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Theophilus Chamberlain, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1766 October 27

ms-number: 766577.2

[note (type: abstract): Chamberlain writes from his mission to report a great improvement in school and church attendance. He states that, in light of it, he intends to remain.][note (type: handwriting): Handwriting is small and crowded, yet formal and largely legible. Letter case is frequently difficult to decipher, especially with regard to D, S and M. It is also difficult to differentiate between commas and periods.][note (type: paper): Large sheet folded in half is in good condition, with light creasing, staining and wear.][note (type: noteworthy): On one verso, second line from the bottom, the word God[illegible]ars may be a reference to “Godars,” an element of germanic pagan traditions.]
[Rev,d | Rev.]Rev,dRev. Sir
In a letter of the [forth | fourth]forthfourth of this Month[1766-10-04] I [informd | informed]informdinformed
you of a New [Diſpoſition | disposition]Diſpoſitiondisposition we were making here with
[Reſpect | respect]Reſpectrespect to the [School Maſters | schoolmasters]School Maſtersschoolmasters and Schools. This was [com=
pleated | com
and we began to act upon it the thirteenth, and
beyond all Expectation it succeeded so well that our
Schools which at [moſt | most]moſtmost had not for Some Time exceeded
ten Children, in [leſs | less]leſsless than one week exceeded thirty, and
we have now near all the Children who live [any thing | anything]any thinganything
handy and are not in the Woods. There are indeed two
Families in this [Caſtle | castle]Caſtlecastle who have never sent the Children
to School and never would. The Fathers of [theſe | these]theſethese Families
(are about forty years of age), men who rarely appear
in Public [unleſs | unless]unleſsunless tis to [git | get]gitget drunk. [Laſt | Last]LaſtLast Week the
Indians met to [rejoyce | rejoice]rejoycerejoice together at the Birth of a Child.
I went to the Place where they were [aſſembled | assembled]aſſembledassembled, found
[theſe | these]theſethese two men not yet intoxicated; and as my Interpreter
was not [preſent | present]preſentpresent [aſked | asked]aſkedasked them in my own broken manner
they had fit to go to School, they both [anſwerd | answered]anſwerdanswered they
had three and immediately fell to [raiſing | raising]raiſingraising little objections
[againſt | against]againſtagainst sending them to school; all which I did my [utmoſt | utmost]utmoſtutmost
to remove; and at Length got a [Promiſe | promise]Promiſepromise, and shall I think
have the Six at School as [ſoon | soon]ſoonsoon as the hunting [seaſon | season]seaſonseason now
commencing is at an End. And there is a [Proſpect | prospect]Proſpectprospect that would
[M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. Johnson[pers0879.ocp] continue at fort Hunter[place0078.ocp] and no new [Diſguſt | disgust]Diſguſtdisgust
takes Place among the Indians [ither | either]ithereither here or there, we
shall in both Places have the Schools attended as con=
stantly as any common Schools in New England. The
Parents now put their Children under our Care, and at
this Place as soon as the Signal for coming to School
has been given, the [Schoolars | scholars]Schoolarsscholars run to School or [elſe | else]elſeelse
[Dareſt | darest]Dareſtdarest not let me see them for they know the
next is a [Whiping | whipping]Whipingwhipping. The happy Effect of a severer
[Dicipline | discipline]Diciplinediscipline than has been hitherto [uſd | used]uſdused in [theſe | these]theſethese Towns
will I hope [illegible][guess (h-dawnd): Daly]Daly be more and more apparent.
This seeming Reformation is not [confind | confined]confindconfined to the
schools, the People have begin to attend meeting more
[univerſaly | universally]univerſalyuniversally and more [conſtantly | constantly]conſtantlyconstantly than they have ever
before done since I came to [theſe | these]theſethese Parts. I had
[threatned | threatened]threatnedthreatened to leave them on Account of their Neglect
But cannot (I [rejoyce | rejoice]rejoycerejoice at it) now do it without
having it said that I only made an [excuſe | excuse]excuſeexcuse of
that to [git | get]gitget away, and would not stay after they were
[carefull | careful]carefullcareful to attend. I cant say that the Indians are
eager or [sufficently | sufficiently]sufficentlysufficiently [carfull | careful]carfullcareful to attend meeting yet
they do come together in their own Time and where [leſs | less]leſsless
than a month ago I had not above a Dozen or fifteen
Hearers I have now nigh a hundred [thō | though]thōthough some of them
whites; for the Dutch in [thoſe | those]thoſethose Parts having no preaching
begin in small numbers to attend our Meetings. They are
a bigoted People and [ſuſpicious | suspicious]ſuſpicioussuspicious of our Differing from them
in Principles as we omit God[illegible]ars and other [cerimonies | ceremonies]cerimoniesceremonies
in [Baptiſm | Baptism]BaptiſmBaptism. upon the whole the [preſent | present]preſentpresent [Proſpect | prospect]Proſpectprospect is such
that nothing short of [Neceſaty | necessity]Neceſatynecessity will prevent my staying
and improving to the [utmoſt | utmost]utmoſtutmost the [preſent | present]preſentpresent Juncture.
But when I think how [faſt | fast]faſtfast my debts [increaſe | increase]increaſeincrease here dont know
what to think. hope soon to be [helpd | helped]helpdhelped. Duty to [Mdm | Madam]MdmMadam[pers0577.ocp] Love to all
[Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. Sir
your unworthy Servant
Theophilus Chamberlain[pers0009.ocp]
To [Rv | Rev.]RvRev. [mr | Mr.]mrMr. Wheelock[pers0036.ocp]

from [Rev.d | Rev.]Rev.d Rev. [M.r | Mr.]M.rMr. Chamberlain[pers0009.ocp]
[Oct.r | October]Oct.rOctober [ | 27th]27..th27th 1766[1766-10-27]
The [Rv,d | Rev.]Rv,d Rev. [M,r | Mr.]M,rMr. [Eleazer | Eleazar]EleazerEleazar Wheelock[pers0036.ocp]
New England[place0158.ocp]
New England
Fort Hunter

Located in Montgomery County, and named after Governor Hunter of New York, Fort Hunter refers to the land located where the Mohawk River and the Schoharie Creek converge in Old Albany County, New York, as well as to the fort built on that land. Fort Hunter was also referred to as the Lower Mohawk Castle, while Upper Mohawk Castle referred to another Mohawk village located near present day Danube, New York. The Mohawk people, who originally occupied this land, referred to the village as Tionondoroge (also spelled Thienderego, Teantontalago, Tiononderoga, Tienonderoga, and Icanderoga). In 1686, the city charter gave Albany the right to the land that would comprise Fort Hunter. According to a European account, "Four Mohawk Kings," including Hendrick Peters Tejonihokarawa who hailed from the Fort Hunter area, met with Queen Anne in 1710 to request protection from the French and aid for the Anglican missionaries; she complied in 1711 and authorized the building of the actual fort. The following year, Anglican clerics, who were funded by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in England, built a mission on the land. Because the Mohawk tribe fought with the British against the American colonists, most Mohawks from Fort Hunter fled to Montreal after the American Revolution.


The historical Mohawk village of Canajoharie was located about 50 miles northwest of Albany, New York, in the central part of the state. Today, both a town and village in the same vicinity of the Mohawk village of Canajoharie have taken the Mohawk name, but the location of the present-day village is slightly east of the historical village. Because the village’s name was similar to the Oneida village of Kanawalohale, where David Fowler established a school in 1765, many sources conflate the two villages. Canajoharie, which in English means a washed kettle, was also known by the names Indian Castle and Upper Castle, which refers to the late 17th-century Mohawk fortifications that were built around the town following a series of French attacks during King William’s War. The term Upper Castle served to differentiate Canajoharie from Lower Mohawk Castle located in the Mohawk village of Tionondoroge near Fort Hunter. Canajoharie contained the Indian Castle church, which still stands today and was built in 1769 by the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson, with help from the Mohawk siblings Molly and Joseph Brant, who donated land to the cause. Throughout the span of the 18th century, war, disease, and emigration severely reduced the Mohawk population in Canajoharie, and an influx of both white and non-Mohawk Native Americans resulted in a diverse and ethnically mixed culture. Wheelock's missionary work in this village in the 1760s was headed by Theophilus Chamberlain, while Abraham major, Abraham minor, and Peter (Mohawk) maintained missionary schools near Canajoharie.

Chamberlain, Theophilus

Theophilus Chamberlain was a Yale graduate and missionary employed by Wheelock. His interest in Indian ministry may have started during the French and Indian War, when he was taken captive by a tribe allied with the French (it is unclear which tribe) at Fort William Henry and spent a year in Nova Scotia. After his return to New England, Chamberlain attended Yale. Wheelock recruited Chamberlain, along with fellow Yale graduate Titus Smith, to spearhead Moor's 1765 mission to the Six Nations. Chamberlain was examined as a missionary on March 12, 1765, and ordained on April 24, 1765. During the mission, he was stationed at Canajoharie (the Mohawk "Upper Castle") and oversaw the mission to the Mohawks. While on his mission, he converted to Sandemanianism, a decision that profoundly shaped the rest of his life. It is difficult to evaluate his efficacy as a missionary: he had high praise for himself, and David Fowler said the Mohawks were affectionate towards him, but Occom described him as overzealous. Chamberlain served the duration of his contract, but clashed with Wheelock afterwards over who was responsible for debts he had incurred on his mission (e.g. transportation costs, support for schoolmasters and interpreters). After departing from Wheelock's service, Chamberlain was ordained as a Sandemanian bishop. He fled to New York and later Nova Scotia during the American Revolution because of his religious and political beliefs. In Nova Scotia, Chamberlain oversaw the establishment of the settlement of Preston.

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.

Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

Johnson, Samuel

Samuel Johnson was a Yale student who, after first traveling to Canajoharie, taught the school at Fort Hunter (the smaller Mohawk town) from October 1766 until at least February 1767, possibly as late as June. Johnson returned to Yale by July 1767. Wheelock may have provided him with some financial support at college up until the end of 1767, when Johnson and Wheelock parted ways. It is possible that Johnson simply decided he did not want to be an Indian missionary, and, thus, withdrew from Wheelock’s support. It is more likely that the pair split over Wheelock’s treatment of his students. Johnson’s last letter to Wheelock expressed his opposition to Wheelock’s plan to pull Avery and McClure out of college for missions (767667.5); Johnson may have feared he would meet the same fate. Four years later, he wrote to Samuel Kirkland about Wheelock’s mistreatment of Crosby, whom Wheelock expelled from Dartmouth, and David Avery, whom Wheelock required to repay large portions of his tuition because his health prevented him from serving as a missionary. Johnson graduated from Yale in 1769, was ordained the same year, and served as a minister at New Lebanon, New York and West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 1780, he converted to the Shaker faith, along with his wife, their children, and much of his former New Lebanon Congregation.

Document Summary

People identified in this document:

id Text in document Role in header Authorized Name
pers0879.ocp M. r Mr. Johnson mentioned Johnson, Samuel
pers0577.ocp Mdm Madam mentioned Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)
pers0009.ocp Theophilus Chamberlain writer Chamberlain, Theophilus
pers0036.ocp m r Mr. Wheelock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar
pers0009.ocp M. r Mr. Chamberlain writer Chamberlain, Theophilus
pers0036.ocp Eleazer Eleazar Wheelock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar

Places identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
place0026.ocp Kanajoharry Canajoharie Canajoharie
place0078.ocp fort Hunter Fort Hunter
place0158.ocp New England New England

This document does not contain any tagged organizations.

Dates identified in this document:

Standard Form Text
1766-10-27 27,th27th OctOctober 1766
1766-10-04 forthfourth of this Month
1766-10-27 Oct.rOctober 27..th27th 1766

Regularized text:

Type Original Regularized
variation Kanajoharry Canajoharie
modernization 27,th 27th
modernization Rev,d Rev.
variation forth fourth
modernization Diſpoſition disposition
modernization Reſpect respect
modernization School Maſters schoolmasters
variation com=
modernization moſt most
modernization leſs less
variation any thing anything
modernization Caſtle castle
modernization theſe these
modernization unleſs unless
variation git get
modernization Laſt Last
variation rejoyce rejoice
modernization aſſembled assembled
modernization preſent present
modernization aſked asked
variation anſwerd answered
modernization raiſing raising
modernization againſt against
modernization utmoſt utmost
modernization Promiſe promise
modernization ſoon soon
modernization seaſon season
modernization Proſpect prospect
modernization M.r Mr.
modernization Diſguſt disgust
variation Schoolars scholars
modernization elſe else
modernization Dareſt darest
variation Whiping whipping
variation Dicipline discipline
modernization uſd used
variation confind confined
modernization univerſaly universally
modernization conſtantly constantly
variation threatned threatened
modernization excuſe excuse
variation carefull careful
variation sufficently sufficiently
variation carfull careful
variation thō though
modernization thoſe those
modernization ſuſpicious suspicious
variation cerimonies ceremonies
modernization Baptiſm Baptism
variation Neceſaty necessity
modernization faſt fast
modernization increaſe increase
variation helpd helped
modernization Revd Rev.
modernization Rv Rev.
modernization mr Mr.
modernization Rev.d Rev.
modernization 27th
modernization Rv,d Rev.
modernization M,r Mr.
variation Eleazer Eleazar

Expanded abbreviations:

Abbreviation Expansion
Oct October
informd informed
Mdm Madam
Oct.r October

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 13)
Number of people/places/organizations with unknown keys: 0 (out of 9)
Number of "add" tags with unknown 'place' attributes: 0 (out of 0)
Mixed case attribute values in header (potential error): 0 (out of 93)
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