Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Border Wars

by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye
Assisted by Edward Eggleston
New York
Dodd, Mead and Company, Publishers, 1879.



SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON, though not a man of very exemplary morals himself, had taken a great deal of interest in the improvement of his Mohawk neighbors. He had helped to establish missionaries and build churches among them. He also sent some Indian boys to the Moor Charity School at Lebanon, Connecticut. This school was the germ from which grew Dartmouth College. It was taught by Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, the first president of Dartmouth. He had been very successful with the first Indian pupil under his care. His name was Samson Occom, and he became a missionary among his people, visiting England in 1766, and attracting much. attention. Among the boys whom Johnson sent to school was Brant. This was probably immediately after the battle of Niagara. Possibly Brant had received some of the rudiments of education, through the kindness of Sir William Johnson, before he went to the Connecticut school. Certainly he was then already an accomplished warrior. But the education that even a white bo y got in the frontier settlements was rude enough. The first school-master in Cherry Valley used to do his farm-work while his scholars followed him about, reciting their lessons in the fresn air.

Brant used to tell with amusement one story of his school days. Among the Indian boys who accompanied him was a half-breed named William. Dr. Wheelock's son one day ordered this boy to saddle his horse.

"I won't," said William.

"Why not?"

" Because," said the Indian, " I am a gentleman, and it isn't a gentleman's place to do such things."

" Do you know what a gentleman is ?" young Wheelock sneeringly asked.

" Yes," said William ; " a gentleman is a person who keeps race-horses and drinks Madeira wine; and that is what neither you nor your father do. So saddle the horse yourself."

Sir William Johnson was probably the young Indian's ideal of a gentleman. Brant spent several years at this school. According to one account he accomplished nothing more than to " read but very indifferently in the New Testament, and to write but very little." This, however, could hardly have been true, since he was somewhat accomplished, according to other statements. He certainly could write, and was employed as a secretary in after-life. In Dr. Wheelock's letters to Sir William Johnson Joseph Brant is frequently well spoken of, as: " Joseph and the rest of the boys are well, studious, and diligent;" " Joseph and the other boys behave very well;" " Joseph is indeed an excellent youth," and so on.

There were several Indians at school at Lebanon at this time. Two Delaware boys had entered the school before Brant. The latter was at one time engaged by Sir William Johnson to persuade good Mohawk boys to attend the school. The Indian school-boys, however, were always restless; they would rather hunt than study, and Brant was like the rest of them. Only two remained to graduate. After he left the school, we hear of Brant being employed as interpreter for a young minister who had resolved to devote his life and his small fortune, sufficient to support himself and his interpreter, to the missionary work. But the Pontiac war broke out, and the young brave could stay at no such tame business when war was abroad.

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