Samuel Kirkland, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 March 6


abstractKirkland writes a lengthy letter describing his work among the Senecas, and touching upon, among other things, his concerns regarding Chamberlain and his mission.

handwritingInformal handwriting is small and frequently difficult to decipher. Kirkland frequently does not pick up his pen between words. Letter case is frequently difficult to discern, and there are several uncrossed t’s and crossed l’s. Due to the length and difficulty of the letter, instances of questionable letters, letter case, and deletions were transcribed as the writer likely intended.

paperTwo large sheets each folded in half to make four pages are in fair condition, with moderate staining, creasing and wear. There is repair work along particularly heavy creases.

inkBrown ink is faded in spots, and dimmed by the condition of the paper.

noteworthyOn two recto, the identity of the Gentlemen Correspondents is uncertain, and so they have been left untagged. On four recto, the identity of the Onaquaga Sachem is uncertain and so he has been left untagged. This document appears to be a serial letter written over the course of more than one sitting; and there appears to be some text/paper missing between two verso and three recto. If Kirkland's intention regarding a word or abbreviation is uncertain, that word or abbreviation has been left unmodified in the modernized transcription.

signatureThe letter is signed twice, both times abbreviated.

  Rev.d & Hond Sir.
I've receivd no Letter from you since last July  nor any particular acct of your Welfare & ye State of your School;— wch in eccesence  is my main support in this gloomy wilderneſs.— I've been feeding myself for sometime  wh a fond hope yt Mr Chamberlain has letters for me, only waits a safe opportunity  of Conveyance.— tis now so long since his return, I quite despair,— have had no word at all  from him— accidentally heard of his safe Arrival here.— I'm afraid my dear Fellow‐  Labourers. MRevd Meſsrs Smith & Chamberlain. will cast me quite out all Society,—  because I'm settled among so bad a people, I being but little better my self.  I can aſsure them, I'm doing my utmost to reform 'em both.—
Revd S.r I woud now give you a short Acct of my Situation.— My Prospects  of succeſs were so dark & discouraging, last fall & begining of winter,— yt I was ready  sometimes to think I must give up ye point,— yt there was no such Thing as getting interest  among this people at present. tho' very neceſsary & important for ye progreſs of  your Design, by Their superiour Number & great Influence over Other Nations.—  I cou'd not feel willing to give up ye Cause whout farther trial. I tho't it my duty to still  use my utmost (tho very feeble) Endeavours, & spare no pains, till I should acquire yr language.
But thro' a kind Providence Things now appear wh another aspect,— somewhat  encouraging.— I have lately spoke to the Chiefs & head Warriours  of this, & several other small adjacent Castles.— The substance of wch, & their  Answer shall only mention to save [illegible] you needleſs trouble.—  I a'cquainted them more fully wt my Design, Disposition, &c— requiring of 'em wt  was their real inclination wh regard to my settling among them.— whether they  were desirous, woud recive & embracing Christianity.— offer'd them several Argu‐ ments to enforce ye Matter, ſhew its Consequence, & desir'd'em to give it due conside‐ ration.— In Their Answer, said. They had considerd the whole.  of my Speech,— were intirely satisfied wh my Design, & was certainly well disposd,—  had their real good at heart.— yt they believ'd ye Ministers in N– England were very  good men, tho't of nothing but God & heavenly Things.— woud have me proceed in  learning ye Language,— yt they wou'd recve ^me^ & embrace ye Word of God.— When I shoud  [illegible] think myself sufficiently acquainted wh yr Tongue to speak in public, they woud  be ready to hear me.— They desir'd me to cleave fast to this Town (call'd Kaunan‐ dausagea) & keep as good Orders as poſsible, by private advice & admonitions, 'till  I shou'd be able to ſpeak in public. — This was deliverd to me in presence of  eight persons (Chief & head‐warriours) who said ye greatest part were thus minded,—  & yt they woud use their Influence yt every one shoud give me good treatment &  listen to wt I might say.—
I desir to be Thankful to the Father of Mercies for any  hopeful prospects of succeſs.— The agreeable Alteration in yr Behaviour  towards me adds much to ye peace & comfort of my life.—  I'm yet encouraged to hope yt thro' ye Graicious Bleſsing of God, I may be of  Some 
some service to this people.— Their present Situation & condition appears to me most  miserable & deplorable, I can scarcely find one who is in ye least degree sensible of it,—  or thinks wh any Concern wt will become of their Children after them.—
There are numbers of their most sensible Men, who now often visit me, & enquire wt I  think concerning them.— here & there one I hope begins a little to see ye Case & are Affected wh it  always expreſs a desire of my being able to speak in public.— Tho' They in general  are strongly enclind to think ye God has two distinct ways of Goverment for white  people & Indians,— yt there are two Roads, wch lead to Heaven.— imagine it wont be accept table or well pleasing to God yt these shoud interfer wh each other.— They bring the  English & Canadian Mohawks for an expample,— whom they look apon as ye worst &  most miserable of all Indians, (tho' they are mistaken as to ye former) wch is wholley owing  to their learning to pray as they call it.—
I have found out all yr Traditions,— dont apprehend they will be any ^great^ obstruction to  their receivg ye Goſpel.— The greatist & almost insurmountable difficulty is their  being givin ſo much to strong drink. Their being a people whout any proper form or  kind of goverment make Things appear something dark.— They [illegible] exercise no kind of Au‐ thority, nor have any kind of punishment for ye highest Crime wtever.— Every Town  is like a little Republic,— & again, every Family in ^some^ sence, & still farther, every individual.
Houever Notwithstanding these Discouragements, the Gospel of Jesus X   shoud be offerd them.— The work is Gods— poor feeble Man can only be found in  ye Uſe[illegible] of Appointed Means,— must leave ye Bleſsing wh him, who has ye Sole wright  & prerogative to give it,— who orders all Things, according to his own divine Counsel.  — May the ever bleſsed God grant his holy Spirit to accompany ye means  & endeavours his People are now using for this purpose,— whout wch all will be in vain.—
Revd S.r I hope soon to get so much influence as to procure several of  their Youths for your School.— wch when once accomplish'd, opens ye way for farther  improvement & instruction here among them.— I have ye promise of one wch I trust  wont fail & partly of two more.— There are Numbers who are yet jealous of ye English &  have reacd such deep rooted predjudcies against them, y.t affairs of this kind must be  managed wh some tenderneſs & moderation for ye present.—  I'm extreamly sorry my great distance prevents frequent Communication, that  I'm obligd to act whout your Knowledge & advice. It gives me great purplexity &  exercise of mind.— Oh: that I might have divine wisdom & prudence to conduct  suitably in so great an affair,. He kept in ye fear of ye Lord.—
I'm daily gaining Ground, tho' but slowly,— Im inclin'd to think my poverty  slavery, & drudgery I've been oblig'd to undergo, has been no disadvantage to ye Cause.  Neither am I sensible of any Injury to my Constitution by ye hunggry Spell & [illegible]  peculiar hardships I underwent last Summer.— Bleſsed be God I have been ^hitherto^ enabled  to [illegible] endure ye hardſhips of an Indian Life.—
Revd Sir. I dont apprehend it will be best for ye Interest of ye Cause yt I return  this spring.— I'm just now as it were begining to get in to yr favour & good esteem,— am  able to liſt a few Things of Gods holy word,— in a fair way for soon acquiring a tole‐ rable knowledge of their Languge, wch I find very difficult.— Several of their Caſtles  begin to have a favourable opinion of my deſign.— But ye Chief Town (calld Ch[illegible])  is not so well disposd to it.— I want to convince ym if poſsible of ye ſincerity & goodneſs  of ye Design, before my return. I purpose God willing to Visit them next summer. 
You will please to write me your advice,— wh wch I shall comply.—
I have labour'd under somany Discouragements & some peculiar Trials (wch I dont think  proper to mention here) yt I have not made yt proficiency in ye Language wch I might  otherwise have done.— I've been apt often to think it woud add much to my com‐ fort & happineſs, if I was able to support my self in this affair, or coud [illegible] poſsibly live  w.hout any charge or expence.— My obligations are so many both from without &  whin,— my unequalneſs & unfitneſs for ye Busineſs, make things very dark  on my side.— The Thoughts of turning out nothing else but an unprofitable  servant & ungrateful wretch, are very hard disagreeable Thoughts.— But I hope  I begin to beleive yt Godlineſs wh Contentment is great gain.— I'm shure tis most  fit & wright yt I shoud intirely acquiesce in ye Dispensation of Gods righteous Pro‐ vidence.— He shurly knows wt is best for me.— my proud corrupt heart some‐ times, tho' very seldom, lets me rejoice in his alwis goverment.— would to  God I might be always be resign'd to his holy & perfect Will.—
I have not enlarged Things, lest your Expectations shoud be to high.  you will doubtleſs acquaint ye Revd, & hon.ble Gentlemen Correſpon.d[illegible][guess: es]  wh my Situation. & please to present them my most dutiful Rgards.— Tho'  I'm not immediately under their Care, I trust I'm not whout their Remembrances  Their pious Zeal & unfeigned Sincerity in this great Affair, shou'd shurely  be taken as an argument of encouragement & Comfort to the poor Miſs.[illegible]  twa's said of Old ye Prayers of the Rightous avail.— may they live to see  ye fruits of their Labour ^& answer of their prayers^ [illegible] their abundant Satisfaction.—
Revd Sir, I return most sincere Thanks for your kind Endeavours  to procure me ye Honours of College. which I suppose coud not be obtain'd.
My humble Duty to Madam— proper Salutation to your family. & my  most humble Regards to Revd Mr Pomrey &c.— I conclude, begging  a near Remembrance it in your Addreſses of ye Throne of Grace.—  wiſhing you ye [illegible][guess: light]higheſt of Heavens Bleſsings,— & yt your unwearied Labours  may be crowned wh honour & succeſs, is the humble prayer, of, 
Revd Sir,  Your most obedt [illegible][guess: & ever obligd hum.l Sert]  Samel Kirtland    The Revd Mr Wheelock 
P.S. I wrote ye above in such hast, have  omitted several Things,— as ye Opportunity delays  will now mention'em.— I purpose to visit Revd Mr Chamberlain  sometime in ye Spring, & inform him of my Situation,  advising wt him respecting my Return &c— Shall—  ^[right]doutbleſs_^  ^[right]Verte^ 
doubtleſs go as far as Capt Butlers— I beleive I must run you in deb[gap: tear][guess: t]  for a few neceſsaries. I have scarcely linen to cover my back, & to make i[gap: tear][guess: t]  last as long as poſsible, I have not slept in a shirt for Nine Months past.  As to Provisions, I hope wh ye Bleſsing of health, shall be able to endure ye  ensuing Summer. I have afew Bisquet & a little flower yet left,  I have actually learnt to be content wh leſs Victuals, Than ever I was  wont to before.— we very often here postpone Breakfast & Dinner 'till four 'o ^[right]Clock^  in ye After Noon. & sometimes until ye next Day.— This new faſhion was  very disagreeable to me for a long time. nor am I yet perfectly reconciled  to it.— Thro' a kind Providence I enjoy a very comfortable state  of health. I have during ye Winter, excepting a bad cold, catched last fall  by going w.hout shoes—
I have wrote a few Letters in these several Days past,— You will  please to forward them.— If I shant have time, I humbly beg ye  Favour of your writing my kind Friends in Boston, former Benefactors  I hope I have not given em occasion of offence by not writing for so long  a time.— I have scarcely wrote my own Father,— & all my letters to you  were wrote in such hast, & wh so much inconsideration, imprudence, & ten‐  Thousand Blunders, yt I trust you can easily excuse me.—  I'm conscious to my self yt I feel some small Emotions of Gratitude towards them  as well as towards my Revd Pattron.— 'Tis my Sincere & constant Prayer that  I may be enabled so to conduct & behave myself as yt each shalyl have occasion  to rejoice, in having open'd their Hearts & hands for my releif.—
The Honbl S.r W.m Johnson is a very Kind Patron to me in these distant  Parts,— The hopeful prospects of succeſs here I must subscribe chiefly to [gap: worn_edge] [guess: underſed].
All His Honrs Letters to me are wrote wrote in ye most freindly manner imagenable, &  wh uncommon Condesention,— giving ye strongest Evidence of His Approbation, & good will towards  my design. which adds much to my comfort & encouragement in ye Gloomy Wilderneſs.  I know not how to requite such unmerited Kindneſs.— I hope I may have suitable acknow‐ ledgements of Gratitude, & above all be thankful to the Father of Mercies for His  special Friendſhip to ye Design.—
I shoud be glad to hear if Mr J.h Smith of Boston be returnd from  England.— wt he may bring in favour of your Design.— No more at present  Tuus ut anteK 
^[left]Rec.d April. 29. 1766.^
if otherwise, I beleive I shall visit you notwithstanding ye many difficulties wch  attend ye journey. you may expect me by ye 14 or 16 of May extraordinaries excepted.  His Honour Sr William, thinks it best & necaſsary yt I return, unleſs by way of writing  I can give you sufficient Knowledge & accquaintance wh ye present state & Disposition  of ye Indians wh regard to receng ye Gospel. tho' yt woud be difficult, & not so well as if I were present.
Time woud fail me, shoud I attempt a plain & full acct of Affairs, & nothing else will  answer in a Case of such importance.— if Things are represented in a superficial in‐ explicit manner, 'twill be of no service to you.—
In case of Sickneſs, or any thing yt may fall out wch shall prevent my return,  at ye time mention'd, you will proceed to execute ye plan you have laid out, but not in  its full extent.— As to Schoolmasters among ye Senecas & Onondages  wt I've wrote in ye fore part of this Letter must answer for ye present, having not  time to enlarge— I find it exactly agreeable to His Honrs Opinion [illegible] [illegible]  of ye Matter.— therefore need say no more.— perhaps it may be thought well for  a young Miſsry to go there in order to learn their Language, open ye way & lay some  foundation for future improvement. of wch I can likely give you sufficient informa‐ tion when I return.— 'Twill be neceſsary yt you sapply ye Mohawks, Onidas  & Ohquages wh Miſsirys & Schoolmasters as before Mentioned. & shoud be constan‐ tly if you really expect & hope [gap: blotted_out][guess: to] see any fruits of your unwearied Labour  & pains.— if these small beginings at these several places are fnot perfec‐ ted, I imageine there is little hope of succeſs,— but if suitably improved, I can't but  think & do really beleive a Bleſsing may be hoped for whout presumption.—
I hope you may be able to find Such Miſsrys who shall be willing to tarry  wh ye Indians long enough for a proper trial, notwithſtanding ye Many discourag‐ ments, hardſhip, & enconveniencies of Life yt [illegible] must at present accompany ye Busineſs.
If I have any right View of ye Case, I think ye very Life & progreſs of ye  Design depends upon ye Miſsrs— Tho gettings Indian Boys to your School  is encouraging & opens a door for future improvment.—
The often changing of Miſsrs will do more hurt than good. & their  tarrying but a little while among them (or just looking upon them as they call it)  does not forward ye [illegible]Design, but discourages ye Indians & gives occasion of  umbrage to such as are not well dispos'd.— which unfortunately happin‐ ing wh ye Mohawks & Onida's has given ye Onondages, Cayugwa's & Seneca's  a mean opinion of ye Desiggn, & a ^some^ suspicion of iNs Sincerity.— Neither  do I apprehend Things are now so forward wh ye [gap: blotted_out][guess: for] former, as they were  last spring of or fall, excepting Davids fall School, wch thro' a kind providence  has been preserved thro' many discouragments, & now appears very hopefull,  & promises great succeſs, if other ^proper^ Means are [illegible] seasonably applied for its  support & future improvments. Viz, A Miſsry constantly residing there, for in‐ structing ye old people & encouraging ye Young. No one can reasonably expect  any great Succeſs from such a School, under such [illegible] Circumstances, whout a  Miſsry to accompany ye Schoolmaster.— I dont Mention this as if I  thought Mr Chamberlain worthy of blame, far from it,— for I suppose  he acted from principles of conscience & sound Judgment in leaving Onida.  the Neceſsity of his continuing there [illegible][guess: ought] not appear so great as it really  was 
fwas, for want of farther Knolegdge of their Situation & [illegible] diſposition.—  his long delay in coming to them & sudden leaving them, has given some disgust  & greatly discouraged em.— from my small acquaintance & view of Affairs,  their Situation, was such last fall, & ye Neceſsity so great for ye general  interest of ye Cause, as required ye utmost endeavours to improve & embrace  so favourable an Opportunity.— a proper or improper Support in such  a case I suppose if is quite out of [illegible][guess: ye] question,— if it be true wt old experienced  Divines say, yt in a like case if a person shoud give a year or two' service  to ye Lord, without any immediate pay, he will be no looser, find a good pay master  & large interest,— at least a hundred persent.— I wish I might be able to take  this for my present portion, twoud doubtleſs give me much ease, & prevent many  bitter complaints.— I'm very sorry Mr Chamberlain has concluded  it not worth his while to learn an Indian Langugage. I much fear he will  give up his Commiſsion.— his faith, or rathr Expectans were so very high  last Summer when I first saw him, as made me fear they shoud soon come as low.  he told me, he tho't hardly worth his while to learn any Language of ye confederate Nations, but proceed to those more remote, for he sometimes thought he shoud live  to see ye west fear he really beleived God was going to bring all ye Indians to ye  Knowledg of ye Gospel, & yt in a Natural way, by ye use of appointed Means.  he alſo came fortified against all discouragments, he expected nothing but ye  most vile iungrateful, inhuman & unkind treatment from ye Savages, he knew  Indians & wt he must receve from em.— he never so much as asked me wt I tho't  or Indians or Indians or indian Affairs in one single particular. & I had so  much damnable cursed pride if heart, yt I did not open my self so freely to him as  I ought to have done, (The Lord forgive me for my iniquity). tho' I gave him ye Charac‐ ters of several persons at onida, whose influence was great,— yr favour & esteem  might be well to procure. for wch he Thank'd me kindly.— not yt I blame him So  much as my self. for a proud haughty Miſsry is little Better than ye Devil.—  Oh, ytI may obtain Mercy of God thro' Jesus Christ, for my insincerity & pride of  heart. perhaps it may be well yt you use some care in seeking Miſsrs for so important  a Busineſs.(or poſsibly they may cause you sorrow & trouble as I have done.)  for I sincerely beleive you nothing but ye interest of ye Redeemers Kingdom at heart.  If a persons Eye be single (ye Scriptures say) his whole Body shall be full of light  If they are true, one may know whether ye Glory of God, [illegible] self his upermost.
But wt Im [illegible][guess: Isaying]! Revd S.r forgive me this rong. surely such things are  quite improper, unbecoming a youth.— discouver too much Arrogancy & Aſsurance.  would to God I might know my self. & act accordingly. I want your Instruction &  Discipline. bear wh my folly, I mean will.— I really fel your indian Cause [illegible][guess: ly]  [illegible][guess: near] my heart. I'm greeved to think how matters have gon on here, when your  daily Labour & travel of soul is so great for its succeſs. but this again discou‐ vers dambnable pride of heart, wt can I say! May ye Lord be mercefully to me:  but surely I have no Reasion to boost, [illegible] [illegible][guess: rathr] to lie in ye [illegible]dust of humiliation.  for you know as well as my self, yt I'm under infinite obligation, both from  within & without, to give my life & service to promote this Indian Cause, while it  shall appear agreeable to his will. but alas, how far short have I fell.  yt I dont deserve even so much praise as is due to a Man for attempting to  do his duty.— oh, yt I may be kept in ye fear & love of God. from Pride & in‐ gratitude on ye one hand, & Despair on ye [illegible][guess: latter] other.—
[gap: blotted_out][guess: dont] I pray you wont expose this page to my hurt.
The Bearer is now waiting to go, quite unexpected to me.—  must omit many things.— please God to spare my Life & health you  may expect me about ye time mentioned before.—  I can only say this[illegible], yt several Thing have happened lately which may  delay ye progreſs of your Design. Yesterday heard at S.r Williams  ye Ohquage Sachem, deliver an acct & complaint of an Indian Man  being killd near Minisinks or in ye County. belonging to Onida.  ye Indian was butcherd in ye most cruel ihnhuman Manner.—  Also five of ye Senecas [illegible] killed in some parts of pensilvania,  wch came in a Letter from Gover.r Pen to His Honr S.r Williams.  tis said one of ye Onondages have also shared ye Same fate.—  S.r Willm is much afraid wt ye Consequences will be.—  four of ye Seneca's, I suppose belong'd to ye Castle where I reside.  who went last summer to war ^[illegible]^against ye Cherokeess. & have  been gone two Months longer than ye time they set.—  I have been these three Days past wh His Hon.r Sr Williams  for advice In my affairs &c. &c.— had many things of Consequence  to inform you, since ye last page was wrote.— The Bearer  is impatient to go must leave all, till I see you God Willing  earnestly beg a near Remembrance in you Prayer  Revd S.r in hast  Your ever obed & tho unworthy Servt  S Kirtland
PS. as I have wrote in great hast  I have no Coppy nor time for any Correction.  if any Thing shall appear dark unintelligible  thro' too Great Brevity, I beg your Candour till  I return, when I will endeavour to clear such thing  as shall be superficial & inexplicit..  Capt Butler & Lady give Compliment.— I set off immediately for ye Senecas.  shall return as quick as poſsible [illegible] [illegible][guess: in] suitabl prudence & Moderation in such  fatiguing Journeys.  tuus ut ante,  SK.
The Revd Mr Wheelock.
Rec.d April 29. 1766.  From  M.r Sam.el Kirtland  March 6. 1766