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Nathaniel Whitaker, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 April 11

ms-number: 769261

abstract: Whitaker writes that he is ready to license Mr. Huntington for a mission among the Indians. He also refers to business among other ministers.

handwriting: Whitaker's hand is formal and clear, though letter case is occasionally difficult to discern, especially with regard to the letter S.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light staining and wear. The paper has been folded many times, yet the creasing is not particularly heavy.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.

noteworthy: In the second-to-last line of one recto, the phrase "Woe is me that I live in Meshek" references Psalm 120:5.


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



Rev. and Dear Brother
Mr. Huntington has been with me
and I have examined him, and though his experiences does not
appear to me to be so clear as I could desire, yet as
he seems desirous to devote his heart and life to god, and
is willing to enter on so difficult a work, as that of
a mission among the Savage Indians, and as he has a
competence degree of knowledge in divinity which may en‐
able him to instruct those poor Savages to good pur‐
pose, and appears Sound in the great and fundamental
points; I feel a freedom to approbate him.
If you and Mr. Pomeroy shall judge so too, and will
draw and sign a license, I shall readily sign it
This Day the Rev. Messrs. Lord, Wight and Eells
are to be here at 2. o'clock in order to pursue the
advice of council, and endeavour a reconciliation. —
But what am I to hope for? I sent letters to them this
morning, and four of them were sent back un‐
opened —
Mr. Eells has got the deed executed — but as the
town clerk lives 10 miles from him he could not get
it recorded; but will do that and bring it with him at the
council the 25th instant and they you and a delegate must come
again — Woe is me that I live in Meshek — O to be
directed right —
from your afflicted Brother
Nathaniel Whitaker
Blank page.Blank page.
From Dr. Whitaker
 April. 11. 1769.

To
The Rev. Dr. Wheelock
in
Lebanon
Whitaker, Nathaniel

Nathaniel Whitaker was an outspoken Presbyterian minister with a long and wide-ranging career. Between his ordination in 1755 and his death in 1795, Whitaker ministered to five different congregations. His longest tenure was at Chelsea, CT (near Norwich), from 1761-1769, during which he joined Occom on his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Britain. While in Chelsea, Whitaker was very involved in Wheelock's project. The two engaged in frequent correspondence, and Whitaker served on Eleazar Wheelock's Board of Correspondents in Connecticut, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School. At one time, he was Wheelock's presumed successor, but Dartmouth's Trustees demanded that Wheelock appoint another. Wheelock, in part due to his strongly-held belief that Native Americans were childlike and rash, was convinced that Occom needed an Anglo-American supervisor on his fundraising tour. After several candidates turned down the job, Wheelock selected Whitaker. He proved to be a poor choice; he was, by many accounts, a difficult man to get along with, and many of Wheelock’s British allies, including George Whitefield and the English Trust (the organization that took control of the money Occom raised in England) preferred to deal with Occom, although Whitaker insisted on handling the tour’s logistics. Furthermore, in Britain, Occom was the obvious star of the tour, and it was unclear to many why Whitaker asserted himself so prominently. Whitaker’s poor decisions seriously alienated the English Trust and increased their suspicion of Wheelock’s later dealings and treatment of Occom. He gave the English Trust the impression that they would have control over money raised in Scotland (which was in fact lodged with the parent organization of the SSPCK), and he was the executor of the “Eells Affair,” a plan initiated by the CT Board of the SSPCK to bring the money that Occom and Whitaker raised back to the colonies by investing it in trade goods and selling them at a profit (Eells was one of the merchants who was to help with the resale of goods). The English Trust learned about the plan by reading letters that Whitaker had given them permission to open in his absence, and were immediately shocked. The wording of certain letters made it appear that only a percentage of the profit from the resale of the goods would go towards Moor’s Indian Charity School, but beyond that detail, the English Trust was scandalized at the thought of money raised for charity being invested in trade. The English Trust blamed Whitaker entirely for these affairs, and issued specific instructions for Occom to notarize all documents requiring Whitaker’s signature. In short, they wanted Occom to supervise Whitaker, when Wheelock had envisioned the opposite relationship (both Occom and Whitaker seem to have ignored their instructions, preferring to have as little contact with one another as possible). In 1769, a year after his return to Connecticut in 1768, Whitaker found himself dismissed by his Chelsea congregation (likely because he had spent two and a half years away from them). He went on to serve several more congregations before his death in 1795. Whitaker was an outspoken Whig, and during the Revolution he published several pamphlets on his political opinions.

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.

Huntington, Thomas

Thomas Huntington was Eleazar Wheelock’s maternal cousin. He graduated from Yale in 1768, and, in the spring of 1769, he went on a brief mission with Levi Frisbie and John Mathews to relieve Samuel Kirkland among the Oneidas at Kanawalohale. However, the situation at the time was so volatile that Kirkland could not leave, and Huntington went home after a month. After deciding that a missionary career was not for him, Huntington built a sizable fortune in Ashford, CT, through medicine and trade. He eventually settled in Canaan, CT, where he lived to the age of 91 while practicing medicine and business. Franklin Dexter, the biographer of Yale’s graduates, characterizes him as “somewhat eccentric.”

Pomeroy, Benjamin

Benjamin Pomeroy was a school friend of Eleazar Wheelock and a lifelong supporter of his cause. Like Wheelock, he was a New Light evangelical and a staunch ally of James Davenport, a radical New Light preacher whose beliefs got him in trouble with the law. After graduating from Yale in 1733, Pomeroy received the ministry at Hebron, CT, in 1734, and assisted Wheelock in myriad ways until his own death in 1784. He kept Wheelock's school during 1746, when Wheelock's first wife, Sarah, was dying, and he tutored Occom (primarily in Hebrew) after Occom had completed his studies with Wheelock. Pomeroy also supported Wheelock as a trustee of Moor's, and, later, Dartmouth, and as a member of the Board of the Correspondents in Connecticut for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Pomeroy and Wheelock also had close family connections: Pomeroy was married to Wheelock’s sister, Abigail, and one of Pomeroy’s daughters, Hannah, married David McClure, one of Wheelock's most illustrious graduates. Outside of his liturgical career, Pomeroy served as an army chaplain in the French and Indian War and the Revolution.

Eells, Nathaniel

Nathaniel Eells was a Congregationalist minister in Stonington, CT. Before 1767, Eells was very involved in Moor’s Indian Charity School. He was a member of Wheelock’s Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and named in Wheelock’s March 1767 will to a board to oversee the school’s lands in case of Wheelock’s death. However, the same month a scandal broke that forced Eells out of any management role in Moor’s. The details of the affair are sketchy because Wheelock, Whitaker, and Eells tried to spin their involvement, but, essentially, before Whitaker and Occom departed on their fundraising tour in 1765, the Connecticut Board agreed that Whitaker should send money back to Wheelock by purchasing goods, some of which would supply missionaries (thus eliminating the cost of expensive imports), and the remainder of which would be sold at a profit through the Lathrops, a wealthy merchant family in Norwich. The Trust in England (a board headed by the Earl of Dartmouth, created in 1766 to oversee the money Occom raised) did not learn about the scheme until March 1767, when the volume of bills made them suspicious. To these English elites, increasing charitable donations through trade seemed unspeakably vulgar, especially since the Lathrops planned to keep a chunk of the profits. Eells made matters worse because he took the opportunity to try to get his son into business with the Lathrops (his daughter had married a Lathrop, but the match had not produced the expected economic payoff), and certain remarks in his letters to Whitaker made it seem that money was being diverted. Eells’ involvement was all the more unfortunate since he had received £100 of the money in 1766, which he had invested in trade and lost (as of 1775, he had not repaid the debt). The Trust demanded that Eells and Whitaker withdraw from the management of Moor’s, and Eells was indeed written out of Wheelock’s 1768 will (Whitaker was initially retained as a member of the American Trust, but he was not made a Trustee of Dartmouth). Outside of his involvement in Moor’s, Eells was a popular local minister who was able to remain at one church from 1733 until his death in 1786. He was close with Joseph Fish, minister at North Stonington, who had been his classmate at Harvard, and both ministers had some involvement with the Stonington Pequots. During the Great Awakening, Eells, like many other ministers, was accused of being unconverted by the radical evangelical James Davenport. Eells was subsequently on the 1743 Congregationalist congress that issued a statement condemning certain revival practices. He served as a chaplain when the Revolution began, despite his age.

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