Saturday, November 8, 2008

ABCFM Papers

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, known as the ABCFM for short, was the philanthropic mission society that supported the Stockbridge Mohicans from 1828 to 1848. In fact, the ABCFM supported many missionaries throughout the world over a period of...I don't know, I think they were established around 1810 and probably lasted about 100 years. Anyway, in my post yesterday, I mentioned primary sources. The ABCFM Papers are primary sources that I have been using in my research. They are kept at Harvard's Houghton Library and people like me that live too far away from Harvard can get microfilm of the ABCFM Papers via interlibrary loan. Most of the ABCFM Papers that concern the Stockbridges consist of correspondence to and from the Rev. Cutting Marsh, missionary to the tribe from 1830 to 1848. But at times some of the Indians would come into conflict with Rev. Marsh and when that happened, the Indians - as individuals or as a group - would take the time to write their own letters to the ABCFM.

In his last years as the missionary, Rev. Marsh's effectiveness was compromised, due partly to his own personality, but also as a result of bitter partisanship within the Stockbridge Nation. Marsh had once hoped that Jeremiah Slingerland, a member of the tribe studying to become a minister, would take his place. Slingerland did return to his people and the two men had something like a honeymoon period, but they eventually came into conflict and Marsh asked the ABCFM not to support Rev. Slingerland as his successor.

One of the things that Marsh objected to was that Slingerland had taken sides in the ongoing tribal partisanship, something that he had struggled with himself. As the small Stockbridge Nation split into two parties, the ABCFM not only decided not to support Rev. Slingerland, but they withdrew their support to the tribe altogether.

If you're wondering about the nature of the conflicts, Marsh's ideas about Rev. Slingerland, and how Christianity managed after the ABCFM pulled its support, stay tuned, because I've been working on a paper about it.

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