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Eleazar Wheelock Edit Profile

clergyman , educator

Eleazar Wheelock was an American Congregational minister, orator, and educator in Lebanon, Connecticut, for 35 years before founding Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Background

Eleazar Wheelock was born on April 22, 1711, in Windham, Connecticut to Ralph Wheelock and Ruth Huntington, who had a prosperous farm of 300 acres.

Education

In 1733 he graduated from Yale. The following year he continued his theological studies in New Haven.

Career

In May 1734 he was licensed to preach and the following February was called to the pulpit of the Second (or North) parish in Lebanon, Connecticut. When the movement of religious fervor known as the Great Awakening swept over New England in 1740, Wheelock was its warmest supporter in Connecticut. He traveled extensively, preached persuasively, and served as the chief intelligencer of revival news. Assailed by orthodox persons for his itinerancy, the neglect of his own parish, and the promulgation of "a meer passionate Religion, " he was deprived of his salary in 1743 by the General Assembly. Though Wheelock owned considerable farmland, the loss of his salary prompted him to take a few boys into his house for college preparation. In 1743 Samson Occam, a Mohegan Indian youth who had learned English and been converted to Christianity in his childhood, entered Wheelock's tutelage to prepare for the ministry. Wheelock was so encouraged by Occam's progress that he decided to found an Indian school that would send educated natives back to their people as missionaries and teachers. To finance his school, Wheelock appealed, with good result, to charitable groups and the benevolent rich at home and in Great Britain. His school was initially successful. In 1765 it had 46 charity students. But internecine Indian strife, the attrition rate of his students, and the half successes of his graduates caused Wheelock to look toward an expanded institution. He was offered a tract of land in New Hampshire and on December 13, 1769, obtained a charter for Dartmouth College. In 1770 Wheelock moved his family to the virgin forests of New Hampshire. Living in a few log huts, he and 30 students sought to preserve Anglo-American civilization and to bring the word of God to the Indian. Wheelock was president, professor of divinity, pastor of the Dartmouth church and oversaw the building of a town, its supply, and farming operations. Because it was removed from the paths of war, Dartmouth survived the Revolution unscathed. But Wheelock's health failed, and he died on April 24, 1779. A son by a second marriage succeeded to the college presidency.

Achievements

  • He had tutored Samson Occom, a Mohegan who became a Presbyterian minister and the first Native American to publish writings in English. Before founding Dartmouth, Wheelock had founded and run the Moor's Charity School in Connecticut to educate Native Americans. The college was primarily for the sons of English colonists.

Connections

Two months after beginning as pastor of a church, on April 29, 1735, he married Sarah Davenport. He married a second time to Mary Brinsmead, a widow with two children. In total he had eight children with his wives and two step-children.

father:
Ralph Wheelock

mother:
Ruth Huntington

spouse:
Sarah Davenport

spouse:
Mary Brinsmead