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REV. ELEAZAR WHEELOCK, AND HIS SCHOOL IN LEBANON,
LEAZAR WHEELOCK, the founder of Dartmouth Col
lege, was born in Windham, Conn., April 22, 1711 (O.S.). His father was Dea. Ralph Wheelock, a farmer, who was born in 1683, and died Oct. 15, 1748, aged sixty-six. His mother was Ruth, daughter of Christopher Huntington, of Norwich, Conn. He was the second child and an only son, but had five sisters. One of these married Rev. Benjamin Pomeroy, of Hebron; another (whose mother was Mercy Standish, of Preston) married Jabez Bingham, of Salisbury; the others married respectively Joshua Henda, or Hendee, Robert Hubbard, and Joseph Bingham, all of Windham.1
Wheelock became a Christian at the age of sixteen or seventeen. He entered Yale College in 1729, where he was
1 Wheelock's earliest ancestor, of whom any account has been obtained, was his great-grandfather, Ralph, born in Shropshire, England, in 1600, and educated at Clare Hall in Cambridge. He was an eminent Nonconformist preacher, and fled from persecution to Dedham, Mass., in 1637, where he was one of the founders of the First Church in 1638. He removed afterwards to Medfield, where he was a large landowner, and for several years representative to the General Court. He was an occasional preacher. He died November, 1683, aged eighty-three. His son, Wheelock's grandfather, Captain Eleazar, born 1654, removed to Mendon, Mass. He commanded a company of cavalry in the Indian war, and kept his house as a garrison. In peace he was on kind and familiar terms with the Indians. He died March 24, 1731, aged seventy-seven (American Quarterly Register, x. 9).
supported by a legacy left for his education by his grandfather (whose name he bore), and graduated with high honors in 1733. He and Pomeroy were classmates and the first recipients of Bishop Berkeley's prize, being the best classical scholars in their class. Wheelock began at once preparation for the ministry. He was licensed to preach by the New Haven Association in 1734, and in February, 1735, after declining an invitation to settle on Long Island, received and accepted a call from the Second, or North, Society in that part of Lebanon, Conn., called Lebanon Crank, which is now incorporated into the town of Columbia. He was ordained and settled in June following. By the terms of his settlement he received about twenty acres of land that had been reserved from the settlements of former pastors, and £200 in bills of public credit. His salary was to be £140, payable in the like currency or in provisions at stated prices.
The same year, 1735, Wheelock married Mrs. Sarah Maltby, widow of Capt. William Maltby, of New Haven, and daughter of Rev. John Davenport, of Stamford, Conn. This lady was a sister of Rev. James Davenport, of Southold, L. I., and of the wife of Rev. Stephen Williams, of Longmeadow. She had at that time, besides two daughters, one son, John Maltby, whom Wheelock came afterwards to love as his own. She bore to Wheelock six children, of whom three died in infancy. She herself died, Nov. 13, 1746, in the forty-fourth year of her age; and about 1749 Wheelock married Mary Brinsmead, of Milford, Conn., by whom he had five children, all born in Lebanon. 1
1 Wheelock's children were –
By the first wife: 1. Theodora, who married (1), January, 1751/2, Alexander Phelps, of Hebron ; (2) April 27, 1777, Capt. John Young, of Gunthwaite (Lisbon), N. H. About 1780 they removed to Hanover, where Captain Young died, 1786, aged seventy. She survived him some twenty-five years. 2. Ruth, born 1740, married, 1758, Rev. Wm. Patten, of Hartford, Conn., who became one of the first trustees of Dartmouth College, and died, 1775, aged thirty-seven. Mrs. Patten survived her husband fifty-six years, and died in 1831. Two small volumes of her memoirs and family correspondence were published in 1834 and 1845 at Hartford. 3. Ralph, or Radulphus, graduated from Yale College, 1765, and died unmarried at Hanover, 1817, aged seventy. His youth was promising, but hereditary epilepsy ruined his life.
By the second wife, Wheelock had five children: namely (1) Mary, who married Prof. Bezaleel Woodward, 1772, and died at Hanover, 1807 ; (2) Abigail, who married Rev. Prof. Silvanus Ripley, and died at Fryeburg, Me., 1818 (Gen. E. W. Ripley was her son); (3) John, the second president of the College; (4) Eleasar ; Wheelock was connected by ties of blood, through his mother, with some of the most eminent of Connecticut statesmen and divines, and associated, by residence, with many others.
Extraordinary religious interest began to appear in the parish and colony immediately after Wheelock's settlement at Lebanon; and he took at once a prominent place among the preachers, which he continued to hold throughout the “Great Awakening" that followed, under the lead of Edwards and Whitefield. During the year 1741 he is said to have preached about five hundred sermons.?
In November, 1741, Wheelock went to Boston by way of Providence and Taunton, and on the 9th makes this entry in his Diary, —
“Refused to preach, because I designed to go out of town. Just as I was going (from Boston), came Mr. Webb, and told me the people were meeting together to hear another sermon. I consented to preach again. A scholar from Cambridge being present, hastened to Cambridge, and by a little after six a great part of the scholars had got to Boston. Preached to a very thronged assembly with very great freedom and enlargement. I believe the children of God were very much refreshed. They told me afterward that Mather Byles was never so lashed in his life. This morning Mr. Cooper came to me, in the name of the Hon. Jacob Wendell, Esq., and earnestly desired a copy of my sermon, preached in the forenoon of the Lord's day, for the Press. Oh that God would make and keep me humble!” Wheelock was now about thirty years of age.
“ He was of middle stature and size, well proportioned, erect, and dignified. His features were prominent, his eyes a light blue and animated. His complexion was fair, and the general expression of his countenance pleasing and handsome. His voice was remarkably full, harmonious, and commanding." 3 The historian Trumbull, who was his friend, characterizes him in similar terms as
gentleman of a comely figure, of a mild and winning aspect; his voice smooth and harmonious, the best by far I ever heard. His movements and (5) James. These three sons graduated from Dartmouth, and remained and reared families at Hanover. Eleazar removed to Ohio about 1805, and James to Burlington, Vt., about 1830.
* See Connecticut Reminiscences, by Rev. Dr. Increase N. Tarbox, New Eng. lander, November, 1883 (vol. xlii., No. 177, p. 719).
See his Diary, printed in part in American Quarterly Register, x. 12, and in full in the Historical Magazine, 1869.
8 Memoirs of Wheelock, p. 131.
while in the desk were natural and impressive, and his eloquence irresistible. His preaching and addresses were close and pungent, and yet winning beyond almost all comparison, so that his audience would be melted even into tears before they were aware of it."'1
Rev. Joseph Tracy, the historian of the movement, says of him
" That Wheelock played a most prominent part in the Great Awakening' is undeniable. There is scarce another man of equal eminence in that age of the peculiarities of whose character and style of promoting religion we have so little satisfactory information; and yet there is reason to suspect that those peculiarities exerted an important influence.”.
Wheelock's personal acquaintance with Whitefield began as early certainly as May, 1740. At that time he, and Pomeroy, and James Davenport visited New York together, and heard Whitefield preach, and conversed with him. Whitefield speaks of meeting Wheelock and Pomeroy again at Wethersfield, Conn., in October of the same year. In 1754 and (as appears) in 1764 and at other times he visited Wheelock at Lebanon. We shall see that this connection has an important relation to the history we are about to narrate. Without the active assistance of Whitefield and his friends it would not have been possible for Wheelock to develop and carry out his extensive plans. Nothing, therefore, is truer than that Dartmouth College is peculiarly a child of the Great Revival. The relationship is plain; and Whitefield himself, though far from intending it, was actually the most important agent in establishing the College.
With the rest of the revivalists Wheelock suffered indignity and persecution, though he was not actually punished by the civil authorities, like his brother-in-law, Pomeroy. In June, 1742, though " he understood that the authorities had been con
1 History of Connecticut, ii. 158.
2 The Great Awakening, Tracy, 1842, p. vii. Much has been published of Whce lock in a fragmentary way. The following authorities, among others, may be specially noted : a long and authentic article by Rev. Dr. William Allen, son-in-law and executor of the second president, American Quarterly Register, x. 9-31; New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xiv. 376; Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, i. 397-403; Memoirs of Wheelock, by Rev. David McClure and Rev. Elijah Parish (Newburyport, 1811); The One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Congregational Church in Columbia, Conn. (pamphlet), 1867; Yale Biographies, Dexter, i. 493-99, and references there cited.
8 Amer. Presbyterian Review (3d Ser., 1869), i. 281; Great Awakening, p. 102.
sulting how to take him, and that Colonel Whiting had given out great words, and said that he should not preach but once in town,” Wheelock went to New Haven and preached about three weeks to the “Separate,” or “New Light,” church, in Rev. Mr. Noyes's parish. While there he breakfasted by invitation with President Clap, but was not permitted to preach in the College, and the students were prohibited from going to hear him elsewhere. The support that Wheelock thus gave to the Separate movement led to denunciation of him as a 'Separatist " when that word had become a term of special reproach, in consequence of the erratic course of Wheelock's brother-in-law, James Davenport, of Southold, L. I. But the truth was that Wheelock gave no countenance to Davenport's extravagances, and was chiefly instrumental in turning him away from his delusions. The unsavory charge was nevertheless kept alive by those who cherished hostility from other causes, and continued to plague Wheelock even after his removal to New Hampshire. But his prominence in the revival gave him, on the other hand, a host of warm friends, a wide and favorable acquaintance, and high reputation among the clergy at home and abroad, from all of which he derived inestimable advantage in his subsequent labors and perplexities.
The most influential as well as the most bitter of Wheelock's revilers was the Rev. Dr. Charles Chauncey, of Boston, who attacked him with virulence by name in his book as having, with Davenport, Pomeroy, Allen, and Bliss (“ all of them of one soul"), “ the chief hand in raising the commotions in Connecticut, where sudden impulses and extraordinary pretences to the Spirit have been more general in proportion and extravagant than in any of the other governments.” Dr. Chauncey ascribed their behavior to the influence of one Davis Ferris, who, he says, was in College with them, coming " from a nest of Quakers at New Milford, and made a great show of sanctity, by means whereof he was under advantage to propagate his Quakerish notions, and did do it among a number of the students. [Wheelock and the others) were familiar with Ferris, and led astray by him. They made a club, and often met together. They did not open their principles to all, but to those whom they imagined they could work upon. They laid great stress was to deprive him of any legal claim to salary from his parish ; so that he worked in it seven years without stated compensation. Great Awakening, p. 308 ; Dexter's Yale Biographies, i. 486.