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MEMOIR OF REV. ELE A ZAR WHEELOCK, D. D.
FOUNDER AND FIRST PRESIDENT OF DARTMOUTH COLLEGE.
[By William Allen, D. D., President of Bowdoia College.]
Among the men, who for their worthy deeds and eminent services in the cause of science and religion, deserve to be held in honorable remembrance, the subject of this memoir is doubtless to be ranked. Indeed he has the peculiar distinction of having established and conducted the first Missionary School in this country, and of having founded the first College, which was created by the efforts of an individual. This distinction God has given him, although he sought not honor from man.
DR. ELEAZAR WHEELOCK was born in Windham, Connecticut, in May, 1711. His earliest ancestor, of whom any account has been obtained, was his great grandfather, Rev. Ralph Wheelock, who was born in Shropshire, in 1600, and educated at Clare Hall, in Cambridge. Being an eminent non-conformist preacher, and suffering persecution for dissenting from the established religion, he came to New England for liberty of conscience in 1637, and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts, where he was one of the founders of the first church in 1638. Thence he removed to Medfield, where he was one of the principal land-owners. Of this town he was a representative for several years; he also occasionally preached in Medfield and the adjoining new settlements, but declined taking the charge of any particular church. He died universally respected in November, 1683, aged 83 years.
Dr. Wheelock's grandfather, Captain Eleazar Wheelock, born in 1654, removed from Medfield to Mendon. He was a soldier, as well as a Christian. In the Indian wars he commanded successfully a company of cavalry. His house, converted into a garrison, was sometimes besieged. In peace he was familiar with the savages, often joining them in their hunting expeditions, and treated them with great kindness. He died March 24, 1781, aged 77 years.
The father of Dr. Wheelock was deacon Ralph Wheelock, born in 1683, who settled in Windham, where he lived a farmer, and died Oct. 15, 1748, aged 66 years. His mother was Ruth Huntington, the daughter of Christopher Huntington of Norwich. He was an only son. Of his five sisters one married the Rev. Dr. Pomeroy of Hebron ; his half-sister Mary, whose mother was Mercy Standish of Preston, married Jabez Bing
ham of Salisbury, and was the grandmother of the Rev. Dr. Kirkland, president of Harvard University.
At the age of 16 or 17 his heart was renewed by the Spirit of God. His grandfather, whose name be bore, having left him a legacy to defray the expenses of his education, he was sent to Yale college, in which seminary he was distinguished for his good conduct and proficiency in learning. The first premium, instituted by dean Berkley, to be awarded to the best classical scholars of the senior class, was given to him and Mr. Pomeroy, afterwards his brother-in-law.* He graduated in 1733, and in March, 1735, was ordained as the minister of the Second or North society in Lebanon, called Lebanon Crank, now the town of Columbia, where he toiled as a faithful laborer in the vineyard of his Lord about 35 years.
In 1735, soon after his settlement, by his faithful and earnest labors, great effects were produced among his people at Lebanon. It pleased God to send down his Spirit to bring the gospel to the hearts of sinners; and the same work of divine mercy and love was accomplished, which, about the same time, was experienced at Northampton under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards, and in other towns of Hampshire county, Massachusetts, as well as at Coventry, Durham, Mansfield, East Windsor, Tolland, Bolton, Hebron, Norwich, Groton, and other towns in Connecticut. In some of these towns there was an impression of deep seriousness made upon the minds of almost all the people, and in some places it was supposed that as many as twenty or thirty persons were converted in one week. In 1740, and in subsequent years, in consequence of the labors of Mr. Whitefield and others, this revival of religion became more general.
Mr. Wheelock was at this period incessant in his labors to promote the salvation of his fellow-men. Of his character as a preacher, it may be interesting to read the account, given by Dr. Trumbull, who was personally acquainted with him.-" The most zealous and laborious in the cause, who took the most pains and spent the most property in the service of their Master, were the Rev. Messrs. Jedediah Mills, Benjamin Pomeroy, Eleazar Wheelock, and Joseph Bellamy. They were not only abundant in labors among their own people, and in neighboring towns and societies, but they preached in all parts of the colony, where their brethren would admit them, and in many places in Massachusetts, and the other colonies."
“Mr., afterwards Doctor and President, Wheelock was a gentleman of a comely figure, of a mild and winning aspect; his voice smooth and harmonious, the best, by far, that I ever heard. He had the entire command of it. His gesture was natural, but not redundant. 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."
This is high commendation of Mr. Wheelock's eloquence, coming from one, who speaks of Whitefield, Tennent, and Bellamy, whom probably he had often heard; and who thus represents Mr. Wheelock's voice as the best, by far, he had ever heard, and his manner of preaching the most winning beyond almost all comparison.
So interesting and acceptable was the preaching of Mr. Wheelock and so fervent was his zeal, that in one year he preached a hundred more sermons than there are days in the year.” The following letter will show the estimation, in which he was held, at the age of twenty-nine, by Jonathan Edwards, who was eight or ten years older. It is dated Northampton, Oct. 9, 1740.-—"Rev. and dear Sir,- I congratulate you, and would bless God for the success, which he has lately given to your labors, which you mention, and for the many joyful things, we have lately heard concerning the city of our God. I think that those, that make mention of the Lord, should now be awakened and encouraged to call upon God, and not keep silence nor give him any rest, till he establish and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth ; and particularly should be earnest with God, that he would still uphold and succeed the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, the instrument that it has pleased him to improve to do such great things for the honor of his name, and at all times so to guide and direct him under his extraordinary circumstances, that Satan may not get any advantage of him.
“I thank you for your concern for my aged father under his troubles, and the pains you have occasionally taken with some of his people on his behalf, and also for your kind wishes for me and for the success of my ministry. We need the prayers of all that are favored with God's presence and the lively influences of his Spirit. It is a sorrowfully dull and dead time with us : The temporal affairs of this town are and have been for some years most unhappily situated to be a snare to us, and I know not where to look for help but to God. O, dear Sir! earnestly pray for us. And I desire, that now, while God smiles upon you, and it is a day of his special favor towards
would pray earnestly for me, that I may be filled with the divine Spirit, and that God would improve me, though utterly unworthy, as an instrument of glory to his name, and of good to the souls of men, and particularly, that he would bless Mr. Whitefield's coming here for good to my soul, and the souls of my people. That God would more and more bless and succeed you, and make you more and more a burning and shining light, is the sincere desire and prayer of your unworthy brother and fellow-laborer,
“ JONATHAN EDWARDS."
In another letter to Mr. Wheelock, dated June 9, 1741, Mr. Edwards requests him to go and preach at Scantic or East Windsor, to his father's society, of whom he says, “they are wholly dead in this extraordinary day of God's gracious visitation.” He then adds—" Another thing that I desire of you, is, that you would come up hither and help us, both
and Mr. Pomeroy. There has been a revival of religion amongst us of late ; but your labors have been much more remarkably blessed than mine ; other ministers, as I have heard, have shut their pulpits against you ; but here, I
engage, you shall find one open. May God send you here with a like blessing, as he has sent you to other places; and may your coming be a means of humbling me for my barrenness and unprofitableness, and a