Indian Missions on Long Island
Besides Native participation in the economic sphere, their souls were sought by the English and Scottish missionary societies to create more tractable workers.
George Fox arrived on Shelter Island after a three day voyage from Rhode Island and led a meeting with the indigenous inhabitants the following day.
Through a Native American interpreter, Fox led a two hour preaching service to approximately one hundred Manhansets, including the King and his council during his first week on the island.
The Manhansets were described as sitting “down like Friends”1 and confessed that he spoke the truth. The following Sunday, Fox again guided a large gathering for the Manhansets, which may have possibly included the African residents of Shelter Island.
Before Fox’s departure, meetings were arranged with the Manhansets for every two weeks and Joshua Sylvester, Nathaniel Sylvester’s brother, was scheduled to read Scriptures to them.2
The first missionary in the 1740s was Azariah Horton of Southold and a graduate of Yale, who was not very successful. He recommended a successor; this was Samson Occom, a Mohegan who came first as a teacher, then was ordained in the Presbyterian Church after tutelage by the Rev. Samuel Buell. Remaining as handwriting for 200 years, Occum’s diary was published by Dartmouth College and later researched and published by Dr. Gaynell Stone in her History and Archaeology of the Montauk volume.3
Rev. Azariah Horton’s first service to the Rockaway Indians – in the years to come Rev. Horton visits dozens of native communities all over Long Island who gathered in certain areas to hear him preach.4
Rev. Azariah Horton recommends Samson Occum as his successor.4
Mohegan Indian Rev. Samson Occum, Azariah Horton’s successor, is mentored by Rev. Samuel Buell in East Hampton and is ordained at East Hampton, Aug. 29, 1759 by Suffolk Presbytery. He has already taken over preaching and teaching Horton’s former congregations at Montauk, Shinnecock and Poosepatuck.4
1774 – 1801 (ca.)
Rev. Elisha Paine, Congregationalist, of Hayground, ordains Shinnecock Indian, Peter John. Rev.
Peter John takes over from Mohegan Rev. Samson Occum and visits Indian congregations in Shinnecock, Poosepatuck, Islip and Wading River.5
- Fox 1975: 128
- Fox 1975: 128–129; Penney 1911: 224–25, Katherine Lee Priddy, From Youghco to Black John – Ethnohistory of Sylvester Manor 2007 pp. 24
- Gaynell Stone, Transcript of Lecture on The Material History of the Montaukett, 1998, pp. 6
- David Martine, Shinnecock Timeline pp. 7
- David Martine, Shinnecock Timeline pp. 8
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