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William Whitwell, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1761 January 27

ms-number: 761127

[note (type: abstract): Whitwell writes on behalf of the "Private Society," enclosing eight pounds for the support of Occom.][note (type: handwriting): Handwriting is clear and formal. The trailer is in Wheelock's hand.][note (type: paper): There is moderate-to-heavy creasing and staining, with moderate-to-heavy tearing around remnants of seal that results in no loss of text. Letter contains a narrow strip of paper bearing Wheelock's name.][note (type: signature): Abbreviated.]
[Rev.d | Rev.]Rev.dRev. [& | and]&and Dear [ſir | sir]ſirsir
[M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. [Hayslop | Hyslop]HayslopHyslop[pers0250.ocp] has [shew'd | showed]shew'dshowed us a Letter
from [S. | Samson]S.Samson[Oacum | Occom]OacumOccom [pers0030.ocp] an Indian Minister, [seting | setting]setingsetting [fourth | forth]fourthforth his
great poverty and [distreſs | distress]distreſsdistress by reason thereof; Attending
one from you, wherein you [recom̅end | recommend]recom̅endrecommend the said Indian[pers0030.ocp]
to the Charitably [dispos'd | disposed]dispos'ddisposed. We now send you the [inclos'd | enclosed]inclos'denclosed
Eight pounds [Lawfull | lawful]Lawfulllawful Money, with a [Vew | view]Vewview to [releave | relieve]releaverelieve the
[distreſs | distress]distreſsdistress of the said Indian Minister[pers0030.ocp], and desire you
would apply it accordingly. We apprehend you will be
[releav'd | relieved]releav'drelieved (with respect to what you are in [arears | arrears]arearsarrears for the
Education of Indian Children) in some more [publick | public]publickpublic way
or we should have had your [releife | relief]releiferelief as much in [vew | view]vewview
as that of the said Indian Minister[pers0030.ocp]
 We conclude with wishing you the Divine
presence, in your [publick | public]publickpublic [Ministery | ministry]Ministeryministry, [& | and]&and private instructions
and asking your Prayers for our little private Society[org0138.ocp], that
we may all know Jesus Christ, and be built up in him
in the behalf and at the [disire | desire]disiredesire of the Society[org0138.ocp].

[Wm | William]WmWilliam Whitwell[pers0590.ocp]
[note (type: editorial): Blank page.][note (type: editorial): Blank page.]
[left] Mr Mr. [Whilwill | Whitwell]WhilwillWhitwell [pers0590.ocp]'s [Lettr | letter]Lettrletter
[Collec.n | collection]Collec.ncollection for [M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. Occom[pers0030.ocp]
[Jan.y | January]Jan.yJanuary 1761[1761-01].

Mr Mr. [Whilwill | Whitwell]WhilwillWhitwell [pers0590.ocp]'s [Lettr | letter]Lettrletter
[Collec.n | collection]Collec.ncollection for [M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. Occom[pers0030.ocp]
[Jan.y | January]Jan.yJanuary 1761[1761-01].

The [Rev.d | Rev.]Rev.dRev. [M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. [Eleazer | Eleazar]EleazerEleazar Wheelock[pers0036.ocp]

[Rev.d | Rev.]Rev.dRev. [M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. [Eleazer | Eleazar]EleazerEleazar Wheelock[pers0036.ocp]
[note (type: editorial): Blank page.]
The Private Society
The “Private Society” was a small religious organization in Boston. It seems to have consisted largely of merchants belonging to the city’s Old South Church, including Moses Peck, William Whitwell, and William Dawes, all Boston merchants who had business dealings with Wheelock. William Hyslop and Ebenezer Little, also local merchants, had contact with the Society but were not themselves members. It is unclear who else was in the society, and whether it was formally affiliated with the Old South Church. The Society met on Thursday evenings and raised small sums (typically around £10) for various philanthropic causes. Among the objects of their charity were Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland, both of whom they donated money to in the early 1760s.

The first English immigrant to settle on a peninsula in a harbor on the northeastern coast of North America the local Algonquin Indians called "Shawmet" was William Blackstone in 1629. A year later, John Winthrop arrived with a group of English Puritans and other settlers and named the area Boston after his hometown in Lincolnshire, England. The colony quickly developed representative political institutions that would help shape a democratic nation. Over the next few centuries, Boston emerged as an intellectual and educational center, and, because of its excellent harbor, became a leading commercial hub and a primary port for North America. It is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the largest city in New England. Boston was the home for the Boards of Commissioners of several overseas religious societies who sent missionaries throughout the colonies in the 18th century, and was the site of many important events of the American Revolution.


Lebanon is a town located in the state of Connecticut southwest of the town of Hartford. The land that became Lebanon was inhabited at least 10,000 years ago based on the archeological record. By the 1600s, the land was permanently inhabited by the Mohegan Indians, who used the area primarily for hunting. Lebanon was officially formed in 1700 when English settlers consolidated a number of land tracts, including several land grants by the Connecticut General Assembly and lands purchased from the Mohegans. However, these purchases were controversial. In 1659, the Mohegans entrusted their reserve land to Major John Mason, and in the following year, Mason transferred this land to the Connecticut colonial government with the understanding that there would be enough land left for the Mohegans to farm. The Mohegans claimed that they never authorized a transfer to the colonial government and only Mason’s heirs were entrusted with their land. In 1662, Connecticut, which included the Mohegan land that had been entrusted to the Masons, was incorporated by a royal charter. Based on this charter, the colony argued that the land was now the property of the government. In 1687, the colony began granting the Mohegan land to townships, and in 1704 the Masons petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, claiming that such transfers of land to townships were illegal. Between the years of 1705 and 1773 legal disputes and controversies persisted, finally ending in a verdict by the Crown against the Mohegans. In 1755, Wheelock received property and housing in Lebanon that he would use as his house and school. While Lebanon was originally incorporated as a part of New London County in 1700, in 1724 it became a part of New Windham, before once again becoming a part of New London County in 1826. Lebanon was central to the American Revolution with half of its adult population fighting for the colonists and hundreds of meetings convened in the town for the revolutionary cause.

Whitwell, William

William Whitwell was a wealthy Boston merchant who was very involved in town politics and in the Old South Church, which he joined in 1733. He did business with Wheelock and was a member of a “private society” of like-minded merchants who donated money to Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland in the early 1760s. His brother, Samuel Whitwell, also did business with Wheelock but does not seem to have been involved in philanthropy for Moor’s.

Wheelock, Eleazar

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.

Hyslop, William
Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Document Summary

People identified in this document:

id Text in document Role in header Authorized Name
pers0250.ocp M. r Mr. Hayslop Hyslop mentioned Hyslop, William
pers0030.ocp S. Samson Oacum Occom mentioned Occom, Samson
pers0030.ocp said Indian mentioned Occom, Samson
pers0030.ocp said Indian Minister mentioned Occom, Samson
pers0590.ocp W m William Whitwell writer Whitwell, William
pers0590.ocp M r Mr. Whilwill Whitwell writer Whitwell, William
pers0030.ocp M. r Mr. Occom mentioned Occom, Samson
pers0036.ocp Eleazer Eleazar Wheelock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar

Places identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
place0013.ocp Boſton Boston Boston
place0122.ocp Lebanon Lebanon

Organizations identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
org0138.ocp private Society The Private Society
org0138.ocp the Society The Private Society

Dates identified in this document:

Standard Form Text
1761-01-27 Jan.ryJanuary 27. 1761
1761-01 Jan.yJanuary 1761

Regularized text:

Type Original Regularized
modernization Boſton Boston
modernization Rev.d Rev.
modernization ſir sir
modernization M.r Mr.
variation Hayslop Hyslop
variation shew'd showed
variation Oacum Occom
variation seting setting
variation fourth forth
modernization distreſs distress
variation inclos'd enclosed
modernization Lawfull lawful
variation Vew view
variation releave relieve
variation arears arrears
variation publick public
variation releife relief
variation vew view
variation Ministery ministry
variation disire desire
variation Whilwill Whitwell
variation Eleazer Eleazar

Expanded abbreviations:

Abbreviation Expansion
Jan.ry January
& and
S. Samson
recom̅end recommend
dispos'd disposed
releav'd relieved
Wm William
Lettr letter
Collec.n collection
Jan.y January
Rev.d Rev.

This document's header does not contain any mixed case attribute values.

Summary of errors found in this document:

Number of dates with invalid 'when' attributes: 0
Number of nested "hi" tags: (consider merging the @rend attributes, or using other tags) 0
Number of tags with invalid 'rend' attributes: 0 (out of 15)
Number of people/places/organizations with unknown keys: 0 (out of 14)
Number of "add" tags with unknown 'place' attributes: 0 (out of 1)
Mixed case attribute values in header (potential error): 0 (out of 95)
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