The Brainerd Brothers

The Brainerd brothers David and John have been nearly lost to our history. Only a stone monument, a lone building at Yale University, bears the name of two great men of faith. These 18th Century men were quite possibly the catalysts for bringing Christianity to the majority of Native Americans.

David Brainerd (1718-1747) trained in theology and quickly felt a desire to follow in the footsteps of the great missionary to the Indians, John Eliot (1604-1690). It was Eliot who composed the first Bible in the language of the Algonquian Indians and was dubbed the “apostle to the Indians.” Brainerd assumed a life in the woods among the tribes near Albany, New York. Later he would preach in the Delaware Valley, again assuming the tribal life. In one year, he recorded seventy-seven baptisms and throughout his ministry led many to Christ. It was Brainerd’s efforts that opened the door for future ministries among the Indian tribes in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. His dedication was so great that he neglected his own health, often giving his time and efforts without basic necessities. His short life of 29 years became a testament to his love of the Word and the desire to share it.

It was John who was appointed by the Scottish Society to take his brother’s place among the Delaware tribes. At one point, he convinced tribes from as far away as Wyoming to move closer to his northeast ministry. He formed a school, worked to establish the family unit, but eventually became discouraged when few souls were converted. John did not continue to live among the tribes as his brother David had, but faithfully worked to establish funds and train future missionaries to work with various tribes in the northeast. Haddam, Connecticut, houses a small memorial and museum to the memory of these two great missionaries.