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Abraham Simon, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1774 October 17

ms-number: 774567.2

abstract: Simon writes to say that he must keep school to earn money. He promises to repay a past debt to Wheelock as soon as possible and asks for a recommendation, and for help in obtaining money from the sale of his house, which has been purchased by Jacob Fowler. He requests that Wheelock not inform anyone of his whereabouts.

handwriting: Handwriting is clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear that leads to a minor loss of text. Repair work holds two halves of the document together.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: A note, likely 19th-century, added after the trailer reads: "Indian, probably brother of Dan.l." A modern label reading "Part of the Frederick Chase Collection given by his heirs" has been affixed to the top right corner of one recto.

layout: The first page of the letter is on one recto, but the second page is on two recto, not one verso.


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



Rev. and Honour Sir.
I would Inform you a Little about my affairs
and where I am at present I purpose to
begin a School here tomorrow and take
it for Six Months for I have been very
Badly dissipated about Money ever since
I have been Down so that I think it best to keep
School 'til Spring
About that account that is between the
College and me as Quick as I can possibly
settle it I will and I hope the Dr will not go to
be[illegible]ding of me for I always mean to Settle wi[gap: tear][guess: th]
every one as Quick as lay in my Power and I
have some hopes of being after a while if I have
my Health and prosper I am very Sorry
that I did not take Better Care in time
But I think now it will do me good for Time
to come so that I shall understand who to
Deal with and Who to not
Blank page.
I should be glad if the Dr. would send me a
Recommendation for I do know that I have
Done anything that I have no right
to one though I must confess that my conduct
has not been very good in a great many respects
but I can bu[gap: hole][guess: t] hope that Dr. will Look over
many of my Faults and help me all that He can
Jacob Fowler has bought my house and has
given me a Note is to send me an order Down
upon Capt. Backus and I beg that Dr. will
give Him an order because I am absolutely
in need of one —
For I cannot get Money to purchase Clothing
'til Spring not 'til such Times I
can get some for keeping School —
I would have the Dr. keep counsel and not
tell anybody where I am or like to be so I

am your unworthy servant
Abraham Simon
From Mr. Abraham Simons
October 17. 1774
To —
Rev. Dr. D Wheelock
President of Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is small liberal arts institution in Hanover, New Hampshire. It has about four thousand undergraduate students taking courses in Arts and Sciences, and another two thousand in graduate schools in the Sciences, Comparative Literature, and Liberal Studies, as well as the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. It is a member of the Ivy League, and the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. The charter establishing the College was signed in 1769 by John Wentworth, Royal Governor of New Hamsphire, who wanted an academy of higher learning in the colony. Its founder, Eleazar Wheelock, was a Congregational minister from Connecticut who, after his success in educating Samson Occom as a school teacher and Indian missionary in the 1740's, started Moor's Indian Charity School in 1754 to continue what he regarded as a divine mission to educate Native boys and girls to become missionaries. As the school grew, Wheelock began looking for a new location closer to Indian Country where he could expand. But in the 1760's he became disillusioned by the relative failure of his progam and began turning his attention to the education of Anglo-American men as missionaries. After a protracted search, he secured the royal charter in New Hampshire and in 1769 moved his family and base of operations to Hanover, where he established the College. It is named for William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who contributed to the funds raised by Occom and Whitaker on their fund-raising tour of Great Britain in 1766-68 and became a member of the London Trust that administered those funds. The College's charter announced its purpose as "the education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes in this land [in] all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and christianizing children of pagans…, and also of English youth and any others." But Wheelock's priorities were, in reality, the reverse. While he gave public notice in 1770 that "My Indian charity school … is now become a body corporate and politic, under the name of DARTMOUTH COLLEGE," he created this parallel structure to allow him to use the funds that were collected specifically for the education of Indians. Only around 75 Native students enrolled at the College before 1972, when it rededicated itself to educating Indians and established the Native American Studies Program. This is also the year Dartmouth went co-ed. Occom was angry and embittered at Wheelock’s abandonment of his “great design,” for which he had sacrificed so much. Their relations cooled after Occom’s return from England, and he never visited his mentor again, or, for that matter, Dartmouth College.
Groton

Groton is a town located in southeastern Connecticut between the Thames and Mystic Rivers. This land was originally settled by the Niantic tribe, who were forced out in the early 1600s by the Pequots. During the Pequot War in 1637, Captain John Mason’s soldiers and Indian allies attacked the Pequot’s Mystic fort, burning down the fort, killing mostly women and children, and largely displacing the Pequots. John Winthrop Jr. and his Puritan followers first settled Groton in 1646 as part of New London. In 1705, the General Court allowed the Groton inhabitants to incorporate as a separate town due to its increased population. The town was named Groton after Winthrop’s England estate. Farming, shipbuilding, and maritime trading sustained the Groton economy throughout the eighteenth century. Beginning in 1712, land disputes between the Connecticut government and the Pequot tribe in Groton ensued, and the Pequots sent many petitions and grievances to the Connecticut government. Legal battles concerning the colonists’ leasing of the 1,700 acres on which the Pequots lived continued throughout the 18th century, as missionaries came to the area to teach religion and establish schools. After the Revolutionary War, many Groton Pequots joined other Connecticut tribes and moved to the Brothertown settlement in upstate New York.

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.

Simon, Abraham

Abraham Simon was a Narragansett Moor’s student who played a prominent role in Brothertown’s early civic life. Abraham was born in 1750 into the prominent Simon family, a Charlestown Narragansett family that sent five children to Moor’s (James, Emmanuel, Sarah, Abraham, and Daniel). The minister at Groton, Jacob Johnson, recommended Abraham Simon to Wheelock during the Fort Stanwix Congress in 1768 (how Jacob Johnson knew Abraham and why he had brought him to Stanwix is unclear. His ministry was only 30 miles away from Charlestown, so that may have been the connection). Abraham studied at Moor’s from 1768 until 1772, and, with his brother Daniel, was one of the few Indian students to relocate with Wheelock from Connecticut to New Hampshire. In 1772, Abraham made a brief journey on Wheelock’s behalf to the Tuscaroras, who proved uninterested in missionaries or schoolmasters. The next written record of Abraham Simon dates to 1774, when he wrote to Wheelock to inform him that he was going to keep school among the Pequots, which he did for approximately six months. In 1775, he enlisted in the army and served as a medic at Roxbury for at least part of the Revolution. Abraham immigrated to Brothertown in 1783 and was elected to the town’s first council. His house was a center of communal life, and appears many times in Occom’s diary as the location of religious meetings. Abraham died in Brothertown sometime before 1795, when his land was recorded under his widow’s name. Some confusion exists regarding Abraham’s death and burial. In 1925, some Dartmouth students became aware of an Indian named Abraham Symons who had lived in East Haddam, Connecticut, from 1790 until 1812. They assumed that this Abraham Symons was the Narragansett Abraham Simon, and erected a tombstone for him in East Haddam. Had they consulted William DeLoss Love’s account of Brothertown, perhaps they would not have done so. The town of East Haddam remains convinced that Abraham Simon is Abraham Symons, despite the fact that their account of Abraham’s life and connection to East Haddam relies on conflating his life with his brother Daniel Simon’s.

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.

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.

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).

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