Matthews Hall is a freshman dormitory for Harvard University, constructed in Harvard Yard in 1872. Named after Nathan Matthews of Boston, the hall is built on the site of the Indian College, Harvard's first brick building, which housed a printing press, classrooms, and living quarters for English and American Indian students from 1655 to 1698. The first Bible in North America was printed at the Indian College from 1659-1663, translated into Algonquian by John Eliot. Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck of the Wampanoag tribe was the first American Indian to graduate in 1665.
Matthews Hall is a freshman dormitory for Harvard
University, constructed in Harvard Yard in 1872. Named after Nathan Matthews of
Boston, the hall is built on the site of the Indian College, Harvard's first
brick building, which housed a printing press, classrooms, and living quarters
for English and American Indian students from 1655 to 1698. The first Bible in
North America was printed at the Indian College from 1659-1663, translated into
Algonquian by John Eliot. Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck of the Wampanoag tribe was the
first American Indian to graduate in 1665.
The Indian College and the Construction of Matthews Hall
Harvard University was on the
verge of bankruptcy in 1646, ten years after the school's founding. The
university asked for funds from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
in New England; the Society agreed, provided that Harvard extend educational
and spiritual resources to Native American students. Accordingly, in Harvard
University's 1650 charter, the education of both English and American Indian
youth was cited as the school's mission. Five years later, the Harvard Indian
College was established in the university's first brick building. Both English
and Native American students lived, dined, and attended lectures at the Indian
College. Missionary John Eliot translated the Bible into Algonquian, and the
first Bible published in the United States was printed on the press at Harvard
Indian College beginning in 1659. Only five Native American students attended
the Indian College, which stood from 1655 until 1698: Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck,
Eleazar, Joel Iacoomes, Benjamin Larnell, and John Wampus. Wampus left school
to become a mariner, and Eleazar, Larnell, and Iacoomes died before graduating.
Iacoomes, of the Wampanog Tribe of Martha's Vineyard, had completed four years
at Harvard, and died in a shipwreck before commencement. He was awarded a
diploma posthumously in 2011. Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, also of the Wampanoag
tribe, graduated in 1655.
The Indian College was torn down in 1698; though Harvard promised rent-free
housing to Native American students, it was 300 years before another American
Indian graduated from the university. Near the same spot in Harvard Yard, work
began in the spring of 1870 on a new college hall, funded by Bostonian Nathan
Matthews. The five-story Gothic building cost $120,000 to erect, and required
the relocation of Dane Hall seventy feet south and modifications to Wadsworth
House in order to accommodate its size. In exchange for his donation, Matthews
required that half of the income from the rooms of the new dormitory be used as
scholarship funds for aspiring Protestant Episcopal ministers. Matthews Hall
has been home to Philip Warren Anderson, William Randolph Hearst, Mark Penn, Matt
Birk, John Dos Passos, Barney Frank, Maura Healey, Daniel Quillen, Maurice
Wertheim, Robert Rubin, Lloyd Shapley, Chuck Schumer, and Matt Damon.
Reconnecting to Harvard's American
In 1970, the American Indian
Program (now known as Harvard University Native American Program or HUNAP) was
established at Harvard University. One of the program's accomplishments occurred
in 1997, when the historical marker commemorating the Indian College was placed
on Matthews Hall. Conceived by Standing Rock Sioux Susan Power and donated by
Oneida Ray Halbritter, the plaque was dedicated in a ceremony with over 300
In 2005, a HUNAP initiative led to an ongoing archaeological excavation of
Harvard Yard, Digging Veritas, through Harvard's Peabody Museum. Archival
research, combined with findings from the field, are being used to
explore the relationship between Harvard and the Native American
community . Among the artifacts recovered are type pieces from the
Indian College's printing press. The foundation of the original building was
found in 2009. One student who participated in the project, Tiffany Smalley,
became the first Wampanoag member to graduate since Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck. At
her graduation in 2011, Smalley received Joel Iacoome's posthumous degree, 346
years after his death and 375 years after the founding of Harvard.
Near this spot from 1655 to 1698 stood the Indian College.
Here American Indian and English students lived and studied in accordance with
the 1650 charter of Harvard College calling for the education of the English
and Indian youth of this country.
The Indian College was Harvard’s first brick building and housed the college
printing press where from 1659 to 1663 was printed the first Bible in North
America, the Algonquian translation by John Eliot.
Of the first five American Indians to attend Harvard College, Joel Iacoomes,
Eleazar, Benjamin Larnell died prior to graduation, John Wampus left and became
a mariner, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck of the Wampanoag tribe, class of 1665, was
the first American Indian to graduate.
This plaque was placed by the Harvard University Native American Program,
1997. A gift of A. Ray Halbritter, HLS ’90, to his parents Ray and Gloria,
sister Karen and brother Barry.