M. Whitman 1841


My Dear Doct & Mrs Bryant

For the first time I sit down to write you. I do not see as you will be likely to write me first. You do not know how it seems at this distance to be so much in the dark about old Friends.

Among my correspondents I get but very imperfectly any account of my own dear Friends & Native Village. All forget to tell me who is President or Governor. There seems to be a great fear of saying something that another has said.

I hear but little of yourselves. Such as this Dorwin [? blot] Studdied medicine, was married. That Caroline died at her Father's house.

Of the others we hear nothing. Where are Lawrence: Cullen: &Dewit.

By the articles sent us we see we have not been forgotten by our Friends Doct & Mrs Bryant

We are cheered by every such token of respect. But although the Doctor sent considerable paper we did not find any which he had written on for us. I hope we may not long wait after the reception of this before we shall be favorered [?] by a sheet from him in this form

I will give you a little account of our situation. We are located in the pleasantest vally of the upper Columbia on the Walla Walla River. It is a River which runs out of the Blue Mountains &after a course of forty or fifty miles falls into the Columbia. The soil is better &more extensive on this than any other stream with which I am acquainted. The River makes many large Islands which gives an interesting appearance. The borders of the streams only are skirted with timber & that of a very poor kind. Consisting of Balm of Gilead, Alder, Birch & Willow, Thorn [?] & a kind of small cherry. Cultivation will require the aid of irrigation in order to make a business of it even in this valley. The only thing for which this country would excell would be for herding. The grass cures on the ground & remains almost as good as grain during the winter there being little rain to rot it. In case of rain there is always a fresh growth of grass at any Month in the year. Some years cattle are eating green grass all Winter. For the two past winters this has been the case. The first of January is a good time to kill grass fed beef out of the plains. The sheep belonging to the Mission breed twice a year & in some instances I think they have had lambs three times in twelve Months.

We are situated about an equal distance from the Columbia & Mountains. The Region seems inexhaustible in its stores of pastureage. But it will not be easy to settle the Indians in this region for it will require the recourse & enterprise of White men to develop its resources by means of saw mills in the mountains to furnish timber for fences as well as building.

The upper Columbia will not be likely ever to be inhabited by a Settled People for if herding is adopted they must more around more or less for grass. We have a most delightful climate in the upper Columbia. Not having as in the Lower Country a wet & dry Season.Snow seldom remains more than two or three weeks when a Southwest wind from the Pacific takes it off in two or three days.

Through the means of the Salmon fishing the Indians will be most easily distressed. This is a great dependance for support. A few weeks closeing of rivers in the winter sends distress into many Camps &the return of the Salmon is hailed as bringing them life.When white men sucede in establish[ing?] fisheries near the mouth of the River it will be a dark day for very many Indians on the Columbia &its tributaries. In order to get established I have laboured most excessivily but I am now so far broken that I cannot expect to accomplish much more manual labor. My medical duties call me from home as I have to go one hundred & eighty miles to the remotest stations. A few days since I was called to Fort Walla Walla to attend Mr Pambrun the Superintendent of the Fort in a case of a fall from a horse. In four days after the fall he died. For farther particulars of my health & situation I would refer you to my letters to [illegible] & Augustus Whitman. From them & Henry Whitman you will see how we are situated to live. But in a summerary way let me say we have a good convenient new house.That the old one yet stands & is occupied for a dwelling generaly for two families & besides a house for company that is people who want to stay a while or for passers is nearly finished. That we have a good flour mill &some out houses such as Corn Cribs, & Granary. Harness house, Smoke & hen houses, double back house ,Cow & Horse pen.

I have little hopes of ever returning to the U States. I have just heard that Harrison is President. The United States Pacifick Squadron was at the Islands a short time since & is soon expected in the Columbia. We are all in the dark as to the situation of the U S Government about this Country. Please accept our best regards to yourselves & Family & believe me

Yours most Truly

Marcus Whitman

Last updated: October 4, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

328 Whitman Mission Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362


(509) 522-6360

Contact Us