Hurry Up & Wait
By Renee Rusler, Park Ranger
Dr. Whitman had made a mad dash across the continent to Boston in order to save his mission from being closed by the missionary board. While back east, he took advantage of the opportunity to visit relatives, but he had just a little over a month, so none of his visits were as long as he would have wished. On April 8 he was still in Boston, location of the missionary board; by May 27, he was in Westport (now part of Kansas City, Missouri).
Westport was a jumping off spot, a town where one could join a wagon train headed west, which is how Dr. Whitman planned to travel home. The wagon trains were starting later that year, so now Dr. Whitman had to sit and wait. What did Dr. Whitman do with his time? One thing he did was write letters to the people he had just visited.
To his mother he expressed his regret at not being able to stay longer and that he was happy with the life he had chosen:
For his brother-in-law Edward Prentiss, he had some advice, advice which may sound familiar to many parents and is still relevant today:
To another brother-in-law, Jonas Galusha Prentiss, Dr. Whitman shared some of his thoughts on travel logistics. He especially went on about the value of sheep. Here is just part of what he said:
His last letter from Westport was to the missionary board, whom he had recently visited. He expressed concerns over religious development of the Oregon Country:
Dr. Whitman knew that the group going west that year was large. But he didn't know that it was so large that it would become known as the "Great Migration of 1843."
This is part 30 of "A Missionary Saga." More from Season 3
Whitman, Marcus. May 27, 1843. Letter to Mrs. Alice Loomis (mother). Whitman Mission Collection.
Whitman, Marcus. May 27, 1843. Letter to Mr. Edward Prentiss (Narcissa's brother). Whitman Mission Collection.
Whitman, Marcus. May 28, 1843. Letter to Mr. Jonas Galusha Prentiss (Narcissa's brother). Whitman Mission Collection.
Whitman, Marcus. May 30, 1843. Letter to Rev. David Greene. 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.