By Renee Rusler, Park Ranger
We live in a world of instant communication. For us waiting a few minutes for a response to a phone call, e-mail, or text message can seem like an eternity. The Whitmans’ world was different. It could be well over a year before they would get a response to a letter.
Here is the story of one request.
In April 1838, Dr. Whitman and Rev. Spalding sent a joint letter to the American Board requesting more supplies and additional helpers. Whitman and Spalding each had a mission station. The American Board was the group who sponsored them. Only five missionaries total were assigned to staff the two stations. In the letter Whitman and Spalding asked for an additional 220 people!
Eleven months later in Boston, Rev. Greene of the American Board wrote his response:
Regarding the request for such a large number of additional staff, Greene wrote:
The Board was willing to help, just not to the degree asked:
Who are “Messrs, Walker, Eells, Smith & Gray” and wives? While these letters were slowly moving across the continent or traveling the high seas, reinforcements had arrived at the mission stations. We’ll meet them next time.
This is part 16 of "A Missionary Saga." More from Season 2
Drury, Clifford M. Chapter 12 (pdf 1.7 mb) of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon. 1994. Northwest Interpretive Association: Seattle, Washington.
Greene, David. March 21, 1839. Letter to Marcus Whitman and Henry Spalding. Whitman Mission Collection.
Did You Know?
Wagons used on the Oregon Trail had to carry nearly 2000 pounds of supplies. They traveled 2000 miles or more to the Oregon Country. Most wagons were pulled by oxen as they could eat the prairie grass and survive without lots of food for lengthy periods.