Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Samson Occom, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1775 April 14

ms-number: 775264

abstract: Occom writes to express regret that so few Indians are going to Oneida, and that Johnson should, above all, keep peace among the Indians there. Occom also writes that his daughter Olive has married.

handwriting: Handwriting is clear and legible.

paper: Single medium-sized sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing and wear.

ink: Brown ink is faded.

noteworthy: The trailer appears to be in Occom's hand, although it could possibly be that of Mary Occom.


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



Dear Child
I have only Time to inform you, that through the
goodness of god we are all in good State of Health at present, and
your Family is well, and all the Indians are in good Health, I
am Sorry, So few Indians are going up to Oneida this Spring, yet
I hope they will keep moving up more and more, — Let me know
by the first opportunity, how the Indians appear now towards
our Indians, and if anything is in agitation worthy of notice
let us know it, — whatever you do keep Peace among yourselves
and hear to one another for your mutual good, — Take god with
you in all your Concerns, let his word be your Rule both in
your Religious and Temporal Concerns, enrich your minds with the
word of god — Our Olive has married last Night to Solomon Adams
This in utmost haste is from your Affectionate Father
Samson Occom
Something about
Land in Oneida
To
Mr. Joseph Johnson
at Oneida
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.

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.

Adams, Solomon
Adams, Olive (née Occom)

Olive was the fourth child and third daughter born to Mary Fowler Occom and Samsom Occom during their residence in Montauk on Long Island, where Occom served as minister and schoolteacher to the Montaukett Indians. She would have moved with the family back to Mohegan in Connecticut in 1763, but little else is known about her life. From a letter Occom wrote to Joseph Johnson on April 14, 1775 (manuscript 775264), we know that Olive married Solomon Adams, a Farmington Indian. Love reports that they had three children, that Solomon died around 1783, and that Olive lived on her husband's land in Farmington. However, Occom records in his journal for 1786 visiting Olive on his preaching and fundraising tours of New England to raise money for the Brothertown project, and she is living between Old Windsor and Bolton, CT, a location northwest of Farmington and on the other side of Hartford. The following year, Occom twice mentions in his journal "Olive's affair," that he "searched into" it "and Say Writings about it to my Satisfaction," and then "left" it with a Mr. Wadsworth (manuscript 787660.1). Love notes that Olive emigrated to Brotherton, and that her children sold the family plot at Farmington in 1801. J. Brooks speculates that the "affair" Occom negotiated for his daughter probably concerned the disposition of Olive's husband's Farmington lot.

HomeSamson Occom, letter, to Joseph Johnson, 1775 April 14
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only