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Jacob Johnson and David Avery, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 October 17

ms-number: 768567.1

abstract: Johnson and Avery write from the congress at Fort Stanwix, and enclose a copy of their petition to Sir William Johnson. Jacob Johnson adds a postscript reporting on Avery’s activities, and inquiring about American rebels in Boston.

handwriting: The document is written in both Johnson's and Avery's hands: the petition is in Avery's hand, and the postscript is in Johnson's. Although informal, both hands are mostly clear and legible.

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

ink: Brown ink varies in tone; it is possible that the document is written in two different inks.

noteworthy: This document appears to be an addition to manuscript 768567.


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


To the Honourable Sir William Johnson Superintendent of the Six Nations etc.

Your Excellency having received a Letter lately
from the Rev. Dr. Eleazar Wheelock — as also, seen his in‐
structions for propagating the Gospel among the
Indians etc.— Pursuant whereto — These are humbly
to desire and importune your Excellency That, inasmuch
as your Excellency has been pleased more publicly and private
‐ly to manifest an approbation and good liking to
the Doctor's Plan, and laudable design of propagating the
glorious Gospel among the Indians under your
Excellency's Superintendency: So your Excellency would please
still to countenance and encourage the truly noble
design. And in order to prosecute the same to Effect
That your Excellency (as a Tender Father to these perishing Indians)
would be pleased, of your most generous and benevolent
disposition, so to befriend their cause, as to prevent their
Selling themselves off from their Lands, thereby to frus‐
trate the aforesaid design of propagating the Gospel
among them, which undoubtedly will be the sad consequence
of their so doing — That this Effect may not happen
Your Excellency is humbly desired to restrict the Bounds
of the respective Provinces, that they may not be
extended so far North and West, as to cut off the
Lands and Inheritances of the Natives: But that they
possess and enjoy them for their own private Temporal
use; and that more sacred benefit of propagating
the Knowledge of the great Saviour of the world among
them; that so, by the Grace of God, they may have a fur‐
ther opportunity of a more general offer of the
Gospel to them. And for this End, that your Excellency would
be pleased to recommend, out of your clemency and
goodness, the above design of propagating the
Gospels among them, To the Heads and Chiefs of the Nations
that may be present at this Congress — And finally,
that we may have an opportunity, by order of
your Excellency to lay the same before the heads and chiefs that
may be here — and in so doing your Excellency
will not only gain further just esteem and
deserved Thanks of all that wish well to this
most Christian design; but the blessing of many
ready to perish will come upon your Excellency
in this present world — and in the world to come, through
the Grace of God Life everlasting — which is the unfeign‐
‐ed desire and constant Prayer of your Excellency's most
obliged, humble Servants

Jacob ws. Johnson
David Avery.

NB
Mr. David Avery is gone up to Kana
walohale
in order to take his farewell
of the Indians and get everything ready to come
off immediately at the close of the Congress
The Sabbath before last Mr. Peters preached
to the Indians and others in the forenoon
abroad but it was so cold and uncomfortable
in the afternoon that though I was desired
by Mr. Peters Sir William and others I declined but
the Indians gathering together at Mr. Bradax
they Sent for me and I went there the
house was full and after Some Time Sir William
Governor Franklin and the Chief men of the Fort
came But my Interpreter (that did very well
'til they came, whether dashed or what at
their coming was not able by all the
condescension I was master of to humor the
Indian tongue) could not go on the which
Sir William Johnson and others Seeing with‐
drew which occasioned me a good deal of sorrow
and mortification when they were gone He re
covered himself again and did pretty well —
yesterday at the desire of Sir William and others
Mr. Peters and I took our Turns He in the
church way and I in the dissenters to the Great
satisfaction as far as I could learn of all
present— But Sir we hear shocking
accounts from Boston which I am not
able to contradict only to say I do not
believe them — It is said [illegible] [guess: some say] 6 Re‐
giments are Landed — and the Town under Guard. That
Mr. Otis, Roe, and Hancock are sent Home
as Rebels and that 'tis not doubted but they
must suffer Death and that the 92 will likely
Have the same fate —Do let me know as soon
as you can about these things and How far
you have gone respecting a place for a College
etc.— Abraham the bearer has a great mind
to go into your school I took this opportunity
to send these and recommend Him to you sir if you think
proper —

Johnson, Jacob W.

After graduating from Yale in 1740, Jacob Johnson studied theology, became a New Light preacher, and undertook some missionary work among the Mohawks. He was a very radical New Light: he believed in visions and dream interpretation, called himself a seer and, later in life, wore a girdle of hair in imitation of John the Baptist. From 1749 until 1772, he served as the minister at Groton, CT, and remained active in Native American missionary efforts. In the fall of 1768, Jacob Johnson went on a brief domestic fundraising tour with Joseph Johnson (perhaps intended to echo Occom and Whitaker’s tour of Britain, 1765-1767). Jacob Johnson is best remembered for his conduct at the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768, an enormously important treaty at which the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) sold a large amount of land, most of it belonging to other tribes, to the British, represented by Sir William Johnson. The treaty also resolved a contested boundary between Connecticut and Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania’s favor. Jacob Johnson was not Wheelock’s first choice of delegate. However, after several others declined the post, he was chosen to accompany David Avery, then on a mission at nearby Canajoharie. At the gathering, Jacob Johnson engaged in at least four points of serious contention. First, he strongly urged the Haudenosaunee not to sell their land, in direct contradiction of Sir William Johnson and the British Crown’s wishes. Second, he then urged them to sell their land — but only to Wheelock for the use of the Indian Charity School. Third, he tried to interrupt efforts to settle the PA/CT boundary, because he was involved with the interested CT party (called the Susquehanna Company). Fourth, he refused to drink to the king’s health, and gave a bizarre toast calling into question the justice of the monarchy. In the volatile climate leading up to the Revolution, none of his actions went over well. In the aftermath of the Treaty, Wheelock tried to distance himself from Jacob Johnson’s actions, but Wheelock’s relationship with Sir William Johnson still fell apart. (F.C. Johnson, Jacob Johnson’s great-grandson and biographer, has argued that it is unfair to hold Jacob Johnson wholly responsible for these events, as Wheelock and Sir William Johnson diverged on many important political and religious issues). After the Fort Stanwix Treaty, Jacob Johnson accompanied Kirkland on a mission to the Mohawks and Oneidas that lasted until April 1769. He was relatively proficient in the Mohawk (and, thus, Oneida) language, and made a valuable missionary. Like many other missionaries employed by Wheelock, Native-American and Anglo-American alike, Jacob Johnson disagreed with Wheelock about the financial compensation for his mission, and their relationship seems to have disintegrated at this point. In 1772, Johnson was dismissed from his post at Groton. He then resumed his involvement with Connecticut efforts to settle Pennsylvania territory, and became the first minister of Wilkes-Barre, PA, a Connecticut settlement in the contested region (now Wyoming County, PA). He remained there for the rest of his life, excepting a brief period during the Revolution when he sought refuge in CT (1778-1781).

Avery, David

David Avery was one of Wheelock's charity scholars and had a long career as a Congregationalist minister. He studied at Moor's and Yale, where he was David McClure's classmate, and received his Masters from Dartmouth in 1773. Avery went on several missions to Indian tribes before his health forced him to retire. His first mission, before his final year at Yale, was to Kanawalohale as a schoolteacher in the summer of 1768. While there, he attended the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix as Wheelock's representative. After graduating, he served on Long Island around Smithtown. He was ordained August 29, 1771, at Dartmouth. Wheelock then sent him to the Oneidas for eleven months (September 1771 to August 1772), primarily to find out why the Oneidas had withdrawn their children from Wheelock's school. However, Avery's health was failing, and at some point between August 1772 and March 1773, he withdrew from Indian missionary service. In response, Wheelock charged him part of his tuition. Avery lived an exciting life after he left Wheelock's service. The Sabbath after the battle of Lexington (April 19 1775), he bade his Gageborough congregation farewell, mustered twenty men, and led them to Boston where he preached to the entire army. He enlisted as a chaplain, although he also fought in battle and served as a medic. He left the army in February 1780, and spent the rest of his life in a variety of pulpits, with a stint under the Massachusetts Domestic Missionary Society.

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, William

Sir William Johnson was a powerful British colonial official who amassed wealth and influence by integrating into the Mohawk tribe. For a brief window of time (1761-1768), he provided support for Wheelock’s missionary efforts among the Six Nations. He also helped the Brothertown Nation of Indians procure land from the Oneidas. Johnson was born in Ireland in 1715. His family had been part of the Catholic elite, but after William of Orange’s 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne, they at least nominally converted to the Episcopalian Church. In 1738, Johnson emigrated to America to manage his uncle Peter Warren’s estate in Mohawk territory. Over the next decade, Johnson became wealthy in his own right through trade and land sales, acquiring a vast estate crowned by his manor house, Johnson Hall, which became the central location for British and Indian treaty making. In 1745, Johnson began collecting official British titles and positions. He played an important military role in the French and Indian War and was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756 and first baronet of New York in 1757. Much of Johnson’s success was due to his influence among the Mohawks, which he obtained by learning their language and customs and integrating himself into their society. He participated in Mohawk rituals and entered into a common-law marriage with a powerful Mohawk woman, Molly Brant (also called Mary Brant). Because Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) society is matrilineal, this marriage was an essential element of his participation in Indian affairs. Wheelock desperately wanted to wield missionary influence among the Six Nations, and sought to obtain Johnson as an ally in his endeavors. At first, the two found grounds for cooperation. Wheelock sent Occom as a missionary to the Oneidas in 1761 and again in 1762, and sent a substantially larger group of missionaries and schoolmasters in 1765, 1766, and 1767. Johnson, meanwhile, encouraged Haudenosaunee children, including his brother-in-law Joseph Brant, to attend Moor’s. Johnson’s support proved indispensible to missionaries in the field; he helped with supplies, language skills, and relations with the Mohawks and Oneidas. Wheelock also valued Johnson for his influence in Britain, and drew on him for recommendations and public statements of support numerous times. From 1763 on, however, Johnson found himself decidedly uncomfortable with Wheelock’s missionary efforts, and by 1769, their relationship had dissolved completely. In 1766, Johnson was invited to join the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the largest and most influential Anglican missionary society in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world. He began working to place Anglican missionaries, rather than Congregationalist and Presbyterian ones, among the Six Nations, which alarmed Wheelock. Johnson was generally supportive of Native American tribes’ efforts to maintain their land and sovereignty. As the historian Linford Fisher has noted, “virtually every major Native group in southeastern New England successfully petitioned Johnson to act on their behalf during the late 1760s and early 1770s.” Among these groups was the Brothertown Nation, a Christian composite tribe formed by Southern New England Algonquian Moor’s alumni. Johnson helped them negotiate with the Oneidas, which proved essential to their successful land purchase and relocation to central New York.

Franklin, William

William Franklin was the 13th, and last, royal governor of New Jersey. He was the natural son of Benjamin Franklin, printer and diplomat of Philadelphia. William attended Alexander Annand's Classical Academy for two years and was tutored at home. He then served in King George’s war on the New York frontier, attaining the rank of captain, and participated in trade missions to the Delaware and Shawnee Indians in 1748. He went on to study law, was admitted to the bar, and traveled to Europe assisting with his father’s scientific experiments. In 1762 he was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Oxford, married Elizabeth Downes, and was appointed to the governorship. Franklin was popular in the position early on, introducing subsidies for farmers, establishing the first Indian reservation at Brotherton, PA, and helping to found Queens College (now Rutgers University). His popularity faded when he allied himself with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. He was arrested in June 1776, imprisoned, and released in October 1778 to British authorities in New York in a prisoner exchange. His wife died during this separation, and for the next four years, he was involved in Loyalist operations. After the American victory, Franklin emigrated to England where the British Commission on Loyalist Claims awarded him £1800 and a pension for his loss of estate. He remarried a wealthy Irish widow, Mary D’Evelyn, and served as an agent for Loyalist claims in London. Franklin tried to reestablish relations with his estranged father and his own natural son, William Temple Franklin, who had become Benjamin’s ward. Although briefly reconciled, his father finally disinherited him. He was called the most notorious Loyalist after Benedict Arnold.

Hancock, John
Simon, Abraham

Abraham Simon was a Narragansett Moor’s student who played a prominent role in Brothertown’s early civic life. Abraham was born in 1750 into the prominent Simon family, a Charlestown Narragansett family that sent five children to Moor’s (James, Emmanuel, Sarah, Abraham, and Daniel). The minister at Groton, Jacob Johnson, recommended Abraham Simon to Wheelock during the Fort Stanwix Congress in 1768 (how Jacob Johnson knew Abraham and why he had brought him to Stanwix is unclear. His ministry was only 30 miles away from Charlestown, so that may have been the connection). Abraham studied at Moor’s from 1768 until 1772, and, with his brother Daniel, was one of the few Indian students to relocate with Wheelock from Connecticut to New Hampshire. In 1772, Abraham made a brief journey on Wheelock’s behalf to the Tuscaroras, who proved uninterested in missionaries or schoolmasters. The next written record of Abraham Simon dates to 1774, when he wrote to Wheelock to inform him that he was going to keep school among the Pequots, which he did for approximately six months. In 1775, he enlisted in the army and served as a medic at Roxbury for at least part of the Revolution. Abraham immigrated to Brothertown in 1783 and was elected to the town’s first council. His house was a center of communal life, and appears many times in Occom’s diary as the location of religious meetings. Abraham died in Brothertown sometime before 1795, when his land was recorded under his widow’s name. Some confusion exists regarding Abraham’s death and burial. In 1925, some Dartmouth students became aware of an Indian named Abraham Symons who had lived in East Haddam, Connecticut, from 1790 until 1812. They assumed that this Abraham Symons was the Narragansett Abraham Simon, and erected a tombstone for him in East Haddam. Had they consulted William DeLoss Love’s account of Brothertown, perhaps they would not have done so. The town of East Haddam remains convinced that Abraham Simon is Abraham Symons, despite the fact that their account of Abraham’s life and connection to East Haddam relies on conflating his life with his brother Daniel Simon’s.

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