Samson Occom, autobiography, undated

Author Occom, Samson


ms number768517

abstractOccom writes a second draft of his autobiography.

handwritingThe legibility of Occom's usually clear hand is heavily mitigated by editorial additions and deletions, likely 19th-century.

paperSeveral small sheets of paper are folded into a booklet. The booklet appears to have been bound with twine or thread at one time; however, this binding is missing and, aside from the two outside pages, the pages are loose. The inner edges of these loose pages appear to have been trimmed. The paper is in good-to-poor condition with light-to-heavy staining and wear, which results in a minor loss of text. There is some repair work on the outside pages.


noteworthyAn editor, likely 19th-century, has overwritten Occom's hand in several places. The transcriber has attempted to decipher Occom's original hand and ignore editorial editions and deletions. There are pencil marks on 13 verso.

EventsOccom leaves his studies, Occom’s Mission to the Montauketts, Occom’s Marriage, Occom’s Ordination, Fundraising Tour of Great Britain

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

Persistent Identifier
Having Seen and heard Several representations, in England and Scotland, made by Some gentlemen in America, Concerning me, and Finding many gross mistakes in their Ac‐counts, I thought it my Duty to give a Short Plain and honest Account of myself, that those who may hereafter See it, may Know the Truth Concerning me. — — Though it is against my mind to give a history of myself and publish it whilst I am alive, Yet to do Justice to myself and to those who may desire to know something concerning me— and for the Honor [gap: hole][guess: of] Religion I will venture to give a Short Narrative of my Life. — —
From my birth 'til I received the Christian Religion.—
I was Born a Heathen and Brought up In Heathenism 'til I was between 16 and 17 years of age, at a Place called Mohegan in New London Connecticut, in New England my Parents lived a wandering life, as did all the Indians at Mohegan; they chiefly Depended upon Hunting, Fishing, and Fowling for their Living and had no Connections with the English, excepting to Tr[gap: worn_edge][guess: af]fic with them, in their Smal[gap: tear][guess: l] Trifles — and they Strictly maintained and followed their Heathenish ways, Customs and Religion — though there was Some Preaching among them once a Fortnight, in y[gap: tear][guess: e] Summer Season, a Minister
from New London [illegible]used to come up — and the Indians to attend; not that they regarded the Christian Religion, But they had Blankets given to them every Fall of the year and for these things they would attend — and there was a Sort of a School kept, when I was quite young,. but I believe there never was one that even Learn to read anything — and when I was about 10 years of age there was — a man who went about among the Indian Wigwams, and wherever he could find the Indian children would make them read — but the Children used to take Care to keep out off his way — and he used to Catch me sometimes and make me Say over my Letters, and I be
believe I learned Some of them. But this was soon over too — and all this Time there was not one amongst us, that made a Profession of Christianity — Neither did we Cultivate our Land, nor kept any Sort of Creatures, except Dogs, which we used in Hunting, and Dwelt in Wigwams, these are a Sort of Tents covered with mats, made of Flags — And to this Time we were unacquainted with the English tongue in general, though there were a few, who understood a little of it —–
From the Time of our Re‐formation 'til I left Mr. Wheelock
When I was 16 years of age— we heard a Strange Rumor among the English, that there were Ex‐traordinary Ministers Preaching from Place to Place and a Strange Concern among the white People — this was in the Spring of the year.
But we Saw nothing of these things, 'til sometime in the Summer, then Some Ministers began to visit us and Preach the Word of god; and the Common People also Came frequently , and exhorted us to the things of god, which it pleased the Lord, as I humbly hope, to Bless and accompany with with Divine Influences, to the Conviction and Saving Conversion of a Number of us; Amongst which I was one that was Impressed with the things, we had heard These Preachers did not only Come to us, but we frequently went to their meetings and Churches , after I was convicted I went to all the meetings I could Come at; and continued under Trou‐ble of Mind about 6 Months, at which time I began to Learn the English— Letters; Got me a primer and used to go to my English
Neighbours frequently for Assistance in Reading, but went to no School — — And when I was 17 years of age, I had as I trust, a Discovery of the way of Salvation through J[illegible][guess: esus] and was enabled to put my trust in him alone for Life and Salvation, From this Time the Distress and Burden of my mind was removed, and I found Serenity and Pleasure of Soul. in Serving god, by this time I Just began to Read in the New Testament without Spelling,— and I had Stronger Desire Still to Learn to read the Word of god, and at the Same Time, had an uncommon Pity and Compassion to my Poor brethren According to the Flesh, I used to wish, I was Capable of Instructing my poor Kindred, I use to think if I could once Learn to Read
I would Instruct poor Children in Reading— and used frequently to talk with our Indians Con‐cerning Religion.— Thus I Continued, 'til I was in my 19th year; by this Time I could Read a little in the Bible, at this Time my Poor Mother was going to Lebanon, and having had Some Knowledge of Mr. Wheelock and hearing he had a Number of English youth under his Tuition, I had a great Inclination to go to him and to be with a week or a Fortnight, and Desired my Mother to Ask Mr. Wheelock, whether he would take me a little while to Instruct me in Reading; Mother did So; and when She Came Back, She Said Mr. Wheelock wanted to See me as Soon as possible,— So I went up, thinking I should be back again in a few Days; when I got up there, he received me with kindness and Compassion and instead of Staying a
Fortnight or 3 weeks, I Spent 4 years with him — After I had been with him Some Time, he began to acquaint his Friends of my being with him, and his Intentions of Educating me, and my Circumstances,— and the good People began to give Some Assistance to Mr. Wheelock, and gave me Some old and Some New clothes — Then he represented the Case to the Honorable Commissioners at Boston, who were Commissioned by the Honorable Society in London for Propagating the gospel among the Indians in New England and parts adjacent and they allowed him 60 £: per annum: both in old tenor, which was about 6 £: Sterling, and they continued it 2: or 3: years I Can't tell exactly — while I was at Mr. Wheelocks, I was very weakly and my Health much impaired, and at the End of 4 years, I over strained
my Eyes to Degree, I could not pursue my Studies any Longer; and out of these 4 years, I Lost Just about one Year; — And was obliged to quit my Studies — —
From the Time I left Mr. Wheel ock 'til I went Europe
As Soon as I left Mr. Wheelock, I endeavoured to find Some Em‐ploy among the Indians; went to Niantic, thinking, they may want a schoolmaster, but they had one; then went to Narragansett, and they were indifferent about School, and went back to Mohegan, and heard a Num‐ber of our Indians were going to Montauk on Long Island,— and I went with them, and the Indians there were very desirous to have me keep a School amongst them, and I Consented, and went back a while to Mohegan and Some in November I went on the Island, I think it is 17
17 years ago last November I agreed to keep a School with them Half a year, and left it with them to give me what they pleased, and they took turns to Provide Food for me — I had near 30 Scholars this winter, I had evening School too for those that could not attend Day School — and began to Carry on their meetings, T[illegible] they had a Minister, one Mr. Horton, the Scotch Society's Missionary, but he Spent, I think, two thirds of his Time at Shinnecock, 30 Miles from Montauk, We met together 3 times for Di‐vine worship every Sabbath and once on every Wednesday even‐ing— I read the Scriptures to them and used to expound upon Some particular passages in my own tongue I visited the Sick and attended their Burials — when the half year expired, they desired me to continue with them, which I complied with, for another
half year, when I had fulfilled that, they were urgent to have me Stay Longer So I continued 'til I was Married amongst them which was about 2 years after I went there — And I continued to Instruct them in the Same manner as I did before after I was married a while, I found there was need of a Support, more, than I needed while I was Single,— and I made my Case Known to Mr. Buell and to Mr. Wheelock, and also the Needy circumstances, and the desires of these Indians and of my continuance amongst them, and Mr. Wheelock and other gentlemen, represented my circumstances and the circumstances, and the desires of these Indians of my Continuing amongst them, and the Commissioners were So good as to grant £15 per annum: Sterling — — And I kept on in my Service as usual, yea I had additional Service, I kept School as I did before and Carried on the
Religious meeting as often as ever, and attended the Sick and their Funerals, and did what writings they wanted, and often Sat as Judge to reconcile and decide their Matters between them, and had visitors of Indians, from all Quarters; and, as our custom is, we freely Entertain all visitors,— And was fetched often from my Tribe and from others [gap: stain] See into their Affairs Both Religious and Temporal,— besides my domestic Concerns,— and it pleased the Lord to increase my Family fast — and Soon after I was married, Mr. Horton left these Indians, and the Shinnecock Indians and after this I was licenced to preach and then I had the whole Care of these Indians at Montauk, and visited the Shinnecock
Indians often — used to Set out Saturdays towards Night and back again on Mondays I have been obliged to Set out from Home after sunset, and Ride 30 Miles in the Night, to preach to these Indians — And Some Indians at Shinnecock Sent their Children to my School at Montauk, I kept one of them Some Time, and had a young Man half year from Mohegan, A Lad from Niantic, who was with me almost a year,— and had little or nothing for Keeping them, — My Method in the School was, as Soon as the Children got together, and have took their proper Seats, I prayed with them, then began to hear them, I generally began
(after some of them could Spell and Read,) with those, that were yet in their Alphabets; So around, as they were pro‐perly Seat, 'til I got through and I obliged them to Study their Books, and to help one another, when they could not make out a hard, they Brought to me — and I usually heard them, in the Summer season 8 Times a Day 4 in the morning, and in the afternoon — In the Winter season 6 Time a Day, as Soon as they could Spell, they were obliged to spell whenever they wanted to go out; concluded with Prayer, I generally heard my Evening scholars 3 times Round, And as they go out the School, everyone that Can Spell, is obliged to spell a word, and So go out leisurely one after another, — I Catechised
3 or 4 Times a weeks according to the Assembly's Shorter Catechism, and many Times proposed questions of my own, and in my own tongue, — I found D[illegible][guess: e]fficulty with Some Children, who were Some‐what Dull, most of these Can Soon learn to say over their Letters, they Distinguish the Sounds by the Ear, but their Eyes Can't Distinguish the Letters, and the way I took to cure them, was by making an Alphabet on Small bits of paper, and glued them on Small Chips of Cedar, after this manner A B etc. I put these on Letters in order on a Bench, then point to one Letter and bid a Child to take notice
of it, and then I order the Child to fetch me the Letter from the Bench if it Brings the Letter, it is well, if not it must go again and again 'til it bring the right letter When they Can bring any Letters, this way, then I Just Jumble them together, and b[illegible]d them to Set them in Al‐phabetical order, and it is a pleasure to them; and they Soon learn their letters this way — I frequently discussed or Exhorted my Scholars, in Religious matters — My Method in our Religious Meetings was this; Sabbaths Mornings we assemble together about 10:o.C. and begin with Singing; we generally Sung Dr. Watts's Psalms or Hymns, I distinctly, read the Psalm or Hymn first, and then give the meaning of it to them, after that sing, then Pray, and Sing again, after prayer
then proceed to Read Some suitable portion of Scripture, and So Just give the plain Sense of it, in Familiar Discourse and applied to them, So Con clude with Pray, and Singing, In the afternoon and Evening we Proceed in the Same Manner, and So in Wednesday Evenings, — Some Time after Mr. Horton left these Indians, there was a remarkable revival of religion among these Indians and many were hopefully Converted to the Saving knowledge of god in J[illegible] It is to be observed, before Mr. Horton left these Indians they had Some Prejudices infused in their minds, by Some enthusiastical Exhorters from New England, against Mr. Horton, an[illegible] Many of them
had left him, by this means he was discouraged, and Su[illegible]d a Dismission, and was dismissed from these Indians, — And being acquainted with the Enthusiasts in New England, and the make and the Dispositions of the Indians, took a mil[illegible][guess: e] way to reclaim them, I opposed them not openly but let them go on in their way, and whenever I had an opportunity, I would read Such passages of the Scriptures, as I thought, would Confound their Notions, and I would come to them with all Au‐thority, Saying thus Saith the Lord, and by this means, the Lord was pleased to Bless my poor
Endeavours, and they were reclaimed, and Brought to hear most any of the Ministers — I am now to give an Account of my Circumstances and manner of living, — I Dwelt in a wigwam, a Small hut, framed with Small Poles and covered with mats made of Flags, and I was obliged to move twice a year, about 2 Miles Distance, by reason of the Scarcity of wood, for in our Neck of Land they Planted their Corn, and in another, they had their wood,— and I was obliged to hire my Corn Carted and my Hay also, — and I got my Ground plowed every year, which Cost me about [illegible] 12 an Acre; and I kept a Cow and a Horse, for which I paid £ 21: every year
York Currency, And went 18 miles to Mill for every Dust of meal we used in my family I Hired or Joined with my Neighbours to go to Mill with a Horse or ox Cart, or on horseback, and sometimes went myself; my Family increasing fast, and my visitors also, I was obliged to Continue every way to Support my Family; I took all opportunities, to get something, to feed my Family daily, — I Planted my own Corn, Po‐tatoes and [illegible]Beans; I use to be out hoeing my Corn sometimes before sunrise and after my School is dismissed, and by this means I was able to raise my own Pork, for I was allowed to keep 5 Swine, Some Mornings and Evenings I woud be out with my Hook and Line to Catch
fish, and in the Fall of year and in the Spring, I used my gun, for we lived very handy for Fowl, and I was very expert with gun, and fed my Family with Fowl, I could more than pay for my Powder and shot, with Feathers, at other Times I Bound old Books for East Hampton People, Made wooden Spoons and Ladles, stacked Guns, and worked on Cedar to make Pails, piggins and Churns etc. — besides all these Difficulties I Met with adverse Providences, I bought a Mare, had it but little while, and She fell into the quicksands and Died, after a while Bought another, I kept her about half Year, and She was gone, and I never heard nor Seen her from that Day to this, it was supposed Some Rogue stole her, and got
another and died with a distemper, and last of all I bought a Young Mare, and kept her 'til She had one Colt, and She broke her Leg and Died and Presently after the Colt Died also, the whole I Lost 5 Horse Kind, all these losses helped to pull me down and by this Time I got greatly in Debt, and acquainted my Circumstances to Some of my Friends, and they Represented my Case to the Commissioners of Boston, and interceded with them for me, and they were pleased to Vote 15 for my Help; and Soon after Sent a Letter to my good Friend at New London, acquainting him, that they had Superseded their vote; and my Friends were So good as to represent my Needy Circumstances Still to them, and they were So good at Last, as to vote £15 and Sent it, for which I am
very thankful, and the good Mr. Buell was So Kind as to write in my behalf to the gentlemen of Bos‐ ton; and he told me they were much Displeased with him; and heard also once and again, that they blamed me for being Extravagant, I Cant Conceive how these gentlemen would have me Live, I am ready to [illegible][guess: i]mputed [illegible][guess: it] their Ignorance, and would wish they had changed circumstances with me but one Month, that they may know, by experience what my case really was, but I am now fully convinced, that it was not Ignorance For I believe it Can be proved to the world, that these Same Gentlemen, gave a young Missionary, a Single man, one Hundred Pounds for one year, and fifty Pounds for an Interpreter, and thirty Pounds for an Introducer, So it Cost them one Hundred and Eighty Pounds in one Single year, and they Sent too where there was no Need of a Missionary,
Now you See what difference they made between me and other missionaries, they gave me 180 Pounds for 12 years Service, which they gave for one years Service in another Mission — In my Service, (I Speak like a fool, but I am constrained) I was my own Interpreter I was both a schoolmaster, and minister to the Indians, yea I was their Ear, Eye and Hand, as well Mouth, — I leave it with world, as wicked as it is, to Judge, whether I ought [illegible] not to have had half as much, they gave a young man Just mentioned, which would have been but £50 a Year; and if they ought to have given me that, I am not under obligations to them, I owe them nothing at all; Now what Can be the Reason? that they
used me after this manner; I Can't think of anything, but this as a poor Indian Boy Said, who was Bound out to an English Family, and he used to Drive Plow for a young man, and he whipped and Beat him almost every Day, and the young man found fault with him, and complained of him to his master and the poor boy was called to answer for himself before his master, — and he was asked, what it was he did, that he was So complained of and beat almost every Day? he Said, he did not know, but he supposed it was, because he could not drive any better, but Says he, I Drive as well as I know how and at other Times he Beats me, because he is mind to beat me, but Says, he, I believe he Beats for the most of the Time, because I am an In‐dian—
So I am ready to Say, they have used thus, because I Cant Instruct the Indians So well as other Missionaries, but I Can assure them I have endeavoured to teach them as well as I how — but I must Say, I believe, it is, because I am poor Indian, I Cant help that [illegible] God has made me So; I did not make my Se[illegible][guess: ft] So —
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