• bible sitting next to a teapot

    Whitman Mission

    National Historic Site Washington

Narcissa's Children

(Revised February 2007)

 
Alice Clarissa Whitman
The Whitmans' own daughter who was born on March 14, 1837 (Narcissa's twenty-ninth birthday). She was the first white girl born to American parents west of the Rockies. Tragically, Alice Clarissa drowned in the Walla Walla River on June 23, 1839, at the age of two years and three months. more . . .
 

Helen Mar Meek
In 1840, mountain man, Joe Meek left his two-year-old daughter at the Whitmans’ mission to be reared and educated. He had met the Whitmans and Spaldings at the 1836 Rendezvous; the missionaries were on their way to the Oregon country to establish their missions.

Helen’s mother was Meek’s first wife, a Nez Perce woman. Helen was named after Lady Helen Mar, the heroine in The Scottish Chiefs. Helen was around 9 years old when she died of the measles in December, 1847 while being held captive.

 

Mary Ann Bridger
Mary Ann was the daughter of mountain man Jim Bridger and an Indian woman. In 1841, Jim Bridger sent his 5-year-old daughter to the Waiilatpu mission to be reared and educated. Jim Bridger had met Dr. Whitman at the 1835 Rendezvous. Dr Whitman and Rev. Parker were on a reconnaissance trip to the Oregon Country. While at the Rendezvous Dr. Whitman removed an arrowhead from Jim Bridger's back.

In a letter to her sister Jane, Narcissa wrote: “Mary Ann is of a mild disposition and easily governed and makes but little trouble.” She was the second child accepted by the Whitmans. Narcissa also told Jane, “The Lord has taken our own dear child away, so that we may care for the poor outcasts of the country and suffering children.”

Mary Ann lived with the Whitmans until the attack of 1847. She was taken to the Willamette Valley with the rest of the ransomed hostages, but she died a few months later, possibly as the result of exposure from the trip down the river or from poor medical care during the month of captivity. Mary Ann Bridger was eleven years old when she died.

 

David Malin
On March 2, 1842, two Indian women brought Narcissa a small child who was no older than two. His parents, a Spaniard (a former employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and a Walla Walla woman, had deserted him. Narcissa wrote: “I could not shut my heart against him.” The Whitmans took him in and named him David Malin after a schoolmate of Narcissa. He was the third child accepted by the Whitmans.

 
Perrin Whitman
Marcus’ 13 year old nephew, Perrin Whitman begged to return to Waiilatpu with his uncle in 1843. Perrin’s father “reluctantly consented after three days’ pleading.” In later years Perrin recalled adoption papers being drawn up, but New York State did not have any adoption laws until 1873. Possibly what Perrin remembered seeing was an apprenticeship contract.
 

The Sager Children
In April of 1844, the Sager family left western Missouri for the Oregon Country. Henry and Naomi Sager had 6 children. Naomi was pregnant with their 7th child, Henrietta, who was born on May 30th. At the time of departure the children’s ages were:

John------------- 13 (killed during the attack on the mission in 1847)
Francis---------- 11 (killed during the attack on the mission in 1847)
Catherine-------- 9
Elizabeth----------7
Matilda Jane------5
Hannah Louise--- 3 (died of measles on December 5, while being held captive after the killings)
(Henrietta)------- She was born during the trip, on May 30, 1844.

Henry and Naomi both died during the trip west. The seven orphaned children, one a five month old baby, arrived at the Whitmans' mission at the end of October 1844.

 

Sources

Drury, Clifford M. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon. 1994. Northwest Interpretive Association: Seattle, Washington.

Pringle, Catherine Sager. Across the Plains in 1844. 1989. Ye Galleon Press: Fairfield, Washington.

Did You Know?

picture of Great Basin Wild Rye Grass

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.