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John Wheelock’s discharge, 1790 March 4

ms-number: 790204.1

abstract: John Wheelock relinquishes claims on the funds collected by Whitaker and Occom and deposited with the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The discharge is certified by John Hancock.

handwriting: Document appears to be written in three different hands; it is clear, legible, with very few additions and deletions. Letter case is occasionally difficult to decipher, especially with regard to the letter S.

paper: Good condition, with minor creasing, staining and wear.

ink: Brown.

noteworthy: Signature reading “John Hancock” does not appear to be original — note the identical “H” in both “Holten” and “Hancock.” The L.S. above the signature means “locus sigilli” or “place of the seal” likely indicating where Hancock’s seal would be if the document were original. See also 790204.2, which is a copy or draft of this document, which itself is also likely a copy.

signature: There are several signatures.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


Moor’s Indian Charity School
Moor’s Indian Charity School was a grammar school for Native Americans that Eleazar Wheelock opened in North Lebanon, Connecticut in 1754. The school was named for Colonel Joshua Moor, also spelled More, who donated the land and school building. Moor’s was essentially an expansion of the grammar school that Wheelock opened in 1743 to support himself during the fallout from the First Great Awakening, when Wheelock, who'd participated in itinerant ministry during the Awakening, had his salary confiscated by the colony of Connecticut. In December of that year, Samson Occom asked Wheelock to teach him as well. Wheelock's work with Occom was so successful that Wheelock decided to replicate the experiment with other Native American boys. He accepted his first Indian students in 1754, and in 1761 began taking female students as well. Wheelock believed that in time, his school would become just one part of a larger missionary enterprise. He planned to send his Anglo American and Native American students to various tribes as missionaries and schoolmasters, with explicit instructions to pick out the best students and send them back to Moor’s to continue the cycle. His ultimate goal was to turn his school into a model Christian Indian town that would include farms, a college, and vocational training. However, Wheelock’s grand design did not survive the decade. Wheelock lost the vast majority of his Native American students; he fought with many of the best, including Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, and other former and current students accused him of subjecting Native Americans to disproportionate amounts of manual labor. In 1769, perhaps due to concerns about corporal punishment, the Oneida withdrew all their children from Moor’s. When Wheelock relocated to Hanover in 1769, only two Native American students came with him, and it became clear that Wheelock’s focus was on Dartmouth and that Dartmouth was for white students. After Wheelock’s death in 1779, Moor’s Indian Charity School receded further into the background as John Wheelock, his father’s reluctant successor, stopped taking Indian students. Some Native American students were enrolled in Moor’s until 1850, when the school unofficially closed.
Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) is a Presbyterian missionary society formed in 1709 and still active today. The SSPCK was founded to anglicize the Scottish Highlands, which at the time were predominantly Gaelic and had little in common with lowland Scotland. British Protestants identified many of the same “problems” in Gaelic and Native American society, and in 1730, the SSPCK expanded into the colonies via a board of correspondents in Boston. Although most of Wheelock’s contact with the SSPCK took place through its Boston, New Jersey/New York, and Connecticut boards, he did work directly with the SSPCK parent organization during Occom’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Since Occom was technically sent to England by the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK, it was only natural that his tour include a visit to the parent organization in Edinburgh. The SSPCK, headed by the Marquis of Lothian, issued a bulletin to its member churches which allowed Whitaker and Occom to collect a substantial sum of money with little time or travel. While most of the money that Occom raised went into a trust under the Earl of Dartmouth (the English Trust), the money he raised in Scotland (approximately £2,500) went into an SSPCK-controlled fund that ultimately proved difficult to access. While the English Trust essentially gave Wheelock a blank check for the money it controlled (much of which went toward clearing land and erecting buildings for Dartmouth College), the SSPCK was much more stringent about requiring that the money Occom had raised be applied only to Native American education. As was often the case in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world, religious politics were a powerful motivator. Wheelock and the SSPCK both practiced Reformed Protestant Christianity, but New Hampshire was an Episcopalian colony. To make Wheelock’s Reformed Protestantism more palatable to Episcopalian New Hampshire, the New Hampshire governor attempted to make the Anglican Bishop of London a member of the English Trust and possibly the Dartmouth Trustees (the Bishop of London seems to have never replied to the invitation). Dartmouth’s geographic association with the Episcopalian Church, in addition to concerns about the use of the fund, gave the SSPCK an incentive to withhold money from Wheelock. It only issued Wheelock £190 throughout his life, although it did provide financial support to Samuel Kirkland out of the fund. It is worth noting that Wheelock seems to have been well aware that he would have trouble getting money from the SSPCK: he went through the entirety of the English Trust’s fund before soliciting the SSPCK. Subsequent Dartmouth presidents struggled to access the money, with limited success, until 1893. In 1922, the SSPCK concluded that since Moor’s Indian Charity School had become defunct, it was within its rights to devote the remainder of the fund—then valued at £10,000—to other missionary operations.
Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge
The Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was established in 1730 to support local missionary efforts. It was the SSPCK's first board in the British colonies in America. The SSPCK later founded a New York Board (1741) and a Connecticut Board (1764). Although Wheelock lobbied for a New Hampshire board after his 1770 relocation, by that time the SSPCK had had enough of him and his request was denied. The Boston Board of the SSPCK sponsored many missionaries to Native Americans, including David and John Brainerd. However, it did not provide very much support to Wheelock or his school, in large part because Wheelock and Charles Chauncy, chair of the Boston Board, clashed over Congregationalist politics. The Boston Board did provide £20 to support Samson Occom and David Fowler on a 1761 mission to the Six Nations to procure Moor's students, but it was then reluctant to support the boys Occom and Fowler obtained. The Board eventually paid £58.10.1 in 1762. They never gave money to Wheelock again. Wheelock was instrumental in forming the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK in 1764, over which he exerted considerable influence. From that point forward, he was largely able to avoid dealing with the Boston Board of the SSPCK. The The Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America is also called the Boston Board in some letters, and most secondary sources have mixed the two Boston Boards. This is an easy mistake to make since both are sometimes called the Boston Board and vigorously opposed Wheelock. However, the general confusion in the literature means that any secondary source's statement on either board should be taken with some skepticism.
Hanover

Hanover is a town in Grafton County, New Hampshire, which is located along the Connecticut River in the west-central area of the state, originally occupied by the Abenaki Tribe. It was chartered by Governor Benning Wentworth in 1761 as "Hannover," and four years later, European settlers arrived, mostly from the colony of Connecticut. Although heavily wooded, Hanover became an agricultural community. In 1769, Eleazar Wheelock established Dartmouth College near the Common at a village called "the Plain," a level tract of land about a mile above the River. For a few years in the 1780s, the southwest corner of the town, called "Dresden," along with several other disgruntled villages along the River who felt they were not being adequately represented in the state legislature, defected from New Hampshire and joined the independent Republic of Vermont. The village of Hanover, not to be confused with Hanover Center, another village located in the center of the township, grew up around the College and became the locus for the Presbytery of Grafton.

Grafton County

Originally known as “The fifth,” that is, the fifth county in New Hampshire, Grafton County was established by an act of the Colonial legislature on 19 March 1771 to encompass all the land in the colony not a part of the other four counties. It was named for Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton (1735-1811), a supporter of American causes in the English Parliament, who was British Prime Minister at the time. An immense tract of land that stretched one hundred and fifty miles south from the border of what is now Cananda, the entire northern frontier of New Hampshire, it was divided several times until its borders were fixed in 1829 to finally encompass 1,463 square miles. It is bounded north by Coos County, east by Coos, Carroll and Belknap Counties, south by Merrimack and Sullivan Counties and west by the west bank of the Connecticut River. Twenty-nine of its towns were granted under King George II, several of which are now in Vermont. When Wheelock arrived in Hanover in 1769 to establish his “College,” Grafton County had not yet been established; the township of Hanover was then in a region called “Cowas” or “Coos.” Soon after the county’s establishment in 1771, Wheelock and his son-in-law Bezaleel Woodward, also the first librarian of the College, became Justices of the Peace for Grafton County, hearing cases in Woodward’s residence.

New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire is in northern New England, bordered by Vermont to the west, Maine to the east, Massachusetts to the south, and Canada to the north. The Connecticut River, which begins in Canada and empties into the Long Island Sound, runs along the western border of New Hampshire and, in the colonial period, functioned as a route for trade -- both of commodities and ideas -- between southern New England and the northernmost parts of America. New Hampshire was originally inhabited by large groups of Abenakis who spoke a dialect of Algonquin distinct from New England tribes to the south, but by 1617, disease and war had brought their number to only 5,000. European fishing fleets had travelled to the coast of New Hampshire since at least 1497, but English settlement of New Hampshire formally began when Captain John Mason, Governor of Portsmouth in Hampshire, England, was granted land in the region in 1622. Settlers arrived in 1623, establishing a base near what is now Portsmouth and entering the fur, fish, and timber trade. In 1641, New Hampshire agreed to come under Massachusetts' jurisdiction, but in 1679, Charles II gave New Hampshire its own charter. From then on, the Province of New Hampshire had its own government, consisting of a royal Governor and Council and an elected House of Representatives. By the time Wheelock moved Moor's Indian Charity School to New Hampshire, the colony was experiencing unprecedented growth. English victory in the French and Indian War stabilized the region, and as a result New Hampshire's Governor Benning Wentworth began to grant hundreds of townships to new settlers, many from the colony of Connecticut. Though Wheelock considered moving Moor's Indian Charity School to several different places, he finally decided on Hanover, NH, in 1768. Because Benning Wentworth was not receptive to Wheelock and his school, it was his nephew and successor Governor John Wentworth who signed Dartmouth College's charter in 1769. In August 1770, Wheelock moved his family to New Hampshire and established Dartmouth College. Moor's and the College would exist side-by-side in Hanover for decades. Soon after Wheelock founded Dartmouth in New Hampshire, the Revolutionary War began and the colony declared its independence. While several buildings and locations around Hanover bear Occom's name, he never visited the town or the college.

Lebanon

Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

Great Britain
Connecticut

Connecticut is a state in southern New England that borders Massachusetts to the north and the Long Island Sound to the south. Its name is derived from the Algonquian "Quonehtacut," meaning "long river," referring to the Connecticut, which runs from the border with Canada into the Long Island Sound. The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking Pequots, Mohegans, and Quinnipiacs. European settlers took advantage of tribal divisions to establish dominance in the region. Dutch explorer Adrian Block sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614, establishing an active Dutch trading post at what is now Hartford. English claims to Connecticut began in 1630, but settlement truly began when Thomas Hooker, a Congregationalist minister now known as "The Father of Connecticut," left Boston to found Hartford in 1636. Hartford became the center of the Colony of Connecticut, which did not receive its charter until 1662 when Governor John Winthrop, Jr. secured it from Charles II. In 1665, the Colony of New Haven, established in 1638 by the Puritan minister John Davenport, joined the Colony of Connecticut under this charter. Early settler relations with local Indians were tense, and encouraged the New England colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven to unify as the "United Colonies" or "New England Confederation" and fight together, with Indian allies, in the Pequot War and again in King Philip's (Metacom's) War. These wars helped establish a specifically Connecticut and specifically American identity; the latter drove the colony to join the rebellion against Britain in 1776. Occom, born into a Mohegan household in Connecticut, was closely associated with the Colony and retained strong ties to the region throughout his life. He converted to Christianity in 1743 when the Great Awakening spread through Connecticut, and inspired Wheelock's Indian Charity School, which was founded in Lebanon, CT in 1754. He also became involved in the Mason Land Case, a long-standing dispute over the ownership of reserve Mohegan lands in Connecticut. Wheelock also had strong ties to Connecticut, moving his Indian Charity School only when the colony would not grant it a charter.

Boston

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.

Massachusetts
Wheelock, John
Hancock, John
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.

Russell, Thomas
Whitaker, Nathaniel

Nathaniel Whitaker was an outspoken Presbyterian minister with a long and wide-ranging career. Between his ordination in 1755 and his death in 1795, Whitaker ministered to five different congregations. His longest tenure was at Chelsea, CT (near Norwich), from 1761-1769, during which he joined Occom on his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Britain. While in Chelsea, Whitaker was very involved in Wheelock's project. The two engaged in frequent correspondence, and Whitaker served on Eleazar Wheelock's Board of Correspondents in Connecticut, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School. At one time, he was Wheelock's presumed successor, but Dartmouth's Trustees demanded that Wheelock appoint another. Wheelock, in part due to his strongly-held belief that Native Americans were childlike and rash, was convinced that Occom needed an Anglo-American supervisor on his fundraising tour. After several candidates turned down the job, Wheelock selected Whitaker. He proved to be a poor choice; he was, by many accounts, a difficult man to get along with, and many of Wheelock’s British allies, including George Whitefield and the English Trust (the organization that took control of the money Occom raised in England) preferred to deal with Occom, although Whitaker insisted on handling the tour’s logistics. Furthermore, in Britain, Occom was the obvious star of the tour, and it was unclear to many why Whitaker asserted himself so prominently. Whitaker’s poor decisions seriously alienated the English Trust and increased their suspicion of Wheelock’s later dealings and treatment of Occom. He gave the English Trust the impression that they would have control over money raised in Scotland (which was in fact lodged with the parent organization of the SSPCK), and he was the executor of the “Eells Affair,” a plan initiated by the CT Board of the SSPCK to bring the money that Occom and Whitaker raised back to the colonies by investing it in trade goods and selling them at a profit (Eells was one of the merchants who was to help with the resale of goods). The English Trust learned about the plan by reading letters that Whitaker had given them permission to open in his absence, and were immediately shocked. The wording of certain letters made it appear that only a percentage of the profit from the resale of the goods would go towards Moor’s Indian Charity School, but beyond that detail, the English Trust was scandalized at the thought of money raised for charity being invested in trade. The English Trust blamed Whitaker entirely for these affairs, and issued specific instructions for Occom to notarize all documents requiring Whitaker’s signature. In short, they wanted Occom to supervise Whitaker, when Wheelock had envisioned the opposite relationship (both Occom and Whitaker seem to have ignored their instructions, preferring to have as little contact with one another as possible). In 1769, a year after his return to Connecticut in 1768, Whitaker found himself dismissed by his Chelsea congregation (likely because he had spent two and a half years away from them). He went on to serve several more congregations before his death in 1795. Whitaker was an outspoken Whig, and during the Revolution he published several pamphlets on his political opinions.

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.

Morey, David
McLane, Edward
Holten, Samuel
Avery, John
Thacher, Peter
Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
After many months of planning and shifting personnel, Occom, accompanied by the minister Nathaniel Whitaker, sets sail in December 1765 for a two-and-a-half year tour of England and Scotland in order to solicit contributions to Wheelock’s Indian Charity School and missionary efforts. Introduced to aristocrats and prominent clergy by the minister George Whitefield, Occom preaches many sermons, travels widely, and collects a large sum of money.
HomeJohn Wheelock’s discharge, 1790 March 4
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