Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Robert Keen, 1767 July 27

Author Wheelock, Eleazar

Date27 July, 1767

ms number767427.2

abstractWheelock writes of the desperate situation faced by Samuel Kirkland and the Indians at Oneida. He quotes liberally from Kirkland's letters, and mentions that David Fowler has undertaken a 400-mile journey on foot to secure aid.

handwritingThe body of the letter is in an unknown hand that is clear and formal; this handwriting is not Wheelock's. The trailer, and a postscript added to the center of the paper between one recto and two verso, is in Wheelock's hand, which is small, cramped and difficult to decipher.

paperLarge single sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.

inkThe letter bears two different inks: a brown ink in which the body of the letter is written, and a brown-black ink that Wheelock uses in his postscript.

noteworthyThe letter references the birth of David Fowler’s son. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “skipple” as three pecks; it is a Dutch word that appears from 1685 until 1901 in New England. OED: Stroud is a type of cloth, and stroud blankets often appear as items to trade to Native Americans.

Persistent Identifier
Dear Sir
When Mr Kirtland left me laſt Spring, he ſuppoſed that I had ſupplied him ſufficiently to make him and the School Maſters comfortable till the Fall. A few Weeks after his Arrival Joſeph Johnſon and Jacob Fowler ſat out for New England, and arrived as you may ſee by ſome late Letters I wrote you, the Copies of which I have not here with me. They informed me, that Mr Kirtland was like to be ſhorter of it for Money than he expected. I was then ſick— and determined, as ſoon as I was able, to take this Tour, to try to ſupply him, without ſending home, as I was loth to draw any more Bills till I could have Advice from you. But last Eveneing David Fowler came to me, fatigued with a Journey of upwards above 400 Miles on foot, which he performed in 10 Days, and brings Let­ ters, containing an affecting Account, from Mr Kirtland— (which are too tedious to tranſcribe) in­ forming me of his diſtreſsing Circumſtances on Account of the great Scarcity of Proviſions, or Famine, in that Country—
In a Letter of the 5th inſtant he writes— —"I want the Bosom of a Father beyond "Expreſsion— I am diſtreſsed to know what I shall "do— The preſent extreme Poverty of theſe poor "People cries aloud for the Charity of God's Children— "Two years ago their Corn was cut off by the Froſt— "Laſt year deſtroyed by the Vermin— and Worms
"threaten the Deſtruction of one half of the preſent "Crop— Many of them for a Month past have "eat but once a Day, and yet continue to work "Corn and Wheat at the German Flats from ſix "Shillings to a Dollar a Skipple, (i.e. 3 Pecks) "and little to be purchaſed for Love or Money. "Eight of the poor diſtreſsed Creatures ſat out this "Morning for the Tuſcaroraes to buy Corn for their "hungry Families. They carry each a new ſtroud "Blanket, worth twenty Shillings, and tell me they "expect to get no more than a Skipple of Corn a piece "What a fine Opportunity is here for the People of "God to diſtinguish themſelves from the World by Expreſ­ "sions of their Charity at this Juncture towards theſe "periſhing Creatures. A little of it would ring thro' "the Nations, and raiſe their Esteem of Chriſtianity— —"From Week to Week I am obliged to go "eeling with the Indians at Oneida Lake for my "Subſiſtence. I have lain and ſlept with them till "I am as louſy as a Dog— feaſted and ſtarved with "them as their Luck depends upon Wind and Weather.— "If it ſhould be asked, why they don't ſupport me, the "Anſwer is ready, they can't ſupport themſelves. "They are now half ſtarved. Some of them have no "more than two Quarts of Corn— —"David Fowler ſat out about 12 Days ago for Fort Stanwix by Way of the Lake for the Sake of "eeling. His Wife's Hour being ſomewhat ſooner "than was expected, called for Women's Help— and "is now hearty, with a ſtately young Boy in her "Lap— will probably move from the Lake tomor­
"row to Fort Stanwix, where I expect to ſupport "her a Month or longer.— — "I fear my appearing in ſuch a ſervile "beggarly Manner, will very much diſserve the "Deſign in View— But I muſt deſiſt— must "go down to the Lake for Eels this Day, and return "to morrow to hill my Corn and Potatoes. But "one Thing I may not omit. I shall be diſtreſsed for "£20— the 1st of Auguſt, or ſell my Cows, and make "over my Horſe and Watch— — "The Indians generally abide by the Agree­ "ment they made laſt Winter to leave off their Drun­ "kenneſs in this Town."—
The 13th Inſtant he writes— —"Through the tender Mercies of God I enjoy "ſome degree of Health amidſt all my Trou­ "bles and Diſtreſses, though my Strength begins "to fail— can't ſubſiſt long without Relief— "I have eat no Fleſh in my own Houſe for nigh "8 Weeks. Flour and Milk with a few Eels has "been my living— Such Diet with my hard "Labour abroad, don't ſatisfy Nature— My poor "People are almoſt ſtarved to Death. I am grieved "at the Heart for them. There is one Family con­ ſiſting of four I muſt ſupport (after my Fashion) "till Squashes come on, or they muſt periſh. They "have had nothing theſe 10 Days but what I have "given them, They have only each an old Blanket "not worth ſix pence wherewith to buy any Thing,
"and begging here at this Seaſon would be very poor Buſineſs. I would myſelf be glad of the Opportunity "to fall upon my Knees for ſuch a Bone as I have "often ſeen caſt to the Dogs—
—"My leaving the People, and rambling "ſo often, very much hurts the Deſign of my Miſsion, "and gives me ſo much Diſtreſs, that I enjoy very "little Peace— Glad ſhould I be, if it were con­ſiſtent, to reſign my Commiſsion— But I had rather "die than leave theſe poor Creatures alone in their "miſerable periſhing Condition— I beg for God's "Sake the Goſpel may be ſupported amongſt them "as it ought to be, for a Trial, and the Lord ſend "by whom he will— I believe there are two Chriſ­ "tians, ^here^ and hope I have found a third to day. Bleſsed "be God for this Encouragement. My Heart revives— "I had a Meeting with the Indians laſt Evening— "might tell you ſome Things very agreeable and encou­ "raging, had I Time. But I am quite beat out— "have had little or no Sleep theſe 3 Nights for "the Gnats and Moſchettoes— I cannot keep my "Eye open to write— "P.S. the 14th— I was never more fatigued in my "Life than laſt Evening— David is going down for "Relief, without which I shall periſh ſoon. My "Nature is almoſt broke— My Spirits low— My "Heart bleeds for theſe poor miſerable Wretches— David Fowler informs me, that the Oneidaes have laboured more this Year on their Lands than they ever did before— that just before he came away they unanimously agreed to help Mr Kirtland in howing his Corn, Potatoes and Beans— and performed it well—
[right]July 29..th this Day Sent David Fowler away the Shorteſt courſe to onida with £4[illegible]5.4..8. Sterling,, for M.r Kirtlands preſent releif. but I apprehend that it is not beſt that ^no^ School Maſters be not Sent ^back^ till their preſent preſsing Neceſsities for Support of the Indians be Supplied. Who knows w[illegible]hat Good God ^may^ mercifully deſign ^for^ them by their preſent diſtreſses.— } I have Sent duplicates of my accots with many Letters & copies But ha' had nothing f.r y.o Since march 22— hope to hear before I leave these parts pray dear ſir let me hear f.r y.o as ſoon as may be. pray without ceaſing for, dear ſir, yrſ most heartily [illegible][guess: Brth.r] Salute in my name moſt reſpectfully thoſe worthy Gentn of y.e Trust wth D.r [illegible][guess: Mſsrs] w[illegible] d. Smith w.m I hope to ſee yſ fall—
[left]Letter to M.r Keen July. 28. 1767.
from Boſton