abstract: Wheelock writes to Whitaker about the serious trouble caused by Whitaker’s dealings with Nathaniel Eells. He also posits that Ralph Wheelock’s ability to manage Indians would make him his father's successor.
handwriting: Handwriting is formal and clear; it is not Wheelock’s.
paper: Single large sheet is heavily reinforced, which makes it difficult to gauge the condition of the paper, and which slightly dims the text.
noteworthy: This letter is a copy. Its contents are nearly identical to those of manuscript 767628.1. The sons of Whitaker and Occom mentioned by Wheelock in the closing are James Whitaker and Aaron Occom
signature: The abbreviated signature is not in Wheelock’s hand.
events: Fundraising tour of Great Britain
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
My dear Brother
done with you where you are — The imprudent Letters which passed between you and Mr. Eells
have occasioned Me much trouble, and seemed for a while as though they would unhinge
the whole affair — I Charitably believe he meant no more than to pursue
the Plan laid by our Board of Commissioners before you sailed, and to take that advan
‐tage of trade which somebody must have upon that Plan, and why not he as well
as another? yet the Letters as they appeared were shocking indeed. I knew nothing
of them 'til I had the copy of them by Mr. Keen, with advice that my Bill in favor
of Mr. Breed was protested, on that account — I had no other Refuge but God alone
it occasioned me a long, tedious, and fruitless Journey to Portsmouth, before I had
recovered from a fit of sickness so as to be able to ride 20 miles in a day. but
God has helped me through all, and the Cause has not suffered greatly by it, on this
Side the Water — But I suspect there is yet some Jealousies remaining in the
minds of the Gentlemen of the Trust, which it concerns you fully to remove —
Mr. Eells wrote Mr. Whitefield that which I hoped would be satisfactory but have never heard
whether it reached him — Mr. Keen writes me that it is generally understood and
that you have declared that the Trust have right to pay or protest Bills as they shall
think advisable; but I presume you haven't well digested that Matter; because you
haven't had the Experience which I had very timeously had of the Danger, and risk
upon the Plan, nor do I know who you find willing to be an Agent on this
side the Water, upon that Plan, so long as his own interest is pawned to defray
all Charges — The Gentlemen of the Trust showed a laudable, and truly christian
Integrity towards the Redeemers cause as the matter appeared to them — I never
blamed them so much as in a thought, though I was myself so great, and the only sufferer —
But I can assure you I did not always feel as I should, while I was expecting the
protested Bill, and thought on all the consequences which would likely ensue — The support
of the Missionaries, who ask for no other Reward for their service, must be sure, — I think
that less than that can't be right, nor pleasing to God; unless they were able and willing
to support themselves — And I don't see how the Affair can be accommodated without an
Incorporation, or at least a trust here. — I have been turning my thoughts, and weigh
‐ing every Man within my acquaintance, and design soon to fix upon a number and
make a new Will, and submit it to the Censures of my honored Patrons, the Gentlemen of the Trust
My son Ralph after such a long and dark cloud as he has been under with respect to his health,
has now a prospect of enjoying that Blessing to a good Degree. He is in high spirits for Indian
affairs, he understands the business, and has a talent at governing Indians beyond any man
I can employ — I don't know what God intends for him, but at present he is a Comfort
and help to me. it may be he will be the Man to conduct this affair when I have done, —
Indeed I know of no man at present who can do it better — but I wait upon God to direct
and I love to wait, and hope, and trust in him alone — Your and Mr. Occoms Sons with me are well,
your Families were so not long ago. Give my love to Mr. Occom; I want to see him; does he keep
clear of that Indian distemper Pride. If you see anything of it, advise him that he had better have
a rattle-snake in his Bosom; I don't write this because I suppose him worse than myself, but
because I have known so much of the mischiefs of that Evil, and know his temptations to be very
great — Oh! watch and pray — My dear Brother I love you right well; and am
Yours in the dearest Bonds
with transmitted to the trust and to Mr.
Whitefield. to which I refer you for intelligence. My Physicians say
I must soon quit all unless I will abate of my continual Labours.
But what shall I do? I employ one pen besides my own continually and sometimes two,
and have done so for many months.
Rev. Dr. Whitaker.
November 28. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Breed was a vendor who traded with Occom and Wheelock. His wares included food, building materials, alcohol, clothing, and finished metal goods. He was a staunch Wheelock supporter, and helped hold and deliver mail for Wheelock, as well as sending his (possibly first-born) son, John McLaren Breed, to Wheelock's school (J. Breed went on to graduate from Yale in 1768). While Occom was abroad, he was more lenient in supplying goods to Mary Occom than other local vendors, such as Captain Shaw, but eventually, he too refused to sell to her on credit.
Nathaniel Eells was a Congregationalist minister in Stonington, CT. Before 1767, Eells was very involved in Moor’s Indian Charity School. He was a member of Wheelock’s Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and named in Wheelock’s March 1767 will to a board to oversee the school’s lands in case of Wheelock’s death. However, the same month a scandal broke that forced Eells out of any management role in Moor’s. The details of the affair are sketchy because Wheelock, Whitaker, and Eells tried to spin their involvement, but, essentially, before Whitaker and Occom departed on their fundraising tour in 1765, the Connecticut Board agreed that Whitaker should send money back to Wheelock by purchasing goods, some of which would supply missionaries (thus eliminating the cost of expensive imports), and the remainder of which would be sold at a profit through the Lathrops, a wealthy merchant family in Norwich. The Trust in England (a board headed by the Earl of Dartmouth, created in 1766 to oversee the money Occom raised) did not learn about the scheme until March 1767, when the volume of bills made them suspicious. To these English elites, increasing charitable donations through trade seemed unspeakably vulgar, especially since the Lathrops planned to keep a chunk of the profits. Eells made matters worse because he took the opportunity to try to get his son into business with the Lathrops (his daughter had married a Lathrop, but the match had not produced the expected economic payoff), and certain remarks in his letters to Whitaker made it seem that money was being diverted. Eells’ involvement was all the more unfortunate since he had received £100 of the money in 1766, which he had invested in trade and lost (as of 1775, he had not repaid the debt). The Trust demanded that Eells and Whitaker withdraw from the management of Moor’s, and Eells was indeed written out of Wheelock’s 1768 will (Whitaker was initially retained as a member of the American Trust, but he was not made a Trustee of Dartmouth). Outside of his involvement in Moor’s, Eells was a popular local minister who was able to remain at one church from 1733 until his death in 1786. He was close with Joseph Fish, minister at North Stonington, who had been his classmate at Harvard, and both ministers had some involvement with the Stonington Pequots. During the Great Awakening, Eells, like many other ministers, was accused of being unconverted by the radical evangelical James Davenport. Eells was subsequently on the 1743 Congregationalist congress that issued a statement condemning certain revival practices. He served as a chaplain when the Revolution began, despite his age.
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.
Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.
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.