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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Occom, Sam(P)son

Occom, Sam(p)son,

an American Indian preacher, was born at Mohegan, on Thames River, near Norwich, Conn., about the year 1723. When Occom was a boy, Mr. Jewett, the minister of New London, now Montville, was accustomed to preach once a fortnight at Mohegan. During the religious excitement about 1739 and 1740, several ministers visited the Indians, who repaired to the neighboring churches. Occom at this period became the subject of permanent religious impressions, and was soon desirous of becoming the teacher of his tribe. He could then read by spelling, and in a year or two learned to read the Bible. At the age of nineteen he went to the Indian school of Mr. Wheelock, of Lebanon, and remained with him four years. In 1748 he kept a school in New London, but soon went to Montauk, on Long Island, where he taught a school among the Indians ten or eleven years, at the same time being the religious teacher of the Indians in their own language, and preaching also to the Skenecock or Yenecock Indians, distant thirty miles. During a revival among the Montauks many became Christians. He was ordained by the Suffolk Presbytery Aug. 29,1759, and was from that time a regular member of the presbytery.

In 1766 Mr. Wheelock sent him to England with Mr. Whitaker, the minister of Norwich, to promote the interests of Moor's Indian charity school. He was the first Indian preacher who visited England. The houses in which he preached were thronged. Between Feb. 16, 1766, and July 22, 1767, he preached in various parts of the kingdom between three hundred and four hundred sermons. Large charitable donations were obtained, and the school was soon transplanted to Hanover, N. H., and connected with Dartmouth College. After his return, Occom sometimes resided at Mohegan, and was often employed in missionary labors among distant Indians. In 1786 he removed to Brotherton, near Utica, N. Y., in the neighborhood of the home of the Stockbridge Indians, who were of the Mohegan root, and who had formerly been under the. instruction of Mr. Sergeant and Mr. Edwards. A few of the Mohegans, and other Indians of Connecticut, Long Island, and Rhode Island, removed about the same time. The Oneidas gave them a tract of land. Occom died in July, 1792. Dr. Dwight says, "I heard Mr. Occom twice. His discourses, though not proofs of superior talent, were decent; and his utterance in some degree eloquent. His character at times labored under some imputations; yet there is good reason:to believe that most, if riot all, of them were unfounded; and there is satisfactory evidence that he was a man of piety." An account of the Montauk Indians, written by Occom, is preserved in the "Historical Collections." He published a sermon at the execution of Moses Paul, an Indian, at New Haven, Sept. 2, 1772 (London 1789, 4to), with an account of the Montauk Indians which has been published in the Mass. Hist. Soc. Collect. 1st ser. 10:106. See Buel, Ordination Sermon; Historical. Collections, 4:68; 5:13; 9:89, 90; 10:105: Dwight, Travels, 2:112; Allen, Amer. Biog. Dict. s.v.; Gillet, Hist. Presb. Ch. in U. S. A. 1:161, 368, 388, (J. N. P.) Occurrence, a term used in ecclesiastical language to designate a case when two festivals fall on the same day. The lesser is either omitted or anticipated, or translated, that is, deferred to the nearest vacant day. Festivals concur when at vespers the office of one day commences before the other is terminated. The lesser day is then only commemorated.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Occom, Sam(P)son'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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