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Joseph Johnson, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 April 20

ms-number: 768270

[note (type: abstract): Johnson writes about his progress among the Oneidas, and about the recent travels of Ralph Wheelock among tribes of the Six Nations.][note (type: handwriting): Johnson's hand is small, but clear and legible.][note (type: paper): Large sheet folded in half is in fair condition, with heavy creasing and wear that nonetheless results in no loss of text. Large portions of the seal remain.][note (type: ink): Black-brown.]

[Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. [& | and]&and [Hond | Honoured]HondHonoured [Doct.r | Dr.]Doct.rDr.
My [Reſpects | respects]Reſpectsrespects [& | and]&and Regards for you
for the many favours which I have Enjoyed
Since under your paternal Care [Exites | excites]Exitesexcites in me
a kind of Gratitude which makes me [deſireous | desirous]deſireousdesirous
to [Enqure | inquire]Enqureinquire little concerning your Valuble health
and to gather with all this I believe it is my—
[Indiſpenſable | indispensable]Indiſpenſableindispensable Duty to Acquaint you the [ſtate | state]ſtatestate
of the Indians up here and the [ſchool | school]ſchoolschool which
I keep. [Hond | Honoured]HondHonoured Sir. I have not as yet Opened the
School at Old [Onoida | Oneida]OnoidaOneida[place0179.ocp] Since I came up [laſt | last]laſtlast.
my Employment has been an Imperfect
Interpreter little better then none. to your
[Hond | Honoured]HondHonoured Son[pers0578.ocp]
. the Indians treat him with great
deal of [Repſpects | respect]Repſpectsrespect, [& | and]&and [ſay | say]ſaysay that they do [Realy | really]Realyreally
love him, and want that he [ſhould | should]ſhouldshould [ſtay | stay]ſtaystay longer.
your [Hond | Honoured]HondHonoured Son[pers0578.ocp] has been at [Onondage | Onondaga]OnondageOnondaga[place0180.ocp] and [offerd | offered]offerdoffered
the glad tiding of the [Goſpel | Gospel]GoſpelGospel of [X | Christ]XChrist to them [likewiſe | likewise]likewiſelikewise
to the Senecas[org0088.ocp], but has not yet an [Anſwer | answer]Anſweranswer but
they did treat him with more [Reſpects | respects]Reſpectsrespects than
they had any before him, and [deſired | desired]deſireddesired to have
Some time to [Conſider | consider]Conſiderconsider [ſuch | such]ſuchsuch matter of Importan[above] cece
and [promiſed | promised]promiſedpromised to give him an [Anſwer | answer]Anſweranswer within
8 weeks. but has not [Recieved | received]Recievedreceived any [anſwer | answer]anſweranswer at all.
what the [Reaſon | reason]Reaſonreason is I cant tell. your [ſon | son]ſonson[pers0578.ocp] has
been under great [Diſadvantage | disadvantage]Diſadvantagedisadvantage in this [journy | journey]journyjourney
[& | and]&and been [thro | through]throthrough many [ſorro[above] wwfull | sorrowful]ſorro[above] wwfullsorrowful hour. no one to [adviſe | advise]adviſeadvise
him in Such Important Affair.
I Expect to Open the [ſchool | school]ſchoolschool next week.
I believe that if the Indians now [Refuſe | refuse]Refuſerefuse
the Offered [Goſpel | Gospel]GoſpelGospel it will be wonder if God
dont in his anger cut them of from his Earth.
I do feel bad the for [ſake | sake]ſakesake of your [ſon | son]ſonson[pers0578.ocp], he has
had two or three bad turns [ſince | since]ſincesince he has been
up here. if had not the all [ſupporting | supporting]ſupportingsupporting grace
from on high been his [preſent | present]preſentpresent aid he would
probably hnot [illegible]be able to go [thro | through]throthrough his [buſsineſs | business]buſsineſsbusiness
but God be [praiſed | praised]praiſedpraised that he has carried him
thus far in [ſafety | safety]ſafetysafety.
[Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. Sir I hope that you have had your
health allowed to you [ſince | since]ſincesince I [ſaw | saw]ſawsaw you.
God be [praiſed | praised]praiſedpraised that he has [keept | kept]keeptkept me from
that [diſtemper | distemper]diſtemperdistemper which I did [ſo | so]ſoso greatly fear.
I have Enjoyed my [Uſeleſs | useless]Uſeleſsuseless health as [Uſual | usual]Uſualusual.
I [deſire | desire]deſiredesire humbly to Recommend [myſelf | myself]myſelfmyself
to your prayers [dayly | daily]daylydaily that he would keep me
from all [ſin | sin]ſinsin [Eſpecially | especially]Eſpeciallyespecially from pride.
I h[illegible]ave no more to acquaint you at [preſent | present]preſentpresent
So I [illegible][guess (h-dawnd): would]would[illegible] Remain your Ignorant
Pupil. and good for nothing Black

 [Joſph | Joseph]JoſphJoseph [Johnſon | Johnson]JohnſonJohnson.[pers0288.ocp]

 [Doctr | Dr.]DoctrDr. Wheelock[pers0036.ocp].
[note (type: editorial): Blank page.]
[Jos: | Joseph]Jos:Joseph Joh[illegible]nsons[pers0288.ocp]
[Aprel | April]AprelApril 20. 1768[1768-04-20]

the [Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. [Doctr | Dr.]DoctrDr. [E | Eleazar]EEleazar Wheelock[pers0036.ocp]
 [N | New]NNew England.[place0158.ocp]
[Pr | Per]PrPer favour of)
[Mr | Mr.]MrMr. Wheelock[pers0578.ocp])
Seneca Nation
The Senecas are one of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. They are the Westernmost Haudenosaunee tribe and are known as the “Keepers of the Western door,” just as the Mohawks are the “Keepers of the Eastern Door.” During the colonial period, the Senecas were the largest of the Six Nations, in part because they adopted large numbers of Native Americans and even some Europeans to compensate for losses from disease and warfare. (Their most famous adoptee was Mary Jemison, a Scots-Irish woman who spent her life as an adopted Seneca and whose memoirs were written down and published in 1824.) The Jesuits launched missionary efforts among the Senecas, along with the rest of the Six Nations, in the second half of the 17th century. However, the Senecas received fewer Jesuit missionaries than other Haudenosaunee tribes did. This may have been due in part to their close relationship with the British, to whom the Senecas were loyal allies against the French and the Americans. It could also have stemmed from their conflict with the Hurons, another Haudenosaunee-speaking tribe located to the west of the Six Nations. Although the Hurons and Haudenosaunee spoke related languages, they were fierce enemies; because the Senecas were the most western of the Six Nations, they fought the Hurons more often. The Hurons had close ties to the French and hosted numerous Jesuit missionaries, so the Senecas' conflict with the Hurons may have further alienated them from Jesuit efforts. The Senecas also sided with the British during the Revolution, and, in retribution, General Sullivan destroyed their homes and crops during his 1779 rampage through central New York. The Seneca perspective on Sullivan's campaign survives in Jemison's memoirs. After the Revolution, many Mohawks and Cayugas, who had also allied with the British, left central New York. Some moved west, while others moved to the Grand River Reserve in Canada. The Senecas are notable for staying on their lands, where many of them remain today. Samuel Kirkland, an Anglo-American Moor’s Indian Charity School alumnus most famous for his work among the Oneidas, began his career with a mission to the Senecas between January 1765 and spring 1766. He also was adopted by the Senecas. His mission to the Senecas gave him his reputation as an dedicated missionary because of their perceived savagery. Eleazar Wheelock himself had little contact with the Senecas. Kirkland’s Seneca brother by adoption, Tekanada, suggested that he might send his son to Moor’s Indian Charity School, but does not appear to have done so.

Kanawalohale was a village located in the present-day town of Vernon in central New York state. In the 18th century, it was an Oneida village located about 60 miles west of the Mohawk village Canajoharie. Because the village’s name was similar to the Mohawk village of Canajoharie, many sources conflate the two. Founded in the mid-18th century, Kanawalohale was made up of a cluster of about 40 homes along the Oneida Creek, south of Oneida Lake. The name means head on a post in reference to an enemy soldier's skull displayed in the village. In 1765, David Fowler established an Indian school in Kanawalohale, where Wheelock’s son, Ralph, worked. Between the years of 1765 and 1767, Kanawalohale hosted many of Wheelock's missionaries including Samuel Kirkland, Joseph Johnson, David Avery, and Aaron Kinne. The Indians of Kanawalohale used their relationship with missionaries such as Kirkland to gain prestige over the formerly central Oneida village, Old Oneida. Kirkland often wrote in his journal about the dialogues he had with the Indians at Kanawalohale, who refused to receive his teachings silently. The Christian Indian population grew throughout the 1760s with at least 200 Indians attending church in the village. In 1780, Joseph Brant, a Mohawk allied with the British, led a war party against the revolting colonists, with whom the Oneidas had allied, that destroyed the Oneida village of Kanawalohale. This area is known today as Oneida Castle.


Oneida is a city in Madison County located at the geographical center of New York state. Before European settlement of the area, the Oneida Tribe, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, inhabited a large territory adjacent to nearby Oneida Lake. Around 1533, they built their first village on the south shore of the lake, at or near the mouth of Oneida Creek. At the end of the 17th century, this area began suffering raids by parties from the French colony of Quebec, in a battle to control the fur trade. In 1696, Oneida village was burned by the French. As a result, the Oneidas moved their chief village east of the original site, called Old Oneida, to a new site called Kanawalohale, also known as Oneida Castle, which was fortified by tall palisades and a moat. This is the site of the present-day village of Oneida Castle, a small hamlet west of the city of Oneida in the northwest corner of the town of Vernon. When used in Occom Circle documents, the place name "Oneida" usually refers to the territory inhabited by the Tribe east of Oneida Lake, but can also refer specifically to Oneida Castle. Although the Oneidas sided with the patriots during the Revolutionary War, much of their territory was sold or appropriated by the state of New York. In 1790, the first European settlers moved into the area of Old Oneida village, and the district began to expand. In the 1830s, the state built a feeder from Oneida Creek through the present city site to provide water for the new canal system, which enabled canal boats to ship freight into the town. Eventually, the railroad came through the town and helped with its expansion. This led to the incorporation of the Village of Oneida in 1848 and the establishment of the Town of Oneida in 1896. The town was chartered as the City of Oneida in 1901, and with two more railroad lines transecting the area, it became a thriving manufacturing center for the first half of the 20th century.


Onondaga village was the primary settlement of the Onondaga Nation in Onondaga territory, an area in upstate New York, southeast of Lake Ontario. The Onondagas are one of the original Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Because their traditional homeland was centrally located, with the Cayuga and Seneca Nations to the west and the Oneida and Mohawk, and later the Tuscarora, Nations to the east, Onondaga village became the capital or place of the council fire in the figurative longhouse of the Confederacy. Thus, the Onondagas are known as "the keepers of the fire." The name "Onondaga" means hill place, but the location of the village changed several times, until in 1720, it was moved to Onondaga Creek. In 1764, Wheelock sent Samuel Ashpo, a Mohegan separatist minister who attended Moor's Indian School briefly as an adult, as missionary for a season to the Onondagas, where he met with moderate success. On the eve of the American Revolution, Occom reported in his journal for 1774 that the Six Nations were called to gather at Onondaga for a Grand Council. In his attempt to recruit young Native children from more remote tribes, Wheelock sent his son Rodolphus (aka Ralph), accompanied by Joseph Johnson as interpreter, to the Onondaga and Seneca Tribes in April 1768. A difficult ambassador (who probably suffered from epilepsy and was prickly even at his best), Ralph was unsuccessful. In ms. 768302 Johnson speculates that the "Back nations . . . are too much overcome by french principles or reather fast in the divils clutches" to accept a Congregational missionary. Although the Onondagas tried to remain neutral during the Revolutionary War, some fought with the British. In retaliation, in April 1779, Continental troops targeted the village of Onondaga and destroyed the fifty houses along Onondaga Creek that had been abandoned as their inhabitants fled. Many took refuge with Mohawk leader (and Moor's graduate) Joseph Brant in Six Nations, Ontario, and their homeland was ceded to the state of New York, but some land was kept for a Reservation. In 1798, the town of Onondaga was incorporated from parts of other towns settled by Anglo-Americans that were former sites of the Onondaga capital and named for the Tribe. The Haudenosaunee government continues to meet on the Onondaga Reservation, located south of the city of Syracuse.

New England
Johnson, Joseph

Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.

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, Rodulphus

Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.

Document Summary

People identified in this document:

id Text in document Role in header Authorized Name
pers0578.ocp your Hon d Honoured Son mentioned Wheelock, Rodulphus
pers0578.ocp Hon d Honoured Son mentioned Wheelock, Rodulphus
pers0578.ocp your ſon son mentioned Wheelock, Rodulphus
pers0288.ocp Joſ ph Joseph Johnſon Johnson . writer Johnson, Joseph
pers0036.ocp Doct r Dr. Wheelock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar
pers0288.ocp Jos: Joseph Joh nsons writer Johnson, Joseph
pers0036.ocp Rev d Rev. Doct r Dr. E Eleazar Whee lock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar
pers0578.ocp M r Mr. Wheelock mentioned Wheelock, Rodulphus

Places identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
place0114.ocp Kanoarohare Kanawalohale . Kanawalohale
place0179.ocp Old Onoida Oneida Oneida
place0180.ocp Onondage Onondaga Onondaga
place0158.ocp N New England. New England

Organizations identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
org0088.ocp Senecas Seneca Nation

Dates identified in this document:

Standard Form Text
1768-04-20 April 20th20th 1768.
1768-04-20 AprelApril 20. 1768

Regularized text:

Type Original Regularized
variation Kanoarohare Kanawalohale
modernization 20th 20th
modernization Revd Rev.
modernization Doct.r Dr.
modernization Reſpects respects
variation Exites excites
modernization deſireous desirous
variation Enqure inquire
modernization Indiſpenſable indispensable
modernization ſtate state
modernization ſchool school
variation Onoida Oneida
modernization laſt last
modernization Repſpects respect
modernization ſay say
variation Realy really
modernization ſhould should
modernization ſtay stay
variation Onondage Onondaga
modernization Goſpel Gospel
modernization likewiſe likewise
modernization Anſwer answer
modernization deſired desired
modernization Conſider consider
modernization ſuch such
modernization promiſed promised
variation Recieved received
modernization anſwer answer
modernization Reaſon reason
modernization ſon son
modernization Diſadvantage disadvantage
variation journy journey
modernization ſorro[above] wwfull sorrowful
modernization adviſe advise
modernization Refuſe refuse
modernization ſake sake
modernization ſince since
modernization ſupporting supporting
modernization preſent present
variation buſsineſs business
modernization praiſed praised
modernization ſafety safety
modernization ſaw saw
variation keept kept
modernization diſtemper distemper
modernization ſo so
modernization Uſeleſs useless
modernization Uſual usual
modernization deſire desire
modernization myſelf myself
variation dayly daily
modernization ſin sin
modernization Eſpecially especially
modernization Johnſon Johnson
modernization Doctr Dr.
variation Aprel April
modernization Mr Mr.

Expanded abbreviations:

Abbreviation Expansion
& and
Hond Honoured
offerd offered
X Christ
thro through
Joſph Joseph
Jos: Joseph
E Eleazar
N New
Pr Per

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 23)
Number of people/places/organizations with unknown keys: 0 (out of 14)
Number of "add" tags with unknown 'place' attributes: 0 (out of 2)
Mixed case attribute values in header (potential error): 0 (out of 99)
HomeJoseph Johnson, letter to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 April 20
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