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Aaron Occom, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1768 November 9

ms-number: 768609.2

abstract: Aaron Occom responds to Johnson’s letter about possibly going to sea, and reports on the health of Johnson’s relatives in Mohegan.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, but largely clear and legible. The trailer is in an unknown hand.

paper: Small, square sheet is in good condition, with light creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: The identities of Johnson's unnamed aunt, uncle and sister are uncertain and so they have been left untagged.


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


Dear Sir
I have, opportunity to inform you that
I am well at present, and am hoping that you do enjoy a good state
of health, Sir, I received a letter from you the other day, in
which I do thank you for your kindness, you wrote something
about going to Sea, I can't tell you justly how the [illegible][guess: people]
are, some are good natured and some are not, but in whole it
is pretty good business, etc. etc.
and So I must end for the present
I hope I Shall See you fore long and then I will tell
you more about it, etc.

I am Still your true friend. Aaron Occom
your uncle is well and your aunt, and your sister is well
and She is here at Mohegan——
Aaron Occom's to
Joseph Johnson November 9. 1768

Occom, Aaron

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.

Johnson, Joseph

Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.

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