but it appears to me if I can have the
assistance of God if I may have his presence,
if I may be enabled to trust in him in every
strait and under every Difficulty, I can travel
from one End of the wilderness to the Other spend my
Life my Strength and my All in his Service, can
encounter the greatest Difficulties, and undergo the
greatest Hardships, that may attend me in
the Savage Land: but notwithstanding I am
in Some measure Sensible that without the
Assistance of God I Shall be wholly unequal
to the task; yet O! how unconcerned am I about
it, how hard is my Heart how Stubborn my
Will!— — but least I be tedious even to a Crime
I conclude with Subscribing myself
Honoured Sir

your most unworthy yet most
obliged servant
Levi Frisbie

Rev. Mr. Wheelock

From Levi Frisbie
May 3rd. 1767

To the Rev.
Mr. Eleazer Wheelock
at
Lebanon
Frisbie, Levi

Levi Frisbie was a very intelligent and unreligious charity scholar. He came to Wheelock with substantial schooling already, and after a few months at Moor's, Wheelock sent him on to Yale. There, Frisbie excelled academically. However, he never wanted to be a missionary. He arrived at Moor's sometime during April of 1767, and by May 5, he was already writing Wheelock asking to be released from missionary obligations. While at Yale, this trend continued: Levi went so far as to confess to Wheelock that he was not even a church member. Although he was not passionate about Scripture, he was quite the classicist. Under the name Philo Musae, he would write Wheelock long chains of heroic couplets styled on epic about the Indian mission. In 1769, Levi went on his first mission (a short stint to the Oneidas). Shortly thereafter, Wheelock pulled Levi out of Yale to help make up Dartmouth's first class. Levi graduated in 1771, and was ordained with David McClure in May 1772. He and McClure set out on a mission on June 19, 1772, but Levi fell ill immediately and stayed at Fort Pitt. It is unclear whether he rejoined McClure on the mission. The two men returned to Hanover on October 2, 1773. Levi stayed involved with Wheelock and the Indian mission for a few years, but by 1776, he had assumed the pulpit at Ipswich, where he remained for the rest of his life. Levi's poetry appears at the end of Wheelock's 1771 Narrative, as well as in McClure and Parish's biography of Wheelock.

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.

HomeLevi Frisbie, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 May 3
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only