NPS - Whitman Mission NHS
"Dear, Dear Mother: Your proposal concerning keeping a diary as I journey comes before my mind often..." - Narcissa Whitman, March 15, 1836
The first attempt to travel the Oregon Trail by wagon was fortunately recorded through the writings of Narcissa Whitman. She and her husband Marcus led a small group of missionary Presbyterians from New York to Oregon in 1836. During the journey, she kept regular accounts of their adventures, mishaps and daily routines. Narcissa's writings provide us with an understanding of what life was like early in the history of the Oregon Trail.
Narcissa was also one of the first women to make the Oregon Trail on foot. The Whitmans eventually settled and built a mission in eastern Washington at Waiilatpu where they focused on ministering to the Cayuse Indian tribe.
Differences in culture led to growing tensions and as the mission became more important as a stop along the Oregon Trail, passing immigrants added to the tension. A measles outbreak in 1847 killed half of the local Cayuse. Some of the Cayuse blamed the deaths on Dr. Whitman. The Whitmans were later killed by the Indians and sixty people were taken hostage.
For more information, visit the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.
Some excerpts from Narcissa's diary while on the Oregon Trail:
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