Dartmouth College Indians History – 1800-1893

The first article about the Dartmouth Indians appeared in the alumni magazine in 1929.  A year later, in June of 1930, a second article appeared by Leon Richardson.  In his article, he mentioned that he had noticed several students missing from the original article and he had found quite a bit of documentation that he wanted to include.  Quite a bit of what he published is a duplicate of what was in the original article, but some of it was not.  Among the most important part of the article is the history of the school and the school’s relationship with Indians that was not provided in the original article.

The following is taken from Leon Richardson’s article:

“In addition to the material found in the regular files, there has come to light a small time-worn, leather-covered trunk which was found to contain much of the correspondence of the Scotch Society.  From this material it has been possible to construct, with some approach to completeness, a list of Indian beneficiaries of the Scotch fund, through the period from 1800 to 1893.

Perhaps a word in necessary to explain why, for so many years, Indians continued to be received in what had come to be an ordinary institution for the education of white youths.  That resulted from the existence of a fund of about 2500 pounds, raised in Scotland by Whitaker and Occom during their mission of 1767-68.  The funds received in England by these envoys, amounting to over 8000 pounds, were placed under the control of an English board of trustees, headed by the Earl of Dartmouth.  By 1775 all this money had been drawn by Wheelock and used in the building f the college.  The Scotch donations, however, were not under the control of the English trustees, but were administered by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge.  Upon none of the fund under Scotch control, except for about 190 pounds devoted to the expenses of missionary expeditions, was the elder Wheelock able to lay his hands.  Its existence, intact and out of his power, was source of extreme exasperation to him in the poverty-stricken later years of his life.

The writer, who for many years has been closely associated with one of pure Scotch descent, has always regarded the conventional “Scotch joke” as a libel upon a peculiarly generous and charitable race.  But a perusal of the correspondence of the successive secretaries of the Scotch board with their board of correspondents in Boston and with various presidents of the college, leads one to think that there may exist, after all, some difficulty in inducing a Scotchman to part with money which is once in his hands.  This correspondence now makes amusing reading, but it must have been highly exasperating to the presidents of the college who were endeavoring to obtain grants from the society.  The Scotch were thoroughly distrustful of both the Wheelocks, and were keenly solicitous lest the money be used for the ordinary purposes of Dartmouth College, rather than for the education of Indian missionaries.  They had some justification for that fear, for that is what each of the college presidents would have been glad to do.  The Scotch society was determined that the endowment should be applied only for the purpose for which it had been given…but it may be said that its leaders were more intent upon strict adherence to the letter of the law than they were upon application of the fund to the best advantage of the Indians themselves.

Moor School from 1770

The reader will remember that in 1770 the elder Wheeock had established Moor’s School, dissociated from the College, as a convenience in drawing foreign funds. This school had been from the start a going institution, serving as a preparatory school for white children as well as for a training school for Indians.  In 1787 it had received the grant of one-half of the township of Wheelock, in Vermont; an endowment which eventually brought to it an income of about $600 per year.  This money was used for the general support of the school, and was not applied especially to Indians.  In 1797 a building was erected for the institution on the site of the present Chandler Hall.

Despite the fact that no special funds were available for the purpose, Indians wer maintained in this school until 1785.  By that time, however, an indebtedness for their support (paid by the college) amounted to more than 1500 poiunds.  Under these circumstances it was determined that no more of the aborigines should be received.  President John Wheelock devoted himself to the task of drawing from the Scotch Society money to pay this deficit.  A correspondence ensued, marked by a cold and arrogant stiffness on the part of the Scotch, and by a seeming patience (which veiled high exasperation) on the part of the president.  After many years of delay Wheelock succeeded in securing about 1200 pounds.  This sum was paid from the accumulated interest of the fund and the principal was left intact.

This matter being settled, in 1800 John Wheelock determined to receive once gain Indian pupils upon the foundation.  He accepted two boys and began to draw upon the Scotch Society for their support.  The authorities of that organization received his proposal with marked coldness.  They were distrustful of the president’s integrity and were reluctant to part with the money. But their strict honesty prevented a complete refusal of aid.  After all, the money was given for the support of Indians in Moor’s School, and could be applied to no other purpose as long as that institution should exist.  It was finally agreed that John Wheelock should be permitted to draw 90 pounds per annum, although the application of the money was hedged with the most exacting conditions of examination and approval by the Boston correspondents of the society.  The arrangement continued until 1817.  In that year the contention which terminated in the Dartmouth College Case resulted in an appeal for assignment of money from the fund from each of the two warring factions.  This action put the Scotch Society into such perplexity that they stopped payments entirely until the dispute should be settled. It was easier to stop than to resume, and arrangements could not be made for further use of the fund until 1826, long after the college difficulties were over.  In 1827 the annual grant was fixed at 130 pounds, increased in 1840 to 140 pounds.  From this time until 1893, Indians were continually maintained on the fund.

Later History

Moor’s School was suspended in 1829 in order that its income might accumulate to pay debts owed to the estate of John Wheelock, and long overdue.  Indians continued to be cared for, in other ways, during the interregnum.  It was reopened in a new building (the nucleus of Chandler Hall) in 1837.  About 1850 the school was finally closed.  From that time some of the Indian students were accommodated in the Chandler Scientific Department, some were sent to Kimball Union and other academies, while a few, in later years, were place in the Agricultural College, then located in Hanover.  The fund in 1863 amounted to 4124 pounds. During this period (1827-1893) the number in attendance at any one time varied from 1 to 5. 

In 1898 President Bartlett conceived the idea of opening Moor’s School once again.  He asked the Scotch society to allow the fund to be used for the payment of teachers in that institution, into which Indians as well as others were to be received, rather than to be applied, as in the past, to the support of individual Indians.  The society replied in very cold terms, refusing to consent to such a plan, and also withdrawing all further grants until the entire basis of award could be examined and reconsidered.  This is the last document relating to  the fund to be found among the college papers. Whether the college administrators refused to trouble themselves more with the matter, or whether the Scotch society determined to devote the money to a different purpose is uncertain. 

Since 1893 a number of Indians have attended college, but they have received no aid from the Scotch fund. So far as the write knows there is no list of them in the college records, and their names can be obtained only from the recollection of individuals.”

I can’t help but wonder if the census in 1900, 1910 and 1920 might help identify Indian students.  Checking the census for 1900 and 1910, there were no Indians in Hanover, NH where the college is located.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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