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Jacob Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 June 15

ms-number: 769365

abstract: Johnson writes about the prospect of war among the western nations of Indians.

handwriting: Somewhat informal handwriting is largely clear and legible.

paper: Single sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. A good portion of the seal remains.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.


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



Rev. and Honoured
Sir the state of my Family and my own very
Indifferent state of health has been and is the
reason why I have not seen you sir at Lebanon
ever now My wife has been and is poorly and 2nd
Daughter who is under the Dr.'s Care My Negro
man and Chief stay in my outdoor business
died last week after 9 days illness so that I am
left weak —- I have sent 3 or 4 Letters to let you
know of these things —- I came as far as Newent
with my Daughter but couldn't come further
The Dr. being at Preston etc. and I was obliged also to
be at Home —- And besides as Mr Huntington
I suppose is gone for Oneida and Mr Kirtland
will probably be down the Latter end of this Month
or beginning of next I propose to see you then
if possible —- The Times look threatening at Home
and abroad —- our help is in God only —- some great
overture seems to be near —- The Nation and Land
seems ripening fast for destruction —- if mere sovereign
grace does not interpose —- It will likely be trouble­
some if not dangerous for The missionaries among
The Indians this summer The six nations to be
sure the oneidas expect war and we hear the
foreign Indians are mustering for that purpose
about and beyond Detroit The quadruple alliance
carries an ominous aspect —- But our God can yea
we may be sure will over-rule all for Zions good
and his own glory and that's enough to quiet our minds
I am your etc. Jacob Johnson
P.S.. I have sir heard nothing from you either by
word or letter since I came through Lebanon — I
know not but my Letters etc. have all miscarried
I suppose Mr Kinne didnt go so far as Lebanon
as I expected —- I hope sir however you have heard
the reasons of my not coming and so I rest till
I see or hear from you sir—-
Rev. Jacob Johnson
June 15, 1769
To
The Rev. and Honoured
Dr. Eleazar Wheelock
Lebanon
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).

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.”

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.

Kinne, Aaron

Aaron Kinne was a Congregationalist minister and scholar who, like Titus Smith and Theophilus Chamberlain, worked as a missionary for Wheelock after graduating from Yale. After his 1765 graduation, he taught and studied at Moor's for a year before making two trips as a missionary in 1766: one to Maine to report on the local Indian tribes, and one to the Oneidas, the latter being cut short by poor health. He returned in the summer of 1768 to substitute for Samuel Kirkland. Kinne was ordained in 1770 and became the minister of the Congregationalist church at Groton, Connecticut, where he served until he was dismissed in 1798. He also became a prolific scholar, and during the Revolution, served as chaplain to American troops, including those massacred at the Battle of Fort Griswold. After dismissal from Groton, Kinne lived in a variety of locations in New England and was sporadically employed as a missionary. He died in Ohio while visiting one of daughters.

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