Wheelock, Rodulphus

first name (variants): Ralph; Rudolphus; Dolphus
honorific(s): Mr.; Sir; Master
Birth: August 18, 1742 in Lebanon, CT
Death: February 8, 1817 in Hanover, NH

Moor's Indian Charity School; College of New Jersey; Yale; Dartmouth College


Moor's Indian Charity School, College of New Jersey (1761-1763), Yale College (1765)


New Light Congregationalist




Tutor (Moor's, Dartmouth)

  • Lebanon, CT (from 1742-08-18 to 1761)
  • Princeton, NJ (from 1761 to 1763)
  • New Haven, CT (from 1763 to 1765)
  • Lebanon, CT (from 1765)
  • Hanover, NH (from 1770)
  • Lebanon, CT (from 1771-10-11 to 1772-09-23)
  • Hanover, NH (from 1772-09-23 to 1817-02-08)

March/April 1768: Ralph visited the Oneidas and Onondagas to offer schoolmasters and missionaries. He insulted and alienated the chiefs, and may have provided part of the impetus for the Oneidas to pull their children of of Moor's later that year.


Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.


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. 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. RootsWeb.com. “A tree of Life.” http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=buchroeder&id=I124782 Accessed 8/28/2013. Wheelock, Eleazar. “Minutes and Journal, 1771-1778.” Dartmouth College Archives.