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Joseph Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1774 December 4

ms-number: 774654

abstract: Johnson humbly requests money to pay his debts, as well as an answer to a letter he sent to Wheelock through Jacob Fowler. He notes that soon he must go take possession of land granted to the New England Indians.

handwriting: Hand is mostly clear and legible, although occasional overwrites make it difficult to differentiate between original words and corrections. The transcriber has used her discretion.

paper: Two separate pieces of paper of unequal size and shape are in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, staining and wear.

noteworthy: When Johnson refers to "your Seminary" it is uncertain whether he refers to Moor's Indian Charity School or Dartmouth College. The postscript is contained within a large, parenthesis-like bracket, which has been indicated in the transcription by a closed parenthesis at the end of each line. Unexplained numbers are written upside-down under the trailer.

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

Rev. and Worthy Sir; —
with much humility, and
gratitude do I undertake to write to your worthy person
this once more. — I have the pleasure to inform you,
my honoured Patron, that through Divine favour,
I, and my little family are in health, and it is the
desire of my heart, to hear that your valuable health
is still continued. my honoured Patron, I hope will
not take it ill, from his dejected Pupil, to add a petition
still. I humbly acknowledge that your worthy person, hath
in a very wonderful manner multiplied your favours —
towards me an undeserving Object. — well might I, in times
past forever despaired of ever receiving any Tokens of
respects from you, or from any of my honoured Ac-
-quaintance that Surround you. but I greatly rejoice
that I have a reason to hope, that you, my honoured Patron,
and your respectable household, is in part reconciled, and
I humbly hope that, that great Breach, which vile Ingra-
, and abominable Pride, had made in times past
between me, and you my Honoured Patron, with the
rest of my worthy, and loving friends, is in some
measure repaired, and may the God of all grace, Who
I humbly hope hath quickened me, be my constant Sup-
-porter, that I dishonour Him no more, neither wound
the hearts of his Dear Children anymore. — and I
thank you, my compassionate Patron, for all your
kindnesses to me w[illegible][guess: a]rd, even from my Childhood,
and I would thank you, in a particular manner for your
respects, and kindness to me, when I was At the Place
of your residence. and I thank all your honoured
family, and the loving members of your dear Seminary,
which may long flourish gloriously, for all the respects
and Tokens of Love, and friendship shown to such a
despicable Lump of polluted Clay, as is enclosed in

in this tawny Skin of mine. — and I do ever, re-
-tain in my mind, with pleasure, and respects, Dart­
and Her Sons. — But as for my adding
a petition still, methinks there is no need, you, my Honour-
-ed Patron, is well acquainted with my circumstances,
my Situation is well known to you — — your worthy
person knows that I am poor, needy, and almost dis
-tressed Creature. and I believe that it is not owing to
my laziness, neither can it be reasonably computed
to my Extravagance, that I am thus reduced. —
methinks that no one can think hard of me, if they
would duly consider, the necessary Charge that I have
been at, from time to time since I have voluntari
-ly devoted myself, for the good of my poor Brethren
that live scattered about in these parts. — all I desire
from you my Honoured Patron, is that you would be pleased
to give me an answer to the full, to that Letter I sent
to you by Jacob Fowler. — so as I might know
what to depend upon. — now I am betwixt hope, and
despair. — and I know not which way to turn, the
time is very short before I must be obliged to go
to take possession of the Land granted to us New
England Indians
. — there are some going out of every
Town, to whom the Land is granted. — that is out of
Seven Towns. — there is nine from Mohegan that is
going next spring to take possession. — things look
very Encouraging. — my Debts remain unpaid. and
I do not know how I shall get along this winter. I have
nothing to live upon, hardly. and I am in no way to
pursue a Study of Divine Truth as I purposed if I had
a relief from you. to my sorrow be it said, that
the chiefest of my Enquiry is what shall I eat. etc.: —
but my trust is fixed on the mighty god of Jacob, who
knows what is best for me.

I am your Well wisher. Joseph

I have received no Letter)
or intelligence from you)
my Honoured Patron)
Since I wrote to you by friend)
Jacob Fowler. — I am your)
humble well wisher Joseph Johnson.)

The Rev. Eleazar Wheelock.
D.D. and President of
Dartmouth College: —

from Joseph Johnson
December 4. 1774


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.

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.

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