Dartmouth was founded by Eleazar Wheelock, a Puritan minister from Connecticut, who sought to establish a school to train Native Americans as missionaries. Wheelock's ostensible inspiration for such an establishment largely resulted from his relationship with Mohegan Indian Samson Occom. Occom became an ordained minister after studying under Wheelock's tutelage from 1743 to 1747 and later moved to Long Island to preach to the Montauks.
Wheelock instituted Moor's Indian Charity School in 1755. The Charity School proved somewhat successful, but additional funding was necessary to continue school’s operations. To this end, Wheelock sought the help of friends to raise money. Occom, accompanied by Reverend Nathaniel Whitaker, traveled to England in 1766 to raise money in the churches of that nation. With the funds, they established a trust to help Wheelock. The head of the trust was William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth.
Although the fund provided Wheelock ample financial support for the Charity School, Wheelock had trouble recruiting Indians to the institution;primarily because its location was far from tribal territories. In seeking to expand his school into a college, Wheelock relocated his educational enterprise to Hanover, in the Province of New Hampshire. The move from Connecticut followed a lengthy and sometimes frustrating effort to find resources and secure a charter. Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian and one of Wheelock's first students, was instrumental in raising substantial funds for the College. The Royal Governor of New Hampshire, John Wentworth, provided the land upon which Dartmouth would be built and on December 13, 1769, conveyed the charter from King George III establishing the College. That charter created a college "for the education and instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in this Land ... and also of English Youth and any others." Named for William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth — an important supporter of Eleazar Wheelock's efforts — Dartmouth is the nation's ninth oldest college and the last institution of higher learning established under Colonial rule. The College granted its first degrees in 1771.