J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Samson Occom’s Harsh Words for Eleazar Wheelock

The Occom Circle is an interesting online collection from the Dartmouth Library.

In past decades, this collection might have been presented under the name of the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, writer or recipient of most of the documents, or of the college he founded in New Hampshire.

But here they’re organized around the Rev. Samson Occom (1727-1792, shown here), a Mohegan Presbyterian missionary who studied under Wheelock in Connecticut.

Occom was quite a curiosity in the eighteenth-century British Empire. Wheelock sent him to Britain to raise funds for a new project: a seminary to train more Native American ministers to convert more Native Americans, and so on.

That project led to Dartmouth College, whose students were mostly white. In July 1771 Occom broke with Wheelock as a mentor in a dramatic letter shown and transcribed here:
I am very Jealous that instead of Your Seme­nary Becoming alma Mater, She will be too alba mater to Suckle the Tawnees, for She is already aDorn’d up too much like the Popish Virgin Mary She’ll be Naturally asham’d to Suckle the Tawnees for She is already equal in Power Honor and Authority to and any College in Europe, I think your College has too much wordly Grandure for the Poor Indians they’ll never have much benefet of it . . .

Your having So many white Scholars and So few or no Indian Scholars, gives me great Discouragement — I verily thought once that your Institution was Indtended Purely for the poor Indians with this thought I Chearfully Ventur’d my Body & Soul, left my Country my poor Young Family all my Friends and Relations, to Sail over the Boisterous Seas to England, to help forward your School, Hoping, that it may be a lasting Bene­fet to my poor Tawnee Brethren, with this View I went a Volunteer — I was quite willing to become a Gazing stock, Yea Even a Laughing Stock, in Strange Countries to Promote your Cause — we Loudly Proclaimd before Multitudes of People from Place to Place, that there was a most glorious Prospect of Spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus to the furtherest Savage Nations in the wilderness, thro’ your Institution, we told them that there were So many Missionaries & So many Schoolmasters already Sent out, and a greater Number woud Soon follow

But when we got Home behold all the glory had decayd and now I am afr’aid, we Shall be Deem’d as Liars and Deceivers in Europe, unless you gather Indians quickly to your College, in great Numbers and not to have So many Whites in the Charity, — I understand you have no Indians at Present except two or three Mollatoes — — this I think is quite Contrary to the Minds of the Donors, we told them, that we were Beging for poor Miserable Indians
In addition to this dispute over the Dartmouth student body, Occom also resented how his family had not received the support Wheelock had promised.

For the rest of his life, Occom lived with his Christian Mohegan community, moving from Connecticut to the Oneida lands in New York in 1785.

No comments: