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David Crosby, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 August 19

ms-number: 769469

abstract: Crosby writes to introduce his brother William, who wishes to enter the school.

handwriting: Handwriting is formal and clear, yet letter case is frequently difficult to decipher, especially with regard to the letter S.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: In instances where there is some question as to whether a word is spelled with an “e” or an undotted “i,” an “e” has been used. The right edge of two recto shows on the scan of one recto. It is possible that when Crosby refers to his father, he is in fact referring to his father-in-law (Crosby's wife's maiden name was Thomas).

signature: Letter is signed David Crosbey, as opposed to the verified spelling, Crosby.

layout: The first page of letter is on one recto, but second page of letter is on two recto, not one verso.


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


Reverend and honoured Doctor
After due respects to you, and yours in their several characters,
I beg leave to inform you that I had wrote you a Line about
three weeks ago, in which I gave you to understand that my
little Brother William had come a long journey to see me, and also
hinted his views and motives herein. viz the Hopes he had entertained
(after reading your narrative of the Foundation, rise, and design of the Indian
charity School
at Lebanon) of your taking him under your Patronage
I gave you further to understand that I proposed to bring or send him
soon to solicit your friendship for him. unless I should
first receive a Line from you advising otherwise.
A favorable opportunity of sending him (with my wifes Brother
Joel and sister Sibbel who are on a visit here) does now present. and not
having heard from you since I wrote, I have ventured to send him to you
and join with him in requesting your friendship and Favour for him.
If you should please to question the Child you will doubt
less soon be satisfied in his ardent desires after knowledge and
of exercising his little talents for god's glory and the good of
mankind. I am satisfied the Child is better able to give you a satis
fying account of his circumstances and desires than I am, and think
best there to leave the Event. Only I would add thus much, I
believe the simplicity, openness and freeness of the Childs disposition
will render him Incapable of imposing upon you in anywise or
of putting any false gloss on his own character or circumstances.
If it should be your pleasure to keep the Child a Day or two.
in order to satisfy yourself whether or no he can fill a Place in
your School with any tolerable prospect of furthering the good design
of it. I am content he should stay 'til you know what is best,
otherwise you may send him to my Father Tommas who will
send him home to me so soon as convenient. Or if you should
like to talk with me on the premises you may write a Line
or let Billy write and I will endeavour to wait on you
Blank page.
and if it should be thought necessary for me to go to Hardwick (where
my Mother lives, and where the Child's acquaintance are) to do
any business that may subserve the propose I will go

 I am obliged to break off here and only beg leave
only to subscribe myself. Rev. Sir yours in all respects

 David Crosby
East Hartford
August 19. AD. 1769
Mr. David Crosby's
August 19th 1769

To the Rev.
Eleazar Wheelock
DD at
Lebanon Crank
Crosby, David

David Crosby was born, 1729, in Billerica, MA to David Crosby and Sarah Foster. There is very little information about his life. He married Elizabeth [Unknown] in 1756. They would have three children. By Sept. 1766, Crosby was acquainted with Eleazar Wheelock, whom Crosby admired and championed. He wrote and visited Wheelock at least through the late 1760’s. It is likely that Elizabeth died within the few months following November 1767. Mentioning his own mortality and his wish for a useful life, Crosby writes to Wheelock in March 1768 offering to indenture himself in order to join Wheelock’s school and be prepared as a missionary. Sometime after June 10, 1768, he married Anne Thomas of Lebanon, CT. They would have four children together. Crosby then returned to or settled in East Hartford where he died in 1819; Anne died there also the following year.

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.

Crosby, William
Foster Crosby, Sarah
HomeDavid Crosby, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1769 August 19
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