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Eleazar Wheelock, letter of recommendation, 1768 November 23

ms-number: 768623.2

abstract: Wheelock writes a pass recommending two Oneida Indians, William and Hannah, as they travel home from the Charity School.

handwriting: Handwriting is not Wheelock's. It is clear and legible.

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

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: This document is possibly a copy.

signature: The abbreviated signature does not appear to be Wheelock's.


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


These certify that the Bearer, William an
Oneida Indian has been with me in order to accompa=
=ny his Sister, who has been several Months in this
School
, back to her Friends — has behaved well since
he came to me, as has also his Sister since she has been
in this School, and being now on their Journey home,
and William wholly Ignorant of the english language,
and Hannah his Sister, but little acquainted with it —
I do therefore recommend them to the Civilities.
Charities and kindness of all people, as they shall see
occasion, and have opportunity to express
and show the same on their way
Dated at Lebanon
the 23 of November 1768
Certified by Eleazar Wheelock
William's and Hannah
Pass. November 23. 1768
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.

William

William Oneida was the son of the Oneida preacher Deacon Thomas. He attended Moor’s briefly between November 1767 (when he left Kanawalohale) and November 1768, when he accompanied his sister Hannah Hail back to Kanawalohale. William Oneida does not seem to have returned after his visit home. In Wheelock’s estimation, he learned no English while at Moor’s, and the following January his father withdrew the remaining Oneida children from the school.

Hail, Hannah

Hannah was an Oneida girl who studied at Moor’s between 1767 and 1769. She was the daughter of Thomas, the Oneida deacon who pulled all six Oneida children, including Hannah, out of Moor’s on January 20, 1769 (likely a decisive event in Eleazar Wheelock’s decision to move away from Native American education). The ostensible reason for the children’s departure was that Hannah’s mother had died and they were all going home for a visit, but they never returned — likely because of Oneida (and Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, in general) opposition to Wheelock’s violent pedagogy. Hannah’s brother William also studied at Moor’s (1766-1768). As in the cases of many other Haudenosaunees who studied at Moor’s briefly, we have no information about Hannah’s later life.

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