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John Sergeant, letter, to Peter Thacher, 1788 May 19

ms-number: 788319

abstract: Sergeant writes of a division within the Stockbridge Tribe regarding his position as minister, as opposed to Occom's. He reports that Occom has been resorting to unkind means to support his own position.

handwriting: Handwriting is small, but largely clear and legible.

paper: Single large sheet folded in half to make four pages in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: The last words of lines 28 and 29 on one recto spill over onto the page behind it (two recto).


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



Reverend and Dear Sir
I received yours enclosing the Bills last Friday
thank you kindly for your attention to the business
I thought it might be agreeable to you and the Com
missioners
in general to be informed that in com=
=pliance with their direction; I have made application
to the neighbouring ministers for Ordination. enclosed
I send copies which will give you the full infor=
mation of the business. conclude it is perfectly agree=
able to the wish of the Board, who command the line
of my conduct in the business of my mission —
It was thought best I should be ordained at large
for several reasons. There could be but few of my people
present. Mr. Kirkland has told me that he informed
the Board of some disputes and divisions that had taken
place among my people last summer before my new
appointment. dont fully know in what light he
represented the matter. Think he could know but
little of their present situation and feelings to=
=wards me, in a view of my new appointment having
had no opportunity with them since last fall and the
beginning of winter before they had knowledge of my
being again put into the mission. I have not time
Sir to relate to you the particulars of their disputes
will only mention, the dispute began upon this
question, whether they had better take Mr. Occom
or myself for their minister, as he was about to
settle in a neighbouring Town, expecting to have
him part of the time and could support him easier
than myself — in their division of the Tribe on the question, there
were 30 for Mr. Occom — 50 for myself. Since my new ap=
=pointment about half of the 30 have openly left Mr.
Occom— I haven't time Sir to mention some unkind mea
sures Mr. Occom — has taken to support his wish — but
only mention that the bigger half of my people are
so prejudiced against Mr. Occom — that I sincerely believe
if I was to leave them, they would be the most un=
happy people in the world — in short the Tribe broken
up, and come to ruin. Having these views
of their situation induced me to say what I did
to the Commissioners concerning the importance of
my mission.
The Chief, and only supporter of Mr. Occoms interest
made that speech to me which you find in my Journal
This view of the situation of my people which is well known
to the gentlemen here, has been another reason why my
ordination has been in the manner it is.
in the division of the old professors of religion belonging
to the stockbridge church there were 10 Mr. Occom. 16 for myself.
I have written this Sir in some haste you will please to
excuse it — my time very much taken up. I expect to set
out for the wilderness god willing tomorrow. hope I
may be the means of union and happiness among my
people I know they have all a strong affection for me
I remain Rev. Sir your most obliged friend
and Brother

John Sergeant
Rev. Mr. Thacher
Mr Sargeant's
Letter 1788
The Reverend Peter Thacher
Boston
Favoured by
Honourable Mr. Sedgweck
Blank page.
Sergeant, Jr., John

John Sergeant Jr., like his father, served as a minister in Stockbridge, MA. In 1773, Stephen West, the minister to the Stockbridge Indians since 1757, decided to leave his post and turned over ministering duties to John Sergeant Jr. Stockbridge, MA, which John Sergeant Sr. helped establish, failed as a Christian Indian town when the Stockbridge Indians lost ownership of their land. When the Oneida Tribe offered the Stockbridgers land in central New York after the American Revolution, many of them moved to the Brothertown and New Stockbridge settlements. The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge funded Sergeant Jr. in 1787 to continue serving as a minister to the Stockbridge Indians who moved to New York. Sergeant travelled from Stockbridge, MA, to New Stockbridge every year to serve as their minister. In 1788, the Stockbridge Indians at New Stockbridge were divided in their support for Occom or John Sergeant as the town’s minister. Mohican sachem Hendrick Aupaumut led the community members who favored Occom. According to Sergeant, 30 members of the Tribe were in favor of Occom while 50 were in favor of him (later, half of Occom’s supporters defected to Sergeant). The relationship between Sergeant and Occom was contentious, with Occom disliking Sergeant’s manner of preaching. Occom moved to Munhegunnack or New Stockbridge in 1791 and suggests in a letter that many of Sergeant’s supporters were shifting support to Occom. In his sermons, Sergeant blamed the Indians’ loss of land on what he described as their drunkenness and idleness. He suggested that the whites’ encroachment on their lands was God’s punishment for their sins. Sergeant remained the New Stockbridge minister until his death in 1824.

Thacher, Peter
Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

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.

HomeJohn Sergeant, letter, to Peter Thacher, 1788 May 19
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