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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1772 July 25

ms-number: 772425.2

abstract: Wheelock writes that he has drawn on Thornton for 50 pounds to discharge Occom’s debts in the hopes that Occom will go on a mission. He relates other news regarding Occom and Mr. Jewett, and notes that building is complete on the mills and a large barn.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small and crowded, but mostly legible.

paper: Two single sheets are in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. The outside edges of one and two recto appear to have been trimmed, and it is possible that the two separate sheets were once part of a larger sheet folded in half to make four pages.

ink: Black.

noteworthy: When Wheelock refers to the "Boston Board," he is referring to either the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, or the The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America. This document is likely a draft; in the trailer on two verso, Wheelock notes that the letter was not sent.


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



very dear and Honoured Sir.
I informed You in my late Letters of my
proposal to Mr. Occom to accept a mission with Messrs.
Brainerd, McClure, and Frisbie, to Muskingum, and that I
had ordered the Latter to visit Mr. Occom in their way and
discourse him on the Head. Two days ago I received a letter from
Mr. McClure dated at Mohegan June 30. and another from
Mr. Occom of July 3rd — by the former I understand Mr. Occom
has much retrieved his Character, and recovered the charity of good
people — Mr. McClure much desires he may be encouraged in
this mission, and thinks the cause may be much Served by it—
Mr. Occom shows no aversion to take the Journey, with
Jacob Fowler his Brother in Law who was educated in this
School, and is an accomplished Youth; now keeping School
at the seaside, in the pay of the Boston Board, and whom Mr.
Occom
thinks was savingly converted last Winter, and is very
warm in Religion, and thinks will become a Preacher Soon,
but he Mr. Occom will not go on this mission, 'til his Debts, which Mr.
McClure
says are ₤50 or 60 are discharged,
I am of Opinion that as things are it is best that he be
encouraged, and hope the cause of the Redeemer may be
Served by it. —
I have informed You of the Difficulty of my doing it
while his own or Neighbouring Tribes who are all under the Care of
the Boston Board, are his only Object — it will not fail to
give Offence, and they will have a better color for reproach‐
‐ing my Conduct, and Me as a busybody in their matters, than
I think I have yet given them — Though the Rev. Mr. Jewett who
has the pastoral Charge of that Tribe by the Appointment of
that Board, has been much Offended at my favouring Mr. Occoms mi

 ministrations among them So far as I have done. If Mr. Occom
will make other Tribes his Object my way in that respect
will be clear — I have fully told Mr. Occom of this, and yet he
Seems to think hard of me that he is not Supported by the
Money which he was So instrumental to collect.
In Order therefore to prepare Mr. Occom's way for this
proposed mission, I have drawn on You sir, according to
your generous Direction in Several Letters for ₤50. sterling
in favour of Mr. Occom — I suppose he will likely Sell
the Bill to Mr. Nathaniel Backus, by whom I believe he
will be as honestly and generously treated, as by any man at
all —
Mr. Occom also informs me that Joseph Johnson whom I educated at
great Expence, (and Who has Since cost me much Sorrow) and is a
youth of pregnant parts and well accomplished, was hopefully
made a new man last winter — if this be So he is my [illegible].
Mr. Ripley set out 17th instant on his Tour to Canada with Mr.
Taylor his Companion — Yesterday I received a letter from dear
Mr. Austin dated Albany July 1[illegible][guess: 1], I Suppose on his way from
Montreal to Connecticut, by which I conclude Mr. Ripley will
fail of the Benefit of his assistance
He Says the popish priests will do all they can in opposition
to my purpose — Yet thinks there is Some encouragement.
I haven't Time to write my Honoured Patrons, I trust you will,
if you think anything worthy of it in the Several things I have
hinted from Time to time, communicate them as you have opportunity.
I have finished the Mills, of which I wrote you, to my mind, and
have a prospect they will well answer my Expectation — and
almost finished a Barn of 55 feet long and 40 wide
The crop upon the ground looks well — and Nothing that I see
in the whole affair discouraging. My Hope is in God Alone.
I wrote you of the concert for Prayer agreed upon with the
missionaries on Saturday and Sabbath Evenings between the Hours
of 6. and [illegible][guess: 7] O'Clock, for the success of their missions; at which
Time I doubt not we shall meet you and others who long

long for the Advancement of the Redeemers Kingdom,
at the Throne of divine Grace, upon that occasion. in
which please remember.

Much Honoured Sir.
 Yours in the Dearest Bonds, etc.

Eleazar Wheelock
John Thornton Esq.


To John Thornton Esq.
 Not Sent
 1772

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.

Brainerd, John

John Brainerd was an ardent missionary with an important role in Wheelock's design. He was the younger brother of the famous missionary David Brainerd, who died as a young man after being expelled from Yale and serving as a missionary to New Jersey tribes. John completed his Yale degree and was immediately commissioned to replace David. Even in his own time, he was seen as a man as pious as, but less talented than, his brother, though Brainerd missioned to Indians during a more volatile period, and saw his congregation forcibly removed from their lands in 1755 and relocated at Brothertown in 1758 (this Brothertown should not be confused with the one founded in New York after the Revolution by many Moor's alumni). Brainerd was extremely devoted to the Indian cause. He often had the opportunity to serve wealthy English congregations, but preferred to remain an Indian missionary. He invested signficant sums of his own money into his missions, for which he was never reimbursed. Brainerd was a very prominent Presbyterian figure, active in the Presbytery and Synod of New York, holding several elected positions, and in the Presbtery and Synod of New York and Philadelphia once the two reunified in 1758. He was a Trustee of the College of New Jersey from 1754 until his death, and a member of the New York Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Occom had planned to work with Brainerd in 1750, but political upheaval prevented it. Brainerd was one of several men nominated to accompany Occom to England, but the New York Board refused to let him go. While Brainerd and Wheelock were not close personal friends, the two had a similar interests and a long-lasting correspondence. John Brainerd sent Wheelock his first Indian boys, and also recruited female students in the 1760s. Throughout their lives, Brainerd and Wheelock updated one another on Indian missions, and Brainerd seems to have been one of Wheelock's "point people" in the Presbyterian Church.

McClure, David

David McClure was an Anglo-American charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School. He went on to become a minister, and remained exceptionally loyal to Eleazar Wheelock throughout his life. McClure is important as a primary source on Moor’s Indian Charity School: his diary (more accurately, an autobiography that he composed between 1805 and 1816) includes eyewitness accounts of the school, Samson Occom’s home life, and Separatist worship among the Charlestown Narragansett. McClure also became Wheelock’s first biographer (Memoirs of the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, 1811). McClure was a typical charity scholar, in that he attended Moor’s primarily to obtain an education that his family could not have afforded otherwise. After a year at Moor’s, McClure enrolled in Yale, where he attended sporadically between 1765 and September 1769, when he received his degree. After graduating, McClure kept school at Moor’s (then in New Hampshire) for several years, until he undertook his only career mission in 1772. McClure was exceptionally ill-suited to the missionary business. He was a city boy from Boston, and was so unfit for farm labor at Moor’s that Wheelock had him copy out correspondence instead. Aside from a brief 1766 foray into teaching at Kanawalohale under Samuel Kirkland’s tutelage, McClure’s only mission was an aborted sixteen month effort (1772-1773) to proselytize the Delaware of the Muskingum River, during which he spent far more time preaching to Anglo-American congregations. McClure had a long career as a minister, teacher, and writer. He remained close to Wheelock throughout his life: he married into Wheelock’s family in 1780, served as a trustee of Dartmouth from 1778 until 1800, consistently informed Wheelock of Dartmouth’s PR problems, and took Wheelock’s side in his dispute with former charity scholar Samuel Kirkland.

Frisbie, Levi

Levi Frisbie was a very intelligent and unreligious charity scholar. He came to Wheelock with substantial schooling already, and after a few months at Moor's, Wheelock sent him on to Yale. There, Frisbie excelled academically. However, he never wanted to be a missionary. He arrived at Moor's sometime during April of 1767, and by May 5, he was already writing Wheelock asking to be released from missionary obligations. While at Yale, this trend continued: Levi went so far as to confess to Wheelock that he was not even a church member. Although he was not passionate about Scripture, he was quite the classicist. Under the name Philo Musae, he would write Wheelock long chains of heroic couplets styled on epic about the Indian mission. In 1769, Levi went on his first mission (a short stint to the Oneidas). Shortly thereafter, Wheelock pulled Levi out of Yale to help make up Dartmouth's first class. Levi graduated in 1771, and was ordained with David McClure in May 1772. He and McClure set out on a mission on June 19, 1772, but Levi fell ill immediately and stayed at Fort Pitt. It is unclear whether he rejoined McClure on the mission. The two men returned to Hanover on October 2, 1773. Levi stayed involved with Wheelock and the Indian mission for a few years, but by 1776, he had assumed the pulpit at Ipswich, where he remained for the rest of his life. Levi's poetry appears at the end of Wheelock's 1771 Narrative, as well as in McClure and Parish's biography of Wheelock.

Fowler, Jacob

Jacob Fowler was a Montauk Indian whose life was dramatically shaped by Samson Occom, his brother-in-law. Occom taught Jacob when he was a child, and in 1762, Jacob followed his older brother David Fowler to Moor's. After three years he was approved as an usher in the 1765 examination, and in 1766 he went to assist Samuel Johnson at Canajoharie. He taught among the Six Nations until at least mid-1767. In early 1770, Occom procured him a job teaching at Mushantuxet through the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Jacob taught and preached among the Pequots at Mushantuxet and Stonington until 1774, when Wheelock hired him to teach at Moor's, which had relocated to Hanover, NH as a complement to Dartmouth College. During this time, Jacob also assisted Joseph Johnson with efforts to rally the New England Christian tribes for a move to Oneida territory (the Brothertown Movement). By 1776, there were no Indians enrolled in Moor's and Jacob moved on to serve Governor John Trumbull of CT as a messenger to the Six Nations during the Revolution. After the Revolution, he continued organizing the Brothertown Movement and was among those who initially emigrated in 1784. He was elected clerk at Brothertown, and died sometime in the spring of 1787.

Jewett, David

David Jewett was a white minster at Mohegan who developed a hostile relationship with Samson Occom. He become the pastor of the North Church in New London, CT (now Montville) in 1739. Jewett initially served as the clergyman for the English congregation, and attempts to merge the white church with the local Indians were unsuccessful. In 1742, when plans to establish a pastor for the Indians also proved to be futile, Jewett became the minister for them as well, supported by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America (New England Company). Indians received religious materials, and many, including Sarah Occom, Samon's mother, became members of his parish. In 1756 when Connecticut gathered a regiment to go to Crown Point, Jewett served as chaplain. He also became a member of the Connecticut Board of Correspondents of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) when Wheelock assembled it in 1764. In addition to his role as minister, Jewett oversaw Robert Clelland’s school at Mohegan, which became one source of his animosity toward Occom. Occom criticized Clelland’s performance as schoolmaster, implicating Jewett as the supervisor, and Jewett rejected Occom’s intrusion. Furthermore, since Occom had been appointed to preach at Mohegan, several Indians as well as English, primarily those who sided with the Indians in the Mason Case, left Jewett’s church to follow Occom, as Jewett supported the Colony due to his land interests. Jewett brought charges against Occom to the Boston Board of the SSPCK and to the New England Company Commissioners, and the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK tried Occom in March of 1765. They found Occom to be innocent except for his involvement in the Mason Case; therefore, the Board declared that Jewett must write to the Boston Commissioners again to clear Occom. Although Jewett assented to the task, he did not pen the letter until Wheelock pressured him that June. While Jewett and Occom’s relationship was officially mended, bitterness remained until Jewett’s death in 1783.

Backus, Nathaniel

Captain Nathaniel Backus Junior (II) provided Occom with supplies. Like Elijah Backus, he was a member of the prominent Backus family. Although he also had a son named Nathaniel Backus (III), it is more likely that Nathaniel Backus Jr. refers to Nathaniel Backus II, as Nathaniel Backus II regularly went by N. Backus Jr, since he co-existed in Norwich politics with his father, Nathaniel Backus Sr. (I).

Johnson, Joseph

Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.

Ripley, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Ripley was a charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School who became one of Dartmouth College’s first professors and Eleazar Wheelock’s son-in-law. After a brief stint at Moor’s proper, Ripley entered Yale in 1768. He undertook several short missions to the Canadian tribes in the early 1770s to seek out a new source of Native American students for Wheelock. His longest mission, from May to September of 1772, garnered 10 students from Kahnawake, the Catholic Canadian settlement. Ripley was an important figure in Dartmouth’s early history: in addition to serving as preceptor of Moor’s from 1775 until 1779, he was a tutor at Dartmouth from 1772 until 1782, a trustee of Dartmouth from 1775 until 1787, and the College’s professor of divinity from 1782 until 1787 (sources differ as to whether Ripley was ever formally ordained). He was also very involved in the political conflicts that characterized the town’s early history. Ripley died in 1787, at age 37, after being thrown from a sleigh.

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