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Samson Occom, letter, to Benjamin Garrett, 1784 August 21

ms-number: 784471

abstract: Occom writes to say that he has written to the Indians at Oneida and notified them of Garrett's imminent arrival. He also includes a recommendation for Garrett to aid him on his journey.

handwriting: Occom's hand is clear and legible. As is common with Occom, there are some uncrossed t's.

paper: Single medium-sized sheet is in good condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. The watermark, picturing a man and the words “ProPatria,” is clearly visible.

ink: Brown.

noteworthy: The trailer appears to be in Occom's hand, which suggests that this document may be a draft. An unknown editor has written “Sampson Occom” in pencil below the trailer.

signature: The document is signed on both one recto and verso.


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



Dear Sir
I have an opportunity to Send direct
ly to Oneida by my cousin Isaac Uppucquiyantup
of Niantic, he is going next week, old Brother
Phillip Cuish was here, and took my my Letters
this morning, and I have mentioned You and your
design fully, and recommended you to the Indians
So that there is no need of my writing of your designed
Journey, I Send with this, the recommendation
for you, and I think You ought to get 2 or 3 of your Bre
thren in the ministry to give you A Recommenda­
tion also — Nothing remains to Send you but my
Love and you may take as much as you
like, and if you dont like it you may let
alone — this is from
your, what you please
Samson Occom
To all Christian People, to whom it may Concern
The subscriber sends Greeting —
I have had a long and intimate acquaintance
With Benjamin Garrett, the Bearer hereof, he is
a poor man, and I hope one of God's poor, and he is
a temperate man, he frequently speaks in pub
lic in Religious meetings, where the Door is open
for him. — And he is now on his way to Oneida
to See his Children, and is much destitute of Jour
ney subsistence, and as Such I recommend him
to the notice of all Christian People, wherever in
the Providence he may cast, —

Samson Occom
Mohegan August 30: 1784
1784
Recommendations
for Lester and Garrett
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.

Garrett, Benjamin

Benjamin Garrett was a Stonington Pequot Indian from a prominent family of sachems and Christian converts. He was the great grandson of Hermon Garret or Wequash Cook (Wequashcuk), an early convert to Christianity who played a role in the Pequot War of 1637; and grandson of Catapezet (Kottupesit), who had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph, sachem of the Niantics of Lyme, CT, was the interpreter for the New England missionary Experience Mayhew (1673-1758) and helped him translate the Lord's Prayer into Pequot. Mayhew also met Benjamin, who spoke some English and, according to W. DeLoss Love, had a seven-year-old son he was "willing to devote to learning so that he may be a minister." That boy was Benjamin Garrett, father of the Hannah Garrett who married David Fowler. Further information on Benjamin Garrett and the spelling of his surname is sometimes conflicting, leading scholars to speculate that there was more than one person of this name. The historical records show that between June 1741 and July 1742, 15 members of the extended Garrett family affiliated with one of the three Stonington churches, five of them on the same day at the First Stonington Church. There is also a record of the Stonington magistrates giving financial aid to a Benjamin Garrett in 1793-4. It is possible that Benjamin was the brother of Elizabeth Garrett, the mother of Joseph Johnson, a Moor's alumnus, Occom's son-in-law, and co-founder of the Brothertown movement. That would make him Johnson's uncle, a term Johnson uses in his journal for Benjamin that could be familial or honorary. At the very least, Garrett was part of an extended Christian Indian network that sustained the work of Occom and Johnson.

Uppucquiyantup, Isaac
Cuish, Phillip
Lester, Eliphalet
HomeSamson Occom, letter, to Benjamin Garrett, 1784 August 21
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