The Old New York Frontier/Part 2/Chapter 7

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THE work at Oghwaga in 1769 was in charge of Rev. Eleazer Moseley. He had been settled there about three years and was receiving a salary of $500 from the Boston Commissioners. The Revs. Peter and Henry Avery came some time later. James Dean was the interpreter in Moseley's time, and in 1769 had been nine years in the country. In the Smith and Wells journal we have the following account of the methods employed by Mr. Moseley in his Sunday work:

June 4th [1769] Sunday. In the morning we attended Messrs. Moseley and Dean to divine service which was conducted with regularity and solemnity. The first sang a psalm, then read a portion of scripture, and after another psalm Moseley preached a sermon (in a chintz night gown) and the business was concluded by a third psalm. The congregation consisted of near one hundered Indians, men women and children, including the chief of the Tuscarora town three miles below, with some of his people and they all behaved with exemplary devotion. The Indian priest named Isaac sat in the pulpit and the Indian clerk, Peter, below him. The clerk repeated the psalm in the Oneida language and the people joined in the melody with exactness and skill, the tunes very lively and agreeable. The sermon, delivered in English, was repeated in Indian by Dean, sentence by sentence. The men set on benches on one side of the house and the women on the other. Before a meeting horn is sounded three several times to give notice.
In the afternoon we attended the service again. This was performed by the Indian priest in the Oneida language. He began by a prayer; then they sang a psalm, the tune whereof was long, with many undulations, then a prayer and a second psalm, followed by an exhortation, repeating part of what Moseley had said in the morning with his own comments upon it and reading sometimes out of a book, here being several books in the Indian language. He finished the service with a benediction. He and his clerk were dressed in black coats. Isaac is the chief here in religious affairs, and his brother, a stout fat man, in civil, like Moses and Aaron. This last fell asleep while his brother was preaching, but assisted in singing with a loud and hoarse voice. These brothers and other chiefs came to visit us very kindly.

An incident,at Oghwaga, of the year 1770 was the killing of a young Tuscarora by Thomas King, an Indian. Greatly depressed by his own act, King decided to submit humbly to the will of the Tuscarora’s friends, but the matter was referred to Sir William Johnson, an old sachem going on a special mission to the baronet. By this year many Mohawks and Oneidas were able to read and write, and frequently acted as lay readers at church services, using the liturgy as well as the Presbyterian service, and making religious addresses.

In 1771 a graduate of Harvard, named Aaron Crosby, arrived and reported that there were "290 souls of them who desire assistance." The Oghwaga houses were superior to those used by many white men on the frontier. Some of the Indians he found to be good farmers. In type Mr. Crosby became involved in an embarrassing dispute. As a Congregationalist, he had declined to use the Church of England service, which the Mohawks naturally preferred, having learned to use it at their Fort Hunter home. During the dispute, a Mohawk Indian deliberately rose in meeting and proceeded to read the English service in spite of Mr. Crosby. Mr. Crosby had further trouble because he refused to baptize Indian children whose parents were immoral, and who could give no guarantee that the children would be properly guided.

To return to Dr. Wheelock; it was probably the final letter from Johnson opposing immigration of whites that in the main repressed his zeal, and he saw, moreover, as time went on, that if the boys whom he educated at Lebanon were to he allowed to return home to places where no white men were settled around them, they would inevitably relapse into their former state of barbarism. Seeing these things, he was probably all the more willing to depart from Lebanon when tracts of land had been offered in New Hampshire if the school would remove to the place where now has grown up Dartmouth College. Thus this school at Lebanon was the germ from which was developed the alma mater of Daniel Webster.

Mr. Wheelock afterward wrote concerning his success at Lebanon that he had educated about forty Indians to become “good readers and writers and even sufficiently master of English grammar, arithmetic and a number of them considerably advanced in knowledge of Greek and Latin and one of them carried through college.” But in the same report he declared that these good results almost went to naught after the boys had returned to their former associations. “The current,” he said, “is too strong. Of all the number before mentioned I do not hear of more than one-half who have preserved their their parts and learning bid the fairest for usefulness, are sunk down as low, savage and brutish in manner of living as they were in before any endeavours were used to raise them up.” Schools started in the Indian villages usually did well “until broken up by a hunting tour or some public con-gress.” He was further of opinion that the time for doing anything effective for the Six Nations was probably past; they appeared to be dying rapidly m a quick consumption, “wasting like a morning dew.” It is well known that the Mohawk nation in those years became reduced to small numbers compared with what they had been a few years be-fore. They declined much more rapidly than any other members of the Iroquois League.[1]

[1] Dr. Wheelock’s complete disinterestedness in his Indian work has been called into question. It may at least be said that in the report giving the disposition made of the funds raised in England the compensation he is shown to have received was large enough for the times. He seems to have been well paid for doing very creditable work. But that can scarcely he held up as a reproach

Late evidence of the work done by these mission-aries was obtained in 1843 by Mr. Lothrup, Kirkland’s biographer. Visiting some Oneidas in Wisconsin, he asked two aged women to translate for him certain Indian letters. While the women were eagerly examining them, he observed them to become suddenly affected as they read the signature of Honeyost. They explained that Honeyost was their father, and begged to be allowed to keep one of the letters. The request was granted, and with delight in their faces the women exclaimed:“ How beautiful, how wonderful, is it not? For forty years our father has slept in his grave and here we have his very thoughts before us. He speaks now through this.”

Honeyost, or Honayuwus, was a chief who lived more than ninety-four years. He was the author of a celebrated bit of Indian eloquence inspired by the close of the Revolution: “The Great Spirit spoke to the whirlwind and it was still.”