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John Thornton, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1772 February 28

ms-number: 772178

abstract: Thornton writes a lengthy letter mentioning the conflict with Kirkland, doubt that the Trust in England will confirm Wheelock's charter, and rumors that the college is to come under Episcopal management. He believes that Wheelock is too trusting of Ralph Wheelock, and that Occom has been unfairly treated.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is stylized, yet clear and legible. The address is written in a different, unknown hand.

paper: The address is on a single large sheet; otherwise, the letter is comprised of two large sheets folded in half to make four pages. The paper is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining and wear. Repair work has been done on holes and heavy creases.

noteworthy: In the list of dates that begins the letter, the abbreviation “do” is likely an abbreviation for “ditto,” meaning, in this context, “in or of the month already named. “Ap” is likely an abbreviation for “anno praeterito,” meaning “the year that has just passed” (O.E.D.). An “x” written above the trailer on five recto appears to be a library mark. Also on five recto, an editor, likely 19th-century, has added the note “school & College distinct” below the trailer. This note has not been included in the transcription.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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



Dear Sir
Since my last I duly received your several favors of the 11th
January
20th June 1st August 29th do 9th September and 31st October Ap and I
should have wrote you long since had I known what to
say, but I was much comforted by the last with the glad
tidings that you and Mr. Kirkland had met I come to the
Agreement to put it out of the power of evil minded Peo
ple to break into that harmony that ought ever to sub
sist between those of the same Views; by disbelieving all
false insinuations relative to each other and ever coming
to an explanation between yourselves, I hope this will
be steadfastly adhered to in future and that you will be
enabled to see the Cloven foot, whenever any Person
shows a tendency to prejudice you against that valuable
Minister, who indeed in this unhappy difference has
acted as few besides himself Would have done and I shall
ever highly value and esteem it for it and all considered
he has made as few mistakes as could be expected, as
indeed my Dear sir he harboured not the evil reports
that were falsely suggested against you, but ever
spoke with becoming regard and respect of your Character
it is for best to bury all that is past and not so much
as to think of it, but I must with my usual unreserve
Received May. 16th 1772


tell you that I think your Parental regard to your Son
Ralph, has blinded your Eyes to some misconduct of his
and that Mr. Woodward has not been so single Eyed as I
would wish all to be in so glorious a Cause, I don’t mean
to enter on any discussions, but rather what I say is by
way of caution that neither of them may have it in their
power to injure the Redeemers Cause through the sides of
Mr. Kirkland if they should be so unwise as to attempt it
but be you forewarned and thereby forearmed, so as not to listen
to the Subtle Adversarys poison, should he be prevalent
enough to obtain an Eve to administer it, I know how
hard it is to know no one after the flesh and to look th[gap: tear]
all to him with whom we have to do, but that Lord
who strengthens is Almighty, and he requires not
more then he will enable us to perform, when we are
armed from his heavenly Storehouse, all things are
possible, not only so but they are made easy through the
divine influence, may the Lord ever guide you by his
Counsel till he receives you to glory, and keep you watchful
and mindful that those who have not the Spirit of Christ
are none of his.
Your Drafts are duly taken Care of and whenever your
occasions further require assistance I have (through mercy
wherewithal to assist you and at any time you may draw for
One or Two Hundred pounds on your private account or
more if you find it needful to set you quite clear as
it must relieve your mind and be in every view desirable
to stand quite clear of debt, I assure you the Gentlemen
of the Trust are disposed to do all they consistently can
to strengthen your hands that you need be under no
apprehensions of failure therein I was glad to find
you had guarded against blending the accounts of the
School
and the College, in which you have acted wisely
I feared much your being involved thereby that it was
an ease to my mind to see my fears were groundless
and that consequently my Credit given on that score
was unnecessary, I own I doubt much whether your
Charter will be confirmed on this side, as we don’t see
it in the light you do; the Trustees will soon have
a Meeting and then you will hear from them about th[illegible][guess: at]
as well as other matters, but I don’t think an Interview
would tend to clear things as you imagine; many
Men will be of many minds and opinions, upon the whole
you have an admirable good set of Trustees and I believe
they are as disposed to favor you as you could wish
and you need fear nothing harsh from them, but go
on with confidence, keep always in mind Jesus reigns
who has all hearts at Command, he makes our enemies to be
at peace with us and brings good out of evil, continue simple and
keep in mind that as his ways are in the Sea and we can not
trace them, we must not pretend to make our Mountain
strong, but our strength consists in the acknowledgement of
our weakness and looking to him continually step by step to
direct us in all our ways, let us never go forth but with
his presence and when we feel a void let us humbly wait
and be still and he will shine upon us, surely it is his Work
and not ours and he knows best how to carry it on, and unless
when we have done our duty to the utmost we rest it as
wholly as if we had done nothing we shall find a Canker
in our Gourd and experience a blight instead of a blessing
you will know my dear Friend that nothing is simpler
nor plainer then the path of duty and it seems easy
but is unaccountably difficult, and we are often called
on to groan being burdened by indwelling Sin, that
even when we would do good evil is present with us
and we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves
but blessed be God our Souls being restored, we can
triumph in Christ and be more then Conquerors over all
and draw from his fullness grace to help in our every hour
of need, for with him is plenteous redemption and we
are strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner Man
That the Adversary and many of his Party will oppose you
is undoubtedly true and it is not less so that if you look
on them you will embitter your own Spirit, therefore
let us go on unweariedly in the fear of the Lord disregard
ing those on the right and on the left and we shall be safe
the danger is abundantly more from false Friends than
from open Enemies, but blessed be God they are all
Tethered and can’t pass the bounds prescribed them
whereas we know all things are ours both present and
to come for we are Christs and Christ is Gods.
 Mr. Occom seems to me to have been hardly treated
and that I fear has been one means of driving him to
his unjustifiable Conduct, I had rather stand in
his Shoes than in those who have a much better
opinion of themselves and exceed him abundantly in
putting the best gloss on every thing; the best respecting
them is only considered and the worst of him, it should
be remembered he has been taken from that scene
of life that made labor and the greatest parsimony
habitual to him and it is not in human Nature
to return to it with that alacrity which is expected from him
If people that Judge harshly would make his Case
their own, they would be compassionate instead of severe
O how differently would they judge! and pray look to his Case
and Dr. Whitakers, and see who was benefited and yet Mr. Occom
was the Instrument (under God) that was the means of
collecting all the Money and Had the Doctor come
without him the disgrace would have all fell to
his share, whereas poor Occom proved the ScapeGoat
and I am much mistaken if a day is not at hand
that a veil will be drawn over his great Infirmities
and his heart be found upright with God, do my
dear Sir show him all the kindness you consist[illegible][guess: on]ly
can, he will not prove unworthy of your Patronage
I never was more deceived then in him if he is
not an Israelite indeed; his trials have been very
great, I trust he will set right at last —
Assist him with whatever you please from me I am
very willing my heart yearns towards him and I love
him unfeignedly that I can’t but feel for him
I am very glad to hear Mr. Avery is gone to Oneida
and that the Lord seems to be smiling on the good
work you are engaged in I trust the [illegible][guess: mou]ths of
all our adversaries will be stopped, I sent Dr. Erskine
of Edinburgh a Copy of the Agreement between you
and Mr. Kirkland and endeavoured to remove some
prejudices I found he had imbibed to the prejudice
of your new School, as I got an extract of a Letter
he wrote Mr. Davidson of Braintree last September
as follows — “By accounts from America one Mr. Kirkland
“a missionary among the Oneida and Tuscarora Indians
“has been wonderfully blessed and in the judgement of Charity
“many of his hearers savingly converted. There has been
“nothing equal to this since Mr. David Brainerd and
“yet he might have starved for Dr. Wheelock had not
“our board of Correspondents and the London Commissioners
“at Boston
taken him under their care. The Doctor instead
“of employing Missionaries, Schoolmasters or Catechists
“has alienated the greatest part of the Monies collected
“in England to creating a new College in New Hampshire
“the Charter of which where he is named first President
“is conceived in such artful terms, that that College
“will soon fall under Episcopal management, and had
“not this been in view, the ease with which he
“procured a Charter, when Mr. Whitefield was refused
“it can hardly be accounted for —”
I shall not cease to pray that the Lord may long
strengthen you in your Work and for your Work, it is hard
Service that forms Veterans, as you have often seen
in the Book of the way to Zion, may you be enabled
to say with a departed Friend of mine under very severe
Discipline, “I have great Confidence — great submission
“no complaining. The Word to Christians goes beyond
“all this “in every thing give thanks” Hard as this
“may seem under great bodily trials etc. I have no objection
“to it, and the real sense of my own mind is, thankful
“for Christ — thankful for every thing”— I shall be
always glad to hear from you, may you and yours
be growing up in the love of Christ devoted Servants
of the Cross, live daily upon the will of God and enjoy
yourselves in nothing else
praised be God there seems
a great revival in this Land
in various parts while those
that preserve the form only
are making great strides to cast that entirely off and
Luxury and dissipation surely never were more prevalent

I am always
Dear Sir
Yours affectionately

John Thornton
To the Rev. Dr. Wheelock
From Esq. Thornton
February 28. 1772.
To
The Rev.
Eleazar Wheelock
DD:
President of Dartmouth‐
College
at Hanover
New Hampshire

Mr. Chace
Blank page.
Thornton, John

John Thornton was born in Yorkshire on April 1, 1720. As a young man, Thornton inherited money from his father Robert Thornton, who was the Director of the Bank of England, which he used to begin his career as a merchant. In 1753, Thornton married Lucy Watson, with whom he had four children. Watson had a Christianizing influence on Thornton, which ultimately led to his 1754 conversion to evangelical Anglicanism under Henry Venn, the curate of Clapham. Thornton's and Venn’s sons would continue their fathers’ religious traditions, going on to form the “Clapham sect,” an influential group of evangelical Christians who championed social reforms. As a result of his conversion, Thornton pursued charity just as much as trade, a major part of which involved managing the English Trust that oversaw the funds Occom and Whitaker collected for Wheelock’s Indian Charity School. Thornton met and hosted Occom several times during his stay in England, and eventually became the Treasurer of the Trust. After Wheelock moved the School to Hanover, however, he focused on the establishment of Dartmouth College to educate Anglo-American men as missionaries, and was accused of using the Trust's funds to this end. This shift in focus contributed to the rift that developed between Occom and Wheelock upon Occom’s return to America –- a rift Thornton tried to repair. Thornton thought of Occom as an equal and, in his role as Treasurer of the Trust, often reminded Wheelock of Occom's vital role in securing the funds that made the School possible. Thornton financed Occom's further missionary activities and insured that Wheelock did not forget Occom's hard work and Christian morals. In addition, Wheelock –- who knew that Occom respected Thornton –- often called upon the merchant when he himself could not convince Occom to undertake further missionary activity. The exchanges between Wheelock and Thornton ended once Wheelock had used up the funds that Occom had raised in England, yet Occom and Thornton kept in touch up through the Revolutionary War, with Thornton remaining one of Occom's most prominent supporters. He died on November 7th, 1790 as one of the wealthiest men in England, despite giving away nearly half his salary each year. In 1828, Thornton's role in the establishment of Dartmouth was memorialized in the College's naming of Thornton Hall.

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.

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.

Wheelock, Rodulphus

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.

Woodward, Bezaleel

Bezaleel Woodward was an integral figure at Dartmouth College and the greater Hanover community; and like that of Eleazar Wheelock, Woodward’s career consisted of a blend of education, religion, and local affairs. After attending Moor’s and graduating from Yale in 1764, he became a preacher. Upon his return to Lebanon in late 1766, he began to hold various positions at Moor’s and became the first tutor of college department in 1768. Woodward later was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Dartmouth College, as well as a member and clerk of the Board of Trustees. In 1772, he solidified his connection to Wheelock even further by marrying Wheelock’s daughter, Mary. Woodward also held numerous titles outside of the school. He was an elder of the Presbytery and attained multiple appointments in the local court system. A natural leader, Woodward was an influential member and clerk of several committees, representing both Hanover and the Dresden college district. He was thus a leading figure in the Western Rebellion, promoting several towns’ secession from New Hampshire and union with Vermont. Although Woodward resigned from his professorship in 1778, supposedly disassociating himself from Dartmouth while he engaged in politics, it was merely a formality. Upon Wheelock’s death, Woodward acted as president of the college from April to October 1779. Woodward continued to perform many of the executive tasks even after Wheelock’s son and successor, John Wheelock, took over the position, and also held the late Wheelock’s post of treasurer. Claiming to be finished with politics, he officially returned to Dartmouth as tutor in 1782, and performed the president’s duties while Wheelock was abroad in 1782 and 1783. Nonetheless, Woodward continued to participate in local affairs — in 1783 he unsuccessfully attempted to have the New Hampshire General Assembly approve Dresden’s status as a separate town; and in 1786, he became the county treasurer and register of deeds. Woodward remained a prominent figure at Dartmouth and the surrounding area throughout his life. He was, for instance, involved in the construction of Dartmouth Hall in 1784, and was part of the committee formed in 1788 to regulate the contested use of the fund raised by Occom and Whitaker in Great Britain for Moor’s. Woodward died August 25, 1804, at the age of 59.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

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.

Avery, David

David Avery was one of Wheelock's charity scholars and had a long career as a Congregationalist minister. He studied at Moor's and Yale, where he was David McClure's classmate, and received his Masters from Dartmouth in 1773. Avery went on several missions to Indian tribes before his health forced him to retire. His first mission, before his final year at Yale, was to Kanawalohale as a schoolteacher in the summer of 1768. While there, he attended the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix as Wheelock's representative. After graduating, he served on Long Island around Smithtown. He was ordained August 29, 1771, at Dartmouth. Wheelock then sent him to the Oneidas for eleven months (September 1771 to August 1772), primarily to find out why the Oneidas had withdrawn their children from Wheelock's school. However, Avery's health was failing, and at some point between August 1772 and March 1773, he withdrew from Indian missionary service. In response, Wheelock charged him part of his tuition. Avery lived an exciting life after he left Wheelock's service. The Sabbath after the battle of Lexington (April 19 1775), he bade his Gageborough congregation farewell, mustered twenty men, and led them to Boston where he preached to the entire army. He enlisted as a chaplain, although he also fought in battle and served as a medic. He left the army in February 1780, and spent the rest of his life in a variety of pulpits, with a stint under the Massachusetts Domestic Missionary Society.

Erskine, John

John Erskine was a prominent clergyman in the Church of Scotland. He came from a wealthy family, but despite his eventual inheritance decided to dedicate his life to the evangelical revival in Great Britain and America. In the mid-1730s, Erskine attended Edinburgh University where he took arts courses and began the law program, but in 1742, he transferred to divinity hall (after finally convincing his family of his desire to join the clergy). He was a leading member of Scotland’s Popular party, which opposed the law of patronage and supported popular votes for the clergy. By 1768, he became the party’s unofficial leader. Erskine was known for his dissemination of books with the hope of propagating religious ideas, and he used his influence to encourage booksellers to publish or print further editions of evangelical works at affordable prices. He regularly donated books to Harvard, Yale, the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), Dartmouth, and Dickinson College, as well as Eleazar Wheelock’s Indian School. He served as one of the chief directors for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), securing funds for Indian Affairs and donating £600 to Wheelock's school in 1765. However, he objected to what he perceived as Wheelock's promotion of Presbyterianism as opposed to the Church of England. Nathaniel Whitaker worried about how Erskine's objection would affect the funds provided to Wheelock by the Trust in England. Still, Erskine remained committed to Native American causes and was present at the death of John Shattock in 1768, one of two Narragansett brothers who travelled to England in the hope of preventing the Niantic Sachem from selling further Niantic lands to the colony of Rhode Island. By the end of the 1760s, Erskine had become disillusioned with Wheelock and his school, and expressed displeasure with Wheelock's management of donated funds. He feared that Dartmouth would fall under Episcopal influence and questioned Wheelock's frankness in his procurement of the College’s charter. He was also disappointed that Occom and Kirkland were the only two distinguished missionaries with ties to Wheelock. When Erskine decided that Dartmouth College, with which Moor’s had merged, was not serving the intended purpose of providing a Christian education to Indians, he stopped providing funds. Throughout his life, Erskine penned pamphlets, sermons, and five theological treatises. During the Great Awakening, Erskine established relationships with a number of ministers in America, and because of these contacts became sympathetic to the American cause against Great Britain.

Brainerd, David

David Brainerd was a Presbyterian missionary who became a New Light martyr and inspired Wheelock to work for Native American education. He was the older brother of the longer-lived but lesser-known John Brainerd, who provided Wheelock with his first Native students. In the early 1740s, David got caught up in the New Light tide at Yale, and was subsequently expelled for describing men in positions of authority as unsaved. Because ministers to English congregations had to have a degree from Harvard or Yale, David became a missionary to Native Americans instead. His missions attracted substantial attention, and in 1744 the Newark Presbytery ordained him so that he could receive funding from the Society in Scotland for Propagating Chrisitian Knowledge (SSPCK). Between April 1743 and November 1746, when he became too ill to serve, David conducted missionary efforts among various tribes in the mid-Atlantic region, most notably in New Jersey. After his death from tuberculosis in 1747, David became something of a martyr. New Light Congregationalists, especially, saw David's expulsion from Yale as unjust and his commitment to Native Americans as divine. In 1749, Jonathan Edwards published a biography of David together with David's diary, and the text quickly became part of the New Light canon. Education was central to David Brainerd's ministry, and he was among Wheelock's several inspirations. In 1745, Brainerd sent Wheelock a copy of his journal.

Whitefield, George

George Whitefield, the English itinerant preacher who helped spark the Great Awakening, was an essential supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s project. Whitefield studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the pioneers of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. He was ordained in 1736, and he made the first of his seven trips to America two years later. While abroad in 1740, Whitefield founded an orphanage in Georgia, and went on a preaching tour during which he met Wheelock and spread ideals that prompted the Great Awakening. Although Whitefield was ordained in the Church of England, his enthusiastic preaching style and charismatic personality made him a controversial figure, and traditional clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic censured him. Nonetheless, he continued to be an important contact and friend of Wheelock’s, and his dedication to Wheelock’s vision was evident. He contributed money to the cause, secured various other funders, and donated an eighty-pound prayer bell to the school. More importantly, Whitefield not only suggested to Wheelock the idea of a fundraising tour in Great Britain, he hosted Occom and Whitaker shortly after they arrived in England, provided a house for them to reside in for the remainder of their tour, and introduced the pair to influential figures such as William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth. Whitefield tabernacle’s was the setting of Occom’s first sermon in England on February 16, 1766, and many believe that Whitefield wrote the introduction to a pamphlet printed in London during the campaign (although he was not credited). Whitefield continued to be involved in Wheelock’s work until he died in Newburyport, MA in September of 1770.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
HomeJohn Thornton, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1772 February 28
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