Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alone on Foot

For those of you who dread getting up in the morning, or have ever had to endure lengthy speeches about days of trudging to school in the snow "uphill both ways," we have an item that just may make you feel a bit better about your daily commute. Imagine leaving home by yourself and traveling hundreds of miles on foot, just for the promise of an education. For the Indian students of the Moor's Indian Charity School founded by Eleazar Wheelock in 1754, this was a reality.

This passport, discovered among the effects of William Allen, D.D., President of Dartmouth and of Bowdoin Colleges, whose wife, Maria Malleville Wheelock, was the granddaughter of President Eleazar Wheelock, documents the travels of Wheelock's Indian students on their journey from Bethel, N.J., to Lebanon, Connecticut. The passport is a sheet 15 inches long and 12 inches wide, folded into fourths and stitched together at each crease.

Two of Eleazar Wheelock's students, Delaware Indian boys John Pumshire aged 14 and Jacob Woolley, aged 11, were the first to make the long trip to Moor's. John and Jacob "left all their Relations & Acquaintances, and came alone, on foot, above 200 miles, and thro' a Country, in which they knew not one Mortal, and where they had never pass'd before" all to receive education and missionary training from a stranger they had never seen or heard of themselves.

On the top left corner of the passport reads an introduction from Aaron Burr, second President of the College of New Jersey, and John Brainerd, brother of David Brainerd, who lived at Bethel, N.J., where the Indian boys started on their journey to Lebanon, Connecticut:
Gentlemen and Christian Friends,
These Indian Boys, the Bearers of this, are upon a Journey from Bethel the Indian Town in New Jersey, to Lebanon in Connecticut, in order to be put to Learning under the Inspection of the Reverend Mr. Wheelock, with a View to prepare them for the Gospel Ministry, and a design to propagate Christian Knowledge among the Native Indians in this Land: and therefore are recommended to the Charity of Christian People as they pass through the Country.
The passport combines, on a single sheet of paper, a letter and diagonally placed travel directions. The left side of the itinerary has twenty-seven place names, beginning with Bethel at the bottom of the page and Lebanon at the top. Each place name is complemented on the right side by a name of reference, where the boys could ask for assistance, food, and shelter. Of the 28 places listed on the itinerary, all but two (Bethel and Horseneck) can be easily identified on a map today. The presence of a diagonal line between entries indicates the point at which the boys would need to cross a major river - those of which included the Raritan, Hudson, Housatonic, and Connecticut.

This passport, along with other items from the Moor's Charity School is currently on exhibit in the Class of 1965 Galleries until February 28th. Afterward, feel free to come in and request the passport by asking for Mss D.C. Hist. 754900.

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