The Occom Circle

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Selected documents, 1740's to 1790's
In Rauner Special Collections, Dartmouth College Library


Samson Occom

About Samson Occom

The Reverend Samson Occom, a member of the Mohegan nation, was born in 1723 on Mohegan land near New London, Connecticut. In 1743, he began to study theology with Congregational minister Eleazar Wheelock. Occom then briefly attended Yale University before going on to become a schoolmaster and Presbyterian minister, serving as a missionary to Indian communities in New England and at Montauk on Long Island. In 1766, he and fellow minister Nathaniel Whitaker traveled to England to raise money for Wheelock's Indian Charity School. When Wheelock instead used these funds to found Dartmouth College, Occom was deeply offended by what he saw as a misuse of the money he had raised, and in 1773, he and Wheelock had a falling out. In 1786, Occom moved to Oneida territory in New York, hoping to set up a Christian Indian community. He settled there with his wife Mary Fowler, their family, and a contingent of Christian Indians. The community was known as Brothertown, and Occom lived there until his death in 1792.

About This Collection

This collection of papers has been digitized as part of the Occom Circle Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It includes letters, diaries, sermons, prose, a page of herbal remedies, and annotated books by or related to Occom and several of Wheelock's earliest Indian students. The manuscripts, circa 1743-1794, document Occom's early student life under Wheelock's tutelage, his life as a minister at Montauk and Mohegan, his trip to England to raise money for what would become Dartmouth College, as well as personal reflections on his life as an educated Indian in Colonial America. The manuscripts also document his and other Indian students' relationships with Eleazar Wheelock.

These materials elucidate a number of other subjects including:

  • The Great Awakening
  • Attitudes toward Indians in the 18th century
  • Missionary work among the Indians
  • The education of Indians
  • Mohegan language and culture.

Some authors represented include Samson Occom, Eleazar Wheelock, Nathaniel Whitaker, George Whitefield, Joseph Johnson, David M'Clure, Susanna Wheatley, Benjamin Pomeroy, David Fowler, and Samuel Buell.

Rights Information

Dartmouth College Library assigns a Creative Commons BY-NC license to the digital work and associated web site.

Creative Commons License

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