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Joseph Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1774 May 2

ms-number: 774302

abstract: Johnson writes of his doubt regarding his true Christian spirit, his work as a preacher and schoolmaster, the developments regarding settling in Oneida country, and his poverty.

handwriting: Handwriting is not Johnson's. It is formal and clear, though letter case is frequently difficult to discern.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.

signature: The letter is signed twice — once in full, once in intials after the postscript — but neither signature is in Johnson's hand.

noteworthy: As is noted in the trailer on two verso, the document is a copy.


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



To the Rev. Mr. Eleazar Weelock. D.D.
My kind, and Honored Benefactor, with love and gratitude in my heart,
and much humility would I once more attempt to write to your worthy
Person. O! the Wounds that I have given to that pious Soul of thine,
oft of late have I shed tears, when I considered of my past Ingratitude
and misconduct. Oft have I thought of your unwearied labours of love
to unworthy me. — And O' that thy love, this very time might truly
cause me to praise God, who not only ruleth in the Armies of heaven,
but also doeth his will, and pleasure among the Inhabitants of this
lower world. Ah' what sorrow ought to flow from this once Savage
Heart of mine that I have not only grieved you, but that I have in
times past crucified as it were, the Lord of Glory, even the Son of God,
afresh and put him to an open shame, Great Wonder! even marve‐
‐lous in my Eyes, or rather the admiration of my soul that I, a hell
deserving cursed Creature has been suffered to live in this world so long
Sinning, offending, and provoking the God of holiness, and the God
of justice, and the God of vengeance, and what is the joy of my Soul the
God of love, and the God of mercy, through his dearly beloved and only
begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is admired by all them that
believe, and in whom I humbly hope, I have been enabled by the
Spirit of the living God, to put my whole trust and Confidence, for time
and for Eternity. O! that I might see more and more of my own wret‐
chedness, and insufficiency, that Jesus Christ might be more and more
precious to my Soul, oh' I am nothing, should I have the boldness
to tell you, that I am hopefully converted, I should tell a news that I am
not certain of. For since I first thought so myself, I have often doub
‐ted. I perceive Sin to be lurking within, sometimes, I greatly fear that
I am altogether in my Sins, even under the power and Dominion of
of Sin, if so I am wretched wretched poor miserable creature still, not‐
‐withstanding the world calls me blessed, notwithstanding I pass
for a true Christian among all sets, and Denominations, as it were —
I have but very poor Opinion of myself, and I walk in fear always
having these words, ever dwelling upon my mind. Strive to enter in
at the straight Gate; for many I say unto you will seek to enter in. and
shall not be able. But amidst all my doubts and Fears this verse is
my consolation. All that the Father giveth me shall come to
me, and him that cometh to me. I will in no wise cast out. Then
are the words of Jesus, whom I love, and whom I adore, and whom
I purpose to serve as I shall be enabled, by that holy spirit
by which I humbly hope I have been quickened, and enlivened
through the Sufferings and Death of this Jesus Christ, who
was once Crucified, and slain, and buried, also, who arose from the
Grave and ascended up into Glory, and who is now interceding for
all his chosen in that upper world of Glory, I say through Jesus
Christ alone, I humbly hope for pardon, for all my Great, many,
and exceedingly aggravated Sins, which are past. Which I have
already committed, And for the sake of this Jesus Christ alone,
who

who came to save his peculiar people from their Sins, I humbly hope
for Grace sufficient for me. that I may hence forward withstand all the
Temptations that I have to encounter throughout my whole Life, which
may arise either from the world, flesh or from the D[illegible][guess: e]vil. — O! my kind
and worthy Benefactor, I perceive that I am in a large Field, and see as
it were, Enemies Malicious and powerful, in a terrible array. Shall Sa‐
‐tan be conquered? ah methinks, that he is already but a conquered King.
shall sin be subdued, and shall vile affections and cursed Lusts be mor‐
‐tified, ah my Soul wait patiently, and you shall see the great salvation
of God. I perceive, that since I have listed under the Banner of Jesus Christ, that
I must not be idle, but go out and fight as it were the Battles of the
Lord, and O! that I could ever fight with true Love in my heart, and O! that
I might ever be inspired with Wisdom from on high, even from the glorious
Captain of our Salvation that I might wisely undermine the Kingdom
of Satan. This is my hearts desire that Satan's Kingdom might be destroyed,
and that the Kingdom of the dear Redeemer be built upon the ruins thereof
And it is the full purpose of my heart, O! my Benevolent Benefactor, to
devote all the faculties of my Soul and Body to the Service of King Jesus.
I have served Satan long enough, I have been striving to build his cursed
Kingdom, devoted to ruin long enough I have done good service to that
Prince of Darkness. And since I have seen his treachery, his cursed de‐
‐signs I must leave him. I flee away from him and he is welcome to
all my Wages, let him recieve the wrath of God, since no Saviour was
ever found for him. But as for me I'll cheerfully speak of a once crucified,
once bleeding, once dying once buried, but now risen, living and exalted Redeemer.
Him I will serve if he gives me grace while I live, faithfully. here on
Earth I hope to glorify God Honor Jesus Christ by the assistance of
the holy Ghost and hearafter enjoy Father, Son and holy Ghost which
will complete my happiness, and the happiness of all true Chil‐
‐dren — But my kind benefactor, having already wrote more than
I expected when I first sat down, will you though be pleased to wait with patience
a little Longer, while I write, or make known to you, or while
I speak of other things — Rev. Sir I heartily thank you for your
kind letter, dated February 4 AD 1774 and I also hope, that Satan will at Last be
fully disappointed, and may the Lord's will be done concerning me.
If God sees fit to make me a vessel for the Master's service Amen.
If only a vessel of mercy Glory be given to God, and I heartily rejoice
that the Lord has prospered you, in your laudable Undertaking in
that part of the World, And Rev. Sir methinks, that it is not for
the want of Gratitude, or love, that I have not visited you, my kind
Benefactor. but to speak the truth it is Poverty. I alway; have been
poor, as all my Brethren are likewise, yet I have lived somehow
hitherto. And Rev. Sir perhaps I can give good reason for my Poverty,
I would tell you in the first place that I have kept School, here, at
Farmington since November 15th 1772. first ten weeks, I had six pounds
this ten weeks I was as it were upon trial. afterwards I went to Boston
being well recommended by the Rev. Mr. Pitkin, who is my kind
and

wise overseer, and when I was at Boston the Gentlemen, was
pleased to give or offer £20 per Annum for my Encouragement. I
thought it too little wages. but I concluded, saying, I would go
to Farmington and see what more the Indians would give,
and if they give me proper Encouragement, I would continue
keeping the School. the Indians after I saw them offered four
pounds more which made 24 £ per Annum So I have kept and
so keep still, well I believe I could Live very comfortably with
£24 per Annum if I spent my Money only for myself. but now I am
going to the you the Reason of my Poverty. I have been seeking
the good of my poor Indian Brethren, for this some time, for
the good of the Indians in particular that Live in these seven
Towns — Farmington, Niantic, Mohegan, Pequt or [illegible][guess: Groton]
Stonington, Narragansett and Montauk and notwithstanding I
am Master of a School yet I have traveled much in the run of
one year I have ever hired another Master in my room whilst
I was absent I have been the foremost all along even to this
Day. I have been to the Honourable Sir William Johnson twice. once in October
1773
and again in January 1774 at that time I went, even to the Oneida
Village
where the Rev. Mr. Kirkland preaches — And I have
the pleasure to tell you that his Honor Sir William is well pleased
with the grand design which I have in my view, and his Ho‐
‐nor Sir William has favoured us New England Indians very high‐
‐ly and he has done us much good, we have as much Land
as we shall want, given to us New England Indians by the Oneidas
and we have had invitations from Nations 600 Miles back of Sir William
it is strange to me that we meet with such good success I humbly
hope there is Providence in this, and O! what a pleasing
prospect, sometimes opens to my View, who knows what is
in the Womb of Providence. but what I am after to tell you,
that in all my travels up and down the Country, I have
been at my own Expense, which is owing to the great po‐
‐verty of the Indians, I have received only 3 Dollars from the Indians since I
have been in this service. But I blame them not, for Indians
are truly poor, I have been at great expense sometimes, espe‐
‐cially last winter I was gone six Weeks hired a Master
all the Time, and when I came down from Oneida, after I had
tarried there Eight days there was several of the great men,
Lords, and warriors came down to Sir William's with me, in order
to confirm their words at Sir William's for said they there is the only
place to have all things done well, strong and sure. there was
twelve that came down with me, and I bore all their expenses
even to Sir William's or 'til we got to Sir William's and I believe it
is about 100 Miles. So have I spent my Money and this is it what
makes me now so poor, that I have not one penny Clear. no, I am
now in debt, for provision and little clothes, and I can't come up
to you very soon, or at least 'til I can get money to pay my debts,
and bear my expenses to your Residence. I want to see you very
much

much once more. I must go up to Sir William's again in September
the first part I dont know how I shall go through all what is
before me, unless kind Providence doth provide for my necessities un‐
expectedly, I know not where to go for help if you my kind Benefator was
nigh I verily believe you would relieve me greatly and even Encourage me
but I end leaning upon the Lord
I am your well wisher and Pupil Joseph Johnson
P.S. I began this Letter I believe it was about ten o'Clock this evening,
and I am in such a great hurry that I can't write over again I am pre‐
‐paring a little piece of poor stony Ground for to plant little Corn
for me and mine to eat, if we live. I work upon this piece between Schools
I try to turn every way to get a living, and when I have done my utter‐
‐most I hardly live. Rev. Sir if things so work or rather if it be the
will of God, I purpose to try to come and see you by the latter end of
August next and wait to get license then if shall be thought proper
for I never had any other license than the earnest desire of People
and a willingness in my heart to speak I pray you to write to me and
let me know whether it will be proper for me to come in August
or before or after I am Joseph
I have not seen Jacob nor David since I received your kind Letter
From Joseph Johnson
May 2nd 1774
true Copy —
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.

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.

Johnson, William

Sir William Johnson was a powerful British colonial official who amassed wealth and influence by integrating into the Mohawk tribe. For a brief window of time (1761-1768), he provided support for Wheelock’s missionary efforts among the Six Nations. He also helped the Brothertown Nation of Indians procure land from the Oneidas. Johnson was born in Ireland in 1715. His family had been part of the Catholic elite, but after William of Orange’s 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne, they at least nominally converted to the Episcopalian Church. In 1738, Johnson emigrated to America to manage his uncle Peter Warren’s estate in Mohawk territory. Over the next decade, Johnson became wealthy in his own right through trade and land sales, acquiring a vast estate crowned by his manor house, Johnson Hall, which became the central location for British and Indian treaty making. In 1745, Johnson began collecting official British titles and positions. He played an important military role in the French and Indian War and was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756 and first baronet of New York in 1757. Much of Johnson’s success was due to his influence among the Mohawks, which he obtained by learning their language and customs and integrating himself into their society. He participated in Mohawk rituals and entered into a common-law marriage with a powerful Mohawk woman, Molly Brant (also called Mary Brant). Because Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) society is matrilineal, this marriage was an essential element of his participation in Indian affairs. Wheelock desperately wanted to wield missionary influence among the Six Nations, and sought to obtain Johnson as an ally in his endeavors. At first, the two found grounds for cooperation. Wheelock sent Occom as a missionary to the Oneidas in 1761 and again in 1762, and sent a substantially larger group of missionaries and schoolmasters in 1765, 1766, and 1767. Johnson, meanwhile, encouraged Haudenosaunee children, including his brother-in-law Joseph Brant, to attend Moor’s. Johnson’s support proved indispensible to missionaries in the field; he helped with supplies, language skills, and relations with the Mohawks and Oneidas. Wheelock also valued Johnson for his influence in Britain, and drew on him for recommendations and public statements of support numerous times. From 1763 on, however, Johnson found himself decidedly uncomfortable with Wheelock’s missionary efforts, and by 1769, their relationship had dissolved completely. In 1766, Johnson was invited to join the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the largest and most influential Anglican missionary society in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world. He began working to place Anglican missionaries, rather than Congregationalist and Presbyterian ones, among the Six Nations, which alarmed Wheelock. Johnson was generally supportive of Native American tribes’ efforts to maintain their land and sovereignty. As the historian Linford Fisher has noted, “virtually every major Native group in southeastern New England successfully petitioned Johnson to act on their behalf during the late 1760s and early 1770s.” Among these groups was the Brothertown Nation, a Christian composite tribe formed by Southern New England Algonquian Moor’s alumni. Johnson helped them negotiate with the Oneidas, which proved essential to their successful land purchase and relocation to central New York.

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.

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.

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.

Pitkin, Timothy
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