Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1772 September 23

ms-number: 772523

abstract: Wheelock writes to Thornton about his failures with the Six Nations. Six days later, he writes again about improving prospects, as several boys are coming to the School, and Occom’s former haughtiness is softening. He also writes that the charges against his son Ralph are false.

handwriting: Handwriting is very formal and neat; it is not Wheelock’s hand.

paper: Exact condition of the large, separate sheets is difficult to determine due to heavy preservation work; however, the paper appears to sustain light-to-moderate staining and wear.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: The signature is not in Wheelock's hand.

noteworthy: This document is likely a personal copy for Wheelock's records. A non-contemporary editor had made notes on two verso. The contents regarding Ralph are similar to those in 772323.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


Much honoured and very dear Sir.
I endeavour to give you (though by small sketches as
I have opportunity) some view of the progress of my affairs here.
Mr. Avery returned from his eleven Months mission at
Oneida last month, and gives but a melancholy account of the
state of Indian Affairs there and among the six Nations — he says
the aspect has been growing more and more gloomy for eighteen
Months past, and is wholly disinclined to return to them again,
and thinks there is some probability that Mr. Kirtland will be
drove away from among them. on the whole it appears
to me not improbable that the Indians in that Quarter
are nigh unto cursing. They have of late openly in a large
meeting of several Tribes manifested their entire disincli
=nation to encourage or receive another missionary or Schoo[gap: tear][guess: l]
=master among them.
 Two days ago Mr. Ripley returned from his Missio[gap: tear][guess: n]
to Canada with Lt. Taylor his Companion and Interpret[gap: tear][guess: er]
and brought with him ten Indian Boys from those Tribes
to receive an Education in this School — the hand of
God appears conspicuous in the Affair — There was the
greatest opposition made by their Priest to their coming
— the most of them are Children of their Chief Men, and
two of them Children of English Captives each about
8 year old — a Council of their head men (to which the
Father of one and grandfather of the other of these two
Boys belong) were called together upon this occasion, and
were to a Man fixed in their purpose to send them, and
so continued finally against the remonstrances of their
Priest who denied their Right to do it; and claimed a
right to dispose of them himself upon this Ground that
he baptized them. but I have yet by me a short narra
=tive of my Affairs I have just prepared for the press, to
which I shall add some short account of this mission, which
you and the Honourable Trust may expect as soon as it gets through
the press — Mr. Ripley found occasion to make use
of a bill of exchange which I gave him to be improved
in case any emergency should make it necessary [gap: worn_edge]
in favor of Mr. Mier which was endorsed by Capt. Depeyster
which I pray you to honor.
Please Sir in my name to make such expressions of Chri=
=stian Affection, Duty and Respect to my honoured Patrons as shall be
acceptable to them. and accept the same Yourself, from
 Your often and much obliged Brother
 and very humble Servant

 Eleazar Wheelock
John Thornton Esq.

P. S. Now the scene that has been so long dark has entirely
changed its Aspect. I bless God that I am fairly broke off
from my Connections with the six Nations — they were
at war with these a few Years ago, and the break I find is
not yet wholly healed, and would have likely been an ob=
=jection against their coming hither if any of the six
Nations
had been here — but you will hear more of this
as soon as I can.


Much honoured Sir.
By being disappointed of the opportu=
=nity of Conveyance of the foregoing, I have opportunity
on the same paper thankfully to acknowledge the receipt
of the favour of the Honourable Trust of May 1st 1772 and of yours
of May 15th etc. June 10th and with the enclosed.
I am much refreshed that my honoured Patrons are satisfied
with my doings
Mr. Occom since his recovery from his last Fall appears with
a much better Temper than he has ever done since he came
from London — the agreeable Letters you transmit for
my perusal speak the same
I am glad you have dealt so plainly with him, and wish
you had done it earlier — He has appeared exceeding proud
and haughty — his Sail was too high for him in London. I feared
he would be wholly useless, and nothing better than a Thorn to me
and this School — he has appeared rather as a Dictator and
Supervisor to me and my Affairs than a Brother, Companion,
and Helper in them — And I have thought him cruel, uncharitable
and something bitter in his Surmises, Censures and Threats in
Cases and about that which he knew nothing of, nor used any
proper means to be informed in. And has said (I have been
told) that he was desired to inspect my conduct before he
came from England — and this kind of treatment I have had
from him without the least expression of Brotherly
Sympathy Care pity and compassion towards me or my
Family, while I was struggling under Floods of Sorrow
and an insupportable weight of Labour Care and Fatigue
and all with a single view to save his poor perishing
Brethren — How wounding such things have been to me
you cant conceive unless you had experience of the like.
But I have lately had a Letter from him of another savor,
and accounts which have much refreshed me. I hope he will
 be
be my Helper in Christ Jesus. though God sees it best for me
that I should have nothing below himself to lean at all upon
 blessed be his holy name. I shall rejoice to encourage Mr. Occom.
 I perceive you have given Ear to Representations which
appear to me to be groundless cruel and vile Slanders, respect=
=ing my Government of my Son, and my having been in­
­fluenced by him and his false Friends etc. — By the grace of
God I think I have known neither wife, nor Son, nor
Nephew in these Affairs for many Years, nor may I know them.
I never was quite blind to my Sons Imperfections, but on
the contrary my Government of him has been much too
severe, and I continued it 'til too late his Physicians advised
me that if I did not alter my hand it would kill him.
and yet he neither has, nor ever had that I knew or
heard of, any blot of moral Scandal upon him. He has
long been sorely broken under Gods holy hand. and his case is now
looked upon as incurable — he lives in Connecticut and I am
credibly told is exemplary for patience and a humble
submission to God under Trials — If he were as much
concerned to vindicate his Character (whatever may be
the slander you have received of him) as his Slanderer
has been to blacken it, I make no doubt it would stand in
another Light whatever the consequences would be to
others; but he seems fully content to refer these matters
to the decision of the great day. on the whole it gives
me much uneasiness that I know not what you mean,
nor what I have to amend or mourn for, more than I have done.
 You are also my honoured Sir much mistaken as to my
being influenced by Dr. Whitaker. I have no connection with
him. it is above two years since I saw him, but I must
in Justice say that I suppose his Characters moral and
ministerial are good among good people in New England
and what his offence in England was I never knew — Mr.
Occom
would have told me I suppose, but I perceived that his
mind was prejudiced and soured against him, and therefore dis=
=qualified to give the Relation.
By accounts and hints from Mr. Avery of plotting and Machi=
=nations in the Country where he has been against me
and this Cause, you may possibly (when all matters
are ripened) hear something as shocking as anything
you have yet heard — in which it is said there is a Combination.
but God is my Refuge — I ask your pardon for this
unprofitable Scrawl —
I take this opportunity to renew my thanks to you for the
 repeated
John Thorton Esq.
repeated expressions of your kindness towards my support[gap: worn_edge]
I hope you have received my letter and the Bill which you was
so kind as to invite me to draw upon you —
I am with great duty affection and esteem

Your much obliged and very humble Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
To John Thornton Esq.
September 23. 1772.

Six Nations
The Six Nations (often called the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois) is a confederacy composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. The first five tribes unified at some point before European contact (dates differ by centuries), and the Tuscaroras joined them in 1722, after colonial violence drove the tribe out of Carolina. The Haudenosaunee occupied much of what is now central New York, and, thus, were sandwiched between French, English, and Dutch territories. They allied with the English against the French early on, just as their arch-enemies, the Huron, allied with the French. Despite the Six Nations’ unity, the constituent nations experienced European contact in different ways. The Mohawks and Oneidas, as the two easternmost tribes, had by far the most contact with the English, while the Senecas and Cayugas, the westernmost nations, had little contact with the English (although both hosted French Jesuit missionaries). Mohawk territory was the site of Johnson Hall, the administrative center and home of Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the Northeast. The Oneidas, meanwhile, played host to several prominent Anglo-American missionaries and were thought of as the most Christianized Haudenosaunee tribe by many colonists. Eleazar Wheelock became fixated on the Haudenosaunee soon after he established Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754. He saw in them the opportunity for a fresh start, since he believed that New England Indians had assimilated to Anglo-American norms in all the wrong ways (too much rum, too little Christianity). Wheelock established contact with the Haudenosaunee through Sir William Johnson and made the Mohawks and Oneidas the focal point of his missionary efforts for much of the 1760s. The American Revolution had dramatic repercussions for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas sided with the British, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the Americans. Since all Haudenosaunee hold membership in both a tribe (Mohawk, Oneida, etcetera) and a matrilineal clan (bear, wolf, and others), the tribes’ divergent alliances brought about political schism and violence within extended families. Furthermore, Haudenosaunee territory was devastated during the war, especially in General Sullivan’s 1779 raid on Cayuga and Seneca territory. After the Revolution, many Haudenosaunee who had affiliated with the British relocated to the Grand River Reserve in Canada, while many of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras remained in New York. The Haudenosaunee at the Grand River Reserve established their own council fire, which operated in parallel with the original council fire at Onondaga. Today, both council fires are still active, and each tribe also has its own independent government (as do displaced Haudenosaunee populations, such as the Oneidas of Wisconsin).
Moor’s Indian Charity School
Moor’s Indian Charity School was a grammar school for Native Americans that Eleazar Wheelock opened in North Lebanon, Connecticut in 1754. The school was named for Colonel Joshua Moor, also spelled More, who donated the land and school building. Moor’s was essentially an expansion of the grammar school that Wheelock opened in 1743 to support himself during the fallout from the First Great Awakening, when Wheelock, who'd participated in itinerant ministry during the Awakening, had his salary confiscated by the colony of Connecticut. In December of that year, Samson Occom asked Wheelock to teach him as well. Wheelock's work with Occom was so successful that Wheelock decided to replicate the experiment with other Native American boys. He accepted his first Indian students in 1754, and in 1761 began taking female students as well. Wheelock believed that in time, his school would become just one part of a larger missionary enterprise. He planned to send his Anglo American and Native American students to various tribes as missionaries and schoolmasters, with explicit instructions to pick out the best students and send them back to Moor’s to continue the cycle. His ultimate goal was to turn his school into a model Christian Indian town that would include farms, a college, and vocational training. However, Wheelock’s grand design did not survive the decade. Wheelock lost the vast majority of his Native American students; he fought with many of the best, including Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, and other former and current students accused him of subjecting Native Americans to disproportionate amounts of manual labor. In 1769, perhaps due to concerns about corporal punishment, the Oneida withdrew all their children from Moor’s. When Wheelock relocated to Hanover in 1769, only two Native American students came with him, and it became clear that Wheelock’s focus was on Dartmouth and that Dartmouth was for white students. After Wheelock’s death in 1779, Moor’s Indian Charity School receded further into the background as John Wheelock, his father’s reluctant successor, stopped taking Indian students. Some Native American students were enrolled in Moor’s until 1850, when the school unofficially closed.
Trust in England
The Trust in England was an organization formed in 1766 to safeguard money raised by Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker on their fundraising tour of Great Britain. Initially, no trust had been planned, but less than a year into their trip, Occom and Whitaker had raised so much money it became clear that a trust was necessary to keep the money raised reputable and thus protect the images of those involved. On November 28, 1766, a trust was formed consisting of William Legge (the Earl of Dartmouth), Baron Smyth, John Thornton, Samuel Roffey, Charles Hardey, Daniel West, Samuel Savage, Josiah Robarts, and Robert Keen. These men all had prominent public reputations, and by association provided a guarantee that funds would be used for the purposes for which they had been given. All told, Occom and Whitaker raised nearly £10,000 (not including £2,000 in Scotland, which was put under the control of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge), a far greater sum than initially projected. The amount raised attracted intense public scrutiny and, given that its members had tied their reputations to the money’s collection and maintenance, the trust became enormously concerned with how Wheelock would employ it. Despite a minor scandal involving an impolitic and ultimately abandoned plan to transmit funds to America by buying trade goods and selling them at a profit, Wheelock and the English Trust managed to avoid any serious breach until March 1770, when Wheelock informed the men in England that he had obtained a charter for Dartmouth College. Wheelock had tried to get a charter for Moor’s Indian Charity School in Connecticut throughout the late 1750s and early 1760s, and there were two components to his plan: he wanted to move the school to a place where he could have room to expand, and he wanted to obtain a charter to open a college. The English Trust supported the first goal, but not the second, as a charter would interfere with its control of the funds. Wheelock was determined to have his charter, however, and when the time came, he told the English Trust only about his plan to move. The trust helped Wheelock select New Hampshire as the site for his relocation, but it did not learn about the charter -- granted by New Hampshire governor John Wentworth, with whom Wheelock had been secretly negotiating -- until more than three months after it had been issued. Adding insult to injury, Wheelock, without consultation, named the college after Lord Dartmouth, informing the man himself after the fact. (After the charter was issued, Dartmouth never wrote to Wheelock again.) The members of the English Trust were outraged; to placate them, Wheelock made superficial motions to keep Moor’s and Dartmouth separate, though in practice the institutions were one and the same. Despite its displeasure, the English Trust continued to honor Wheelock’s requests for money until 1775, when the fund ran out. It also drew from the fund to support Occom, whom it believed Wheelock had mistreated, and Kirkland, whom it saw as more faithful to the design of Christianizing Indians than Wheelock. Once the fund ran out, Thornton and Savage continued to provide Wheelock with some financial assistance when he found himself in debt.
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.

New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire is in northern New England, bordered by Vermont to the west, Maine to the east, Massachusetts to the south, and Canada to the north. The Connecticut River, which begins in Canada and empties into the Long Island Sound, runs along the western border of New Hampshire and, in the colonial period, functioned as a route for trade -- both of commodities and ideas -- between southern New England and the northernmost parts of America. New Hampshire was originally inhabited by large groups of Abenakis who spoke a dialect of Algonquin distinct from New England tribes to the south, but by 1617, disease and war had brought their number to only 5,000. European fishing fleets had travelled to the coast of New Hampshire since at least 1497, but English settlement of New Hampshire formally began when Captain John Mason, Governor of Portsmouth in Hampshire, England, was granted land in the region in 1622. Settlers arrived in 1623, establishing a base near what is now Portsmouth and entering the fur, fish, and timber trade. In 1641, New Hampshire agreed to come under Massachusetts' jurisdiction, but in 1679, Charles II gave New Hampshire its own charter. From then on, the Province of New Hampshire had its own government, consisting of a royal Governor and Council and an elected House of Representatives. By the time Wheelock moved Moor's Indian Charity School to New Hampshire, the colony was experiencing unprecedented growth. English victory in the French and Indian War stabilized the region, and as a result New Hampshire's Governor Benning Wentworth began to grant hundreds of townships to new settlers, many from the colony of Connecticut. Though Wheelock considered moving Moor's Indian Charity School to several different places, he finally decided on Hanover, NH, in 1768. Because Benning Wentworth was not receptive to Wheelock and his school, it was his nephew and successor Governor John Wentworth who signed Dartmouth College's charter in 1769. In August 1770, Wheelock moved his family to New Hampshire and established Dartmouth College. Moor's and the College would exist side-by-side in Hanover for decades. Soon after Wheelock founded Dartmouth in New Hampshire, the Revolutionary War began and the colony declared its independence. While several buildings and locations around Hanover bear Occom's name, he never visited the town or the college.

Oneida

Oneida is a city in Madison County located at the geographical center of New York state. Before European settlement of the area, the Oneida Tribe, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, inhabited a large territory adjacent to nearby Oneida Lake. Around 1533, they built their first village on the south shore of the lake, at or near the mouth of Oneida Creek. At the end of the 17th century, this area began suffering raids by parties from the French colony of Quebec, in a battle to control the fur trade. In 1696, Oneida village was burned by the French. As a result, the Oneidas moved their chief village east of the original site, called Old Oneida, to a new site called Kanawalohale, also known as Oneida Castle, which was fortified by tall palisades and a moat. This is the site of the present-day village of Oneida Castle, a small hamlet west of the city of Oneida in the northwest corner of the town of Vernon. When used in Occom Circle documents, the place name "Oneida" usually refers to the territory inhabited by the Tribe east of Oneida Lake, but can also refer specifically to Oneida Castle. Although the Oneidas sided with the patriots during the Revolutionary War, much of their territory was sold or appropriated by the state of New York. In 1790, the first European settlers moved into the area of Old Oneida village, and the district began to expand. In the 1830s, the state built a feeder from Oneida Creek through the present city site to provide water for the new canal system, which enabled canal boats to ship freight into the town. Eventually, the railroad came through the town and helped with its expansion. This led to the incorporation of the Village of Oneida in 1848 and the establishment of the Town of Oneida in 1896. The town was chartered as the City of Oneida in 1901, and with two more railroad lines transecting the area, it became a thriving manufacturing center for the first half of the 20th century.

Canada

Canada is a country located in the uppermost part of the North American continent bordering the United States to the south and the state of Alaska to to the west. Native peoples occupied Canada for tens of thousands of years prior to European arrival in 1497 when John Cabot, an Italian navigator commissioned by the English, set out to find the northwest passage. The name "Canada" derives from a Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) word "kanata," meaning village or settlement. Throughout the 17th century, Canadian land changed hands among French Catholics, French Huguenots, the English, and Native peoples. Then, in 1754 the French and Indian War erupted in North America, an extension of the European conflict between Great Britain and France, which Great Britain won. According to the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the war, France was forced to cede all of its territory east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. The various provinces that developed in the geographic area confederated in 1867 as the country of Canada, which became independent of Britain in 1931. Today, it is both a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, a member of the British Commonwealth, recognizing the Queen of England as its head of state, a multi-ethnic country recognizing its Native inhabitants as "First Peoples," and officially bilingual. Wheelock looked to Canada as a source of Native recruits after the Oneidas withdrew their children from his school in 1769. Wheelock himself, as well as other associates, went on recruiting parties and brought back students from the Mohawk community at Kahnawake, near Montreal, the Abenaki community at St. Francis, now Odanak, and the Huron community at Lorette near Quebec. While the rumblings of the American Revolution threatened to interrupt future missions, the positive relations already established brought Canadian tribes into the orbit of Wheelock's influence. He also argued that their presence in the town of Hanover, on a direct river route from Canada to Massachussetts, was the best safeguard against Indian attack from Canada. For the next 80 years, boys from the community of St. Francis made up more than half of the Indian students attending Dartmouth and preparatory schools funded with its monies.

London

The capital and largest city of the United Kingdom, London is located in the southeastern region of England along the Thames River. The outpost that would become London originated as a military storage post for the Romans when they invaded Britain in the year 43. It soon developed as a trading center and financial hub for Roman Britain. During a revolt against the Romans in 61, London was burned to the ground; the rebuilt town appeared in Tacitus’s Annals as Londinium. With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Londinium became a Saxon trading town. Following the Norman Conquest, London retained its central political and commercial importance. In the 14th century, under Edward II, Westminster became an administrative center and London became the capital of England. In the early 18th century, London was an important hub for evangelical Christianity and home to many influential people, like the charismatic Anglican minister, George Whitefield, who were sympathetic to Wheelock’s missionary endeavors. Occom arrived in London in February 1766 on his fundraising tour for Wheelock’s school and preached his first sermon at Whitefield’s Tabernacle. London would be Occom’s home base for the next two years, as he and Whitaker travelled throughout England and Scotland. Occom made many friends in London who would continue to support him after his break with Wheelock and the School. By the late 18th century, London had replaced Amsterdam as the center of world commerce, a role it would maintain until 1914.

Connecticut

Connecticut is a state in southern New England that borders Massachusetts to the north and the Long Island Sound to the south. Its name is derived from the Algonquian "Quonehtacut," meaning "long river," referring to the Connecticut, which runs from the border with Canada into the Long Island Sound. The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking Pequots, Mohegans, and Quinnipiacs. European settlers took advantage of tribal divisions to establish dominance in the region. Dutch explorer Adrian Block sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614, establishing an active Dutch trading post at what is now Hartford. English claims to Connecticut began in 1630, but settlement truly began when Thomas Hooker, a Congregationalist minister now known as "The Father of Connecticut," left Boston to found Hartford in 1636. Hartford became the center of the Colony of Connecticut, which did not receive its charter until 1662 when Governor John Winthrop, Jr. secured it from Charles II. In 1665, the Colony of New Haven, established in 1638 by the Puritan minister John Davenport, joined the Colony of Connecticut under this charter. Early settler relations with local Indians were tense, and encouraged the New England colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven to unify as the "United Colonies" or "New England Confederation" and fight together, with Indian allies, in the Pequot War and again in King Philip's (Metacom's) War. These wars helped establish a specifically Connecticut and specifically American identity; the latter drove the colony to join the rebellion against Britain in 1776. Occom, born into a Mohegan household in Connecticut, was closely associated with the Colony and retained strong ties to the region throughout his life. He converted to Christianity in 1743 when the Great Awakening spread through Connecticut, and inspired Wheelock's Indian Charity School, which was founded in Lebanon, CT in 1754. He also became involved in the Mason Land Case, a long-standing dispute over the ownership of reserve Mohegan lands in Connecticut. Wheelock also had strong ties to Connecticut, moving his Indian Charity School only when the colony would not grant it a charter.

New England
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.

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.

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.

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.

Depeyster, A.
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.

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.

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.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
After many months of planning and shifting personnel, Occom, accompanied by the minister Nathaniel Whitaker, sets sail in December 1765 for a two-and-a-half year tour of England and Scotland in order to solicit contributions to Wheelock’s Indian Charity School and missionary efforts. Introduced to aristocrats and prominent clergy by the minister George Whitefield, Occom preaches many sermons, travels widely, and collects a large sum of money.
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1772 September 23
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only