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Samson Occom, journal, 1777 September 13-26

ms-number: 777513

abstract: Occom records his travels as an itinerant preacher in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

handwriting: Occom's handwriting is mostly clear and legible.

paper: Two small sheets folded into a booklet are in fair condition, with moderate staining and wear.

ink: Brown ink is faded.

noteworthy: On two recto, in the entry for Monday the 22nd, "Asphos" refers to Samuel and Robert Aspho. If Occom's intention regarding a person or place name is uncertain, it has been left untagged. An editor, likely 19th-century, has added several notes and overwritten large portions of the text. These edits have not been transcribed.

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

September 13: 1777

Beriah Willis at Gui[illegible][guess: lf]
Comer Smith
Left home and reached Volentown
lodged with Mr. John Gordon
preached at the place all Day

[illegible][guess: 15:] Monday

went a little way east
and preached, after meeting
went on eastward, arrived to
Scituate, put up at one Mr.
Samuel Angell
's a Preacher.
Presently after I got there a
number of People Came together
and I gave them a word of exhortation

16: Tuesday

had another meeting

17: Wednesday

went to Gloucester 8 miles
and preached in Elder Winser's
meeting house, after meeting
went house with Deacon Brown
and Lodged there —

18: Thursday

went back to [gap: faded][guess: Scituate]
and there met Mr. Kelley [gap: faded][guess: Samuel and Robert]
Ashpo at one Mr. Modburys and
and had meeting there Samuel Ashpo
Spoke — had another meeting in
the Same house in the evening, I
went home with Mr. Abraham Angell
and there lodged, —

19: Friday

went to Johnson Mr.
Samuel Angel
went with me, preached
in the meeting house, in the evening
preached again, in a private house
lodged at Esq. Balknap's my
old Friend, —

20: Saturday

morning went on
my way towards the East Esq.
went with me, we stopped
at one Esq. Mantans and we
took our Breakfast, after breakfast
went on and called on Widow Pain
from Long Island, the Esq. left
me at Providence, I kept on
Eastward, got to Mr. John Allens
about 2 in the afternoon in
Rehoboth, dined there Soon after
Dinner went to Mr. Pecks [illegible][guess: and]
supper at minister of the place
and there lodged —

21: Sabbath

preached in Mr. Pecks
meeting house all Day, — went
Home with Deacon Blanding
had meeting there and lodged —

22: Monday

went towards Bridge
wat[illegible][guess: t]er
Deacon Blanding went with
me about 3 miles and Saw
Kelley And Ashpos again
after Dinner went on my way
towards Bridgewater: got to
Tanton, and there stopped at
Mr. Hoskins a separate Preacher
and lodged there. —

23 Tuesday

went to meeting at the
place heard one Mr. Willis a Baptist
preacher, after he had Spoke I
gave a word of Exhortation, and
then went home with Mr. Hoskins
and Tarried there all Day, and
in the Evening had a meeting
at the Same house, Lodged
there again —

24: Wednesday

went off early in
the morning and stopped Mr. Deans
and a meeting there, in the after
noon went into Town and had another
meeting there in the house, about
sunset took Tea with Mrs. McWa
lodged where Mr. Jones
Boarded, a Young Preacher, —

25 Thursday

got up very early
and went on towards Freetown
Stop at Mr. Tobe's in Bartly and
took breakfast there, Soon after
went on, arrived to Freetown
about 11: called on Mr. Walcut
a Young Preacher was there
a Little while and went on a
gain Mr. Walcut went with me
to the Indian Place got there
sometime before sunset I
lodged at Daniel wards the
principle Indian in the Place

26 Friday

about 10 in the Morn
had a meeting and there was a
Long Island

Long Island is an island located in southeast New York State. In 1824, historian Silas Wood claimed that 13 different tribes inhabited the island when the Dutch and English arrived in 1639: the Canarsie, the Rockaway, the Matinecock, the Merrick, the Massapequa, the Nissequoge, the Secatoag, the Seatuket, the Patchoag, the Corchaug, the Shinnecock, the Manhasset, and the Montaukett. This is the commonly accepted tribal history of Long Island, and Wood’s theory is taught in New York textbooks today. Yet, in 1992, historian John Strong challenged this dominant narrative, arguing that tribal systems did not develop on Long Island until after Europeans arrived. Based on Dutch and English colonists’ accounts, the Algonquian communities on western Long Island likely spoke the Delaware-Munsee dialect and those to the east spoke languages related to the southern New England Algonquian dialects. These indigenous peoples organized themselves by language and kinship, but beyond village systems and the occasional alliance, there existed no formal tribal structure. Rather, internal structures arose among the Montauks, the Shinnecocks, the Poospatucks, and the Matinnocks to cope with English settlers, and became integral to these peoples’ survival. Although new diseases and land negotiations severely encroached on the freedom of Long Island’s Native population, these groups that developed tribal structures retain a sense of community today. By the 18th century, much of the island had fallen into the hands of the English, who were the sole European power on Long Island once the Dutch relinquished their claims to the land after the second Anglo-Dutch War in 1664. During the Great Awakening of the 18th century, Occom spent 12 years serving as a missionary to the Montaukett Indians of Long Island, along with Presbyterian minister Azariah Horton. Today, the western half of the island is densely populated due to its proximity to Manhattan, and its eastern half is mainly devoted to resort towns. The Shinnecocks and the Poospatucks retain autonomous reservations on Long Island.


Gloucester is a city on Cape Ann in the northern part of the Massachusetts Bay. When French explorer Samuel de Champlain came to what would become Gloucester, the local Pawtuckets met him with hostility, and a war broke out between the French and their allied tribes against other Native Americans in the area in the winter of 1606-07. Men of the Dorchester Company arrived from Gloucestershire, England and settled Gloucester in 1623, hoping to make it a fishing colony. They reported a severe decrease in the Native Americans population, as a result of disease that killed off two-thirds of the inhabitants by 1617. There were not enough people to make Gloucester a permanent town until twenty years later, and in 1642, Gloucester -- named for Gloucestershire -- was incorporated. Shipbuilding, farming, and fishing sustained the economy throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though hampered by the American Revolution. In his 1777 journal, Occom describes his travels throughout Massachusetts during which he came through Gloucester and preached at Elder Winser’s meetinghouse.


Taunton is a city on the Taunton River in Bristol County, MA, located around 35 miles south of Boston and 20 miles east of Providence, RI. Taunton was known as Titicut, meaning “the place of a great river,” by its original inhabitants, the Wampanoags. Epidemics throughout New England devastated the Wampanoag people even before contact. In 1637, members of the Plymouth Company completed the Tetiquet purchase with the Wampanoags, taking land that would eventually become Taunton, and naming it after a village in Somersetshire, England, from which many of its English settlers hailed. In 1654, Puritan minister John Eliot encouraged many of Taunton’s remaining Wampanoags to move to the Indian praying town of Ponkapoag, leaving Taunton’s population primarily English. As a result, Taunton saw multiple raids during King Philip’s War, which began in 1675 as a conflict between the Wampanoags and the English. By the time Occom preached in Taunton, the area’s Wampanoag population had been almost destroyed, and his audiences were primarily English. During the Revolution, Taunton was again the site of several skirmishes. In 1864, the town had grown large enough to be reincorporated as a city by the state of Massachusetts.


Freetown is located in southern Massachusetts. In 1659, pilgrims purchased a four-mile tract from the Wampanoag Indians Wamsitti and his squaw Tattapanum for “twenty coats, two rugs, two iron pots, two kettles and one little kettle, eight pair of shoes, six pair of stockings, one dozen of hoes, one dozen of hatchets, two yards of broadcloth,” and most likely alcohol (Pierce 3). This became known as the Freeman’s Purchase. The town was incorporated in 1683. In 1747, Pastor Silas Brett came to Freetown, hoping to engage with the religious revivals of The Great Awakening. He spent the next thirty years preaching among the Pocasset Indians, a mission that ultimately proved unsuccessful. In a 1777 journal entry, Occom describes his travels throughout Massachusetts as an itinerant preacher during which he came through Freetown and met a young preacher, Mr. Walcut, and together they went to “the Indian Place.”

Johnson Hall

Johnson Hall, which still stands today, refers to a Georgian house located in the present-day town of Johnstown, New York. It also denoted the small village surrounding the hall that became Johnstown. Its namesake is Sir William Johnson. Following the close of the French and Indian War in 1763, Johnson moved from what was known as Fort Johnson located in the present-day town of Amsterdam, New York to Johnson Hall, which became an important site in the history of Indian-white relations in the area. Johnson lived out the rest of his life there, dying in 1774 following a fraught conference regarding the mistreatment of the Shawnees by the British. Johnson wrote several letters to Wheelock from Johnson Hall with news of the Indians and council meetings with their representatives. David Fowler and Joseph Woolley, missionaries trained by Wheelock who went to work with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), both called on Johnson, spending time at and writing letters from Johnson Hall about their work.

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.

Ashpo, Samuel

Ashpo was born into a very powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and became an influential Mohegan preacher. He was converted at Mohegan during the Great Awakening, and became a schoolteacher among the Indians at Mushantuxet from 1753 until 1757 and from 1759 until 1762, when he left to attend Moor's. Between 1757 and 1759, he worked as an interpreter, and supposedly struggled with alcohol. He attended Moor's for only six months, and then continued his teaching and missionary career on successive trips to Chenango (the first was cut short because of violence in the region). On July 1, 1767, the Connecticut Board dismissed him from their service because of further charges of drinking. He continued to preach successfully to various New England Indian tribes until his death in 1795. The variations of his name exist in part because Ashpo is an abbreviated form of Ashobapow.

Ashpo, Robert

Robert Ashpo was the brother of Samuel Ashpo, the influential Mohegan preacher. They were born into a powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and Robert became a tribal leader. We have no specific evidence of his education or conversion. But he was one of the signers of at least three important petitions that were submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly. The first, entitled "Appeal of the Mohegan Indians agst the Colony of Connecticut & Others" is dated July 23, 1746; Ashpo was one of over 80 signatories. The second was written by Occom in 1785 on behalf of five other signatories: Henry Quaquaquid and Robert Ashpo of the Mohegan Tribe and Phillip Cuish, Joseph Uppuiquiyantup, Isaac Uppuiquiyantup of the Niantics, expressing their dismay over restrictive fishing prohibitions (manuscript 785340). The third from May 14, 1789 is signed by Ashpo and Henry Quaquaquid, and using the metaphor of the "dish," complains bitterly about the loss of Mohegan territory and asks the Assembly to divide the "common dish" of the Tribe into individual dishes so each may do "as he pleases." These petitions invoke Tribal sovereignty, show collaboration between tribal leaders, and also employ the rhetoric of "improvement" to save their lands. Occom and Joseph Johnson record Ashpo's speaking and leadership at several meetings at Mohegan and elsewhere in the 1770s and 1780s. Ashpo did not move to Brothertown and remained in Mohegan.

Willis, Beriah
Gordon, John
Angell, Samuel

Unidentified Smith.

Angell, Abraham
Allen, John
Peck, Samuel

Samuel Peck was a New Light Separatist minister in Rehoboth, MA. Although he came from a prominent local family and prepared for college, he never attended. Instead, he was ordained in October 1751 by several Separatist ministers. He led a Separate congregation, which was technically classified as Baptist, in Rehoboth until his death in 1768. Occom visited him in 1777.

Ward, Daniel
HomeSamson Occom, journal, 1777 September 13-26
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