abstract: Johnson writes that, if Huntington should go to Oneida Country, it is important that he learn the Indian language. Johnson strongly urges Wheelock to employ a professor of Indian language, and counsels him not to send Ralph Wheelock on a mission before meeting with Mr. Kirtland.
handwriting: Informal handwriting is occasionally difficult to decipher. At times, the writer does not pick up his pen or leave space between words. Letter case is occasionally difficult to discern, especially with regard to the letter S.
paper: Large sheet folded into four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.
signature: The signature is abbreviated.
noteworthy: It is uncertain as to whether, when he refers to "your School," Johnson means Moor's Indian Charity School, or the newly chartered Dartmouth College, and so this reference has been left untagged.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
Rev and Hon.
with the Reasons of my not coming to Lebanon, as I had intend‐
ed —my Family most of them are unwell — and my 2nd Daughter
in a critical State of Life — and other things so with me, that my
Time is wholly took up— and several things yet to do of impor‐
tance that I can't yet attend to — I saw Mr-Hunt‐
ington (whom you mentioned to Me when at Lebanon)
who informs me that He with 2 schoolmasters are to
go soon for Oneida, and the Indian Country — Per‐
haps as things are Circumstanced — it [guess: may not]
be best at present ('til you sir see fur‐
ther) to employ more than One Missionary
(besides Mr Kirtland) and 2 Schoolmasters — and perhaps
Mr Huntington (as things now are) may do best to
go — He is indeed young, and has not had much time, or
advantage to get acquaintance in these affairs —
but (being, I hope, honestly and heartily inclined to serve
the Redeemer, in this most important Cause) He may be suc‐
ceeded, and blessed in the undertaking -— There are many
difficulties, and dangers, attending of it, especially to one
unacquainted with The Indian Language, manner etc.
But God is able to do all things, and even out of
weakness to ordain Strength -— I believe sir it
would be best (if possible) for one of the Schoolmaster
to go as an Interpreter to Mr Huntington For He will
be put to difficulty otherwise to get an interpreter
— and moreover if Mr Huntington proposes to spend his
Life among the Indians, to be sure to give his Mind
inconceivably great to a missionary — next to the Grace
of God and ministerial Gifts it is the better half
of a missionary's qualifications to do service in the
Cause — I could wish that all and every one that
think of doing Service as missionaries among the
Indians woud give themselves to the Learning of
their Language, as one most necessary ante‐
cedent qualification for their going among them
And for this most important purpose that
you would sir get as soon as possible a pro‐
fessor of Indian in your School and that the
Indian Language may be taught as equally if
not even more necessary than Latin Greek
or Hebrew as I am indeed certain it is in this
Case by my own most certain experience
of grammar and taught as any other Language
and be learned as soon or sooner than any
other especially by those who have any taste
or genius for the Oriental Languages —as I
could easily show by what I learned of it —
—was it the will of God I should spend as much
Time away there again as I did the last
winter I think I could be master of their
Language and be able to reduce it to the Rules
of grammar which I think would be a service
if your son or any other proposes to go into the service
I hope they will in the meantime give themselves to
the study of the Indian Tongue —you see sir the affair
is so much on my Mind that I know not how
to dismiss it or give over urging it upon your
mind sir 'til you do something to effect about it
the which when I hear of my Mind will be easy
in that respect — but I must not enlarge
May the Father of Lights direct you sir in
all things and make his will in these and all respects
plain and perfect for the furtherance and upbuilding
the Redeemers Kingdom among the benighted
Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord —
son Mr. Rodolphus not to go for the Oneida until you
sir and your son have had a personal Interview with
Mr Kirtland at Your own House and those affairs —
subsisting be considered and amicably settled to mutual
satisfaction which I hope through the mercy and Grace
of God may be done and well done so that the
pathway of Duty may be open and plain That there
may be nothing in that respect within or
without to hurt or offend in all Gods Holy Moun‐
tain — It was my labour there with Kirtland and prayer to
God then and since tha[gap: tear][guess: t] [gap: tear] might be done —
May 13th 1769.
Dr. Eleazar Wheelock
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).
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.
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.”
Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.
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.