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Joseph Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1775 February 14

ms-number: 775164

abstract: Johnson asks Wheelock to recommend him to John Rodgers so that the latter can petition for donations on Johnson’s behalf.

handwriting: Handwriting is somewhat scratchy, though largely clear and legible. Letter case is occasionally difficult to decipher.

paper: Large single sheet is in fair conditon, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear. There is no loss of text, though the condition of the paper occasionally renders it difficult to distinguish between punctuation and spotting.

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: Some of the contents of this letter are similar to those in manuscript 775165. The trailer is written in Wheelock's hand, as are some random notes in the right-hand margin of one verso.

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

My kind and worthy Benefactor
with humility, Love and
Gratitude I sit myself down to write few lines to you my
Honoured Patron. (and with much haste. —) I received your kind
Letter, dated January 23rd last evening by the hand of Mr.
Ralph Pomeroy
. for which I give you my hearty thanks, I had
thought that your worthy person had not designed to write to me.
or that you had heard something, and did not see it in your
way to help me. and I was greatly dejected, and almost dis
couraged. but the Lord in whom I trust, whom I fear, Love,
and purpose to Serve all my days, hath been pleased to mani
fest his approbation, (towards the Noble Undertaking, in
which cause, I have given up my all, to bring it about,) in his
providing for my relief in a wonderful manner, even when
I was in the greatest straits and almost in despair. — and
blessed be the Name of the God of Israel, who hath never
been found unfaithful, or unkind. who will provide for
those that doth really depend upon his Divine Beneficence.
Rev., and kind Sir; I have been to New York, and the Lord
hath raised up, for me good Christian friends. — I was
in the City 15, Days. and I preached there three diffe
rent Times. and a Collection was proposed for my relief
and Encouragement two different times. and there was a
very honorable Collection made, worthy of the Generous, and
Noble Spirit, of the Wealthy Inhabitants of that renowned
. for which kindness I bless the Lord daily. —
I had Sufficient Collected for me, to discharge all my
debts, and also to purchase things necessary for my present sub
sistance. namely little provision. — I did not go to New
until I was quite discouraged waiting for the
answer to the Letter I sent to your worthy person. —
I believe that I shall have encouragement, the ensuing year
or season, from the Board of New York, or Philadelphia, I am
not certain however, the Rev. Mr. Rodgers. D.D. A preacher
in the Presbyterian old South Meeting house is a Member of that
Honorable Board, who is remarkably friendly. to whom
I humbly, and earnestly, desire you would write soon
as possible, if your worthy person can recommend me. to
him, and make him believe that you think that I am worthy of notice
and deserving of Encouragement, I should be Exceeding
glad. he believes Me to be deserving of Encouragement. I
preached for him three times. and he was very desirous
of helping me. but he thought proper, that something
Should be had from thee: a Recommendation. — he seems
to think if proper Steps be taken. he can obtain for my
help, [illegible][guess: ] Encouragement — fifty Pound Sterling Per Annum.
befriend me, if you see it in your way. —

My loving Patron, I want all help that a poor well
disposed Creature can desire. I am empty handed. I have
no purse neither have I any thing to put in one, if I
had a purse. — nevertheless I will step forward. — and
Stagger not. — I am satisfied it is best for me to know
and ever bear upon my mind that my dependence is
upon the Lord alone. — O that I may ever live like a
poor dependent Creature. — having my Eyes, and heart
fixed on the Lord. —
I Shall write to my friends in New York directly.
and I desire again that you would not fail to write for
the Honorable Board of which I made Mention will
set, or meet together by the first of April. when the
Rev. Dr. Rodgers will petition for me. — and he will
do it with double Courage if he has few lines from you.
I know not the Gentlemans Christian Name. but he
promised to write to you, and desired me to write also.
but if he has not wrote the surest way would be
to Send a Letter to Mr. James Lesley, my old master,
who lives in the City of New York. keeping a School there.
and enclose Dr. Rodgers's Letter therein. be so good as
to write full, and get as much help for me as ever
you can from that quarter. or from that Board of
which Mr. Rodgers is a Member.. etc.: —
 I am pleased to see the Indians in these parts so
engaged. I believe that there will be upwards of
Sixty young Indian men from the Seven Tribes
that will set off from hence by the 13th of March
. to be distinguished as noble Spirited Indians, who
will do their uttermost to get good, and do good, —
who will distinguish themselves from the [illegible][guess: ]
lazy crew that refuses the good offers made to
them in these Latter Days. — Pray for us. that
we may obtain blessings from on high. and that we
might be blessings on Earth. blessings to one another
and blessings to many of our Poor Western Brethren
who are perishing for lack of knowledge. O pray for
me in a more particular Manner. that the Lord would
bless me by implanting his divine fear in my heart
and in giving me true humility and steadfastness in
the ways of Religion, that he would give me grace
Sufficient for me. etc.: — I purpose by divine leave
to be at your residence by next Commencement.
with my friend Joseph Brant.

I am your humble
Pupil, and real well wisher
in great haste. —
Joseph Johnson. —
From Mr. Joseph Johnson
 February 17. 1775.
25 Dollars £7,,10,
4 Crowns — 1,, 6,, 8

To the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, D.D.
 and President of Dartmouth College. —
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.

Pomeroy, Ralph

Ralph Pomeroy was the son of Rev. Benjamin Pomeroy and Abigail Wheelock and the nephew of Eleazar Wheelock. Although he was not as involved in Wheelock's mission as his father, he still had close ties to Moor's Indian Charity School. After graduating from the College of New Jersey in 1758 (unlike his brother Josiah, Ralph did not attend Moor's), he was the master at Moor's for a year. Following this tenure, he studied law and became, in effect, Wheelock's lawyer on retainer. During the war, Ralph was a paymaster in the Continental Army. He remained involved in state politics, acting as State Controller after the war. Ralph appears in a letter from Brainerd to Wheelock on March 23, 1757, quoted in McCallum, about a religious revival at the College of New Jersey.

Lesley, James
Brant, Joseph

Joseph Brant studied briefly with Wheelock and went on to be a very influential Mohawk leader. He was born into a prominent Mohawk family, and his connections only improved when his sister, Molly, began a long-lasting relationship with Sir William Johnson. Brant came to study with Wheelock in 1761. He played the part of a model pupil, as he was already partially assimilated and took to his studies quickly. Wheelock had high hopes for him, but in 1763, Brant visited Mohawk country with CJ Smith and never returned. This was likely a result of Johnson's increasing desire to promote only Anglican missionary efforts, as Brant seems to have harbored no ill-will towards Wheelock: Calloway hypothesizes that Brant's influence protected Dartmouth during the Revolution, and in 1800 Brant sent two of his sons to Moor's Indian Charity School. After leaving Wheelock, Brant went on to accumulate influence both as a British civil servant and Mohawk leader (historians debate how much genuine power and influence he had among the Mohawks and Six Nations more generally). The British government employed him as an interpreter, and in 1775, he visited England to argue for Mohawk interests. During the Revolution, he remained loyal to the British and encouraged other tribes to do the same. After the Revolution, when the British abandoned Indian land interests, he battled militarily and politically for Native land rights. Culturally, Brant was very much a pro-assimilation Anglican. He translated the Gospel of Mark, as well as other religious documents, into Mohawk, and lived a generally anglicized lifestyle, although he criticized what he saw as severe moral failings in white society.

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