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Levi Frisbie, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 June 12

ms-number: 767362.2

abstract: Frisbie writes that his poor health prevents him from doing the work for which Wheelock educated him.

handwriting: Handwriting is formal and clear.

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

ink: Dark-brown ink bleeds through the paper.

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

Rev. and Honoured Sir — — — — —
The cause which
moves me to address you with these lines
is what gives one much Trouble, and Anxiety.
I understand Sir you are apprehensive (and perhaps
not without reason) that my Circumstances
are such, particularly respecting my Health,
that I shall not be able to answer the End you
had in veiw when you received me into the School.
and perhaps Sir you may think I aimed to
deceive you concerning the state of my Health
and Constitution. But I am confident I can
say with a good Conscience that I endeavoured
to tell you the whole Truth, and if I did not it
was because I was deceived about myself: for
I dared not neither would it have been for my In‐
terest to have dissembled, in an Affair of so great
importance; for thereby I should have exposed myself
to much Blame: I cant but have a grateful
Sense of your many undeserved Favour. and desire
to return you my sincere Thanks for them; especially
for the pains you have taken to instruct me in to the
Nature and importance of this great Affair which I
have engaged in. I have considered much upon what you
have said to me lately respecting my Health etc. — — — —
and am greatly concerned to find that my health is very
poor my Constitution so weak that a small thing overcomes
me: I ought to have a sense of the frowns of Providence
in denying me that measure of Health which is necessary
for me in order to my being serviceable in this affar. And
I should be wholly discouraged if it was not, that the
work is God's and that he can make use of me if he
pleases in his Work not withstanding my weakness
and Inability, for he often makes use of the most
Despicable means to accomplish his Designs that
his Power and goodness may more clearly appear.
But yet I cant be certain it is my duty under my
present Circumstances to devote myself to this Serv‐
ice. And Several things cause me to doubt whether
I can consistent with my Duty to God and myself
proceed any further in this Affair. To tell you the truth
Sir I am much discouraged, and Things seem to look with
a dark aspect upon me; there seems to be something in
the way to my serving God and his cause in this Affair.
Mr. Johnson tells me that the Indians make no allow‐
ance for a Mans not being well, and if he cant go
through fire and Water, they esteem him as a
poor mean fellow, and if one gets their Disresp‐
ect, and ill will, he is under no great advantages
to do them Good; and had I never so Strong a Cons‐
titution, were my Hopes of doing Good ever so great,
and could I ever so consistent with right and Jus‐
tice, proceed in this affair I should not choose to, with‐
out it was entirely agreeable to your Will, without
you thought there was a prospect of my answer-
ing your Expectations. For I know it must
necessarily give you a great deal of anxiety, and
troubles to think you had expended Christs
Money upon me to no good purpose. Sir I
beg you to act with the Strictest Regard to the
Interest of Christ and the Good of the School whether
it may please me or not, for notwithstanding I
esteem the thing as highly as ever, yet I Shall freely
submit to your Superior Judgment in the Matter.
if I have been to blame in the affair I desire to
be Heartily Sorry for it, and would humbly beg your
pardon, and desire your assistance both by your pray‐
er and direction. but I fear I have already trans‐
gressed upon your Patience: so beg liberty to Subscribe my‐
your most obliged Humble servant
Levi Frisbie
For Mr. Wheelock
From Levi Frisbie
June 12th 1767
To the –
Rev. Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
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.

Johnson, Samuel

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

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