Sunday, October 25, 2009

Samson Occom's Last Days

While they lived in the Massachusetts mission town, all the Stockbridge Indians were members of a single congregation. Soon after their move to New York State, the falling out between their two legitimate ministers resulted in the tribe being split into two congregations.

After a few years of having two congregations, the Stockbridges held a council to discuss the situation. They decided that having their tribal church divided into two parties was a "stumbling block." Some felt that Rev. Occom (a Brothertown Indian) was "meddling too much with [their] civil government," and noted he had recently "fallen into the sin of intemperance[or drinking]" several times. They also felt he was "superannuated" or past his prime.

At that council, the Stockbridge Indians voted first to have one minister for the whole tribe and then chose John Sergeant [Jr.] to be that one minister by a twenty-two to eight margin. A committee was then formed to

inform Mr. Occom that it was not out of any ill will to him, that if he would leave us as minister of the Town...and as he had no support, if he would comply with our reasonable request and make us happy - we would unitedly do all we could to help him. But we are sorry to say he paid no regard to us. (Quoted from a letter from the Stockbridge Indians to Rev. Samuel Kirkland, June 22, 1792 in the Kirkland Papers at Hamilton College.)
Rev. Occom and his family had only moved to New Stockbridge a few months earlier. Politics may have been their reason for leaving Brothertown and the Stockbridges' letter suggests that politics had made the Occoms unwelcome at New Stockbridge. But they didn't leave.

Only a few weeks after the Stockbridge Indians wrote the letter referred to above, on July 14, 1792, Samson Occom suddenly died.

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