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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1772 May 6

ms-number: 772306

abstract: Wheelock writes that he has asked Occom to go on a mission to Muskingum with David Fowler. He also writes that only three of the College trustees are churchmen, and that he will honor his patrons by not bowing to opponents.

handwriting: Handwriting is small and informal. There are several deletions and additions.

paper: Single large sheet is in good condition, with only light creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Black.

noteworthy: This document is likely a draft.


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



muchHonoured Sir
Last Evening your very kind Letter of march 27th with the enclos[illegible][guess: ed]
Characters of A.B.C. came to hand by the Special post that brought Mr. Spencers
of which the enclosed is an Extract and which may in connection with what I have
lately wrote let you See the progress of the proposed mission to Muskingum
I have wrote Mr. Occom desiring him to accept the mission of which I wrote
you lately, and take David Fowler with him as Companion and schoolmaster
I design these young Gentlemen (who will Set out in a few Days) Shall
go by mohegan and prevail with Mr. Occom if they can to accompany
them I have promised him the Same Reward as Shall be allowed to them
my Hope is only in God he is my only prop the Storm that is raised
against me dont cant dismay me while I believe the cause is Gods
and See him prospering it among the Floods. and Seeking evident[illegible] set upon
them.
 (There are but 3 of the Trustees of this College that so much as bear the
Name of churchmen and but one who is thought to be so in heart and
he is a very honest man and far from party spirit and Bigotry.)
 If my Honoured Patrons can find any alteration that can be made
in the Charter with safety to the school I will
do my utmost to Effect the Same — I cant consent that So large an
interest as is now held by it (which I verily believe to be given by God in
answer to prayer), should be given up.
 I long to have that done which will be honorary and quite satisfactory
to my Honoured Patrons, one Frown from them, as I verily believe them
to be the Favorites of Heaven) and to have a single Eye to the Redeemers cause would depress and Sink me more than all
the (Barking and) Slandering of thousands who are inspired from another
Quarter — These Storms rather encourage and Strengthen me — I believe
Satan well knows that his Kingdom is in danger from this School, and
if possible will prevent the pious souls who are fitting to Storm his castle,
their appearing in Arms against his Strong Holds —
(these young missionaries beg leave to transcribe your three Characters viz
AB&C which I allow them to do. but when I shall have leisure to
answer your desire respecting it I cant tell I have scarce a leisure Hour
in a month. I am not able to answer half the Letters I receive from
correspondents) — I know you will not cease to pray for Honoured Sir

your obliged and very Humble servant
Eleazar Wheelock

John Thornton Esq.

To John Thornton Esq.
May 6. 1772.

Trustees of Dartmouth College
The Dartmouth Trustees functionally supplanted the American Trust, a body that had, beginning in 1768, governed donations for Moor’s Indian Charity School. Out of the initial 12 Dartmouth Trustees, five were former members of the American Trust (William Pitkin, Timothy Pitkin, James Lockwood, Benjamin Pomeroy, and William Patten). The trustees also included another Connecticut man, James Smalley, and Wheelock himself. The remaining five spots were filled by men active in New Hampshire politics: Governor John Wentworth, Theodore Atkinson, George Jaffrey, Daniel Pierce, and Peter Gilman. Wheelock went through substantial political maneuvering to obtain a charter for Dartmouth College, working carefully to hide his plans from the English Trust, an organization safeguarding the nearly £10,000 that had been raised in England for Moor’s Indian Charity School. While in favor of Wheelock moving his school to New Hampshire, the Trust opposed the idea of a charter that would limit its control of the funds. To assuage that concern, Wheelock kept separate accounts for the two schools while the Dartmouth Trustees disavowed, multiple times, any jurisdiction over Moor’s Indian Charity School, from the money raised for the school to the very name and legacy of Joshua Moore, the school’s early benefactor. As late as 1789, the Trustees continued to issue resolutions separating themselves from Moor’s. By declaring themselves distinct from Moor’s, the Dartmouth Trustees contributed to the legal idea that Dartmouth and Moor’s were separate institutions, whatever the reality of the situation.
Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is small liberal arts institution in Hanover, New Hampshire. It has about four thousand undergraduate students taking courses in Arts and Sciences, and another two thousand in graduate schools in the Sciences, Comparative Literature, and Liberal Studies, as well as the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. It is a member of the Ivy League, and the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. The charter establishing the College was signed in 1769 by John Wentworth, Royal Governor of New Hamsphire, who wanted an academy of higher learning in the colony. Its founder, Eleazar Wheelock, was a Congregational minister from Connecticut who, after his success in educating Samson Occom as a school teacher and Indian missionary in the 1740's, started Moor's Indian Charity School in 1754 to continue what he regarded as a divine mission to educate Native boys and girls to become missionaries. As the school grew, Wheelock began looking for a new location closer to Indian Country where he could expand. But in the 1760's he became disillusioned by the relative failure of his progam and began turning his attention to the education of Anglo-American men as missionaries. After a protracted search, he secured the royal charter in New Hampshire and in 1769 moved his family and base of operations to Hanover, where he established the College. It is named for William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who contributed to the funds raised by Occom and Whitaker on their fund-raising tour of Great Britain in 1766-68 and became a member of the London Trust that administered those funds. The College's charter announced its purpose as "the education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes in this land [in] all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and christianizing children of pagans…, and also of English youth and any others." But Wheelock's priorities were, in reality, the reverse. While he gave public notice in 1770 that "My Indian charity school … is now become a body corporate and politic, under the name of DARTMOUTH COLLEGE," he created this parallel structure to allow him to use the funds that were collected specifically for the education of Indians. Only around 75 Native students enrolled at the College before 1972, when it rededicated itself to educating Indians and established the Native American Studies Program. This is also the year Dartmouth went co-ed. Occom was angry and embittered at Wheelock’s abandonment of his “great design,” for which he had sacrificed so much. Their relations cooled after Occom’s return from England, and he never visited his mentor again, or, for that matter, Dartmouth College.
Muskingum County

Muskingum is a county in eastern Ohio that is divided by a river of the same name, which is derived from the Algonquian word for “by the river.” The Shawnee, Wyandot, and Delaware Indians all lived in proximity to the Muskingum River. In 1772, Wheelock wanted Occom to accompany Levi Frisbie and David McClure on a mission to the Delaware Indians at Muskingum. Wheelock mistakenly thought this Tribe spoke Mohegan, Occom's language. More particularly, relations between Wheelock and Occom had soured after Occom returned from his fundraising tour of Great Britain to find his family in dire financial straits, and the School and Wheelock removed to New Hampshire with very few Native students. Wanting to help out Occom financially and get him away from the scandals in Mohegan (there were allegations of public drunkeness), Wheelock sent several letters to Occom urging him to undertake the mission to Muskingum, but they never arrived. When Frisbie and McClure visited Occom in Mohegan on their way out to Ohio, he protested that the short notice and family responsibilities prevented him from accompanying them, and never went on the mission. Nor would Frisbie and McClure make it all the way to Muskingum.

Mohegan

Mohegan is a village in southeastern Connecticut at the site of the present-day town of Montville, and is the location of the Mohegan Indian Reservation. The village gets its name from the Mohegan Tribe, or wolf people, who split from the Pequots in the early 17th century under the leadership of the sachem Uncas. In the 1720s, the Mohegans requested the colony of Connecticut provide them with an English educator. An English minister and schoolteacher named John Mason (no relation to Captain John Mason) moved to Mohegan in order to provide English-styled education to the Mohegans, convinced his sponsors, the New England Company, to build a schoolhouse at Mohegan, which eventually served as a boarding school for other Native American children from the surrounding area. During the 17th century, the Mohegan Tribe became embroiled in a complicated controversy over control of Mohegan land — known as the Mason Land Case or, more specifically, Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut — that included the village of Mohegan. The Tribe claimed that it never authorized a transfer of their lands, held in trust by the Mason family, to the colonial government. In 1662, the colony of Connecticut was incorporated by a royal charter, which included the disputed tribal land. The land controversy was revived in 1704 when descendants of John Mason, the original trustee, petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, but the suit was finally decided against the Tribe in 1773. Born in Mohegan, Occom became involved in the Mason Land Case and vehemently argued for the rights of the Mohegan Indians to maintain their land, opposing Eleazar Wheelock and other ministers in the area. Although Occom left Mohegan for a 12-year mission with the Montauk Indians of Long Island, he returned at the end of 1763 with his large family to build a house in Mohegan, establishing it as his base of operations. Even after the creation of the Brothertown settlement in Oneida country, for which he served as minister, Occom continued to commute back and forth from Mohegan; he didn't sell his house in Mohegan and move his family to Brothertown until 1789. Many members of his family remained in Mohegan, including his sister Lucy Tantaquidgeon, who lived there until her death at 99 in 1830.

Hanover

Hanover is a town in Grafton County, New Hampshire, which is located along the Connecticut River in the west-central area of the state, originally occupied by the Abenaki Tribe. It was chartered by Governor Benning Wentworth in 1761 as "Hannover," and four years later, European settlers arrived, mostly from the colony of Connecticut. Although heavily wooded, Hanover became an agricultural community. In 1769, Eleazar Wheelock established Dartmouth College near the Common at a village called "the Plain," a level tract of land about a mile above the River. For a few years in the 1780s, the southwest corner of the town, called "Dresden," along with several other disgruntled villages along the River who felt they were not being adequately represented in the state legislature, defected from New Hampshire and joined the independent Republic of Vermont. The village of Hanover, not to be confused with Hanover Center, another village located in the center of the township, grew up around the College and became the locus for the Presbytery of Grafton.

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.

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.

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.

Fowler, David

David Fowler was Jacob Fowler's older brother, Samson Occom's brother-in-law, and an important leader of the Brothertown Tribe. He came to Moor's in 1759, at age 24, and studied there until 1765. While at school, he accompanied Occom on a mission to the Six Nations in 1761. He was licensed as a school master in the 1765 mass graduation, and immediately went to the Six Nations to keep school, first at Oneida and then at Kanawalohale. Fowler saw himself as very close to Wheelock, but their relationship fragmented over the course of Fowler's mission, primarily because Wheelock wrote back to Kirkland, with whom Fowler clashed, but not to Fowler, and because Wheelock refused to reimburse Fowler for some expenses on his mission (767667.4 provides the details most clearly). Fowler went on to teach school at Montauk, and played a major role in negotiations with the Oneidas for the lands that became Brothertown. He was among the first wave of immigrants to that town, and held several important posts there until his death in 1807.

HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1772 May 6
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