Read About Accounts of the Attack

ACCOUNTS OF THE ATTACK AND PERIOD OF CAPTIVITY

Excerpted from Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon by Clifford M. Drury.

The following list of eyewitness and contemporary accounts of the massacre and the subsequent captivity of the survivors does not include the testimony of the witnesses given at the trial of the five Cayuses accused of the murder of the Whitmans and others, a brief review of which appeared in the May 30, 1850, issue of the Oregon Spectator. It should be noted that most of the accounts listed below were written many years after the massacre had occurred. The recollections of those who were children at the time no doubt reflect much that was told to them during the years following the events described. The recollections of the two Manson boys did not come to the author’s attention until June 1972. They knew the Indian language but were taken to Fort Walla Walla the day after the massacre began. Thus their knowledge of what happened was limited. Ten-year-old Eliza Spalding was the only one of the captives who understood and spoke Nez Perce.

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS BY ADULTS

  1. Lorinda Bewley, deposition, December 12, 1848; Gray, Oregon, pp. 486-9, 501; Spalding, Senate Document, pp. 34-7.

  2. Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Canfield gave an account of their experiences to Dr. E. F. Elinwood, who wrote two articles which appeared in the May and June 1886, issues of the (Presbyterian) Foreign Missionary. These articles were reprinted the same year as a pamphlet under the title: Marcus Whitman and the Settlement of Oregon.

  3. Josiah Osborn wrote a letter on April 7, 1848, to “Dear Brother and Sister” which is the earliest known account of the massacre by a survivor. First published in the Oquawka, Illinois, Spectator, August 23, 1848; republished in Spalding, Senate Document, pp. 31-3; Warren, Memoirs, pp. 126-8; Hulbert, O.P., VIII:257; and Walla Walla Union, August 12, 1936.

  4. Mary Saunders, pamphlet, The Whitman Massacre, Oakland, Calif., 1916. Only known copy is in the Library of Congress. Typewritten copies are in Colls. B. & E.W.S.H.S.

  5. Daniel Young, deposition, Jan. 20,1849; Gray, Oregon, pp. 474-9.

  6. Elam Young, deposition, January 20, 1849; ibid., pp. 482-5.

  7. John Young. See “Life Sketches of J. Q. A. Young” written about 1880, and published in Fort Vancouver Historical Society, Clark County History, V (1964): pp. 24-32.

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS BY THOSE WHO WERE CHILDREN AT THE TIME. AGES INDICATED IN PARENTHESES.

  1. Oscar F. Canfield (9), Portland Oregonian, July 21, 1894; Lewiston Tribune, Jan. 1, 1908; W.H.Q., VIII:250 ff.

  2. Mary Marsh Cason (11), interview given R. J. Hendricks, Oregon Statesman, Nov. 6-10, 1936; Walla Walla Union, August 12, 1936; Reminiscences of Pioneer Life in Washington, “Saw Massacre from Window,” I (1937), Olympia, Wash.

  3. Helen Saunders Church (14), “The Massacre at Whitman Mission,” W.C.Q., II (1898): pp. 21-26.

  4. Matilda Sager Delaney (8), pamphlet, A Survivor’s Recollections of the Whitman Massacre, Spokane, Wash. (1920); Lockley, Oregon Trail Blazers, pp. 344-51.

  5. Gertrude Hall Denny (10), Oregon Native Son, June 1899; Portland

    Oregonian, July 21, 1894.

  6. Elizabeth Sager Helm (10), W.C.Q., I (April 1897): pp. 17-28; Lockley, op. cit., pp. 120 ff; T.O.P.A., 1896, pp. 120 ff; letter dated Jan. 17, 1885, to Frederick Sager, Paradise City, Iowa, published in several newspapers including the Portland Oregonian, October 30, 1932, and the Ogden, Utah, Examiner,

    summer 1934; letter of March 3, 1913, to Dr. James Wightman, Yates County

    Chronicle, Yenn Yan, N.Y., March 18, 1914.

  7. Nancy Osborn Jacobs (9), paper read at Walla Walla, May 29, 1912, printed in Waitsburg Times, Feb. 2, 1934, copy Coll. W; Lockley, op. cit., pp. 351-63; interview in Pendleton, Oregon, East Oregonian, May 19, 1919.

  8. Nathan Kimball, Jr. (12), “Recollections of the Whitman Massacre,” T.O.P.A., 1903, pp. 189-95.

  9. John D. (13) and Stephen Manson (11), statements made at Vancouver, B.C., July 29, 1884. Copy at Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

  10. Susan Kimball Munson (6), short statement in Cannon, Waiilatpu, pp. 157-8.

  11. Catherine Sager Pringle (13), Clarke, Pioneer Days, II: 528-44; O.H.Q., XXXVII (1936):354-60, giving letter written Dec. 21, 1854; manuscript, “Account of Overland Journey to Oregon in 1844; Life at the Whitman Mission; the Whitman Massacre,” Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and in many libraries of the

  12. Pacific Northwest.

  13. Eliza Spalding Warren (10), Ladies Home Journal, Aug. 1913, pp. 14 ff, “The First White Woman Born in the West;” Memoirs of the West, pp. 22-32; Walla Walla Union, August 12, 1936.

SOME CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.

  1. Most Rev. A. M. A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla, journal in Archdiocesan Archives, Seattle.

  2. Rev. J. B. A. Brouillet, letter to Colonel Cornelius Gilliam, Fort Walla Walla, March 2, 1848, in Brouillet, House Document, pp. 35 ff.

  3. James Douglas from Fort Vancouver to S. N. Castle, Dec. 9, 1847, published in The Friend, Honolulu, March 1, 1848.

  4. William McBean, Fort Nez Perces (i.e., Walla Walla), November 30, 1847, report to the “Board of Management of the H.B.C.” in Victor, Early Indian

    Wars of Oregon, pp. 128 ff; Cannon, Waiilatpu, pp. 135-7; Oregon Spectator, Dec. 10, 1847.

  5. H. H. Spalding to Bishop of Walla Walla from Clear Water, Dec. 10, 1847, Victor, op. cit., pp. 112-3; to American Board from Fort Vancouver, Jan. 8, 1848, Coll. A., printed in Marshall, Acquisition of Oregon, II: 200 ff; letter to editor Oregon Spectator from Oregon City, February 8, 1848, reprinted in Marshall, op. cit., II: 228 ff; letter to parents of Narcissa Whitman from Oregon City, April 6, 1848, T.O.P.A., 1898, pp. 93 ff; letter to Dudley Allen, Kinsman, Ohio, March 14, 1848, in Philadelphia Observer, October 28, 1848.

Note: A collection of clippings from periodicals listed above is in Coll. E.W.S.H.S.

Abbreviations used for Serial Publications O.H.Q.—Oregon Historical Quarterly P.H.Q.—Pacific Historical Quarterly P.H.R.—Pacific Historical Review P.N.Q.—Pacific Northwest Quarterly

T.O.P.A.—Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association W.C.Q.—Whitman College Quarterly W.H.Q.—Washington Historical Quarterly

Abbreviations used for Books.

(See Bibliography for further information about these titles.)

F.W.W.—Drury, First White Women over the Rockies

O.P.—Hulbert and Hulbert, Overland to the Pacific. Vols. V-VIII inclusive contain much of Whitman’s correspondence with the American Board.

More information on collections used can be found in “Acknowledgements, Sources and Abbreviations” in Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon by Clifford Drury

Last updated: September 26, 2016

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