Wheelock, Eleazar

first name (variants): Eleazer
last name (variants): Whelock
honorific(s): Reverend; Dr.; Mr.
Birth: May 1711 in Windham, CT
Death: April 24, 1779 in Hanover, NH

Yale College; Second Church in Lebanon; Moor's Indian Charity School; New Light; Dartmouth College; Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge


Yale (1733), honorary Doctor of Divinity from Edinburgh (1767)


New Light Congregationalist




Minister, Educator

  • Windham, CT (from 1711-05 to 1729)
  • New Haven, CT (from 1729 to 1734)
  • North Lebanon, CT (Lebanon Crank) (from 1735 to 1770)
  • Hanover, NH (from 1770 to 1779-04-24)

1743: Wheelock lost his salary as a minister when the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant ministers. He opened a school in response, and that December, Samson Occom joined him as a student.

1754: Inspired by Occom's academic success, Wheelock opened Moor's Indian Charity School.

1769: Wheelock received a charter for Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Marital status

Wheelock’s first wife was Sarah Maltby, a widow and the sister of his friend James Davenport (the famous itinerant minister). One of her children from her previous marriage, John Maltby, was very dear to Wheelock and was his heir apparent, but he died young from disease. Wheelock and Sarah had six children, including Ralph, who suffered from epilepsy his entire life and eventually proved unable to participate in the missionary business. When Sarah died in 1746, Wheelock remarried to Mary Brinsmead. They had five children, including John, who succeeded Eleazar as president of Dartmouth College (despite his preference for the army), and Abigail and Mary, both of whom married Dartmouth professors.


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.


Axtell, James. “Eleazar Wheelock’s Little Red School.” In The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press 1981. Pp. 87-109. Calloway, Colin. The Indian History of an American Institution. Dartmouth College Press 2010. Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Fea, John. “Wheelock’s World: Letters and the Communication of Revival in Great Awakening New England.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 109 (April 1999) pp. 99-144. Hoefnagel, Dick and Close, Virginia L. Eleazar Wheelock and the Adventurous Founding of Dartmouth College. Hanover: Friends of the Dartmouth Library 2006. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932. McClure, David and Parish, Elijah. Memoirs of the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock. Newburyport 1811. Murray, Laura. “‘Pray Sir, Consider a Little’”: Rituals of Subordination and Strategies of Resistance in the Letters of Hezekiah Calvin and David Fowler to Eleazar Wheelock, 1764-1768.” Studies in American Indian Literatures Vol. 4 No. 2/3 (Summer/Fall 1992) pp. 48-74. Wheelock, Eleazar. A plain and faithful narrative of the original design, rise, progress and present state of the Indian charity-school at Lebanon, in Connecticut. Boston 1763.