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Levi Frisbie, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 April 23

ms-number: 768273.1

[note (type: abstract): Frisbie writes that he considers himself unfit for missionary work.][note (type: handwriting): Handwriting is small and slanting, yet mostly formal and clear. The trailer is in an unknown hand.][note (type: paper): Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.][note (type: ink): Brown-black.]
[Rev.d | Rev.]Rev.dRev. Sir. —

I must [acknolege | acknowledge]acknolegeacknowledge that what the [Doc.r | Doctor]Doc.rDoctor mentioned
to me with [reſpect | respect]reſpectrespect to going among the Indians in the
character of a [Miſsonary | missionary]Miſsonarymissionary was very [surprizing | surprising]surprizingsurprising, [& | and]&and I
thingk not without [reaſon | reason]reaſonreason as it was a thing [intirely | entirely]intirelyentirely
new to me and what I [leaſt | least]leaſtleast thought of, and
as the [Doc.r | Doctor]Doc.rDoctor mentioned it as [tho | though]thothough, he had [determind | determined]determinddetermined upon
it so far as to mention it to the Ministers at [Infield | Enfield]InfieldEnfield[place0106.ocp].
I [muſt | must]muſtmust think that the [Doctr | Doctor]DoctrDoctor has a [above] [illegible]too[illegible]too great opinion of
my abilities, or else dont look upon it [neſceſsary | necessary]neſceſsarynecessary for
a [Miſsionary | missionary]Miſsionarymissionary to have but very ordinary qualifications
for such a work — I look upon myself [intirely | entirely]intirelyentirely unfit upon
every account, My [knolege | knowledge]knolegeknowledge in divinity is nothing, [tis | it is]tisit is as
a drop [compard | compared]compardcompared to the Ocean — I should not know how to begin
nor what to say, nor which way to go[illegible] to work, to try to instruct
People in Religion, and the great things of Eternity— I am
but a giddy Boy, [no | know]noknow nothing of the world, have not that
prudence, that [wiſdom | wisdom]wiſdomwisdom discretion and fortitude that is [necaſs‐
ary | necess‐
. I have no acquaintance with the Indians dont unders‐
tand their Tempers customs [& | and]&and Manners and should be [intirly | entirely]intirlyentirely
unable to conform to them —If I should go in the Character
of a [Miſsionary | missionary]Miſsionarymissionary, the Indians would expect as much from
me as a Man of the [greateſt | greatest]greateſtgreatest [accompliſhments | accomplishments]accompliſhmentsaccomplishments, would
make no allowance for my puerility, and [ difficiency | deficiency] difficiencydeficiency in
[illegible][almoſt | almost]almoſtalmost every [[above] neneceſsary | necessary][above] neneceſsarynecessary Qualification, and expect as mu if
I should not [fullfill | fulfill]fullfillfulfill their expectations, I should fall into
contempt among them, and if not [spurnd | spurned]spurndspurned away or [killd | killed]killdkilled,
yet should be under no [capaſity | capacity]capaſitycapacity of doing good — [Mr | Mr.]MrMr. Kirt‐
has been there[illegible] and I [muſt | must]muſtmust be equal with him —
What can I tell them? that I am half a [Miſsionary | missionary]Miſsionarymissionary?
and what can I tell [em | them]emthem is the [Reaſon | reason]Reaſonreason that there was not
whole ones sent? The [ | Doctor]Doc.trDoctor knows my weak Constitution
and that to keep a School, and to pretend to instruct in a higher
[Capaſity | capacity]Capaſitycapacity will be quite too much for my Strength, especially
[conſidering | considering]conſideringconsidering all other hardships — how shall I lift up my head
Face before the learned Errorist, I shall be unable wholly
to defend my Religion by dint of Argument; It is true God
can make the [weakeſt | weakest]weakeſtweakest Means [affectual | effectual]affectualeffectual, but yet [their | there]theirthere seems
there must in ordinary way be some [fitneſs | fitness]fitneſsfitness in the Means — we
should not think a pop gun had any [fitneſs | fitness]fitneſsfitness in it to batter down
a strong wall — And [beſides | besides]beſidesbesides what will the Enemies of the
[Deſign | design]Deſigndesign say? that the [Doct.r | Doctor]Doct.rDoctor took a [Freſhman | freshman]Freſhmanfreshman out of
College and made a [Miſsionary | missionary]Miſsionarymissionary of him, even one who
was but a giddy boy? and will they not take [occation | occasion]occationoccasion
to [deſpiſe | despise]deſpiſedespise me, and [ridecule | ridicule]rideculeridicule the [deſign | design]deſigndesign to the [laſt | last]laſtlast degree —
its a [caſe | case]caſecase of [neceſsity | necessity]neceſsitynecessity it may be [anſwer'd | answered]anſwer'danswered, — if a Man was
drowning it would be [neceſsary | necessary]neceſsarynecessary to help him out, but would
it be [wiſe | wise]wiſewise for a Man that could not swim at all to
leap in after him? — If some of us [muſt | must]muſtmust go I humbly
[immagin | imagine]immaginimagine [McClure | McClure]McClureMcClure[pers0368.ocp] far better [quallifyd | qualified]quallifydqualified than I, and
I was [surprizd | surprised]surprizdsurprised to think I should be [choſen | chosen]choſenchosen in this
Juncture. before him — and to my shame may I speak
it I am not a church member, and have the [utmoſt | utmost]utmoſtutmost,
[Reaſon | reason]Reaſonreason to fear I have no grace — and who will [licence | license]licencelicense
such a wretch to preach — it's a thing I little expected
to enter upon yet, and have not given my thoughts immedi‐
ately to it — I cant think [tis | it is]tisit is my Duty to go in that
[Capaſity | capacity]Capaſitycapacity, and if I do it will be wholly out of [defference | deference]defferencedeference
to other Peoples Judgment, and quite contrary to my
own — I could offer many more Objections but I forbear,
[Pleaſe | please]Pleaſeplease to pardon my [plainneſs | plainness]plainneſsplainness — I thought it my Duty
to tell my Mind —
Reverend Sir I am your
[moſt | most]moſtmost [obligd | obliged]obligdobliged unworthy Pupil
Levi [Friſbie | Frisbie]FriſbieFrisbie[pers0209.ocp]
From Levi Frisbie[pers0209.ocp]
April [23.d | 23rd]23.d23rd 1768[1768-04-23]

The Reverend E. Wheelock[pers0036.ocp], D. D.


Enfield is a town located in Connecticut on the Massachusetts border in present day Hartford County. The Dutch were the first Europeans encountered by Native Americans in the Enfield area, but soon the English colonized the land. In 1674, the General Court of Massachusetts gave land to the town of Springfield that stretched into present day Enfield. The town was officially incorporated in 1683, and in 1688, the people purchased the town from Notatuck, a Podunk Indian, for 25 pounds sterling. Within a century after the arrival of Europeans, the native inhabitants of the area had died off or migrated. In 1642, Enfield was considered a part of Massachusetts Colony, but a 1695 survey revealed this to be an error, and in 1750 Enfield officially seceded from Massachusetts and became a part of Connecticut. Enfield became a central location for the Great Awakening of the mid-18th century; Jonathan Edwards preached his now famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” at Enfield’s second meeting house.


Connecticut is a state in southern New England that borders Massachusetts to the north and the Long Island Sound to the south. Its name is derived from the Algonquian "Quonehtacut," meaning "long river," referring to the Connecticut, which runs from the border with Canada into the Long Island Sound. The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking Pequots, Mohegans, and Quinnipiacs. European settlers took advantage of tribal divisions to establish dominance in the region. Dutch explorer Adrian Block sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614, establishing an active Dutch trading post at what is now Hartford. English claims to Connecticut began in 1630, but settlement truly began when Thomas Hooker, a Congregationalist minister now known as "The Father of Connecticut," left Boston to found Hartford in 1636. Hartford became the center of the Colony of Connecticut, which did not receive its charter until 1662 when Governor John Winthrop, Jr. secured it from Charles II. In 1665, the Colony of New Haven, established in 1638 by the Puritan minister John Davenport, joined the Colony of Connecticut under this charter. Early settler relations with local Indians were tense, and encouraged the New England colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven to unify as the "United Colonies" or "New England Confederation" and fight together, with Indian allies, in the Pequot War and again in King Philip's (Metacom's) War. These wars helped establish a specifically Connecticut and specifically American identity; the latter drove the colony to join the rebellion against Britain in 1776. Occom, born into a Mohegan household in Connecticut, was closely associated with the Colony and retained strong ties to the region throughout his life. He converted to Christianity in 1743 when the Great Awakening spread through Connecticut, and inspired Wheelock's Indian Charity School, which was founded in Lebanon, CT in 1754. He also became involved in the Mason Land Case, a long-standing dispute over the ownership of reserve Mohegan lands in Connecticut. Wheelock also had strong ties to Connecticut, moving his Indian Charity School only when the colony would not grant it a charter.

Frisbie, Levi

Levi Frisbie was a very intelligent and unreligious charity scholar. He came to Wheelock with substantial schooling already, and after a few months at Moor's, Wheelock sent him on to Yale. There, Frisbie excelled academically. However, he never wanted to be a missionary. He arrived at Moor's sometime during April of 1767, and by May 5, he was already writing Wheelock asking to be released from missionary obligations. While at Yale, this trend continued: Levi went so far as to confess to Wheelock that he was not even a church member. Although he was not passionate about Scripture, he was quite the classicist. Under the name Philo Musae, he would write Wheelock long chains of heroic couplets styled on epic about the Indian mission. In 1769, Levi went on his first mission (a short stint to the Oneidas). Shortly thereafter, Wheelock pulled Levi out of Yale to help make up Dartmouth's first class. Levi graduated in 1771, and was ordained with David McClure in May 1772. He and McClure set out on a mission on June 19, 1772, but Levi fell ill immediately and stayed at Fort Pitt. It is unclear whether he rejoined McClure on the mission. The two men returned to Hanover on October 2, 1773. Levi stayed involved with Wheelock and the Indian mission for a few years, but by 1776, he had assumed the pulpit at Ipswich, where he remained for the rest of his life. Levi's poetry appears at the end of Wheelock's 1771 Narrative, as well as in McClure and Parish's biography of Wheelock.

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.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

McClure, David

David McClure was an Anglo-American charity scholar at Moor’s Indian Charity School. He went on to become a minister, and remained exceptionally loyal to Eleazar Wheelock throughout his life. McClure is important as a primary source on Moor’s Indian Charity School: his diary (more accurately, an autobiography that he composed between 1805 and 1816) includes eyewitness accounts of the school, Samson Occom’s home life, and Separatist worship among the Charlestown Narragansett. McClure also became Wheelock’s first biographer (Memoirs of the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, 1811). McClure was a typical charity scholar, in that he attended Moor’s primarily to obtain an education that his family could not have afforded otherwise. After a year at Moor’s, McClure enrolled in Yale, where he attended sporadically between 1765 and September 1769, when he received his degree. After graduating, McClure kept school at Moor’s (then in New Hampshire) for several years, until he undertook his only career mission in 1772. McClure was exceptionally ill-suited to the missionary business. He was a city boy from Boston, and was so unfit for farm labor at Moor’s that Wheelock had him copy out correspondence instead. Aside from a brief 1766 foray into teaching at Kanawalohale under Samuel Kirkland’s tutelage, McClure’s only mission was an aborted sixteen month effort (1772-1773) to proselytize the Delaware of the Muskingum River, during which he spent far more time preaching to Anglo-American congregations. McClure had a long career as a minister, teacher, and writer. He remained close to Wheelock throughout his life: he married into Wheelock’s family in 1780, served as a trustee of Dartmouth from 1778 until 1800, consistently informed Wheelock of Dartmouth’s PR problems, and took Wheelock’s side in his dispute with former charity scholar Samuel Kirkland.

Document Summary

People identified in this document:

id Text in document Role in header Authorized Name
pers0315.ocp M r Mr. Kirt‐ land mentioned Kirkland, Samuel
pers0368.ocp M c Clure McClure mentioned McClure, David
pers0209.ocp Levi Friſbie Frisbie writer Frisbie, Levi
pers0209.ocp Levi Frisbie writer Frisbie, Levi
pers0036.ocp E. Wheelock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar

Places identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
place0106.ocp Infield Enfield Enfield
place0048.ocp Connecticut Connecticut

This document does not contain any tagged organizations.

Dates identified in this document:

Standard Form Text
1768-04-23 April 223 1768
1768-04-23 April 23.d23rd 1768

Regularized text:

Type Original Regularized
modernization Rev.d Rev.
variation acknolege acknowledge
modernization reſpect respect
variation Miſsonary missionary
variation surprizing surprising
modernization reaſon reason
variation intirely entirely
modernization leaſt least
variation tho though
variation Infield Enfield
modernization muſt must
modernization neſceſsary necessary
modernization Miſsionary missionary
variation knolege knowledge
variation compard compared
variation no know
modernization wiſdom wisdom
variation necaſs‐
variation intirly entirely
modernization greateſt greatest
modernization accompliſhments accomplishments
variation difficiency deficiency
modernization almoſt almost
modernization [above] neneceſsary necessary
variation fullfill fulfill
variation spurnd spurned
variation killd killed
variation capaſity capacity
modernization Mr Mr.
modernization Reaſon reason
variation Capaſity capacity
modernization conſidering considering
modernization weakeſt weakest
variation affectual effectual
variation their there
modernization fitneſs fitness
modernization beſides besides
modernization Deſign design
modernization Freſhman freshman
variation occation occasion
modernization deſpiſe despise
variation ridecule ridicule
modernization deſign design
modernization laſt last
modernization caſe case
modernization neceſsity necessity
modernization wiſe wise
variation immagin imagine
modernization McClure McClure
variation quallifyd qualified
variation surprizd surprised
modernization choſen chosen
modernization utmoſt utmost
variation licence license
variation defference deference
modernization Pleaſe please
modernization plainneſs plainness
modernization moſt most
modernization Friſbie Frisbie
modernization 23.d 23rd

Expanded abbreviations:

Abbreviation Expansion
Doc.r Doctor
& and
determind determined
Doctr Doctor
tis it is
em them Doctor
Doct.r Doctor
anſwer'd answered
obligd obliged

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 16)
Number of people/places/organizations with unknown keys: 0 (out of 7)
Number of "add" tags with unknown 'place' attributes: 0 (out of 2)
Mixed case attribute values in header (potential error): 0 (out of 95)
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