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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Samson Occom, 1769 March 9

ms-number: 769209.2

abstract: Wheelock writes that he has heard rumours about Occom being drunk. He reports that Hezekiah Calvin is in prison for forging a pass for a Negro, and that Joseph Johnson has not been heard from.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small and somewhat crowded, yet mostly clear and legible. The trailer appears to be in Occom's hand.

paper: Small single sheet appears to have been torn from a larger sheet. It is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Dark-brown.

noteworthy: An editor, likely 19th-century, has added a note to the trailer on one verso. This note, which has not been included in the transcription, obscures a portion of the original text.


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


My dear sir.
There is an ugly report bruited of You in
Windham [gap: stain][guess: by] Mr. Prosper Wetmore of Chelsea. [illegible]
it is Said to come from him viz. that You was
overtaken with excessive Drinking at Chelsea near
the Time You was here — and that You had been Several
Times disguised by it — I gave no credit to it and told all
I heard discourse about it, that I believed there was
no truth in it. If it be fact indeed, it is Sad indeed, and
a greater wound to Christ and his cause than Your former
Error —
I want much to See You to converse relative to your
designed Tour into the wilderness this Spring — for many
reasons I think it will be best You should go as Soon as the
ways and season will permit — And it would be best you
Should be there while Messrs. Johnson and Kirtland are
at Home that you might Supply the Oneidas in part
while they are from them — John Matthews gives Some
Grounds to hope he has met with a Saving Change. I hope
that he and Abraham will be useful men — there are
near 40 who have got a hope Since this late season of
Gods Special Favour towards us began. —
Where is Dr. H[illegible][guess: e]ws Daughter which you gave me reason
to expect? — Have you concluded to take David with
You to erect a School Among the Onondagas? —
do Write me of these things as Soon as may be, that I may
know what to depend upon.
I hear that poor Hezekiah Calvin has got into prison at
Little Ease for forging a pass for a Negro, and that it is
probable he will fare hardly — I hope God will humble
him and do him Good by it — Joseph Johnson have not yet been
seen in these parts — I think he is going in the same track
with others — I give my love to you and yours, and am —
yours very heartily
Eleazar Wheelock
Rev. Samson Occom
Dr. Wheelock's
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.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Wetmore, Prosper
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).

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

Matthews, 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.

Fowler, David

David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.

Calvin, Hezekiah

Hezekiah Calvin was one of Eleazar Wheelock's first Native American students. Like Wheelock’s other early Delaware students, he was sent by the minister John Brainerd. Calvin was certified as a schoolteacher on March 12, 1765, and was sent to the Mohawks at Fort Hunter in June 1765. The Mohawks threw him out at the end of September 1766, and he returned to Moor's. Samuel Johnson, an Anglo-American Yale student who replaced Calvin at Fort Hunter, reported that the residents unanimously accused Calvin of being abusive and rude. Calvin, in turn, maintained that the Fort Hunter Mohawks had mistreated him. Calvin’s second stint at Moor’s did not go well. He wrote several confessions for drunkenness and bad behavior, and frequently spoke ill of Wheelock. He left the school in the spring of 1768, and took up residence with the Secutor family (Narragansett) at Charlestown, Rhode Island. Calvin left the Narragansetts sometime late in 1768, presumably after the dissolution of his relationship with Mary Secutor. Wheelock heard reports early in 1769 that Calvin had been imprisoned at Little Ease, NJ, for forging a pass for a Black man (Calvin does not appear in the county records, so either he was never indicted or Wheelock had his information wrong). By 1777, Calvin was in a position of prominence at Brotherton, NJ (a town of Christian Delawares founded under John Brainerd’s ministry). At some point after 1788, Calvin moved west with the Delawares: he may have moved directly to join the Delawares in Ohio territory, or he may have relocated to Stockbridge in 1802 and then moved west.

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.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Samson Occom, 1769 March 9
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