Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy 300th Birthday, Eleazar!

It may not be a national holiday, but today is the 300th birthday of the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, Dartmouth’s founder and demiurge. Born on April 22, 1711 in Windham Connecticut, Wheelock showed great promise from a young age. While attending Yale as a member of the class of 1733, he was awarded the Berkley Scholarship for academic excellence. Upon his graduation and acceptance into the Congregationalist ministry, Wheelock crisscrossed New England igniting spiritual fervor in the hearts and minds of men as one of the more successful preachers of the Great Awakening.

In an effort to supplement his meager ministerial salary, Wheelock began boarding and preparing young men for their college matriculation. One such pupil was a young Mohegan, Samson Occom, who showed such promise and agility of mind that Wheelock was inspired to found a school with the express purpose of educating Native Americans, so that they might return to their own communities as missionaries and schoolmasters. However, Wheelock envisioned a far larger undertaking than could be accommodated in his Connecticut farm house. Following a fundraising trip to Europe, led by Occom and Nathanial Whitaker, Wheelock finally had sufficient backing to found his college in the woods. Dartmouth College received its royal charter on December 13,1769, and in August 1770, Wheelock’s students marched over 100 miles to the school’s new location in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Eleazar Wheelock died in Hanover in 1779. One can’t help but wonder what Rev. Wheelock would think of his small college in the wilderness if he were able to see Dartmouth today.

Posted for Jo Meyer '11.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leavitt's Maps of the White Mountains

Franklin Leavitt was a farmer from Lancaster, New Hampshire who supplemented his income by acting as a guide for visitors to the White Mountains.  Around 1851, apparently having concluded that there was enough interest in the region, he decided to create a map of the area and sell it to tourists.  Though his map included some rudimentary information about distances between major cities and area attractions, it was not to be used as a travel aid, but rather act as a souvenir of the trip.

Published in 1852, the first edition had north at the bottom of the map and included small vignettes of area hotels and local attractions. Later editions of Leavitt's maps, including the 1854 edition shown here, re-oriented the drawing so that north faced the more conventional top of the sheet and added additional illustrations.

The Willey Family Tragedy.
One of these pictorial views tells the tale of the destruction of the Willey family.  In 1826, the Willey family became concerned that a landslide might destroy their house and so built a shelter in what was supposed to be a safer location.  In a twist of tragic irony, when the feared slide did occur, a large boulder near the house diverted the slide around the house while flattening the "safer" shelter that the Willey's and their hired hands hand just taken refuge in.

Rauner holds all eight editions of Leavitt's maps, including the rare 1876 version.  Ask for Iconography 1294 to see the maps.