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Joseph Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 September 27

ms-number: 768527

[note (type: abstract): Johnson writes that he is on his way to Fort Stanwix, and complains that he is never trusted with any money.][note (type: handwriting): Handwriting is small and loose, yet largely clear and legible. The trailer is in a different, unknown hand.][note (type: paper): Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, staining and wear.][note (type: ink): Brownish gray ink is heavily faded.]

[ Revd | Rev.] RevdRev. [& | and]&and Ever [Hond | Honored]HondHonored [Doct.r | Dr.]Doct.rDr.
I [deſire | desire]deſiredesire [illegible]Once more to write to yo[above] uu
and [deſire | desire]deſiredesire once more to Acquaint your Honour,
that We have [thro | through]throthrough the [kindneſs | kindness]kindneſskindness of that Ever good
God who is good, Even to the Evil and Unthankful
Got on Our journey thus far. that we Expect
tomorrow to [git | get]gitget there where the Indians are [meet. | meeting]meet.meeting
we are Acquainted that they are not yet [meet; | meeting]meet;meeting
but are [gethering | gathering]getheringgathering. I have much to [ſay | say]ſaysay, but no time
to write much. I have kind Sir thus far Enjoyed
my health as [[Uſ | Us]UſUs[illegible][guess (h-dawnd): si]sial | Usual][Uſ | Us]UſUs[illegible][guess (h-dawnd): si]sialUsual,. I [deſire | desire]deſiredesire Humbly to Acqu
­aint you that I am Under great [diſadvantage | disadvantage]diſadvantagedisadvantage
that I cant get the things that I [ſtand | stand]ſtandstand in great
need of, by Some means or another. [Becauſe | Because]BecauſeBecause you did
not give any Orders of So doing or [Expreſs | express]Expreſsexpress Orders
for Every [articul | article]articularticle; So that it is likely I [ſhall | shall]ſhallshall [ſuffer | suffer]ſuffersuffer.
I have not as yet, been trusted with one Copper not
So much as in [ſight | sight]ſightsight, much more when I [ſhall | shall]ſhallshall be
out of [ſight | sight]ſightsight; it hurts me very much, as I have not
yet been lavish of any, of Christ money, or been found
[Diſhoneſt | dishonest]Diſhoneſtdishonest. I [deſire | desire]deſiredesire [moſt | most]moſtmost Humbly to leave it to you
if I have so done I think it not [ſtrange | strange]ſtrangestrange. or [aſk | ask]aſkask [Mr | Mr.]MrMr.
if I Ever proved [diſhoneſt | dishonest]diſhoneſtdishonest to any of the
Money He has from time to time [truſted | trusted]truſtedtrusted me with.
or to your Honoured [ſon | son]ſonson[pers0578.ocp] whether he was acquainted,
by any one when he was up here. if [ſo | so]ſoso, I [deſire | desire]deſiredesire to Be
content under a [puniſhment | punishment]puniſhmentpunishment which I [juſtly | justly]juſtlyjustly [deſerve | deserve]deſervedeserve.
I am fully Determined henceforth to leave [myſelf | myself]myſelfmyself
to that Ever good God who has hitherto guided my
[doubtfull | doubtful]doubtfulldoubtful paths, I feel quite Content as to that affair
when I [sat | set]satset [of | off]ofoff. I never came [of | off]ofoff with [ſo | so]ſoso much Reluct­
­ance before. but it was merely for want of [Conſiderat
­ion | considerat
. and [Reflexion | reflection]Reflexionreflection of the many favours I have
hitherto, been the Subject of. O how is the Maze of
fate I have blindly Run and Backward trod [thoſe | those]thoſethose
paths I sought to Shun. I have no more time to
write. But to humbly Recommend [my ſelf | myself]my ſelfmyself to your
Prayers [dayly | daily]daylydaily that I may be made humble and be
kept from all that will be [diſhonour | dishonour]diſhonourdishonour to His
[Grate | great]Grategreat Name. forgive my Brevity, and all that
Seems to be out of a wrong Spirit in this [Litter | letter]Litterletter.
no more; but [deſire | desire]deſiredesire to [ſubſcribe | subscribe]ſubſcribesubscribe [myſelf | myself]myſelfmyself
your Ever
humble, and Obedient, ([tho | though]thothough Hitherto Contrary)
 Pupil. [tho | though]thothough Ignorant.
[Joſeph | Joseph]JoſephJoseph [Johnſon | Johnson]JohnſonJohnson[pers0288.ocp].
PS. [pleaſe | please]pleaſeplease Sir to dgive my duty to your [Hond | Honored]HondHonored
Son[pers0578.ocp]. no more. Ut ante.
[below] To [Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. [Dactr | Dr.]DactrDr. [E | Eleazar]EEleazar Wheelock[pers0036.ocp].To [Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. [Dactr | Dr.]DactrDr. [E | Eleazar]EEleazar Wheelock[pers0036.ocp].
[note (type: editorial): Blank page.]
Joseph Johnson[pers0288.ocp]'s
 [Sep.r | September]Sep.rSeptember 27. 1768[1768-09-27]

The [Revd | Rev.]RevdRev. [E | Eleazar]EEleazar Wheelock D. D.[pers0036.ocp]
 Lebanon[place0122.ocp], Connecticut[place0048.ocp].
[left] [Pr | Per]PrPer favors
of [Mr | Mr.]MrMr.
[Pr | Per]PrPer favors
of [Mr | Mr.]MrMr.
Barracks Hill

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.


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.

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.

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.

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
pers0315.ocp M r Mr. Kirtland mentioned Kirkland, Samuel
pers0578.ocp ſon son mentioned Wheelock, Rodulphus
pers0288.ocp Joſeph Joseph Johnſon Johnson writer Johnson, Joseph
pers0578.ocp Son mentioned Wheelock, Rodulphus
pers0036.ocp Rev d Rev. Dact r Dr. E Eleazar Wheelock recipient Wheelock, Eleazar
pers0288.ocp Joseph Johnson writer Johnson, Joseph
pers0036.ocp Rev d Rev. E Eleazar Wheelock D. D. recipient Wheelock, Eleazar

Places identified in this document:

id Text in document Authorized Name
place0008.ocp Barracks, Hill Barracks Hill
place0122.ocp Lebanon Lebanon
place0048.ocp Connecticut Connecticut

This document does not contain any tagged organizations.

Dates identified in this document:

Standard Form Text
1768-09-27 Sep.trSeptember 27
1768-09-27 Sep.rSeptember 27. 1768

Regularized text:

Type Original Regularized
modernization Revd Rev.
modernization Doct.r Dr.
modernization deſire desire
variation thro through
modernization kindneſs kindness
variation git get
modernization ſay say
modernization Uſ Us
modernization diſadvantage disadvantage
modernization ſtand stand
modernization Becauſe Because
modernization Expreſs express
variation articul article
modernization ſhall shall
modernization ſuffer suffer
modernization ſight sight
modernization Diſhoneſt dishonest
modernization moſt most
modernization ſtrange strange
modernization aſk ask
modernization Mr Mr.
modernization diſhoneſt dishonest
modernization truſted trusted
modernization ſon son
modernization ſo so
modernization puniſhment punishment
modernization juſtly justly
modernization deſerve deserve
modernization myſelf myself
variation sat set
variation of off
modernization Conſiderat
variation Reflexion reflection
modernization thoſe those
variation my ſelf myself
variation dayly daily
modernization diſhonour dishonour
variation Grate great
variation Litter letter
modernization ſubſcribe subscribe
variation tho though
modernization Joſeph Joseph
modernization Johnſon Johnson
modernization pleaſe please
modernization Revd Rev.
modernization Dactr Dr.

Expanded abbreviations:

Abbreviation Expansion September
& and
Hond Honored
meet. meeting
meet; meeting
E Eleazar
Sep.r September
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 10)
Number of "add" tags with unknown 'place' attributes: 0 (out of 3)
Mixed case attribute values in header (potential error): 0 (out of 93)
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