Hawley, Gideon. Journal and Letterbook

Collection History

Rev. Gideon Hawley was a traveling missionary affiliated with the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians, under the supervision of Jonathan Edwards. He accepted a position from the Society to establish a mission among the Six Nations on the Susquehanna (near Windsor, NY) in 1754; he served as minister and interpreter there until 1756 when the French and Indian War compelled him to join the army as a chaplain. His service was brief due to illness, and Hawley was then stationed by the SPGI at a Native American plantation in Mashpee, Massachusetts in 1758, where he settled and stayed until his death in 1807.

Rev. Hawley did not intend this manuscript to serve as a public record, nor did he assume it would ever see publication. It is primarily a journal, which lists the labors of himself and other missionaries in the area, drafts accounts of the relations between the Indians and the neighboring whites, provides a few pages of vital statistics, attempts a lexicon of Indian words and place-names, and produces numerous complaints about his loss of financial support (previously supplied by English missionary societies) during the Revolutionary War period.

For more detail about the collection, see the archival finding guide.


Digital Materials

Volume 1, 1754-1756

The first volume chronicles his time as a missionary traveling through "the Country of the Six Nations" — what is now western New York and Pennsylvania that were still largely populated by Native American tribes. Rev. Hawley kept track of the villages he visited, people he interacted with, and the Bible passages on which he preached.

Volume 2, ca. 1753-1795

The second volume contains copies of correspondence referred to in vol. 1, financial records, and a continuation of his travelogue from "the Country of the Six Nations". His movements were often hampered by early battles in the French and Indian War, which he also describes.

The first few pages in this book contain a later 19th-century letter to a genealogist with a brief Hawley family history, and the 1875 inscription from A. C. Thompson when he donated the journals to the Congregational Library.

Volume 3, ca. 1777-1806

The third volume is largely comprised of correspondence to friends and officials back in New England. Rev. Hawley advocates for better treatment of both their Native American neighbors and lower-class English soldiers. There are also sections in which Hawley reflects on his missionary career, providing further detail about the events recorded in vols. 1 & 2.

Volume 4, ca. 1781-1806

The fourth volume is also primarily correspondence. The topics range from the fates of indentured Mashpee Indians to friends' legal matters to his own personal finances. Rev. Hawley also recorded local births, deaths, and marriages at the Mashpee plantation for much of the latter half of the 18th century.

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