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.

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

Persistent Identifier
Dear Sir
When Mr. Kirtland left me last Spring, he supposed that I had supplied him sufficiently to make him and the schoolmasters comfortable 'til the Fall. A few Weeks after his Arrival Joseph Johnson and Jacob Fowler set 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 'til I could have Advice from you. But last Evening David Fowler came to me, fatigued with a Journey of 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 Flatts 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 set out this "Morning for the Tuscaroras 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 apiece "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 through "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 'til "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 set 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 "tomorrow 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 distress, 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 con­sisting 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 sixpence wherewith to buy anything,
"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 today. 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 mosquitos— 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 Oneidas 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 hoeing his Corn, Potatoes and Beans— and performed it well— July 29th this Day Sent David Fowler away the shortest course to Oneida with £45.4..8. Sterling,, for Mr. Kirtlands present relief. but apprehend it best that no schoolmasters be Sent back till their present pressing necessities for Support be Supplied. Who knows what Good God may mercifully design for them by their present distress.— } I have Sent duplicates of my accounts with many Letters and copies But have had nothing from you Since march 22— hope to hear before I leave these parts pray dear sir let me hear from you as soon as may be. pray without ceasing for, dear Sir, yours most heartily [illegible][guess: Brother] Salute in my name most respectfully those worthy Gentlemen of the Trust with Dr. [illegible][guess: Messrs.] w[illegible] d. Smith William I hope to see this fall— Letter to Mr. Keen July. 28. 1767. from Boston