Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to the Chiefs at Kanawalohale, 1767 July 27

ms-number: 767427.1

abstract: Wheelock writes to the Chiefs at Kanawalohale exhorting them to attend to their missionary and schoolmaster.

handwriting: The letter is written in two hands; the majority is written by Wheelock, but the last paragraph of one verso is in an unknown hand. Both hands are informal, yet mostly clear and legible. The trailer on one recto is in a third, unknown hand.

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

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: This document is possibly a draft.

signature: The document is not signed.


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


My Brethren and Children.

When I entered upon the great design of instructing
The Indians, I had no other motive but to Save them from
that Ruin and Eternal misery Which I Saw them Exposed
to, and to bring them to the Knowledge of the only true God
and Saviour that they might be happy — I have hitherto
Laboured hard in the Affair and done the best for you that
I could, I have provided you a minister —
who is a young Gentleman well esteemed among us, and if he
had tarried with us might have been employed as a minister
or any other business he desired among the English. but
he has willingly given up all the comforts and profits of this Life
and has Submitted himself to Hunger and Labour and many
hardships with no other view but to do you good — I have also
Sent you David Fowler, who is the best accomplished of any
Indian I know, and Others to teach your Children — I have also
taken Some of your Children to my School where they have
been treated as my Children have lived at a full Table and
wanted for nothing — or if they did want might came to
me at any Time and be Supplied with anything within
my power. And where I intended to bring them up as my Children—
But this great kindness of mine to you, you have treated
So as discourage me very much — Some of you have
not attended on Mr. Kirtland ministry as you should have
done — many of you have not been careful to send
your Children to School as you should have been and so
you have discouraged your schoolmaster — and makes
him a mind to leave you — your Children who come here to
School — you entice away before they have learnt
to read Gods Word half so well as they Should — and before
they have half learnt to till the Land so as to get a good
living by it — and Some of the Children who have been kindly used
here have told lies about their Living here, and instead of thank
‐ing me for my kindness have abused me very much – and I hear
that Some of you have hearkened to their Lies — these things are
discouraging to me when those whom I have taken into my arms
and into my bosom —Set themselves to hinder and discourage the
Great design in view instead of improving all the Learning [gap: blotted_out][guess: the]y
get here to help it forward —
To the chiefs of
Kanawalohale – from
Boston July 27. 1767.

Now only consider what would be the consequence to you if I should
be discouraged and resolve to try for your Good no more —
where can you find another man in all this Country who would
try to help and Save you from Ruin as I have done.—
only think a little what you will do when all the wild Game is gone
from your Country (and that will Soon be wide and large as the Country
is) if you haven't learnt to 'til the Land you must perish for want
of food — and think what you will do if you dont know
the true God and Saviour, when you are wafted off from
this Land you must be miserable forever — you will
then know when it is too late that I have been a great Friend
and true friend to you — though you would not be Friends to your
‐selves —
I am glad to hear among these things which are bad some
things which are good and make me Glad — viz that some
to keep your Children at School — that you
have learnt to sing the praises of God — and that you have
agreed to leave of your drunkeness — and that Some among
you love to go to the House of God to hear his will—
and that Some of you are ready to assist and comfort Mr. Kirtland
— I long to have you become the people of God — and to have
occasion to rejoice in you as Such —
I would have you let me know Whether you desire I should teach
your Children — and if you Send me any more dont send
me Such as will leave the School before they have half got their
Learning — for So the Expence and Labour will be all lost—
If you would have me Send those Home which I have with
me I will Send them — but do you let no more come unless
to Stay 'til they have got their Learning and are fit to be
employed in business among yourselves —
I dont Send for Mr. Kirtland yet but will try to help him to
do you all the Good he can — and you must try as fast as you can to
get into the way of husbandry and be able to Support one of
your own Nation yourselves God has appointed his people
to do and then you will be in the way of his blessing —
You are able to assist Mr. Kirtland in hoeing his Corn, Beans, and
Potatoes. I am glad to hear by David that you have done it
of late — you are able also to get his Wood, and to fetch up his
provisions from a distance, and other Things that he wants. And
if you are agreed in it, it will not be a great Thing for you
to do it. And this is but a little Return for what he does
for you, and it is what God no doubt expects from you and if
you don't do such Things as you can for his help you will displease God. So Long as I hear
you do well, I am encouraged to do for you all that is in
my Power. I long for you, and pray God to make you his People
 #
# My Brethren, Farewell.

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.

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.

Fowler, David

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.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to the Chiefs at Kanawalohale, 1767 July 27
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only