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Mary Secutor, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 July 28

ms-number: 768428.2

abstract: Mary asks for permission to leave the school.

handwriting: Handwriting is somewhat loose, yet formal and clear. Letter case with regard to the letter S is difficult to decipher.

paper: Single medium-sized sheet is in good condition, with light creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Black.


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



Rev. and ever Honoured Sir
I am not insensible
of my Obligation to the Doctor for his paternal care over
me ever since I have been the School. my faults have
been overlooked with tenderness when they have deserved
Severity— I am quite discouraged with myself.
the longer I Stay in the School the worse I am dont
think I Shall ever do any good to the cause: and it will
Cost a great deal to keep me here, which will be Spending
Money to no purpose. I have been more trouble to the Doctor
then all my mates. dont think I deserve the honour
of being in your School! if agreeable to the Doctor I Should
be glad to leave the School next week and be no longer
a member of it


 Honoured Sir I Would beg leave to
 Subscribe mySelf Your
 Humble Servant

 Mary Secuter

To the Rev. Mr.
Eleazar Wheelock DD


Molley Secuters July 28
 1768

Secutor, Mary

Mary Secutor, the daughter of John Secutor, grew up on the Narragansett tribal lands. In December of 1763 she became one of the few women to study with Eleazar Wheelock at Moor's Indian Charity School. Upon her arrival she met Hezekiah Calvin and the two remained at school together for a year and a half before Hezekiah was sent to teach school to Mohawk children. Later Calvin requested Mary's father's permission for the two to marry. John did not give his consent and asked Wheelock to intervene. Despite this, the two became engaged. However, Mary and Hezekiah never married. Mary appears to have been a model student initially, but began to falter as time went on. In December of 1767 she confessed to sins, taking the name of God in vain, and lewd behavior in front of male members of the school while intoxicated. She pledged to cease this behavior, but in March of 1768 she confessed again to unseemly conduct while under the infulence of alcohol. In July of 1768 she wrote to Wheelock expressing that she did not feel worthy and no longer wished to attend the school, and asking his permission to leave.

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.

HomeMary Secutor, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 July 28
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