Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Joseph Johnson, letter, to John Rodgers, 1775 February 15

ms-number: 775165

abstract: Johnson writes of his intention to move with several tribes to lands granted by the Oneidas, and that he has been in touch with Wheelock regarding a recommendation.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, crowded and frequently difficult to decipher, with many deletions and additions.

paper: Single large sheet is in fair condition, with moderate-to-heavy staining, creasing and wear. Wear at especially heavy creasing leads to some loss of text.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: This document appears to be a draft. Some of the contents of this letter are similar to those of manuscript 775164. Sums appear upside-down at the bottom of one verso; the letter is written around these sums. The identity of “Avery” on one verso is uncertain, although it is likely David Avery. The identity of "Fitch" on one verso is uncertain, and so he has been left untagged.


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



To the Rev. Dr. Rodgers at New York
Rev. and kind Sir; with humility, Gratitude and Love, I sit my
self down to write to your worthy person. through the goodness
of the great God of mercy I, and my little family are in health; and I hum
bly hope that by the same goodness you and yours have been, and Still are
in health, and prosperity. — kind Sir, I have ever retained your worthy Person
in my mind with pleasure, since, I have had the honour of being acquainted with
you. and I bless the Lord in whom I humbly hope, I have been enabled by his own
divine grace, to put my whole Trust, that he has graciously given me such a Good and real friend
in time of need as your worthy person has been, and I hope still will be. — if I was not satisfi
ed in my Mind, of your good will to me ward and to my poor despised Brethren I should not trouble you with my scribbles
but now with pleasure I write to you as unto the best friend or Benefactor that I
have in this world of trial, Sorrow and [illegible][guess: wants] and various vicissitudes. I heartily thank you
for all your Tokens of Love, pity, and respects that you showed toward me, and to
ward my poor brethren, when I was in the city of New York and I daily bless the Lord
that he gave me favour in the Eyes and hearts of his People there, God full
well knew my necessitous circumstances, and there he mercifully
relieved me, and greatly encouraged me to go on still, in his Service,
wherever he in his Providence should call me. and not to stagger. —
verily, verily, I have abundant reason to rejoice in the goodness of the
Lord, who regards the cause of those that trust in his holy Name. — O that I might
be enabled to live to his praise all my Days, and afterward, be graciously
received up into Glory, where I shall praise him throughout the
endless Ages of Eternity without interruption, and without ceasing
Amen. — Rev. Sir, I got safely home by the 5th of January and found
[gap: worn_edge][guess: al]l well. I preached four times by the way. 3 times at New haven, [gap: worn_edge]
once at East haven, but It is not the custom I perceive in these parts [gap: worn_edge]
consider of a traveling labourer, however, I am thankful that my mind is not chiefly set upon
the things of time and Sense. and so am not disappointed, nor in the least disquieted. I have been to several Towns of my Indian
Brethren since I have been at home, and have consulted with them, about
worldly affairs, and I have also preached to them the Gospel of our Lord
Jesus the Christ. — my Indian brethren seems to be really engaged to go
On in prosecution of the design which I made known to you when I
was at your residence — and we do fully purpose if god willing to set off from hence
or from these Parts by the 13th of March next .
I take it for granted and I believe that there will be upwards of 60 young men from the several Tribes
who will go with resolution into the western Country, as first Set
­tlers of the Land granted to us by the Oneidas. — however there
is 58 able working men that purposes to go from the following Tribes.
[gap: worn_edge][guess: i]n whose words I believe we may rely. from Mohegan 10. from Narragansett
20. from Montaukett on Long Island 13, from Niantic 5. from farm
ington
10. and there is two other Tribes who confess that they are So
deeply involved in debt that they cannot go this season, but fully
purposes to go soon as possible. that is Groton and Stonington.
— I was there last Thursday and had conference with them about the affair and I shall
go there again next Saturday, and tarry over the Sabbath with them.
and I believe that there will be a
small number from those two Tribes. the Rev. Mr. Occom will
Preach there next Sabbath. and he will propose condition to them
[illegible] and their Creditors so as they may go and take possess
[gap: worn_edge][guess: i]on with the rest of us. I hope that there will be nigh seventy in
the whole though it is little uncertain Poverty hinders many it is thought the best way in the first Place for[illegible][guess: Young]

men that are able to endure hardships to go and work or br[gap: worn_edge]
the way through, or prepare a Sort of Shelter for themselves and the[gap: worn_edge]
to live in, and to raise little somewhat to eat for them and [gap: worn_edge]
and after foundation is laid then we can with less difficulty
move up with our families, and the[illegible] may the
aged Men, and women go leaning upon their Sons as anchors
I feel really engaged on my Part, and greatly encouraged. The pro
spects of great future good to my poor brethren in these parts,
and also those that inhabit the western wilderness animates
my Soul to press forward. I greatly desire the prosperity of my
sinking Nation. — O that I might by the Grace of God, be beneficia[gap: worn_edge][guess: l]
[gap: stain] to the bodies, but to the precious, exceeding precious Sou[gap: worn_edge][guess: ls]
of my [gap: stain][guess: p]oor indian Brethren. —
Rev. and kind Sir. — I would further inform you that I received a
Letter from my Honoured Patron the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock D. D and
President of Dartmouth College the 13th of this Instant. the Extract
of which I send you even every word. — Dartmouth College January
23. 1775
. My dear Joseph Johnson etc.: etc.: — — — I had a favoura
ble opportunity to return an answer, the next Day. — I acquainted him
how the Lord had prospered me New York and had given me friends
there. and [illegible] made Mention of your good will towards me, and also to
towards my Poor Brethren. — I informed him that you designed to try
to get someThing for My Support And for my Encouragements from the
Honorable Board at Philadelphia, or New York, I was not certain, —
[gap: worn_edge]ever I desired him to write soon as possible to your worthy person
on my behalf, and recommend me to notice, and regard if I was
deserving. I informed him, that the Honorable Board would
meet by the first of April. — and I doubt not, but that he will
write to you But let The Lords will be done concerning that Matter. I doubt not but that you will do your uttermost to get me a Support. while I shall be in the service of our Lord.
If I have encouragement from that Honorable Board I will bless the
Lord, and rejoice in his goodness, if not I will still love, and
trust in his holy Name, and service him with all my might. and not
be discouraged, nor repine. for he will do the thing, that is right
with me and for me. — my purposes and necessitous circumstances I'll write
on other Paper by itself. — O kind Sir, ever Pray for me, that the God
of Love, would give me Grace Sufficient for me. give my Thanks, and becoming
Respects to your honoured, Beloved, and kind Consort and great regards to all
your family. and love to all inquiring friends

I am, kind Sir
your well-wisher, and humble Pupil
as it were.
Joseph Johnson an Indian of the
Mohegan Tribe.

36/0 7/6
17.6 5/ 24/10
18:6 5
17:6 3/0
48/0 2/6
37/9 1/3 27.10
10:3 2/6 12/5
48:0 6:3
18:6 Averys debt
10:38:Fitches D.t 19:6 30/4
£1:8:9 6/ 12
£1:11:9 1.6
6 13.6
£1 17:9

P.S. there was some Gentlemen that gave encourage
ment, that they would try to get Bibles and Psalm books
if any was want- -ing by those that go Next march. and
I have acquainted my Indian friends of the good will of Gentlemen
at New York. — and The Indians rejoice at such glad tidings.
if there is any so well disposed as to give us [illegible][guess: such] best
of gifts we will greatly rejoice, and try to make good use
of them. Most of us are so poor that [illegible]
[illegible]
[illegible] to come
60 [illegible][guess: of Each I] believe will be [illegible][guess: wanting] Send them to [illegible] I and [illegible]

to Dr. Rogers.

To the Rev. Mr. Rodgers D.D.
in the City of New York.—
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.

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.

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, 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.

HomeJoseph Johnson, letter, to John Rodgers, 1775 February 15
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only