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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to George Whitefield, 1767 December 17

ms-number: 767667.7

abstract: Wheelock writes to introduce and recommend Tobias Shattock, and to explain the troubles of his Tribe.

handwriting: Formal and clear handwriting is not Wheelock's.

paper: Single sheet is in good condition, with light creasing and staining, and moderate wear around the edges.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: The signature appears to be Wheelock's.


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


Rev. and very dear Sir
This is only to introduce the bearer, my friend
Tobias Shattock to your notice and respect. I knew nothing
of his embarking for Europe, 'til he advised me of it
by a line a few minutes ago, that he designs to sail
with the next fair wind.
He and his brother have been a little while members of
my school, they behaved well, and made laudable pro
ficiency in reading and writing — I am quite sorry they
haven't had longer opportunity to be instructed, and especially
as Tobias is, in a judgment of charity, a real christian, and
likely in time to be fitted for special usefulness — The Tribe depend
much upon him to conduct Their Affairs for them — He will
be able to represent to you, the calamitous state they are
in. through the extravagance and intemperance of their Sachem.
I very much pity them — if they can't find redress in
this suit they are undone— it may be god is designed to
thrust out the christians among them, to make a new
settlement; and carry the gospel with them, among the
western savages. I trust you will not be unwilling
to assist him with your advice, or any other way that
friendship shall dictate. I fear he has not been suitably
advised of the necessity of credentials in such an Affair.
however I hope god will appear for the help and relief of
the oppressed, and by his means work deliverance for
his tribe— excuse my haste and confusion; and pray for.
yours in the Dear Jesus
Eleazar Wheelock
Rev. George Whitefield


To the Rev. George Whitefield
recommendation of Tobias
Shattock
. December 17. 1767.
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.

Whitefield, George

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.

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.

Shattock, John Jr.

John Shattock Jr. was a Narragansett council member and schoolmaster. Along with his brother Tobias, he briefly attended Moor's from December 1766 to the fall of 1767. Like many Moor's students, John and Tobias came from a prominent family: their father was John Shattock Sr., a Narragansett lay minister. Tobias and John Jr. received their basic education from Edward Deake at Charlestown, and then attended Moor's until they withdrew late in 1767 to try to prevent Narragansett land sales. 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, while much of the Narragansett Tribe opposed this course of action. John Jr. and Tobias took the lead in recruiting powerful Anglo-American allies for the Tribe, including Andrew Oliver, Sir William Johnson, George Whitefield, and Eleazar Wheelock. With these men's help, John Jr. and Tobias were able to secure a halt to land sales and plan a trip to London to plead their case before the Privy Council. They departed in January 1768 and arrived at Edinburgh on April 15, where they both fell ill with smallpox. John survived, but Tobias died on May 6th. John continued on to London, but failed in his appeal. He returned to the colonies where he took an active role in Narragansett leadership. He considered urging his tribe to move to Oneida territory, and even talked with Wheelock about relocating the Tribe to the upper Connecticut River, in New Hampshire territory (the Tribe decided it would be too cold there). In 1770, John briefly taught the Lantern Hill Pequots in North Stonington, CT before he died of consumption that December.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to George Whitefield, 1767 December 17
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