Philander Chase



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Exerpt from a letter in which Chase describes his visit to an Oneida and Mohawk community, a sermon that was held there, and his hopes of bringing four of five boys back with him as students.




Oneida Indians, Mohawk Indians, Seneca Indians, Sandusky River, George Lyman, William Walker, Wyandot


Extract from a letter of Bishop Chase dated Oct. 10th 1825

“A most interesting scene took place in my Visitation of the Oneida & Mohawk Indians on the Sandusky River. They are the remnant, or rather a branch, of those once famous Tribes, who, in moving back from their former residence, accepted an invitation from the Senecas to settle on the lands reserved by Congress for the latter about the Sandusky River in this Diocese. I had heard of them as being attached to the Church of England, but never could go and see them till this summer: I found them in their peaceful retreat engaged in Husbandry, raising Corn, and cultivating their Gardens. My friend and guide, who had conducted me thro’ the devious footpaths of the Wilderness in the rain for nearly a whole day’s journey, introduced me to this most interesting people. Decent and dignified in their manners they received me with great respect; and when I told them that I came among them to do them good and not harm—to pray with them—and to preach the Gospel in the name of Jesus Christ our common Saviour—they fully comprehended my meaning and gave me a hearty welcome. To show the medium of our mutual good understanding, they produced their Common Prayerbook, being that which was translated into the Indian language with very little alteration from the English Liturgy, together with the Gospel of St. Mark, Anno Domini 1787, & printed in London. What news was this to me! “And have you used this?” said I. “Constantly every Sunday in Morning & Evening prayer with the poor scattered members of our Tribe providentially sojourning on this River,” said they by their Interpreter. I then inquired if they understood & felt the great importance of the truths which they uttered with their mouths. They replied that “they hoped they did, but many of their people were inclined to run astray into the Wickedness of the Tribes surrounding them, notwithstanding all the old men could do.” Poor Blessed people thought I: God give me grace to found worthy of serving you! During the remainder of the evening word was spread thro’ the Woods that on the morrow divine service would be performed, and a Sermon preached, at 8 o’Clock, while wearied with the exercise of the day I reposed myself on the hard bed of an Indian Cabin, and slept sweetly till morning.

The appointed hour came, & tho’ it rained most abundantly, a large number of both male and female Natives assembled. How interesting the sight of so many devout Worshippers, and how sweet the comfort of joining with them in the same prayers and praises, which had the vehicle of the piety of all I held dear thro’ thirty years of Christian Ministration in holy things, I leave you to fancy. By proceeding with all the prayers as the Church hath directed with the “General Confession,” the whole congregation, thro’ our aged leading Reader could join in repeating and offering up the same petitions & praises with myself—they in the Indian language, & I in English. And when we sung the metre Psalms & Hymns, their version being the same measure with the English, I could join with them in this also. With voices uncommonly sweet and full they sang tunes with which, most happily, I was well acquainted, & never did I witness more order, yet plainer indications of true devotion. Tho’ many of them could speak a little English, yet the Sermon was interpreted to them in their own language. They have used Lay Baptism, they say, out of imperious necessity, yet would be much rejoiced to quit that great irregularity if they could have an authorized ministry.

On the whole my mind was most favorably impressed towards these poor people, and my attachment to our primitive Liturgy mightily strengthened by this instance of its great utility. How much of the Missionary’s labour is lost, like oil split on the ground with no vessel to contain & perpetuate it! Had it not been for this prayerbook, the worship of God would to all human view, never have been perpetuated to the salvation of these now interesting people.

George Lyman now 22 years of age, having a wife & one child, is the most moral and the brightest man in intellect of the whole Tribe. Connected with him are four or five young lads of most promising appearance from 14 to 16 years of age. Observing their desire for knowledge, I proposed to George, and thro’ him (the interpreter) to the Chiefs, that these should come, attend our school, and, if they liked it, receive a Collegiate education. Having wherewithal to make them comfortable in all things, I proposed to do this gratis, not doubting, should the whole experience fall on me, but I shall be, yea I am now, fully remunerated.

I send you a copy of two letters I sent to encourage the lads, and drive away the timidity natural to their age, especially when passing thro’ White Settlements. The one addressed to George Lyman as above mentioned, the other to William Walker of the Wyandott Tribe, who formerly lived with me.

Excerpt of Letter Dated October 10th, 1825



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