Skip to main content

A College In The Wilderness

March 2023
1min read

Dartmouth is not by any means the oldest college in New England—Harvard was founded in 1636, Yale in 1701, and Brown in 1764—but by 1815, when the great crisis struck, it was more than four decades old. In 1769 King George III had authorized the establishment of a college “for the education & instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in this land … and also of English Youth and any others.” The following year Dr. Eleazar Wheelock (Yale ’33) was invited to move his Indian Charity School from Lebanon, Connecticut, to New Hampshire. He settled in Hanover, and there the new college—named for the second Earl of Dartmouth, head of its trustees in England—began in a log hut (above).

Three Indians were among the original scholars; most of the others were charity students preparing for missionary work. They assembled each morning at five, or “as early as the President could see to read from the Bible.” Evening prayers were at six or later. The first graduating classfour students including Wheelock’s son John—received their diplomas in 1771. Eleazar fought hard to interest more Indians in attending, but eventually had to abandon the idea. “None know, nor can any, without Experience, Well conceive of the Difficulty of Educating an Indian,” he once wrote.

In 1779, when the younger Wheelock took over from his father, tuition was twenty shillings a quarter, or $13.32 a year—hardly enough to buy a pair of skates for today’s Winter Carnival. The enrollment expanded rapidly toward the end of the eighteenth century, as Dartmouth began to attract from Connecticut the more rigid Calvinists who thought Yale much too lax. By the time of the controversy it averaged 150 students.

Douglas Tunstell

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "August 1963"

Authored by: Eric Sevareid

A distinguished newsman recalls a snowy night in wartime Paris, when a radio network briefly rescued from obscurity “one of the most extraordinary Frenchmen who ever lived”

Authored by: Carl H. Boehringer

In the 1860’s, Japanese artists pictured the first Americans in a newly opened land. Their work was a mixture of keen observation and delightful misinformation

Authored by: Paul M. Angle

It was a lot of work, but somehow running a retail food store in the pre-cellophane era was rewarding

Authored by: Walter Muir Whitehill

Commercial enterprise and history seldom make comfortable bedfellows

Authored by: Charles Seymour

“Mr. House is my second personality,” said Woodrow Wilson early in his Presidency. Then, as the Paris Peace Conference proceeded, the friendship dissolved —for reasons that have never been fully understood. As he lay dying in 1938, Colonel House gave his explanation to President Charles Seymour of Yale, editor of his Intimate Papers , with the understanding that it remain secret for 25 years after his death. Here, for the first time, it is revealed.

Authored by: Oliver Warner

His main-deck guns were silenced, his hold was filling fast, and one of his own ships was firing into him. Still John Paul Jones refused to strike

Authored by: The Editors

“I have not yet begun to fight”

Authored by: Bernard Taper

Sam Clemens, jack of many trades, hit the big town in 1864. Two years later, his true vocation discovered, he strode upon the national scene as Mark Twain

Authored by: The Editors

The whole center of the metropolis was ablaze: a hundred thousand people fled from their homes in panic

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.