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Title: Whitman Mission National Historic Site - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 37
Author: Thompson, Erwin N.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Whitman Mission National Historic Site - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 37" ***

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                     Stewart L. Udall, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                   George B. Hartzog, Jr., _Director_


                     HISTORICAL HANDBOOK NUMBER 37

This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System
administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the
Interior. It is printed by the Government Printing Office and can be
purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C., 20402.
Price 45 cents.

                            WHITMAN MISSION
                         NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

                          By Erwin N. Thompson

    [Illustration: (uncaptioned)]

        National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 37
                         Washington, D.C.: 1964

              _here they labored among the Cayuse Indians_

It is a distinct pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to Jack Farr,
formerly with the National Park Service, and Robert L. Whitner, Whitman
College, Walla Walla, Wash., who prepared the material on which most of
this manuscript was based.

                                                                E. N. T.


  Call from the West                                                  10
  Samuel Parker and the American Board                                13
  “We Want You for Oregon”                                            15
  Those Who Answered the Call                                         18
  The Oregon Country                                                  19
  The Trip West                                                       25
  A Welcome at Fort Vancouver                                         27
  Starting a New Life                                                 29
  The Cayuse Indians                                                  34
  Reinforcements for Oregon                                           39
  A Community Rises at Waiilatpu                                      41
  The Mission Children                                                50
  Missions in Oregon                                                  53
  The Ride East                                                       57
  A Caravan on the Oregon Trail                                       61
  The Gathering Storm                                                 64
  The Massacre                                                        66
  The Harvest of Violence                                             71
  Preservation of the Past                                            74
  Testimony from the Earth: A Folio                                   76
  Suggested Readings                                                  92

_Waiilatpu is the site of the mission founded among the Cayuse Indians
in 1836 by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. After 11 years of ministering to
the Indians and assisting emigrants on the Oregon Trail, these
missionaries were killed and their mission destroyed by the Indians whom
they sought to help. The Whitmans’ story of devotion, nobility, and
courage places them high among the pioneers who settled the Far West._

In 1836 five people—Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, the Reverend Henry
and Eliza Spalding, and William H. Gray—successfully crossed the North
American continent from New York State to the largely unknown land
called Oregon. At Waiilatpu and Lapwai, among the Cayuse and Nez Percé
Indians, they founded the first two missions on the Columbia Plateau.
The trail they followed, established by Indians and fur traders, was
later to be called the Oregon Trail.

Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding were the first white women to cross
the continent; the Whitmans’ baby, Alice Clarissa, was the first child
born of United States citizens in the Pacific Northwest. These two
events inspired many families to follow, for they proved that homes
could be successfully established in Oregon, a land not yet belonging to
the United States.

In the winter of 1842-43, Dr. Whitman rode across the Rocky Mountains in
a desperate journey to the East to save the missions from closure. On
his return to Oregon, another chapter in the western expansion of this
Nation was added when he successfully encouraged and helped to guide the
first great wagon train of emigrants to the Columbia River. The
Whitmans’ mission throughout its existence was a haven for the overland
traveler. Medical care, rest, and supplies were available to all who
came that way.

For 11 years, the Whitmans worked among the Cayuse Indians, bringing
them the principles of Christianity, teaching them the rudiments of
agriculture and letters, and treating their diseases. Then, in a time of
troubles when two opposing forces failed to understand each other, the
mission effort ended in violence. In the tragic conclusion, the lives of
the Whitmans were an example of selflessness, perseverance, and
dedication to a cause. Their story is symbolic of the great effort made
by Protestant and Catholic missionaries to Christianize and civilize the
Indians in the first half of the 19th century. The missions represented
one aspect of American expansion into the vast, unknown lands of the
Pacific Northwest.

    [Illustration: No-horns-on-his-head and Rabbit-skin-leggings, both
    Nez Percé Indians, were members of the 1831 delegation to St. Louis.
    Paintings by George Catlin. SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION]

    [Illustration: (Rabbit-skin-leggings)]

                          _Call From the West_

In 1831 two neighboring tribes west of the Rocky Mountains, the Nez
Percé and the Flathead, sent a delegation of their tribesmen to St.
Louis, Mo., to seek the white man’s religion.

Although their understanding of Christianity was slight and confused,
they were interested in learning about it. Their own religion was
associated with nature, and they assigned power to natural objects.
Their spiritual goal was to attune themselves with nature so that they
might acquire power that would make them successful in war or hunting.
They sought this white man’s religion because, to their minds, it
explained the great power possessed by the whites; if they could acquire
Christianity, it would increase the power they already had.

In St. Louis the 4-man delegation visited William Clark, superintendent
of Indian Affairs, who had passed through their country more than 25
years earlier as one of the co-leaders of the memorable Lewis and Clark
Expedition. Myths and legends surround this visit to St. Louis, and the
complete story will probably never be known. Yet, it seems probable that
they sought the white man’s “Book of Heaven” and teachers to show them
how to read and write.

Their visit probably would have passed unnoticed had not a man named
William Walker become aware of it. While visiting St. Louis in November
1832, he heard from William Clark the story of the Indian visitors.
Becoming enthusiastic about helping the Indians of the far Northwest to
become Christians, Walker wrote to a New York friend, G. P. Disoway,
giving him a rather unusual version of the facts.

He told how Clark had held a weighty theological discussion with the
Indians, despite the fact that they could not speak English and no
interpreter could be found at the time. He claimed also to have seen the
Indians in the city, though two of the delegation had died and the
remaining pair had apparently departed 8 months before Walker’s arrival.
He described them as “small in size, delicately formed, small limbed,”
and having flat heads. This description hardly fits the stocky,
well-built Flathead and Nez Percé, who did not flatten their heads. The
famous painter of the West, George Catlin, claimed to have painted
portraits of the two survivors of the delegation, and these likenesses
indicate the Indians were normally developed. Disoway further flavored
the story, and it was printed in New York in the _Christian Advocate and
Journal_, a publication of the Methodist Episcopal Church.


This call from the West was immediately heard by various churches in the
United States. Several missionary organizations became active in finding
men and women to send to the Pacific Northwest as missionaries. Among
them were the Mission Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church; the
Roman Catholic Order of the Society of Jesus; and the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions, then supported by the Presbyterian,
Congregational, and Dutch Reformed Churches.

The first to respond was the Methodists’ Mission Society. In 1834 Jason
Lee and four associates joined the Wyeth Expedition and headed for the
Northwest. Lee did not stop in Flathead or Nez Percé country but went on
to the lower Columbia and selected a site in the beautiful Willamette
Valley. The Methodists established their mission near a small French
Canadian farming settlement close to present-day Salem, Oreg. These
settlers, who originally were trappers for the Hudson’s Bay Company, had
turned to farming when the fur trade declined.

Reinforced with 13 new workers in 1836 and 50 additional persons in
1838, the Methodists began missions at The Dalles, the Clatsop Plains,
Fort Nisqually, the Falls of the Willamette, and Chemeketa—now Salem.

    [Illustration: Samuel Parker. WHITMAN COLLEGE]

Their work among the coastal Indians was not very successful. New
diseases brought by the whites were fatal to these tribes, and the
number of Indians along the Willamette and lower valleys was rapidly
declining. Also, they simply were not interested in the “Book of
Heaven.” Those who attended services wanted to be paid for coming, for
it was not these people who had asked for missionaries. Although Jason
Lee was the first missionary, the Nez Percé and the Flatheads were still
awaiting a response to their call. The answer was soon to be supplied by
another group of missionaries.

    [Illustration: (uncaptioned)]

“I have had an interview with the Rev. Samuel Parker upon the subject of
Missions and have determined to offer myself to the A. M. Board to
accompany him on his mission or beyond the Rocky Mountains.”
                                                         Marcus Whitman,
                                                           Dec. 2, 1834.

                 _Samuel Parker and the American Board_

Another man influenced by the Indians’ call was the Reverend Samuel
Parker, pastor of the Congregational Church in Middlefield, Mass. Though
54 years of age, married, and the father of three children, Parker
volunteered to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
to go to the Flathead country. Turned down by the Board, Parker moved to
Ithaca, N.Y. Early in 1834, he spoke at a special meeting in the Ithaca
Presbyterian Church and aroused the congregation to such a high pitch
that it was proposed that Parker go to Oregon to select mission sites.
This time Parker was able to get the support of the American Board for
the undertaking.

Knowing little more about the Pacific Northwest than its general
direction, Parker set out in the spring of 1834; but he and two
companions arrived at St. Louis too late to accompany the fur-traders’
annual caravan to the Rockies. It was risky to undertake the trip alone,
so Parker returned to New York to raise money and recruits for the next
year. In December 1834 he reported to the American Board that a Dr.
Marcus Whitman had volunteered to serve as a medical missionary.

In 1835 Parker and his new recruit, Marcus Whitman, joined the
fur-traders’ caravan and headed westward. Not until cholera had broken
out and Dr. Whitman’s medical skill had prevented disaster in the
caravan did the unholy traders appreciate having the missionaries in
their group. On August 12 the party reached the fur-trading rendezvous,
which was held that year near the junction of Horse Creek and the Green
River in Wyoming. There, once again Whitman was able to display his
medical skill. He successfully removed a 3-inch iron arrowhead from the
back of the famous mountain man, Jim Bridger, under the watchful eyes of
traders, mountain men, and Indians. This exhibition of competence was
not lost on the Nez Percé and Flathead. Parker and Whitman talked to
them and found that they were indeed anxious to have missions.

To get the missions established by the next year, Whitman decided to
return East and organize volunteers for the new field. Parker was to
continue on to Oregon, explore for mission locations, and meet Whitman’s
party when it reached the rendezvous the next summer.

Parker, traveling with the Nez Percé, reached their homeland on the
Clearwater River in present Idaho late in September. Thence he went down
the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver, where he spent most of the winter
with the Hudson’s Bay Company traders. During the winter and the next
spring, he made several trips of exploration in the country between the
Clearwater and the Willamette. In the spring of 1836, he learned that
the Nez Percé were returning to the rendezvous by a northerly, rugged
route. Parker, feeling his years at last, decided to return to the
United States by sea. Before the Indians’ departure, he wrote letters
for them to carry to the rendezvous. Although Whitman received these
letters, it is doubtful if they contained any information of value to
the 1836 American Board party. While Parker was at Fort Vancouver,
Marcus Whitman, back in New York, had been busy gathering men and money
in order to establish the missions in the Oregon country.

    [Illustration: Marcus Whitman’s certificate appointed him “an
    assistant missionary to Indian tribes West of the State of
    Missouri.” It was also necessary for the missionaries to get
    permission from the Secretary of War to visit the Indian lands of
    western United States.]

                       _“We Want You for Oregon”_

On his return trip from the rendezvous in 1835, Whitman wrote to Rev.
David Greene, one of the secretaries of the American Board, about the
need for recruits for Oregon. Greene in his reply told Whitman about two
missionaries who had volunteered for the West; he also cautioned Whitman
against taking a bride into the wilderness.

As it turned out, neither of the two ministers was able to go to Oregon.
But when he arrived home, Whitman learned of a third minister, Henry
Spalding, who had just been appointed to a mission in western Missouri.
In answer to Whitman’s query, Spalding was willing to change his
destination to Oregon, provided that the Board approved.

The year 1835 came to an end without any definite word from the American
Board concerning the Spaldings or anyone else. Greene forwarded some
good news, however, when he wrote that the Board now approved of women
going to Oregon. Since Whitman had become engaged to a Miss Narcissa
Prentiss prior to going west with Parker, this word was indeed welcomed.
A few days later the Board decided that there should be a total of five
in the party for Oregon: Dr. Whitman, an ordained minister, their wives,
and a layman to serve as farmer and mechanic. The one limitation was
that no children could be taken.

In writing Greene of his lack of success in getting recruits, Whitman
again mentioned the Spaldings as a possibility. Greene replied that the
Spaldings were ineligible because they had a child. Whitman hastened to
write that the Spaldings had lost their only baby. Greene’s reply to
this was vague. Although he did not directly state that the Spaldings
could go, he noted that he did not know who else would be available.

    [Illustration:         THE WHITMAN-SPALDING ROUTE
                        from St. Louis to Fort Vancouver

  St. Louis
  Fort Leavenworth
  Otoe Agency
  Fort Laramie
  Soda Springs
  Fort Hall
  Three Island Ford
  Fort Boise

This was enough for Whitman to act upon. He immediately went to
Prattsburg, N. Y., to tell Henry Spalding the news. But he was too late.
Spalding had just departed for his post in Missouri. Undismayed, Whitman
gave chase and overtook the Spaldings on the road, reportedly
exclaiming, “We want you for Oregon.” Henry and Eliza accepted the call
and continued on to wait for Whitman in Cincinnati. Whitman returned
home for his wedding.

On February 18, 1836, Marcus Whitman married Narcissa Prentiss. The
ceremony closed with the hymn, “Yes, My Native Land! I Love Thee.” This
proved to be too emotional for the congregation. Knowing that the couple
was leaving in the morning for distant Oregon, those present, one by
one, faltered in the singing. By the time the last stanza was reached,
sobs could be heard throughout the church. Only Narcissa’s voice was
heard as she finished the last lines:

  Let me hasten
  Far in heathen lands to dwell.

The call had finally been heard. The Whitmans began the long trip to the
land beyond the Rockies.

                     _Those Who Answered the Call_

    [Illustration: Henry Harmon Spalding, from a photograph taken
    several years after the massacre. WHITMAN COLLEGE]

    [Illustration: William Henry Gray. WHITMAN COLLEGE]

On March 31, 1836, the Whitmans and Spaldings left St. Louis aboard the
_Chariton_ for Liberty, Mo., the jumping-off place for the West. In
Liberty they were joined by the fifth member of the party, William H.

Marcus Whitman’s experience, gained in the preceding year on his trip to
the Rockies, together with his dedication to the purpose of the trip,
made him the natural leader of the little group. Born in 1802 in
Rushville, N.Y., Marcus was 8 when his father died, and the boy then
went to live with an uncle. Following classical school, he had hoped to
prepare for the ministry. But a lack of money and his family’s
disinterest in this career caused him to turn to medicine.

Whitman began riding with the local doctor, and in 1825 he entered a
medical school in Fairfield, N.Y. Following practice in New York and
Canada, Whitman settled in the town of Wheeler, N.Y. Before long, he
became interested in medical missionary work. He concluded that his
medical training and religious interests could be well combined in this
field. His first application to the American Board for a mission
assignment was turned down because of poor health. But after Dr. Samuel
Parker interviewed him in 1835, the Board reconsidered and selected
Marcus as a medical missionary.

Narcissa Whitman was in many ways a contrast to her husband. Though he
was sober and serious, Narcissa was animated and vivacious. Attractive
in face and figure, endowed with a fine voice, she was a person of
confidence and poise. Born in Prattsburg, N.Y., in 1808, Narcissa
Prentiss attended Emma Willard’s “Female Seminary” in Troy and
afterwards Franklin Academy in Prattsburg. She taught school for several
years and then applied for the mission field. In her first attempt she
too was turned down by the Board. It did not want single women for
missionary work. But after her engagement to Marcus, the Board approved
her application. The trip to Oregon was her honeymoon.

Riding with Marcus and Narcissa was a man whose marriage proposal Mrs.
Whitman is said to have once turned down, the Reverend Henry Harmon
Spalding. Spalding was born at Bath, N.Y., in 1803, the child of an
unwed mother. Bound out to foster parents at 14 months, he endured an
unhappy childhood. The jeers and name-calling to which he was subjected
by his stepfather and others left a bitter memory. By nature he was shy,
quick tempered, and impatient with those who disagreed with him.

Spalding attended Franklin Academy, where he first met Narcissa
Prentiss. After Franklin, he attended Western Reserve College in Hudson,
Ohio and Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. Upon completion of his
studies, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church. In 1831 he met
Eliza Hart of Holland Patent, N.Y., and they were soon married.

Born in 1807 in Kensington, Conn., Eliza Hart grew into a studious and
deeply religious person. In appearance she was tall, dark, and coarse of
feature and voice; but she had a quiet charm that endeared her to those
who knew her. Of them all, Eliza was best fitted by temperament to work
among the Indians, but even she did not realize that the Indians’ first
loyalty was to themselves and not to the whites and their ways.

William H. Gray, appointed to the Oregon mission as mechanic and
carpenter, was born in Fairfield, N.Y., in 1810. His father died when
William was 16, and he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker. His best
talents were in the use of his hands, but his ambitions always exceeded
ordinary callings. His manual skills were to be of value to the
missionaries, but his undependable temper and habit of complaining were
to lead to serious complications for the missions of Oregon.

At Liberty, Mo., these five now made their final preparations for the
trip across the Great Plains and over the Rockies to the still-strange
land called Oregon in order to bring their faith to the Indians.

The camera had not made its appearance in the Pacific Northwest before
the deaths of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. Though artists visited the
mission before the massacre, no known likenesses of the Whitmans have
ever been found. Thus the few sketches that have been made of Marcus and
his wife are conjectural drawings, the better ones based on descriptions
written by those who knew them.

                          _The Oregon Country_

The tide of European adventurers and explorers had long pressed upon the
Pacific Northwest coast. Britain, France, Russia, Spain, and that
fledgling nation, the United States, made claims along the rock-strewn
shores as they searched for the elusive Northwest Passage between the
two oceans and grasped for the wealth offered by the pelts of the sea

Early in the 19th century overland explorers from Britain and the United
States began mapping the vast area that stretched from the Rocky
Mountains to the Pacific and from the Russian settlements in the north
to Spanish California. This was the Oregon Country. Alexander Mackenzie,
Simon Fraser, and David Thompson made their way overland for the British
crown. In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition led by
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find a route to the Pacific.

    [Illustration: Narcissa Whitman’s portable writing desk and quill

Soon came the fur-trading companies, competing furiously for beaver
pelts and thereby exploring much of the Northwest and strengthening
national claims. Working its way down the Columbia River, the
Canadian-based North West Company dominated the area between 1807 and
1821. John Jacob Astor challenged it briefly when his Pacific Fur
Company established Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia. In the
American Rockies another company organized by Astor, the American Fur
Company, obtained a virtual monopoly in that region by 1835.

                                              _text continued on page 24_

_Narcissa Whitman’s Letters_

_Mary Walker, who was a prolific writer herself, once recorded in her
diary a cutting remark about Narcissa Whitman spending too much time
writing letters home. But it is from Mrs. Whitman’s detailed and
fascinating letters that we get a close view of the lives of the
missionaries in Oregon. Highly intelligent and a keen observer, Narcissa
Whitman was able to capture the color and drama of her trip west and
life among the Indians. Although her letters increasingly recounted
moments of melancholy and loneliness, they also disclosed a lively,
vivacious woman who was blessed with a fine sense of humor._

_Her diary—really a series of letters written while crossing the
continent—reveals clearly a lady of charm who was interested in all
things and people who came her way. Later, in the Pacific Northwest,
when death had taken her only child and it became clear the Cayuse were
not interested in Christianity, Mrs. Whitman’s letters show her deep
worry over her role in the mission field. At times she despaired of her
own worth and wished she could give her place to others. It is likely,
however, that she did not realize her own intelligence and relatively
sophisticated personality were a barrier between her and the Indians. A
friend wrote after her death that the Indians considered Mrs. Whitman to
be remote and haughty. He added that this was not her fault; it was her

    [Illustration: A page from one of Narcissa Whitman’s letters written
    to her family while crossing the continent. It was this series of
    long, detailed letters that became famous as her diary.
     747-534 O-64-2 WHITMAN COLLEGE]

                                           _West of the Rocky Mountains.

Dearest Mother. We commenced our journey to Walla Walla July 18th 1825.
Under the protection of Mr. McLeod, & his company. Came ten miles, in a
southwestern direction. The Flat Head or Nez Perce Indians & some lodges
of the Snake tribe, accompanying us to Port Half White—they are with us,
we shall make but one camp in a day. On the 19^th we did not move at
all. 20^th Came twelve miles in the same direction, as on the 18^th over
many steep & high mountains. On the 21^st our course was southeast in
the morning. Traveled fifteen miles. Yesterday the 22^d was a tedious
day to us, we started about nine o’clock And rode untill half past four,
PM. Came twenty one miles. Had two short showers in the afternoon which
cooled the air considerably, before this, the heat was oppressive. I
thought of Mother’s bread & butter many times are as any hungry child
would, but did not find it on the way. I fancy pork & potatoes would
relish extremely well. Have been living on fresh meat for two months
exclusively. Am cloyed with it. I do not know how I shall endure this
part of the journey. Find it much harder to make one camp in the day,
than we did to make two, while with Fish for our dinner and two hours
rest in the heat of the day, prepared us for a lengthy ride in the
afternoon. Our ride to day has not been so fatiguing or lengthy as
yesterday. Rode from nine o’clock AM. until one o’clock PM in the same
direction, south west as yesterday. Felt a calm and peaceful state of
mind all day. How sweet communion with him who delights to dwell with
the humble & contrite heart, in heart. Especial in the morning I had a
freedom in prayer for my beloved parents. Earnestly desired that God
would bless them_

                                                 _continued from page 20_

But the giant of all the trading firms was the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Growing steadily larger, it merged with the North West Company in 1821
and thereby inherited the fur wealth of the Oregon Country.

In the early 19th century, many Americans believed that the western
boundary of the United States should be the Pacific. They also believed
that the northern boundary west of the Rockies should be set at least as
far north as the 49th parallel. But Britain was not willing to give up
its interests on the lower Columbia. In 1818 the two countries agreed to
a temporary arrangement for joint occupation of the whole area. Citizens
and subjects of the two nations could enter the Oregon Country without
affecting either nation’s claims. The United States also reached
agreements with Spain and Russia that resulted in these two countries
surrendering all claims to the land between California and Alaska.

    [Illustration: Alfred Jacob Miller’s painting of the first Fort
    Laramie. In 1836 it was still called Fort William.]

Despite the joint-occupation agreement, the Hudson’s Bay Company was in
almost complete control of Oregon after 1821. The United States,
however, was able to keep alive its claims through the activities of
some of its more colorful citizens. In 1828 the magnificent trailblazer
Jedediah Smith visited Fort Vancouver, the Columbia headquarters of the
Hudson’s Bay Company. A few years later Capt. Benjamin Bonneville
explored and trapped the western slopes of the Rockies. In 1832 and 1834
Nathaniel Wyeth attempted unsuccessfully to establish a permanent
foothold on the Columbia River.

This was the Oregon Country to which the missionaries came. Other than
the scattered Hudson’s Bay forts and a handful of settlers near Fort
Vancouver, the vast land was empty except for the transient trappers
and, of course, the Indians.

                            _The Trip West_

Spalding and Gray, driving the livestock overland, set out from Liberty
on April 28, 1836. Whitman and the two wives waited for a steamer to
take them to the assembly point of the American Fur Company caravan
farther upriver. But the steamboat failed to stop, and Whitman had to
hire a wagon and make a hurried pursuit of Spalding. Reunited, the
missionaries caught up with the caravan near the junction of the Platte
River and the Loup Fork in Nebraska on May 26.

Traveling 15 to 20 miles a day, the caravan crossed the dusty plains
toward Fort Laramie. There the missionaries left the heavy wagon and,
discarding excess baggage, repacked their goods on animals. They decided
to take Spalding’s light wagon as far as they possibly could.

On July 4 the caravan crossed the Continental Divide at South Pass and,
2 days later, reached that year’s fur-trapper rendezvous on the Green
River, near Daniel, Wyo. While Narcissa enjoyed the excitement and
tumult of the colorful affair, the quieter Eliza concentrated on
learning the Indians’ languages.

Dismayed by Parker’s failure to return to the rendezvous, the
missionaries were relieved by the unexpected arrival of two Hudson’s Bay
Company traders, John McLeod and Thomas McKay. Guided by these two
experienced men, the missionaries set out on the 700-mile journey
through sagebrush, desert, canyons, and mountains to the Columbia.
Stopping at Nathaniel Wyeth’s Fort Hall only overnight, the party moved
westward along the south bank of the Snake River. The wagon finally
broke down, and the men had to convert it into a two-wheeled cart. Two
weeks later on August 19, they reached Fort Boise, a Hudson’s Bay
Company post on the Snake River.

No wagon or cart had ever come this far west before, but here Whitman
and Spalding were finally forced to abandon their cart. After a few
days’ rest, the party moved on. Following the Powder River and crossing
the beautiful Grande Ronde Valley, the missionaries reached the rugged,
twisted Blue Mountains. Riding ahead to the crest, the Whitmans had
their first view of the Columbia valley with majestic Mount Hood on the
far horizon.

On the morning of September 1, the Whitmans excitedly galloped up to the
gate of Fort Walla Walla, the Hudson’s Bay Company post on the Columbia.
They were met by Pierre Pambrun, the chief trader, who was to be their
near and good neighbor for the next few years. Two days later the
Spaldings arrived with the livestock.

Needing household goods and wanting to meet the Chief Factor, Dr. John
McLoughlin, the party decided to go to the Hudson’s Bay Company western
headquarters at Fort Vancouver, more than 200 miles down the Columbia.
Reaching the fort by boat on September 12, the missionaries completed
their long journey 207 days after their departure from Angelica, N. Y.
On the move for more than 6 months, and traveling more than 3,000 miles,
Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding had crossed the North American
Continent—the first white women to do so.

                     _A Welcome At Fort Vancouver_

The stern but kindly Dr. McLoughlin gave the missionaries a warm
welcome. He appreciated the significance of the ladies’ successful
journey across the continent. While complimenting them on this, he must
have thought to himself that they were but the vanguard of many American
families to follow.

    [Illustration: Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay
    Company in Oregon, exercised vast sway over an area extending from
    British Columbia to western Montana. Physically a giant and of an
    imperious nature, he was to the Indians “The White Eagle.” On their
    arrival at Fort Vancouver Narcissa wrote: “I feel I have come to a
    father’s house indeed, even in a strange land has the Lord raised up

    [Illustration: Fort Vancouver, sketched by Henry J. Warre in 1845.

To the surprise of the party, McLoughlin’s stores contained most of the
articles needed to establish the missions: household furniture,
clothing, building supplies, books and provisions; all were for sale.
Narcissa wrote home that it was not necessary to bring anything from the
East, for everything could be found at Fort Vancouver, “the New York of
the Pacific Ocean.”

While the ladies enjoyed the hospitality of the fort, Whitman, Gray, and
Spalding went back up the Columbia to select their mission sites. With
their husbands away, the two women caught up on their correspondence,
sewed clothing, and picked out the household utensils they would need.
Narcissa spent her evenings singing to the children at the fort school.
On November 3 Spalding returned to escort Narcissa and Eliza to their
new homes in the interior.

If McLoughlin had been cool toward the missionaries, such behavior could
have been justified. The influx of Americans that was bound to follow
would inevitably change Oregon. British control would then be threatened
and fur trade profits reduced. Nevertheless, McLoughlin, Pambrun, and
other Hudson’s Bay Company people extended a helping hand to the
missionaries. Such success as the missions had in the Pacific Northwest
was due, in good part, to the assistance they received from the company.

                         _Starting a New Life_

On the north bank of the Walla Walla River, 22 miles upstream from its
junction with the Columbia, Marcus Whitman selected the site of his
mission on the lands of the Cayuse Indians. Henry Spalding picked a site
110 miles to the east on Lapwai Creek, 2 miles from its confluence with
the Clearwater; the Nez Percé tribe at last had a missionary.

Whitman selected _Wai-i-lat-pu_, “the place of the rye grass,” for
several reasons. Close to Fort Walla Walla at the mouth of the river,
Waiilatpu was near both a source of supply and the main travel route
between Canada and Fort Vancouver. Whitman must have realized, too, that
its location was on the line of march between South Pass in the Rockies
and the Columbia, the trail that Americans would surely follow. In
addition, it was the home of the Cayuse Indians, a “heathen” tribe that
in the minds of the missionaries needed to be saved as much as any.

For his wife’s arrival from Fort Vancouver, Whitman built a crude log
lean-to as a shelter against the oncoming winter. When Narcissa arrived
at Waiilatpu on December 10, she found that the little structure had two
bedrooms, a kitchen, a pantry, and a fireplace, but was still without
windows and doors. Narcissa, though expecting her first child, accepted
her lot in good humor and set out to make a home. Meanwhile, Whitman,
Gray, and their helpers worked steadily on the main part of this first

    [Illustration: This photograph of the Spalding mission cabin at
    Lapwai—now called Spalding—was taken in 1900.]

Because of the scarcity of suitable timber, the main part of the
one-and-a-half story house was made of sun-dried adobe bricks. With
great difficulty, enough pine boards were whipsawed in the Blue
Mountains 20 miles away to make the floor. The roof was made of poles
covered with earth and rye grass. From the cottonwoods that grew along
the river, some furniture was made. Pierre Pambrun contributed by
sending a small heating stove and a rocking chair from Fort Walla Walla.
Bedsteads were boards nailed to walls, and, except for a feather tick
Narcissa had acquired at Fort Vancouver, corn husks and blankets served
as mattresses.

But even before it was finished, the first house was flooded by the
Walla Walla River, just a few feet away. After a second flood, Whitman
reluctantly decided that it would be necessary to build again on higher
ground. Work was begun on the new T-shaped mission house in 1838. A few
years later, the abandoned first house was torn down, and its adobe
bricks were used to build a blacksmith shop.

During the first year, the missionaries depended on the Hudson’s Bay
Company for provisions to tide them over to their first harvest. From
Fort Vancouver, Fort Walla Walla, and Fort Colville (in northeastern
Washington), they bought pork, flour, butter, corn, and potatoes.
Occasionally the Indians sold them fish and venison.

Horses purchased from the Cayuse provided steaks and stews. As Dr.
Whitman put it:

  we have killed and eaten twenty-three or four horses since we have
  been here, not that we suffered which causes us to eat them, but if we
  had not eaten them, we would have suffered....

In the spring of 1837 the first plantings of vegetables and grains were
made. Also in that first year, both Spalding and Whitman planted apple

At the same time, the missionaries began their efforts among the
Indians. Both men encouraged the Cayuse and Nez Percé to start
cultivation of the soil. Although the Cayuse had an epidemic of sickness
at this time, some of the families did plant crops before departing for
the hill valleys to dig camas bulbs in the early summer of 1837. Whitman
was greatly encouraged by this hesitant start. He wrote: “When they have
plenty of food they will be little disposed to wander.” He greatly
desired to lead them from their nomadic ways and to have them establish
settled communities. But the Indians lacked skills and tools, and the
results of their farming were far less than either their enthusiasm or
the missionaries’ expectations.

Both stations also began educational, spiritual, and medical work.
Spalding and Whitman were preachers, teachers, doctors, and farmers; and
Narcissa and Eliza assisted them in all these phases of their work.

Since the Nez Percé tongue was understood by both tribes, it was used as
the language of instruction at both stations. This meant that only one
alphabet had to be devised and that the same written material could be
used at both missions. Henry and Eliza Spalding made the most progress
in mastering the difficult Indian tongue, and they took the lead in
forming the alphabet and translating material. However, by the autumn of
1837 Marcus and Narcissa had learned enough Nez Percé to begin their

                                              _text continued on page 34_

_Nez Percé_

_The Nez Percé Indians called themselves the Nimipu, “The People.” Lewis
and Clark, the first whites to travel through the Nez Percé country,
called them by two names, the Chopunnish and the Pierced Nose Indians.
But available records indicate that very few, if any, of these Indians
pierced their noses. Such a custom was common with the Pacific Coast
tribes who decorated their noses with sea shells._

_Within a few years after Lewis and Clark traveled through present-day
Idaho, some unknown person, probably a French-Canadian trapper, changed
Pierced Nose to Nez Percé and so the name has come down to us today. The
accent over the final “e” is no longer pronounced; Nez is pronounced as
it looks, Percé is pronounced “purse.” Though some writers no longer use
the accent, its usage is considered to be correct by most._

    [Illustration: Narcissa sent this floor plan of the mission house to
    her mother while the house was still being built. Room _A_, which
    was to be her bedroom, was not constructed. Instead, room _B_ was
    used for that purpose.]

                                                 _continued from page 32_

Religious instruction was commenced promptly at both Waiilatpu and
Lapwai. The Spaldings held daily prayers and conducted worship on
Sundays. Handicapped by their slowness at learning the language, the
Whitmans resorted mainly to encouraging the Indians to continue their
daily prayer meetings, which some of them, inspired by fur traders, had
been attending before the missionaries arrived.

Although Whitman was the trained doctor, Spalding also administered to
the sick. At first, the Indians were receptive to white medicine; but it
was medicine that was later to become a major issue of contention
between the Indians and the missionaries. For the time being, however,
an encouraging start had been made. The Nez Percé seemed truly happy to
have the Spaldings in their midst, while the Cayuse, though less
enthusiastic, accepted the Whitmans at Waiilatpu. What were these people
like, whom man and wife had come 3,000 miles to convert and civilize?

                          _The Cayuse Indians_

The Cayuse tribe numbered little more than 400 when the Whitmans settled
among them. Located principally on the upper Walla Walla and Umatilla
Rivers, they had many contacts with their neighbors, the Nez Percé,
Walla Walla, and Umatilla Indians. They were related to these tribes
through marriage and through a common culture. Originally of a different
language family than the surrounding tribes, the Cayuse were by 1836 an
integrated part of the Columbia plateau culture.

The social organization of the tribe was a loose one. The basic unit was
the family, which was headed by an autocratic father whose decisions
were final and whose authority was independent of the chiefs or elders.
Several families formed a band, and several of these bands made the
tribe. There was no head chief for the whole tribe; rather, each band
had its own chief who held his position by inheritance, merit, or
wealth, or by a combination of these. A chief was an influential person,
but he was not a dictator over the actions of his band. For hunts or
warfare, a chief would often turn over his leadership to the most
experienced hunters or warriors. In addition, each band had a group of
elders who offered advice and, to some extent, managed the common
affairs of the band under the direction of the chief.

Like the Nez Percé, the Cayuse were adept at selective horse breeding.
Large horse herds enriched the tribe and gave it power that far exceeded
its small size. The horses also gave these Indians great mobility. In
the appropriate seasons, they crossed the mountains to the east to hunt
and rode down the Columbia to fish at Celilo Falls.

Hunts were composed of organized parties which pursued deer, American
elk, pronghorn, bison, and smaller animals. Meat that was not eaten
fresh was made into a highly concentrated, nutritious pemmican. During
the salmon runs, nets, weirs, spears, hooks, and baskets were all used
to catch the big fish. The Cayuse women roasted the fresh salmon on
sticks or sun-dried, pulverized, and packed the fish in baskets for
winter use. In addition, the Cayuse collected berries and roots in the
mountains. Berries were preserved by being pressed into dry cakes or by
being mixed with pemmican. Camas bulbs were dug in large quantities,
steamed in pits, and formed into cakes that were dried in the sun. These
cakes were eaten as bread, boiled into mush, or cooked with meat.

The Plateau Indians, though excellent hunters, were not as warlike as
those on the Great Plains. Nonetheless, they fought with skill and
bravery when forced to do so. The one traditional enemy of the Cayuse
was the Snake tribe, which lived to the southeast. According to the
Cayuse, the Snake people had forbidden them to hunt in the Blue
Mountains. In retaliation, the Cayuse attempted to keep the Snakes from
the fisheries and trading places along the Columbia.

For generations the Northwest Indians had traded among themselves. The
Cayuse, with their wealth of horses, played an active role in this
trade. They exchanged horses, robes, and reed mats for the shells,
trinkets, and root foods of the coastal Indians. After the fur trade
started, the Cayuse bartered their goods for blankets, guns, and

Early observers saw the Cayuse from different points of view. Some
considered them to be haughty, restless, and perhaps undependable.
Others were favorably impressed by them. One such was Joel Palmer who
wrote in his journal in 1845:

  These Indians have decidedly a better appearance than any I have met;
  tall and athletic in form, and of great symmetry of person; they are
  generally well clad, and observe pride in personal cleanliness....

In dress, the Cayuse were similar to all the Columbia Indians. Lightly
clad during the hot summer, they dressed in the skins of deer, elk, and
bighorn in the winter. They protected their feet with moccasins, and
Cayuse men wore leather leggings. Clothing was commonly decorated with
fringes, feathers, quills, beads, shells, and colored cloth. Some of
these garments were elaborate and extremely colorful. Following contacts
with the white traders, the Indians often supplemented their costumes
with articles of European manufacture.

Their homes were usually oblong lodges, from 15 to 60 feet in length.
The larger lodges were multi-family dwellings. Within the lodge, each
family had its own fire and a modicum of privacy. They also lived in
tepees of a style borrowed from the Plains Indians. The frames of both
lodge and tepee were covered with well-woven reed mats or buffalo hides.

Since it was their wives who put up and took down the lodges and tepees,
and who did most of the work in the village, the men were interested in
finding a healthy, strong wife. A man bought his wife, or wives, the
price often depending on her capacity for work. Should a marriage not
work out, it was a simple matter for either the husband or wife to
dissolve the marriage and go separate ways. Prostitution was rare, and
wives were generally more faithful than those of the coast Indians.

    [Illustration: Mary Walker.]

    [Illustration: Elkanah Walker.]

    [Illustration: Cushing Eells.]

    [Illustration: Myra Eells.]

    747-534 O-64-3 ALL: WHITMAN COLLEGE

The Cayuse and other tribes of the Columbia Plateau made their first
contact with Christianity through fur traders. Many of the employees of
the Hudson’s Bay Company were Roman Catholics—French Canadians and
Iroquois. Although the company did not at first bring priests into
Oregon for its employees, the Indians learned a little about the new
faith from these Hudson’s Bay men. Also, the Hudson’s Bay Company sent a
few Indian boys to an Anglican mission school at the Red River
Settlement in Canada.

These were the Indians among whom the Whitmans settled. Proud of their
heritage, the Cayuse were yet interested in new things and the new ideas
that the Whitmans introduced. Because of their age-old beliefs, they
were not willing to completely surrender their own way of life.

    [Illustration: J. M. Stanley sketched this view of the Tshimakain
    mission in 1853. In the left foreground is an Indian burial on

The arrival of the missionaries resulted in new stresses and emotions
among the Cayuse. Problems were created which neither the Indians nor
the whites fully understood. Previously the Cayuse had been able to
survive the challenges of their environment. But the old ways were to
prove inadequate in surmounting the new difficulties, real or imagined,
that arose with the coming of the white man. The missionaries, too,
found much that was strange in their new surroundings and strove to
adjust themselves to the primitive land.

                      _Reinforcements for Oregon_

Their first, short winter at Waiilatpu passed swiftly for the
missionaries. But by summer a dissatisfied and restless William Gray
left Oregon, without Whitman’s knowledge but with Spalding’s approval,
to visit the East. Gray was unhappy with his position of mechanic and
helper to the mission. He was ambitious to become a missionary in his
own right, but neither Whitman nor Spalding felt he was qualified for
such work. In Boston, Gray was coolly received by the American Board,
but the trip gained him two things: he attended medical college briefly,
and he married Mary Augusta Dix.

At this time the American Board was recruiting the only reinforcements
it was to send to Oregon. In March 1838 Gray and his wife joined this
group, and the party headed overland for Oregon. Besides the Grays there
were tall, shy Elkanah Walker and his cheerful wife, Mary;
serious-minded Cushing Eells and his frail-looking wife, Myra; and
fault-finding but intelligent Asa Bowen Smith and his sickly Sarah.
Before they reached St. Louis, they were joined by Cornelius Rogers, a
bachelor. In addition to the usual hazards, the journey was complicated
by a clashing of strong personalities. One thing the new missionaries
agreed upon, however, was that none of them wished to be assigned to the
same station as William Gray.

Upon the new missionaries’ arrival at Waiilatpu, a meeting was held to
decide a course for the future. Agreement was soon reached on the
composition of the stations. The Grays were to join the Spaldings at
Lapwai. The Smiths and Cornelius Rogers were to stay with the Whitmans.
The Walkers and Eellses, the two couples among the newcomers who got
along best, were to open a new station to the north among the Spokan
Indians near Fort Colville. But these plans were to be changed in part.

Walker and Eells visited the Spokan tribe that autumn and selected a
site at Tshimakain (“the place of springs”). But winter was close at
hand, and they returned to Waiilatpu to await spring. The Grays went to
Lapwai, where Spalding and Gray quarreled throughout the winter. At
Waiilatpu, the Whitmans’ little house was crowded to an uncomfortable
degree. Although the new mission house was far enough along for the
Smiths to move into it in December, the first house then had to make
room for the arrival of Mary Walker’s first son.

Such crowded conditions were to lead to severe irritations before the
winter was over. The diaries and the letters home show that hurt
feelings were an all too common occurrence, and feuds began to gnaw at
the unity of the Oregon mission. There were forebodings, which later
proved correct, that the antagonisms of that winter would hurt the
future work of the missionaries.

Among the disagreements was one between Whitman and Smith. It became
evident that the two would not be able to work together. Always the
pacifier, Whitman took the initiative by offering to leave Waiilatpu and
begin a new station. But the arrival of spring brought a new spirit of
cooperation. The Walkers and Eellses left for Tshimakain, and Whitman
and Smith patched up their relations. Nevertheless, they did separate;
but it was the Smiths who left. Asa and his wife moved to Kamiah, 50
miles up the Clearwater from Spalding, where they began a new mission
among the Nez Percé. By the summer of 1839 there were four American
Board stations in Oregon: Waiilatpu among the Cayuse; Lapwai and Kamiah
among the Nez Percé, and Tshimakain in the country of the Spokan. Of
these, the one most fully developed and the one destined to be the
center for the Oregon field was Waiilatpu.

                    _A Community Rises at Waiilatpu_

The number of people at Waiilatpu in the winter of 1838-39 convinced
Whitman that work on the new mission house had to be speeded up.
Fortunately, he was able to hire Asahel Munger, who was a skilled
carpenter. Munger had come out to Oregon as an independent missionary
only to find that a person could not be independent in that vast,
unsettled country. He eagerly accepted Whitman’s offer.

The attractive, substantial mission house was built of the same
materials as the first house. The new, T-shaped building had a wooden
frame, walls of adobe bricks, and a roof of poles, straw, and earth. The
walls were smoothed and whitewashed with a solution made from river
mussel shells. Later, enough paint was acquired from the Hudson’s Bay
Company to paint the doors and window frames green, the interior
woodwork gray, and the pine floors yellow. The main section of the house
was a story-and-a-half high with three rooms on the ground floor and
space for bedrooms above. From it extended a long, single-story wing
which contained a kitchen, another bedroom, and a classroom. An
out-kitchen, storeroom, and other facilities were later added to the

                                              _text continued on page 48_

    [Illustration: The press that printed the first books in the Pacific
    Northwest now reposes in the museum of the Oregon Historical
    Society, Portland.]

_The Mission Press_

_In 1837 Henry Spalding became the first missionary to try writing a
book in the Nez Percé language. But it was soon discovered that the
alphabet devised by him was not adaptable to the Indians’ tongue and
this 72-page “primer” was never printed._

_The next year, having received a new printing press themselves, the
American Board missionaries in Hawaii (then called the Sandwich Islands)
offered an older press to the Oregon missionaries. This, the first
printing press in the Pacific Northwest, arrived at Lapwai in May 1839.
With it came Edwin Hall who was to assist in starting the operation._

_Eight days after setting up the press, the missionaries had proudly
produced 400 copies of the first book printed in old Oregon. The
authors, using an adaption of the alphabet employed in Hawaii, were
Henry and Eliza Spalding and Cornelius Rogers. The significance of this
achievement is not lessened by the fact that this book had only eight

_Between 1839 and 1845 a total of nine books were printed. The most
elaborate of these was the Gospel according to St. Matthew turned out in
Nez Percé by Spalding. All but one of the books were printed in the Nez
Percé language; that one was a 16-page primer in Spokan translated by
Elkanah Walker, the copies being stitched, pressed, and bound by his
wife, Mary. All these imprints are now quite rare, and of one only a
single copy is known to exist. This is the Nez Percé Laws, drawn up by
Indian Agent Elijah White in 1842._

_Reducing the Nez Percé language to writing was not an easy task. Asa
Smith, the best linguist in the group, wrote:_

_“[The] number of words in the language is immense & their variations
are almost beyond description. Every word is limited & definite in its
meaning & the great difficulty is to find terms sufficiently general.
Again the power of compounding words is beyond description.” But even as
he struggled with this problem, Smith was convinced of the necessity of
books: “We must have books in the native language, schools, & the
Scriptures translated, or we are but beating the air....”_

_By 1846 the missionaries had become pessimistic about their progress in
publishing. The amount of effort required for just a few pages was
tremendous. Their best linguists—Smith and Cornelius Rogers—were no
longer with the mission. The Indians were not as receptive to the
printed word as the missionaries had hoped. In that year the press was
moved from Lapwai to The Dalles, and this first publishing venture came
to a close. After the Whitman massacre, the press was used in the
Williamette Valley by some men who were among the first newspaper
publishers in the Pacific Northwest._

_The immensity of this undertaking can be grasped only if one remembers
the primitiveness of the land in 1839 when the missionaries distributed
the first pages ever printed in the Oregon Country._

    [Illustration: (uncaptioned)]

    [Illustration: Page from _Nez Percé Laws_ printed by Henry Spalding
    on the mission press. WHITMAN COLLEGE]



Ka kuna patuna papahwitatasha titokanm, Lapaham pa kalatita
panitoktatasha; kaua wapshishuikash autaaiu laptit wah pahat _Wawia_
tsalawi ituna papahwisha kakashl ka hiwash takspul hu ma kunmanimn. Wah
tsalawin papahwisha himakeshna ka kunim pawausa takspulns kaua Pakaptit
wawia autsaiu.

    [Illustration: (continued)]


Ka ipnim panpaitataisha ishina shikam inata, kaua kunia pusatatasha,
miph panahnatatasha; hu ita mina inata hinptatasha, wawianash, hu itu
uiikala ka hiwash hanitash patuain: ka kuna ioh pai hikutatasha, kaua
kunapki hitamatkuitatasha ka kush wamshitp hiwash tamatkuit; kaua
autsaiu laptit Wawia wapshishuikash, hu ma mitaptit, pilaptit, mas
pakaptit, ka kale miohat hitimiunu.


Ka ipnim passoaitataisha ishina tamanikash kaua kuna tamanikina
popsiaunu; hu mu ipalkalikina pawiskilktatasha kaua kunapki kokalh
haasu, tamanikina popsiaunu; kunapki kaua hiwasatitatasha tamanikitp,
ipalkalikina taks panitatasha, kaua hanaka wapshishuikash autsaiu laptit
wah pahat Wawia. Kush uiikalaham hiutsaiu ka kalaham kush hiuiakiu.

                                                 _continued from page 41_

William Gray, who had moved back to Waiilatpu from Lapwai, built a third
house in 1840-41. Situated 400 feet east of the mission house, it was a
neat, rectangular adobe building. Gray and his wife lived in it only a
short time. In 1842 he decided that his future lay elsewhere than in the
mission field. The Grays moved to western Oregon where they began an
active life as settlers.

Although a blacksmith shop and a gristmill had been erected at Lapwai to
serve all the stations, it became evident to Whitman that the central
location of Waiilatpu required similar facilities there. In 1841 the
blacksmith equipment was moved from Lapwai, and a small, adobe shop, 16
by 30 feet, was built half-way between the mission house and Gray’s
residence. Its adobe bricks were taken from the first house, which was
torn down at this time. A corral was also built near this shop.

A small, improvised gristmill was built on the south side of the mission
grounds in 1839. A second, more efficient mill soon replaced it. With
this mill, Whitman was able to produce enough flour to supply the other
stations and to sell to the emigrants of 1842. In addition, some of the
Cayuse began to bring their grain to the mill. After Whitman had
departed for the United States in the autumn of 1842, fire destroyed the
mill. Not until 1844 did Whitman find the opportunity to build his third
mill. Much larger than the others, the new gristmill had grinding stones
40 inches in diameter. Later, a threshing machine and a turning lathe
were built on the mill platform. For waterpower to operate the mill, a
ditch was dug from the Walla Walla River to a millpond formed by two
long earthen dikes.

Although some pine timber had been handsawed in the Blue Mountains and
dragged to the mission by horses, Whitman felt a dire need for a
waterpowered sawmill. Among other things, he wanted to replace his
leaky, earthen roofs with boards. He picked a spot on a stream in the
foothills about 20 miles from the station and, by 1846, had the mill
ready for operation. In 1847 a small cabin was built at the sawmill to
house two emigrant families whom Whitman hired that autumn for a season
of sawing. Physically, Waiilatpu was fast becoming the most substantial
and comfortable of all the stations. From time to time, the other
missionaries were just a shade envious of the Whitmans.

As the missionaries carried their work into the 1840’s, they continued
their efforts among the Indians. Whitman had his greatest success in
teaching them the rudiments of agriculture. In 1843 he wrote that about
50 Indians had started farms, each cultivating from a quarter of an acre
to three or four. The Cayuse also became interested in acquiring cattle,
and by 1845 nearly all possessed the beginnings of a herd.

Much slower progress was made in education and religious instruction. To
the Whitmans’ disappointment, the Cayuse became less and less interested
in learning the principles of Christianity. The demands made of them
were too great for their simple and seminomadic way of life. Then, too,
the Whitmans found they had less and less time to devote to Indian
affairs. In addition to the multitude of details involved in the
everyday job of acquiring food and shelter, the arrival of the annual
emigrant trains from the United States demanded much time and energy
from the Whitmans. Waiilatpu became not only an Indian mission but also
an important station on the Oregon Trail.

At Lapwai, Spalding was having greater success among the Nez Percé and
was able to convert several important Indian leaders. In 1839 he
obtained a printing press from the American Board mission in Hawaii and
printed parts of the Bible in the Nez Percé language. Both he and Asa
Smith had difficulty in devising a workable alphabet. But on the second
attempt, they contrived one that captured the sounds of the Nez Percé
tongue. At Tshimakain and Kamiah the work of teaching and converting
Indians proved a laborious and slow task. Although they recognized the
difficulties facing them, the missionaries clung tenaciously to the idea
of preparing the Indians for the day when white settlers would pour into
the fertile lands of the Far West.

Meanwhile, the signs of white migration were becoming more plentiful at
Waiilatpu, situated as it was on the main route of travel from the East.
One of the ways in which this movement was making itself apparent was in
the increasing number of white children who were to be seen at Whitman’s

                         _The Mission Children_

On her 29th birthday, March 14, 1837, Narcissa Whitman gave birth to her
only child, a baby girl who was named Alice Clarissa after her two
grandmothers. Alice was the first child born of United States citizens
in the Pacific Northwest. Her arrival was a great joy not only to her
parents but to the Cayuse as well. The Indians had been aware of the
baby’s coming, and after her birth all the chiefs and elders of the
tribe visited the house to see the _temi_ or “Cayuse girl,” as they
promptly named her because she was born on their lands.

That autumn the Whitmans took 8-month-old Alice Clarissa on a visit to
the Spaldings at Lapwai. It was time for Eliza Spalding’s first
confinement, and Dr. Whitman had come to officiate. On November 15, the
baby arrived. The Spaldings named their daughter Eliza, after her
mother. Back home again, little Alice Clarissa provided her parents with
untold happiness. But that happiness was to be tragically short lived.
On a fine Sunday afternoon, June 23, 1839, Alice Clarissa Whitman met
death by drowning. Unattended for a few minutes, she had wandered down
to the steep bank of the nearby Walla Walla River and had fallen in.
Though her body was found but a short time later, all attempts to revive
her failed. Her heartbroken parents tried to console themselves with the
thought that her demise was the will of God. Yet their loneliness was
immense. Before long, however, the Whitmans once again had children in
their home to care for and to raise.

The first of these was Helen Mar, the half-breed daughter of the famous
mountain man, Joe Meek. Helen Mar’s Nez Percé mother had deserted Meek,
and when he journeyed to Waiilatpu in 1840, he persuaded Mrs. Whitman to
accept the care of the child. The next year, another little part-Indian
girl was added to the Whitman household when another famous mountain
man, Jim Bridger, sent his 6-year-old Mary Ann to the Whitmans.

In 1842 two Indian women brought a “miserable-looking child, a boy
between three and four years old,” to Narcissa and asked her to take him
in. This boy was also half-Indian; his Spanish father had once been an
employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Narcissa tried to decline the
responsibility, but her pity was too great. Taking the child, she named
him after an old friend back home, David Malin. Then, when Marcus
returned to Oregon in 1843 from his trip East, he brought with him his
13-year-old nephew, Perrin Whitman. Thus the Whitmans acquired their
fourth youngster.

The next seven children to be added to the household were all of one
family. In 1844 Henry and Naomi Sager left Missouri with six children.
On the trail to Oregon, Mrs. Sager gave birth to her seventh child. But
tragedy rode with the Sagers. Henry died when the family reached the
Green River; a month later, Mrs. Sager died near what is now Twin Falls,
Idaho. The children, benumbed by the loss of both parents, were brought
on by the wagon train. The women of the train took turns caring for the
baby, while Dr. Dagan, a German immigrant, drove the Sager cart with the
other six children toward the Whitmans’ mission.

For many days, the emigrants’ wagons had been passing through Waiilatpu.
Just before the seven orphans came, Narcissa had written home: “Here we
are, one family alone, a way mark, as it were, or center post, about
which multitudes will or must gather this winter.” On the morning the
children arrived Mrs. Whitman was called to the yard to greet them.
There she witnessed a poignant scene.

Before the cart stood the four barefoot girls in their tattered dresses.
Afraid of the unknown, they huddled speechlessly, first looking at Mrs.
Whitman then at one another, not knowing what to expect. John, the older
boy, still sat in the cart. Exhausted but relieved, he bent his head to
his knees and sobbed aloud. His brother, Francis, leaned on a wheel and
also began to cry. Dr. Dagan, who had been both father and mother to the
orphans, stood to one side and, filled with emotion, watched Narcissa
murmur a compassionate welcome. She then took the children into the
mission house.

    [Illustration: An Indian woman made this doll for young Elizabeth

At that time Narcissa’s health was not good, and she and Marcus debated
that evening whether or not to take all seven orphans into their family.
But the plight of the children resolved all doubts. The Whitmans now
found themselves directly responsible for a family of 11 children.

In addition to this family, the children of the emigrant families
stopped at the mission each autumn and often stayed for the winter. Also
present were the children whom the Whitmans took into their school as
boarders—such as the young lady whom Dr. Whitman had brought into the
world, Eliza Spalding—and the two Manson boys, the half-breed sons of a
Hudson’s Bay employee at Fort Walla Walla. Thus, following the death of
Alice Clarissa, there was always a large number of youthful voices at
Waiilatpu, as indeed there was, to a lesser degree, at the other

                          _Missions in Oregon_

During the 11 years they operated in Oregon, the American Board stations
continually sent home requests for lay assistants to help convert the
Indian tribes. Despite these pleas, no additional reinforcements were
sent to Oregon after 1838. On the contrary, the mission stations were
reduced from four to three. Discouraged, lonely, and increasingly
concerned over his wife’s health, Asa Smith left Kamiah in 1841 and
sailed for the Hawaiian Islands. From then until 1847 only Waiilatpu,
Lapwai, and Tshimakain remained in operation.

In western Oregon the Methodist missions, established with the arrival
of Jason Lee in 1834, were suffering difficulties of their own. Faced
with a rapidly diminishing number of Indians, the Methodists began to
concentrate in the early 1840’s on establishing churches among the new
white settlements that were rapidly filling the Willamette Valley. In
1847 the Methodists offered to sell their remaining Indian mission,
Waskopum at The Dalles, to the American Board. Whitman, worried that
Catholic missionaries would take over the area if the American Board did
not, agreed to purchase it. Lacking a missionary to send there, he hired
Alanson Hinman and his wife, from the Willamette Valley, to take charge
of secular affairs and sent his nephew, Perrin, to live with them.

As early as 1834 French Canadian employees and ex-employees of the
Hudson’s Bay Company in Oregon had petitioned the Catholic bishop at Red
River in western Canada for priests. At first the Hudson’s Bay Company
refused to help priests come to Oregon, but in 1838 it agreed to
transport Catholic missionaries across the Rockies provided that no
missions were established south of the Columbia River.

The Bishop of Quebec accepted responsibility for sending Catholic
missionaries to the Pacific Northwest. As soon as the Hudson’s Bay
Company agreed to help with transportation, the bishop sent the Reverend
Francis N. Blanchet to be vicar-general of the new area. Joined at Red
River by Father Modeste Demers, Blanchet arrived at Fort Vancouver late
in 1838.

Because of the company’s restriction, Blanchet was careful not to
establish mission stations south of the Columbia. Before long, however,
the restriction was removed, and a Catholic mission was established at
French Prairie in the Willamette Valley.

                    Lower Columbia River and Its Tributaries

    (A)—American Board
  Fort Langley
  Victoria (C)
  Whidby Island (C) 1840
  Fort Nisqually (C) 1839 (M) 1840,
  Clatsop Plains (M) 1840, (C) 1840
  Cascades (C) 1841
  Fort Vancouver (C) 1838
  Willamette Falls (M) 1840, (C) 1841
  Old Mission (M) 1834
  Chemeketa (M) 1841
  Willamette R.
  The Dalles (A) 1811
  Clackamas (C) 1841
  St. Paul’s (C) 1839
  St. Louis (C) 1844
  Fort Colville (C) 1838
  St. Paul’s (C) 1845
  St. Francis Regis (C) 1845
  Tshimakain (A) 1839
  Fort Okanagan (C) 1838
  St. Ignatius (C) 1845
  St. Michael’s (C) 1844
  Sacred Heart (C)
  Immaculate Heart of Mary (C) 1845
  The Assumption (C) 1845
  St. Francis Borgia (C)
  St. Rose Lima (C) 1847
  Fort Walla Walla (C) 1838
  Waiilatpu (A) 1836
  St. Ann’s (C) 1847
  Lapwai (A) 1836
  St. Mary’s (C) 1841
  Kamiah (A) 1839

During 1839 both Blanchet and Demers made extensive tours throughout
Puget Sound and on the upper Columbia. While at Fort Colville, near the
American Board station at Tshimakain, Demers learned that an American
priest, Father Peter DeSmet, was in the Flathead country to the east.
Father DeSmet had been sent out to Oregon by the Bishop of St. Louis in
answer to a call similar to that which had stimulated the Protestant
missions. In 1841 DeSmet founded St. Mary’s mission in the Bitter Root
Valley in present-day Montana and, in the next year, the Sacred Heart
mission among the Coeur d’Alene Indians, in what is now Idaho.

By 1842 the Canadian and American Catholic missions in Oregon were
united under the authority of Blanchet. Soon reinforcements were
received from Canada, the United States, and Europe. In 1844 Francis
Blanchet was designated as bishop and 2 years later was promoted to
archbishop when Oregon was elevated to an ecclesiastical province. The
brother of the archbishop, A. M. A. Blanchet, was made bishop of Walla
Walla. He arrived at Fort Walla Walla in September 1847, accompanied by
Vicar-General J. B. A. Brouillet, six priests, and two lay brothers.

The 1830’s and 1840’s were years of strong antagonisms between the
Protestant and Catholic churches in the United States. The missionaries
in Oregon shared in this feeling. When Marcus Whitman met Bishop A. M.
A. Blanchet at Fort Walla Walla, he was greatly disturbed by the
presence of the Catholic missionaries.

    [Illustration: Peter John DeSmet, apostle to the Indians.]

    [Illustration: DeSmet founded Sacred Heart mission among the Coeur
    d’Alene Indians in 1842. From Thwaites, _Early Western Travels_.]

Bishop Blanchet proceeded to establish St. Ann’s mission among the
Cayuse on the Umatilla River and St. Rose of Lima near the mouth of the
Yakima River. The Catholic missionaries unwittingly had chosen a most
unpropitious time for establishing these missions. Their beginning was
to coincide with the disaster at “the place of the rye grass.”

With the outbreak of violence at Waiilatpu in November 1847, strong
anti-Catholic feeling flared up in Oregon that was to color many minds
for years to come. The troubles at Waiilatpu, however, were not the
result of religious rivalry, and the Catholic missionaries could in no
way be rightfully blamed. The tragedy at the Whitman station would have
occurred had there been no Catholics in eastern Oregon.

Besides the real and imagined troubles of rival churches during this
decade, the American Board missionaries were experiencing difficulties
within their own ranks. Out of this dissension came one of the most
remarkable cross-country journeys in American history.

                            _The Ride East_

In September 1842 an alarming letter from the American Board arrived at
Waiilatpu. It ordered the closing of Waiilatpu and Lapwai and directed
Whitman to move to Tshimakain. Spalding, Gray, and Smith were told to
return home.

These drastic orders were the result of letters written by Smith, Gray,
Rogers, and others, telling the Board of the many dissensions among the
missionaries. Reports were sent to Boston about Spalding’s bitterness
toward the Whitmans, about the feud between Spalding and Gray, and about
Smith’s constant faultfinding. They told, too, of the inability of the
missionaries to agree on policies toward the Indians and toward the
independent Protestant missionaries who strayed into the Northwest. The
letters recounted in painful detail the petty squabbles that had risen
from time to time among all the missionaries.

But before the orders reached Oregon, many of these problems had already
been solved. The missionaries, realizing the harm coming from
dissension, had agreed to patch up their differences and had had some
success in doing so. The Smiths had long since left the mission, and the
Grays were about to go. Meeting at Waiilatpu to discuss the orders, the
missionaries first decided not to put the directive into effect until
the Board should hear of the improvements that had been made. This would
take time, for it was not unusual to wait a year or more for an answer
to a letter. Deeply concerned over the matter, Whitman made the sudden
decision that he should go at once to Boston to talk to the Board’s
Prudential Committee. Reluctantly, the other missionaries agreed.

On October 3 Whitman set out on his remarkable ride across the continent
in the height of winter. Accompanied by a newly arrived emigrant, Asa
Lovejoy, and an Indian guide, Whitman reached Fort Hall on the upper
Snake River after 15 days of travel. Persuaded to detour to the south
because of rumors of Indian wars east of the Rockies, the tiny party
crossed the Uintah Mountains to Fort Uintah, in Utah. The hazardous trip
was made through deep snow and in bitter cold.


    Whitman’s Ride, 1842
    Oregon Trail, 1843
    Later cut-offs, Oregon Trail
    International Boundaries
  St. Louis
    Bent’s Fort
    Santa Fe
    Fort Uncompahgre
    Fort Uintah
  {_Oregon Trail_}
    Fort Laramie
    _South Pass_
    Fort Bridger
  {_Oregon Trail Cutoff_}
    Fort Bridger
  Fort Hall
  Fort Boisie
  Fort Walla Walla
  Fort Vancouver

Following the Uintah, Colorado, and Gunnison Rivers, Whitman reached
Fort Uncompahgre, Colo. From there, he set out for Taos in northern New
Mexico, but had to return when his guide became lost. Severe winter
storms continued to harass Whitman and Lovejoy, but by mid-December they
reached Taos. On the trail to Bent’s Old Fort on the Arkansas River,
they learned that a group of mountain men were leaving the fort for St.
Louis. Whitman pushed on ahead to catch this party before it left.

Later when Lovejoy reached the fort, he discovered that Whitman had not
yet arrived. Sending word to the mountain men to wait, Lovejoy turned
back and found Whitman, who in his haste had become lost. Exhausted,
Lovejoy stayed at Bent’s Old Fort until summer, when he joined Whitman
at Fort Laramie for the return trip to Oregon. On February 15 Whitman
reached Westport, Mo. By March 9 he was in St. Louis, and about March 23
he arrived in Washington, D.C.

Even after he reached Boston, Whitman left no written record of his
overland journey. Although Lovejoy did write about it in later years,
his account includes only the western part of the trip. For the last
half of the journey, we must rely on the accounts of those who saw
Whitman as he traveled toward the American Board headquarters at Boston.
On reaching civilization at St. Louis, it is probable that he gave up
the saddle gladly and traveled to Washington by steamer and stagecoach.

In Washington, Whitman visited Secretary of the Treasury J. C. Spencer,
an old friend. It is possible, too, that he was introduced to President
John Tyler. This stopover in Washington caused many people years later
to claim that Dr. Whitman had ridden East to persuade the government to
save Oregon from the British, an argument not widely accepted today.
Most historians agree that Whitman’s ride was to save the missions and
that the trip through Washington was secondary.

The great weakness in the “save Oregon” theory was that it failed to
distinguish between the reasons for the trip and the results that came
of it. This theory also tended to link the causes of the journey with
the results of all Whitman’s later efforts in Oregon, including
assistance to the American emigrants and the development of Waiilatpu as
an important way station on the Oregon Trail.

When Marcus Whitman arrived at New York City about March 25, he was
interviewed by Horace Greeley, the famed editor of the _Tribune_. At New
York the doctor boarded the _Narragansett_ and sailed to Boston, where
he arrived March 30. Despite the rough seas of the Atlantic coast, this
part of the extraordinary trip must have seemed calm to Whitman after
the hundreds of miles on horseback through the winter snows of the Rocky
Mountains and the western prairie—a journey of hardships rarely
paralleled in American history.

In the office of the American Board Whitman was greeted with coldness,
but the Board agreed to listen to his reports and arguments in favor of
the Oregon field. In all respects, Whitman’s visit was a successful one.
The Board rescinded the unfavorable orders and agreed to send
reinforcements to Oregon if suitable persons could be found.

His task accomplished and a hasty visit paid to his home, Whitman began
his return trip to Oregon in April 1843. At Independence, Mo., he joined
that year’s migration of almost 1,000 people who were preparing to
follow the Oregon Trail.

                    _A Caravan on the Oregon Trail_

The wagon train of 1843 was the largest yet to assemble for the trip to
Oregon. Its way had been paved by the triumphs and failures of the fur
traders, adventurers, missionaries, and settlers who had gone before.
Back in 1832, Capt. Benjamin Bonneville had taken 20 wagons beyond the
Continental Divide. However, he did not attempt to take them to the
Columbia River, which he visited in 1834 and again in 1835. In 1836
Whitman and Spalding set a new milestone by taking a light wagon, by
then converted to a two-wheeled cart, as far west as Fort Boise.

The first wagons reached the Columbia in 1840. They were brought from
Fort Hall, where earlier travelers had abandoned them, by a group of
mountain men who were on their way to settle in the Willamette Valley.
The trail was so rough that the men finally stripped the wagons down to
their bare frames to get through the sagebrush. The next year an
emigrant train of more than 100 people, led by Dr. Elijah White, reached
the Columbia, but their wagons were taken only as far west as Fort Hall.
It was the caravan of 1843 that brought all these efforts to fulfillment
by taking its wagons intact to the Columbia. One of the reasons for this
success was Dr. Whitman.

In May 1843 the emigrants held a general meeting at Independence to plan
the organization of the wagons. For better control, it was eventually
decided to divide the train into two parts: an advance group
unencumbered by livestock, and a slower group that would take the
cattle. Beyond Fort Hall, where the danger from Indian attack was much
less, the train was to split into smaller units, each to proceed at its
own speed. The emigrants also appointed a committee to talk to Dr.
Whitman to obtain advice on the journey. From his own experiences,
Whitman was in a position to offer many sound suggestions.

While the caravan crossed the prairie during June and July, Marcus
Whitman remained behind with the cow column. But when the lead wagons
reached the mountains in the first week of August, he moved up to the
advance party. From then on Whitman was active in helping to guide the
train westward. He assisted in finding the easiest fords and in crossing
the rivers. He pushed on ahead to locate and mark the best routes.
Whenever necessary, he treated the sick and the lame. Above all, he
constantly urged the emigrants, some of whom were experiencing great
discouragement, to keep on pushing westward so that they would reach
Oregon before winter set in. At Fort Hall, the Hudson’s Bay Company
trader, Richard Grant, in good faith advised the emigrants to leave
their wagons there. But Whitman insisted that the wagons could be taken
to the Columbia. Catching his enthusiasm, the emigrants formally hired
the doctor to lead them the rest of the way. From Fort Hall to the
Grande Ronde Valley, he went ahead of the train marking the route for
the wagons to follow.

Just before the difficult crossing of the Blue Mountains, Whitman
received word by messenger to hurry to Lapwai where both Henry and Eliza
Spalding were seriously ill. To help the emigrants in crossing the
mountains, he persuaded them to accept as a guide an outstanding Cayuse
leader named Stickus. This chief faithfully and carefully guided the
wagons across the timber-covered range and on to the mission station.

After a fast ride to Lapwai, Whitman treated the Spaldings, then hurried
on to Waiilatpu. He arrived home on September 28, just 5 days short of a
year since he had started on his trip. Stopping only long enough to
notice that the first of the emigrant wagons had already arrived, the
doctor mounted his horse once more in answer to another summons and rode
to the Tshimakain mission to deliver Myra Eells of a son.

By the time Whitman again returned to Waiilatpu, most of the emigrants
had already stopped at the mission and had gone on to the Columbia. From
the mission’s storerooms, the travelers had refurnished their supplies
with wheat, corn, potatoes, beef, and pork raised at Waiilatpu.

This migration of 1843 confirmed Marcus Whitman’s thoughts that his
mission was to be an important way station on the Oregon Trail. From
then on, by the time emigrants reached the Walla Walla Valley each
autumn many were sick, exhausted, or suffering from hunger. Marcus and
Narcissa welcomed these people, whether they stopped overnight or stayed
for the winter. The sick and injured were treated; produce from the
fields was sold or given to the needy; worn-out horses and cattle were
replaced with fresh ones from the mission’s herd. A few, not yet aware
of the high cost in the Far West of food, tools, and other things needed
by the emigrants, criticized Whitman for being mercenary, but most
visitors praised him for his aid. He turned no one away. Whitman felt it
was his special responsibility to care for the destitute and the sick.

The Oregon Trail was repeatedly changed with the discovery of shortcuts
during these years. In 1845 the majority of the emigrants by-passed the
mission when a trail was opened down the Umatilla River past present-day
Pendleton, Oreg. But each autumn many of the wagons still turned toward
Waiilatpu for shelter. The famous as well as the unknown came to the
mission: T. J. Farnham, emigrant leader; Capt. John Charles Frémont,
army explorer; Paul Kane, artist; and John Sutter, of later California
fame. These and hundreds more found comfort and aid at Waiilatpu.

Because Whitman was back at his station and relations among the
missionaries were greatly improved, the next few years seemed to be good
ones for the Oregon mission. But, despite the outward signs of success,
troubles were breeding that would lead to tragedy.

                         _The Gathering Storm_

One of the results of the increasing number of emigrants on the Oregon
Trail was the Cayuse’s conviction that their way of life was in danger.
Although the emigrants, up to now, had continued on to the rich
Willamette Valley, the Indians feared the day when the settlers would
stop on Cayuse land. The Cayuse were quick to identify the Whitmans with
the tide of settlers. Tom Hill, a Delaware Indian living among the
nearby Nez Percé, contributed to this conviction. He told the Cayuse
that before long the emigrants would be taking their lands. This, after
all, was what had happened to his own people. He also said that the
Whitmans were becoming rich from the sale of their produce to the
travelers, and he argued that this wealth should be used in helping the

The Cayuse’s concerns were intensified by the increasing interest Dr.
Whitman was showing in the emigrants. The doctor himself foresaw that
the Indians’ mode of living would not be able to withstand the
encroachments of the aggressive settlers for very long. It seemed
obvious to him that the future of Oregon belonged to the whites. As
Whitman turned his attention more and more to the problems of
emigration, which he was forced to do by the very presence of the
travelers, there was naturally a decrease in the time and effort he
could devote to the Indians. Furthermore, the results of more than 10
years labor among the Cayuse offered little encouragement, and he feared
that the future would be little better. The Cayuse were quick to sense
this change. When they did, they lost their faith in the purpose of the
mission and in the missionaries themselves.

These growing resentments and suspicions were heightened in the autumn
of 1847 when a measles epidemic spread from that year’s wagon train to
Cayuse villages. This was a new disease for the Cayuse, and their bodies
had little resistance to it. The effect of the disease in the lodges was
disastrous. Within 2 months about half the Cayuse tribe died from
measles or from the accompanying dysentery, though the Whitmans tried
desperately to relieve the suffering. Panic stricken, the Cayuse lost
completely their faith in Whitman’s medicine and turned to their
traditional treatments. A sweat bath, followed by a plunge into the cold
river, practically assured their immediate death.

With the wagons of 1847, a half-breed named Joe Lewis had arrived at
Waiilatpu. Whitman soon learned that Lewis was a troublemaker, but had
no success in getting rid of him. When the epidemic struck, Lewis told
the Cayuse that Whitman was spreading poison in the air to kill off the
tribe. He said that when all the Indians were dead, Whitman was going to
take their lands for himself. The more desperate of the Indians believed
Lewis and decided to rid themselves of the doctor who now seemed a man
of evil design. In this belief, they were encouraged by Nicholas Finley,
another half-breed living near the mission. His lodge, a few hundred
feet from the mission house, became a headquarters for the malcontents.

In the minds of these Cayuse there was no question of their right to
dispose of Dr. Whitman. One of the practices of the tribe for
generations was that if a patient of a medicine man, or _tewat_, should
die, the sick person’s relative could seek revenge by killing the
_tewat_. Since measles was a white man’s disease and since Whitman, a
white doctor, surely knew the cure, they believed that he was
deliberately withholding that cure from them. Their people were dying,
and revenge should be extracted from _tewat_ Whitman.

The Whitmans had long been aware of the dangers that faced them because
of the Indians’ attitude toward medicine. But, with their high sense of
obligation and responsibility, they had threaded their way through the
maze of superstitions, sometimes at great risks, but always with
success—until 1847.

Although the majority of the Cayuse had become concerned with the events
of that autumn, only a few extremists took part in planning an attack on
the mission. As November 1847 drew to a close both the whites at the
mission and the Cayuse leaders knew that a crisis was at hand. This
crisis grew out of a conflict between two groups holding opposing ideas,
each believing itself to be right. The Whitmans believed they were
fulfilling a destiny that God had determined for them. The Cayuse
believed they were doing what was necessary to defend and preserve their
land and their way of life.

                             _The Massacre_

When Monday, November 29, 1847, dawned cold and foggy in the Walla Walla
Valley, there were 74 people staying at the Waiilatpu mission. Most of
them were emigrants, stopping over on the way to the Willamette Valley.
The mission buildings were crowded almost beyond capacity: 23 people
were living in the mission house; 8 in the blacksmith shop; 29 in the
emigrant house; 12 in the cabin at the sawmill, 20 miles up Mill Creek;
and the 2 half-breeds, Lewis and Finley, were living in lodges on the
mission grounds.

The Whitmans, aware that a crisis was at hand, had discussed what they
should do. Both Marcus and Narcissa rejected the idea of attempting
flight. Dr. Whitman believed that if the Cayuse went on the rampage only
he would be involved and the others would not suffer on his behalf.
Courageously, the missionaries decided to continue administering to the
sick and to attempt to keep peace with the Indians. On that Monday
morning, Marcus treated the ill and officiated at the funeral of an
Indian child. Narcissa, ill and temporarily despondent, remained in her
room until nearly noon, not touching the breakfast brought to her.

    [Illustration: Tiloukaikt and Tomahas, Cayuse chiefs who led the
    massacre. Paintings by Paul Kane. ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM, CANADA]

    [Illustration: Tomahas]

After lunch Whitman stayed in the living room, resting and reading.
Narcissa, feeling better, was in the room also, bathing one of the Sager
girls. Throughout the rest of the mission, the duties of the day were
being carried out. Several children were in the classroom where L. W.
Saunders had begun to teach that day after a forced vacation caused by
the measles epidemic. Isaac Gilliland, a tailor, was working in the
emigrant house on a suit of clothes for Dr. Whitman. At the end of the
east wing of the mission house, Peter Hall was busy laying a floor in a
new addition being built that autumn. Out in the yard, Walter Marsh was
running the gristmill, and four men were busy dressing a beef. There
were more Indians than usual gathered about the grounds that day, but it
was thought they had been attracted by the butchering.

Into this scene walked two Cayuse chiefs, Tiloukaikt and Tomahas. They
entered the mission house kitchen and knocked on the bolted door that
led to the living room, claiming they wanted medicine. Dr. Whitman
refused them entry but got some medicine from the closet under the
stairway. Warning Mrs. Whitman to lock the door behind him, he went out
into the kitchen. There, Tiloukaikt deliberately provoked the doctor
into an argument. While the doctor’s attention was thus diverted,
Tomahas suddenly attacked him from behind with a tomahawk. Whitman
struggled to save himself but soon collapsed from the blows.

Mary Ann Bridger, in the kitchen at this moment, dashed out the north
door, ran around the building to the west entrance of the living room,
and cried out in terror, “They have killed father!” John Sager, the
oldest of the seven orphans, was also in the kitchen when the two
Indians fell upon the doctor. John, recovering from the measles, had
been busy preparing twine for new brooms. When the doctor was attacked,
John attempted to reach for a pistol but was assaulted by the Indians
before he could get it. He fell to the floor mortally wounded. At this
time, a shot rang out that was apparently the signal for an attack by
the Indians in the yard.

At the sound of the shot, the Indians dropped their blankets, which had
concealed guns and tomahawks, and began their attack on the men at the
mission. Saunders, the school teacher, was killed while trying to reach
his wife in the emigrant house. Hoffman, one of the butchers, was killed
while furiously defending himself with an ax. Gilliland, the tailor, was
killed in the room where he had been sewing. Marsh was killed working at
the gristmill. Francis Sager, the second oldest of the family, was in
the schoolroom when the attack began. With the other children, he hid in
the rafters above the room. Before long he was discovered by Joe Lewis,
and soon he too was shot and killed.

Two others—Kimball who also was working on the beef, and Andrew Rodgers
who was down by the river—were wounded; but both were able to reach the
mission house where Narcissa let them into the living room. A few
minutes later, Mrs. Whitman, looking though the window in the east door,
saw Joe Lewis in the yard. She called out to him asking if all this was
his doing. Lewis made no reply, but an Indian standing on the schoolroom
steps heard her voice and, raising his rifle, fired. The bullet hit Mrs.
Whitman in the left breast. She fell to the floor screaming but quickly
recovered her composure and staggered to her feet.

Narcissa gathered those about her, including several children and the
two wounded men, and led them upstairs just as the Indians burst into
the living room. In the attic bedroom, a broken, discarded musket was
found, and the refugees used it to fend off the Indians. Finally,
Tamsucky, an old Indian whom the Whitmans had long trusted, convinced
Narcissa that the mission house was about to be burned and that all must
go to the emigrant house for safety.

Narcissa and Rodgers agreed to come downstairs, but for the time being
the children and the wounded Kimball were to stay. At the foot of the
stairs Narcissa caught a glimpse of her husband who now lay dead, his
face horribly mutilated. Shocked and weak from loss of blood, she lay
down upon a settee. Rodgers and Joe Lewis picked up the settee and
carried Mrs. Whitman outdoors. Just beyond the north door of the
kitchen, Lewis suddenly dropped his end of the settee, and a number of
Indians standing there began firing at Narcissa and Rodgers. After her
body had rolled off the couch into the mud, one Indian grabbed her hair,
lifted her head, and struck her face with his riding whip. Mrs. Whitman
probably died quickly, but Rodgers lingered on into the night.

Kimball remained upstairs with the children through the long night. In
the early dawn of Tuesday, he slipped down to the river to get water for
them. But he was discovered by the Indians and killed. On that same day,
unaware of what had happened, James Young drove down from the sawmill
with a load of lumber. He was caught a mile or to from the mission and
slain on the spot. A few days later two more victims were added when the
Indians killed Crockett Bewley and Amos Sales, two sick youths who dared
to openly criticize the Cayuse for the massacre. These two young men
brought the death total to 13.

Peter Hall, the carpenter working on the house, managed to escape when
the Indians attacked. He made his way to Fort Walla Walla where he
received help from the trader, William McBean. Departing from there, he
started across the Columbia River to make his way down the north bank to
Fort Vancouver. But he never arrived. Perhaps he drowned in the
Columbia, perhaps he was caught and killed. Nothing further is known
about him.

A few of the people at the mission made successful escapes. W. D.
Canfield, one of those dressing the beef, managed to hide in the
blacksmith shop until nightfall. Then he set out on foot for Lapwai, 110
miles away. Though he had only a general knowledge of the trail and the
direction, he reached Spalding’s mission on Saturday. But the most
desperate escape was that of the Osborn family. Josiah Osborn, his wife,
and their three children were living in the “Indian Room” of the mission
house. When the attack came, Osborn hid himself and his family under
some loose boards in the floor and escaped detection throughout the
afternoon and evening. Crouched under the floor, they could hear the
groans of the dying and the sounds of looting above their heads.

After the coming of darkness when the rooms above them grew quiet, the
Osborns came out of hiding and made their way silently to the river.
They started walking to Fort Walla Walla, but after a short distance,
Mrs. Osborn, who had just recovered from measles and the loss of a child
at its birth, could not go on. Hiding his wife and two of the children
in the willows, Osborn continued on to the fort where he eventually was
able to get a horse and a friendly Indian to help him. After some
difficulty, he found his family where he had left them and took his wife
and children on to Fort Walla Walla. The Osborns did not reach the
security of the fort until Thursday—after 4 days in the damp cold of an
Oregon autumn. Sick and afraid, all five of the family survived the
ordeal and eventually reached the Willamette Valley.

At Waiilatpu, the Cayuse were exultant. They had destroyed what they
believed had been the cause of all their troubles; once again their
lands would be free from the tracks of wagon wheels and the unfathomable
ideas of the whites.

Their victory was to be but a short respite. Before long, the Cayuse
were to suffer heavily for these deeds. They could not foresee that
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman would be regarded as martyrs by their
countrymen. They did not understand that Americans could and would wreak
a terrible vengeance.

    [Illustration: The second great grave, where the Oregon Volunteers
    buried the massacre victims in 1848.]

                       _The Harvest of Violence_

    [Illustration: Peter Skene Ogden.]

With the exception of David Malin and the two Manson boys, whom the
Indians allowed to go to Fort Walla Walla, they held all 49 survivors
captive at Waiilatpu. Although most of them suffered greatly from shock
and were fearful of the future, most of the captives were not treated
severely. Three of the older girls were singled out by Indians who
desired them for wives. Especially maltreated was Lorinda Bewley who was
subjected to the unwanted attentions of Five Crows, a chief who had not
participated in the attack and who had long enjoyed many favors from the
Whitmans. During their captivity, two young girls died—Louise Sager and
Helen Mar Meek. Both these children had been critically ill with measles
before the massacre, and it is possible they would have died even with
Dr. Whitman present to care for them.

On Tuesday, the day following the attack, Joe Stanfield dug a shallow,
mass grave near the mission cemetery north of the mission house. On the
same day, Father Brouillet, one of the priests whose arrival in the
vicinity a few weeks earlier had so greatly disturbed Dr. Whitman,
reached Waiilatpu. Horrified by the scene of death and destruction,
Brouillet helped Stanfield prepare the dead. Rendering “to those
unfortunate victims the last service in my power to offer them,”
Brouillet officiated at the burial. A few days later wild animals
disturbed the shallow grave, and it had to be covered again. In March
1848 the remains, which again had been disturbed by wolves, were placed
in a new grave and covered with an upturned wagon bed by the Oregon
Volunteers. On the 50th anniversary of the massacre, the bodies were
disinterred and reburied in a more fitting tomb, where they lie today.

News of the massacre reached Fort Vancouver early in December. Moving
quickly, Chief Factor James Douglas sent Peter Skene Ogden up the
Columbia with a supply of goods to bargain for the release of the
captives. On December 29, one month after the massacre, the prisoners
were exchanged for 62 blankets, 63 shirts, 12 guns, 600 loads of
ammunition, 37 pounds of tobacco, and 12 flints.

None of the other American Board missions were attacked. On January 1,
1848, the Nez Percé escorted the Spaldings to Fort Walla Walla, where
they joined the 49 Waiilatpu survivors for the journey to Willamette.
The Eellses and Walkers continued to live among the Spokan until the
following spring when they, too, left for Oregon City. Thus the
activities of the American Board came to an end in the Pacific

When Gov. George Abernethy, head of the provisional government in Oregon
Territory, heard of the massacre, a company of riflemen was enrolled to
punish the Cayuse. Soon the call was increased to 500 volunteers. At the
end of February the volunteer soldiers reached the Walla Walla Valley.
The Cayuse fled to the mountains north of the Snake River, but the
disorganized and poorly disciplined troops did not pursue them far.
These volunteers stayed at Waiilatpu until early summer. Then, leaving
behind a guard of 50 men at the mission—by now called Fort Waters—the
rest returned home.

After 2 years of wandering and hardships, the Cayuse gave up five of
their men in an effort to make peace with the whites. These five were
arrested for murder and tried by jury in Oregon City. All five were
found guilty (although one of them probably took no part in the
massacre) and were hanged in 1850. There is bitter irony in the fact
that the hangman was Joe Meek, the father of Helen Mar. The Indians’
problems were not solved by the hanging. In fact, the time of troubles
was just starting. For the next generation intermittent Indian wars
plagued the Pacific Northwest; but the Cayuse were never again a source
of real trouble.

At the time that he dispatched the Oregon Volunteers, Governor Abernethy
and the provisional legislature sent emissaries to Washington (led by
Joe Meek) to call attention to the state of affairs in Oregon. News of
the massacre moved Congress to act, and in August 1848 a bill was passed
creating the Territory of Oregon. Thus did Marcus and Narcissa Whitman
serve the Pacific Northwest and their country after death.

Alive, they had striven to prepare the Cayuse for the civilization that
was sure to engulf them. When the emigrants did arrive, the Whitman
mission became a haven in the wilderness for these weary wanderers. The
Whitmans’ deaths had the immediate result of creating the first formal
American territorial government west of the Rocky Mountains. Today, the
story of the Whitmans serves to inspire all people who would pursue the
way of high principles and ideals. Events at Waiilatpu were climaxed
with disaster, but from this tragedy there shines a rare courage,
dedication, and strength that men will ever need.

                       _Preservation of the Past_

For a brief time in 1848, the Oregon Volunteers occupied the mission in
their unsuccessful campaign to punish the Cayuse. Building an adobe wall
around the mission house, they named it Fort Waters. In 1859 the
Reverend Cushing Eells, the former associate of Dr. Whitman, established
a claim on the former mission site and lived there until 1872, when his
house burned down. His great achievement during these years was the
founding of Whitman Seminary (now Whitman College) in the new community
of Walla Walla, 6 miles east of the mission site.

For the next few generations the land that Dr. Whitman first tilled
continued to be farmed by a number of owners. In 1897, on the 50th
anniversary of the massacre, Mr. and Mrs. Marion Willard Swegle donated
about 8 acres, including the site of the Great Grave and the Memorial
Shaft Hill, to a group of citizens interested in perpetuating that
historic spot. As the 100th anniversary of the Whitmans’ arrival at
Waiilatpu approached, public-spirited citizens initiated efforts to
acquire and preserve the land on which the mission itself had been
located. In 1936 the Whitman Centennial Co. acquired 37½ additional
acres of land, which included the building sites. These two tracts were
donated to the Nation, and on January 20, 1940, Whitman National
Monument was formally established.

In 1961 an additional 45 acres of land were purchased by the Federal
Government, pursuant to an Act of Congress, to permit the proper
development of the monument. In 1962 Congress changed the name of this
area to Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

    [Illustration: The great grave today.]


    [Illustration: Archeologists uncovered the ruins of the mission
    buildings in the 1940’s. The rectangle of packed earth with the two
    large pits is the base of the large hearth in the mission house
    kitchen. Narcissa Whitman cooked on this hearth for only a few years
    before it was replaced with a regular cookstove.]

    [Illustration: A plan of the foundation ruins of the mission house,
    as found by archeologists.]

    [Illustration: Among the thousands of artifacts discovered were
    these two buckles that might have been used for harnesses or belts.]

    [Illustration: A millstone emerges from mud at the site of Whitman’s
    grist mill.]

    [Illustration: A useful everyday object was this fine-tooth comb,
    found in the ruins. The missionaries had to be constantly on the
    watch for lice, especially in their children’s hair. In a letter
    home, Narcissa asked that some of these “louse traps” be sent.]

    [Illustration: The site of the blacksmith shop was excavated in

    [Illustration: Concrete blocks outline the site of Gray’s house,
    later called the emigrant house.]

              based on archeological and historical investigations]


_About Your Visit_

Whitman Mission National Historic Site is 6 miles west of Walla Walla,
Wash., just off U.S. 410. Walla Walla is served by an airline, two
railroads, and bus-lines. Since there is no public transportation
between the town and the monument, you must arrange your own
transportation between these two points.

The grounds of the historic site are open from 8 a.m. until dark. A
self-guiding system of trails enables you to tour the mission grounds
and see the great grave and the memorial shaft. Markers, pictures,
wayside exhibits, and an audio system are located along the trails.
Special guide service is available to groups making advance arrangements
with the superintendent. In summer, free guided tours are usually
available on weekends without prior arrangement.

A visitor center housing a museum and a small auditorium is open from 8
a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every day except Christmas. The museum tells the
story of the missionaries in the Pacific Northwest, especially that of
the Whitmans. Illustrated talks about the missionary era and special
programs are given in the auditorium. Uniformed personnel are stationed
at the visitor center, where free informational literature and sales
publications of special historical interest are available.


Whitman Mission National Historic Site is administered by the National
Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

The National Park System, of which this Site is a unit, is dedicated to
conserving the scenic, scientific, and historic heritage of the United
States for the benefit and inspiration of the people.

Development of the site is part of MISSION 66, a dynamic conservation
program to unfold the full potential of the National Park System for the
use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

A superintendent, whose address is Whitman Mission National Historic
Site, Route 2, Walla Walla, Wash., 99362, and whose offices are in the
visitor center, is in immediate charge.

    [Illustration: (uncaptioned)]

_America’s Natural Resources_

Created in 1849, the Department of the Interior—America’s Department of
Natural Resources—is concerned with the management, conservation, and
development of the Nation’s water, wildlife, mineral, forest, and park
and recreational resources. It also has major responsibilities for
Indian and territorial affairs.

As the Nation’s principal conservation agency, the Department works to
assure that nonrenewable resources are developed and used wisely, that
park and recreational resources are conserved, and that renewable
resources make their full contribution to the progress, prosperity, and
security of the United States—now and in the future.

_Related Areas_

Included in the National Park System are these other areas commemorating
phases of early western history: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
National Historic Site, Mo.; Homestead National Monument of America,
Nebr.; Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Nebr.; Scotts Bluff National
Monument, Nebr.; Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyo.; Grand Teton
National Park, Wyo.; Custer Battlefield National Monument, Mont.; Big
Hole National Battlefield, Mont.; Fort Vancouver National Historic Site,
Wash.; McLoughlin House National Historic Site, Oreg; and Fort Clatsop
National Memorial, Oreg. The nearby city of Walla Walla has preserved
the military cemetery of the U.S. Army Post, Fort Walla Walla.

                          _Suggested Readings_

Bagley, Clarence B. ed., _Early Catholic Missions in Old Oregon_. 2
      vols. Lowman & Hanford Company, Seattle, 1932.

Bancroft, Hubert Howe, _History of Oregon_, 2 vols., (vol. 2,
      1834-1848). The History Publishers, San Francisco, 1886.

Bischoff, William N., S.J., _The Jesuits in Old Oregon, 1840-1940_.
      Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1945.

Brosnan, Cornelius J., _Jason Lee, Prophet of the New Oregon_. The
      MacMillan Company, New York, 1932.

Drury, Clifford M., _Marcus Whitman, M.D.: Pioneer and Martyr_. Caxton
      Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1937.

Elliott, T. C., _The Coming of the White Women_. Oregon Historical
      Society, Portland, 1937.

Garth, Thomas R., “The Archeological Excavation of Waiilatpu Mission.”
      _Oregon Historical Quarterly_, XLIX, 117-36 (June 1948).

Haines, Francis, _The Nez Percés: Tribesmen of the Columbia Plateau_.
      University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1955.

Hulbert, Archer B. and Dorothy P., eds., _Marcus Whitman, Crusader_. 3
      vols. Stewart Commission of Colorado College and the Denver Public
      Library, Denver, 1936, 1938, 1941.

Jones, Nard, _The Great Command: The Story of Marcus and Narcissa
      Whitman and the Oregon County Pioneers_. Little, Brown, and
      Company, Boston, 1959.

Lavender, David, _Land of Giants: The Drive to the Pacific Northwest,
      1750-1950_. (Mainstream of American Series, Lewis Gannett, ed.)
      Doubleday & Company, Garden City, N.Y., 1958.

                       ★ U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1964 O-747-534


  Aztec Ruins
  Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields
  Custer Battlefield
  Custis-Lee Mansion, the Robert E. Lee Memorial
  Fort Laramie
  Fort McHenry
  Fort Necessity
  Fort Pulaski
  Fort Raleigh
  Fort Sumter
  Fort Union
  George Washington Birthplace
  Guilford Courthouse
  Hopewell Village
  Jamestown, Virginia
  Kings Mountain
  The Lincoln Museum and the House Where Lincoln Died
  Manassas (Bull Run)
  Montezuma Castle
  Morristown, a Military Capital of the Revolution
  Petersburg Battlefields
  Richmond Battlefields
  Scotts Bluff
  Statue of Liberty
  Vanderbilt Mansion
  Whitman Mission
  Wright Brothers

WASHINGTON, D.C., 20402.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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