Beginnings and Endings
By Renee Rusler, Park Ranger
On her 29th birthday (March 14, 1837), Narcissa Whitman gave birth to a daughter, Alice Clarissa. The Whitmans were missionaries to the Cayuse people, who loved little Alice Clarissa. Narcissa wrote to her mother:
Narcissa’s missionary colleague, Eliza Spalding was also expecting. A few months later, on November 7th, the whole family, 8 month old Alice Clarissa included, left for the Spaldings’ mission at Lapwai [near today’s Spalding, Idaho]. It took several days of traveling in rain, wind, and a touch of snow. Narcissa rode sidesaddle carrying the baby. On November 11th they reached the Snake River:
They reached the Spaldings’ mission the next day. Narcissa and Eliza hadn’t seen each other for a year. A few days later, on November 15th, Eliza Spalding gave birth to a daughter, who was named Eliza after her mother. Narcissa described Alice Clarissa’s reaction:
Eventually the Whitmans had to return to their mission. On December 2nd they said their goodbyes and stepped into a canoe. Narcissa explained: “thought this would be a more comfortable way than to go over the hills on horseback.”
And this is where we will leave them, with two new babies and their futures bright before them.
Drury, Clifford M. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon. 1994. Northwest Interpretive Association: Seattle, Washington.
Whitman, Narcissa. Letter to Narcissa's mother. Started December 5, 1836. Included in "The Coming of the White Women, 1836" (Part IV). T. C. Elliott. In the Oregon Historical Quarterly: vol. XXXVIII, number 1, pg. 46. March, 1937. Statesman Publishing Co., Salem, Oregon.
Whitman, Narcissa. Letter to Narcissa's parents. March 14, 1838. Included in the Transactions of the Nineteenth Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association for 1891. 1892. Geo. H. Himes and Company, Printers. Portland, Oregon.
Did You Know?
Great Basin Wild Rye Grass is part of the natural landscape at Whitman Mission. The name Waiilatpu, meaning place of rye grass, was used by the people to name the mission site.