The story begins in the winter of 1766 when Eleazar Wheelock sent Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker to Great Britain to raise funds for Moor’s Indian Charity School. In their absence, Wheelock was in Connecticut attempting to get a charter for the school to improve its legal standing.
At first, Wheelock was stymied because the colony of Connecticut was itself incorporated. Under English law at the time, one corporation could not charter another. Because of this, Wheelock began to look further afield. He considered sites in New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The officials from all of these colonies were more than interested in hosting Wheelock’s school and they plied him with offers of money, land and prestigious positions.
|William Smith, Jr. to Eleazar Wheelock, May 26, 1767|
|Wheelock to Woodbridge, November 12, 1768|
Wheelock, always a bit of a wheeler-dealer, had been corresponding with the newly appointed Governor of New Hampshire, John Wentworth, throughout his negotiations with the other colonies. Wentworth was as anxious as any to locate an institution of higher learning within his colony. When Wheelock first proposed using the term “college” in a draft of the charter in 1769, Wentworth did not balk. He readily added the wording to the Royal Charter he granted for the founding of Dartmouth College in December of 1769.
|Charter Draft, December 13, 1769|
While the two men patched up their differences in the long run, Occom never set foot on the Dartmouth campus. Eventually Occom came to the conclusion that Native Americans and European Americans could not coexist and he devised a plan to move his family, and many Christian Indian families, to Oneida country. In 1789, just three years before his death, Occom and his wife finally moved to the newly formed Brothertown community in upstate New York.