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Ebenezer Gurley, confession, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1770 February 3

ms-number: 770153.1

abstract: Gurley confesses that he tried to leave the school for Yale.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is somewhat uneven, though mostly clear and legible. It is possibly not Gurley's.

paper: Small single sheet is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.

ink: The body of the document is written in dark-brown ink. The signature is in black ink.

noteworthy: When Gurley mentions "the school," it is uncertain whether he is referring to Moor's Indian Charity School or Dartmouth College, and so these mentions have been left untagged. It is possible that the confession is a copy, and was written by an unknown person, and signed by Gurley.


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


I Ebenezer Gurley acknowledge that I was admit‐
‐ted a member of this school, upon my declaring
my fixed purpose to devote my life, and all my pow‐
‐ers to the service of the redeemer among the Indi‐
‐an savages of this land, and upon the credit of
this profession I was taken under the patronage of
the Rev. Doctor Wheelock, and have been supported,
'til now, in part, by the fund which was collected with
a single view to spread the Gospel among the Hea‐
‐then, and my obligations to maintain those pur‐
‐poses, and keep that object in view have ever been most
sacred, and accordingly I acknowledge that I was, and am—
still under the direction and control of Doctor Wheelock
my Patron. and he and no other has right to order and dis‐
pose of me and direct my studies subservient to that end,
Notwithstanding which I confess with shame I gave ear to
some surmises, which were reported without reason,
or truth, concerning this school viz; that it was de‐
‐clining and would quickly come to nothing etc. and was
influenced by bad council given agreeably
whereupon instead
of opening the case, and asking advice of my Patron
as I ought to have done, I desired Brown a member
of College to obtain a waiters berth for me there, which
I —

I understand, he faithfully, and in a friendly man‐
‐ner applied for, by which application of mine
President Daggett had reason to think, that I was not a sub‐
‐ject of this Charity, nor under such sacred ties, as I am
holden by to pursue the design aforesaid and consequently gave
just reason to think that Dr Wheelock had acted a very
false, and deceitful part, in procuring the favour of
a discharge from the expense of my tuition, while I was ab‐
‐sent from College, I also imposed on the Rev. President
Daggett
, by sending such a message to him when I
had no right to do it. I acknowledge in this matter
I have inadvertently acted a very foolish, headlong, unadvised and
sinful part, for which I heartily ask forgiveness of
God, and of the Rev. Doctor Wheelock whom I have
ungratefully, and abusively treated, in this matter, and
I also ask forgiveness of the Rev. President Daggett
whom I have shamefully imposed upon and also of the
school, and all who have been knowing to this my foolish
and unadvised conduct, and I promise by divine grace to
keep my place, and act agreeable to the sacred ties
I am under, fixedly to pursue the great end of my edu‐
cation. If I may be allowed to continue a member of
this school—

Ebenezer Gurley
Lebanon
February 3rd 1770

Gurley, Ebenezer
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.

Daggett, Naphtali
HomeEbenezer Gurley, confession, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1770 February 3
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