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Marcus Whitman
Marcus Whitman.jpg
Born September 4, 1802
Died November 29, 1847 in Waiilatpu, Oregon Country
Church Protestant
Education Fairfield Medical College
Congregations served Whitman Mission
Title Missionary
Spouse Narcissa Prentiss
P christianity.svg Christianity Portal

Marcus Whitman (September 4, 1802–November 29, 1847) was an American physician and missionary in the Oregon Country. Along with his wife Narcissa he started a mission in what is now southeastern Washington state in 1836, which would become a stop along the Oregon Trail. Whitman would later lead the first large party of wagon trains along the Oregon Trail, establishing it as a viable route for the thousands of emigrants who used the trail in the following decade.

Contents

Early life

On September 4, 1802 Marcus Whitman was born in Federal Hollow, New York to Beza Whitman and Alice Whitman.[1] The family's heritage dates to John Whitman who immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony before 1639 from England.[1] After his father's death, when Whitman was seven years old, he moved to Massachusetts to live with his uncle.[1] He dreamed of becoming a minister but did not have the money for such a time-consuming curriculum. Instead, apprenticing himself, he studied medicine for two years with an experienced physician and received his degree from Fairfield Medical College.

Missionary

In 1834 Whitman applied to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. They initially denied him for health reasons, but he was later accepted as a missionary doctor. In 1835, he traveled with missionary Samuel Parker to present-day north-western Montana and northern Idaho, to minister to the Native American bands of the Flathead and Nez Percé people. During this journey, Whitman treated several fur trappers during an outbreak of cholera. At the end of their stay, he promised the Nez Percé that he would return with other missionaries and teachers to live with them.

After his return Whitman attended a speech by Parker, now representing the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which called for missionaries. In 1836, Whitman married Narcissa Prentiss, a teacher of physics and chemistry. Narcissa had also been eager to travel west as a missionary, but she had been unable to do so as a single woman.

On May 25, 1836, the couple, and a group of other missionaries including Henry and Eliza Spalding, joined a caravan of fur traders and traveled west. The Fur Company caravan was led by mountain men Milton Sublette and Thomas Fitzpatrick. The fur traders had seven wagons, each pulled by six mules. An additional cart drawn by two mules carried Sublette, who had lost a leg a year earlier and walked on a "cork" leg made by a friend. The combined group arrived at the fur-trader's rendezvous on July 6.

The group established several missions as well as Whitman's own settlement, Waiilatpu (Why-ee-lat-poo, the 't' is half silent), which means "place of the rye grass" in the Cayuse language. Located 6 miles from current day Walla Walla Washington, just west of the northern end of the Blue Mountains, near the present day city of Walla Walla, Washington. The settlement was in the territory of both the Cayuse and the Nez Percé tribes of Native Americans. Marcus farmed and provided medical care, while Narcissa set up a school for the Native American children. In 1843, Whitman travelled east, and on his return he helped lead the first large group of wagon trains west from Fort Hall, in eastern Idaho. Known as the "Great Emigration", it established the viability of the Oregon Trail for later the homesteaders.

Massacre

The influx of white settlers in the territory brought new diseases to the Indian tribes, including a severe epidemic of measles in 1847. The Native American's lack of immunity to new diseases and limited health practices led to a high mortality rate, with children dying in striking numbers. The zealous conversion attempts by the Whitmans, as well as the recovery of many white patients, fostered the belief among the Native Americans that Whitman was causing the death of his Indian patients.

The Indian tradition of holding medicine men personally responsible for the patient's recovery eventually resulted in violence. In what became known as the Whitman Massacre, Cayuse tribal members murdered the Whitmans in their home on November 29, 1847. Most of the buildings at Waiilatpu were destroyed. Twelve other white settlers in the community were also killed. For one month 53 women and children were held captive before negotiations led to them being released. This event triggered an ongoing conflict between white settlers and local tribes, known as the Cayuse War.

According to some contemporaries, the situation was aggravated by ongoing animosity between the Protestant missionaries and local Catholic priests. Roman Catholic priest John Baptist Brouillet aided the survivors and helped bury the victims. However, the Rev. Henry H. Spalding later wrote a pamphlet stating forcefully that the Catholic priests, including Father Brouillet, had incited the massacre. "Spalding's version of the disaster was printed and reprinted, sometimes at taxpayer expense, for the next half-century. It was finally discredited by a Yale University historian in 1901 [Edward Gaylord Brown, 'The myth of Marcus Whitman', in the American Historical Review of January 1901]."[2]

Commemoration

Marcus Whitman, National Statuary Hall Collection, NSHC

Whitman is commemorated by Marcus Whitman Junior High in Port Orchard, Washington, Marcus Whitman Elementary in Richland, Washington, Marcus Whitman Central School in Rushville, New York, Whitman College, Whitman County, Washington, the Wallowa–Whitman National Forest and the Marcus Whitman hotel in Walla Walla. In 1953, the state of Washington donated a statue of Whitman by Avard Fairbanks to the National Statuary Hall Collection. The Washington State Legislature has declared the fourth day of September as Marcus Whitman Day.

See also

References

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WHITMAN, MARCUS (1802-1847), American missionary and pioneer, was born at Rushville, New York, on the 4th of September 1802. He studied medicine at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and practised in Canada and in Wheeler, Steuben county, New York. In 1834 he was accepted by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for missionary work among the American Indians, and was assigned to the Oregon territory, then under the joint occupation of Great Britain and the United States. He set out early in 1835, but returned almost immediately to secure other workers. In February 1836 he married and in March again crossed the continent, accompanied by his wife, Rev. and Mrs H. H. Spalding and W. H.' Gray, and settled at Waiilatpu, near the present Walla Walla, Washington. Dissensions which arose among the missionaries and their apparent lack of success led to a resolution (February 1842) of the Prudential Committee of the Board to abandon the southern station. With the consent of his associates, Dr Whitman started from the station (3rd October 1842) on the perilous winter journey over the Rocky Mountains and across the plains for the missionary headquarters at Boston, to urge the revocation of the order. He visited New York and Washington also to enlist help and sympathy. On his return journey he joined a considerable body of emigrants on their way to Oregon and piloted them across the mountains. The mission, however, gained the ill-will of the Indians, and, on the 29th of October 1847 Dr and Mrs Whitman and twelve others were killed, and the station was broken up.

On the 16th of November 1864 the statement was published, on the authority of Mr Spalding, that the purpose of Dr Whitman's ride, twenty-two years before, was to prevent the cession of the territory to Great Britain. The story was amplified by Spalding and Gray in 1865, 1866 and 1870, and in its final form declared that Whitman learned at the British fort Walla Walla in September 1842 that a large number of British settlers were expected, and that it was hoped that the treaty then supposed to be in process of negotiation between Lord Ashburton and Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, would give the territory to the British. Thereupon Whitman made his way to Washington, and with much difficulty convinced Webster and President Tyler of the value of the country and prevented its exchange for fishing privileges off`Newfoundland. This story has been widely disseminated, but Professor E. G. Bourne and Mr W. I. Marshall independently investigated the whole question, and showed that there is no evidence that Dr Whitman influenced or attempted to influence the State Department. For the pro-Whitman side, see W. H. Gray, Oregon (Portland, 1870); William Barrows, Oregon (Boston, 1883); O. W. Nixon, How Marcus Whitman saved Oregon (Chicago, 1895); W. A. Mowry, Marcus Whitman (New York, 1901); Myron Eells, Marcus Whitman (Seattle, 1909). On the other side see H. H. Bancroft, Oregon (San Francisco, 1886-1888); E. G. Bourne, Essays in Historical Criticism (New York, 1901); W. I. Marshall, History v. The Whitman-saved-Oregon Story (Chicago, 1904).


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