March 12th 1838
Rev David Greene,
Through the goodness of God we are spared to the opening of another spring with health and abundant mercy. Our dwelling has been in peace + great temporal prosperity.
In the fall of 1837 I wrote you by the way of the Sandwich Islands. This is to be sent by the favour of Doct John McLaughlin Esq. Chief Factor of the Hon H. B Company who crosses the Rocky Mountains to the North with the Company's express + so on to Montreal.
He has signified an intention to call at the Missionary Rooms in Boston in his tour on his way to England.
On the seventh of November we left our house for a visit to Brother Spaldings as I wrote you we contemplated.
After being detained one day more than we expected with our preparations we closed our house by nailing up all the windows + locking the door + took our departure in a rain storm + traveled about ten miles + encamped where we had plenty of wood water + grass, of the latter of which there is no want in this section of country.
Brother Spalding had kindly sent us a leather lodge by the help of which we could have fire at night + be secure from the weather although doomed to suffer some from smoke.
We took one man an Hawaiian to assist us + three Indians had come from Brother Spaldings to pack some things for him and acompany us who were very active in attending to the arrangements of our encampment.
On the 8th we traveled a long days journey + encamped on a branch of the Walla Walla River + that night + the next day it rained hard untill past noon when stopping a little we mooved about six miles and encamped on the same stream.
10th This morning the ground was covered with about two inches of snow which mostly went off in the course of the day We made a long days ride + encamped on waters emptying into Snake River.
11th This morning it rained + it was with great difficulty we packed + got under way
During the forenoon we passed very high land + continued to encounter snow + rain untill two oclock when it broke away + ceased to rain
At sunset we reached the crossing on Snake River + crossed (as there was no wood on the side where we were.) We were occupied in crossing + making our encampment untill quite late
But by the favour of a kind Providence all was accomplished in safety
12th Sabbath morning. Yesterday having received a letter from Brother Spalding urging us on as soon as possible on account of Mrs Spaldings health we deemed it duty for Mrs Whitman + myself to proceede which we did accordingly leaving our baggage to come on monday the distance being twelve miles.
We reached Brother Spaldings in safety + with no ill consequences to Mrs Whitman or the babe
It was with no common emotion that we met after a years absence + so far as Mrs Spalding was conserned the year was spent without seeing any civilized friend after Brother Gray left the December previous.
We found Brother Spalding situated under better circumstances than we could expect from his Singlehanded situation
The Indians with a few exceptions are very kind to him
On the morning of the fifteenth after our arrival Mrs Spalding became the mother of a fine healthy daughter.
We prolongued our visit for Mrs Spaldings recovery as in a former sickness she had a protracted + tedious recovery.
On the second of December we left for home Mrs Spalding being able to attend in some measure to the domestick duties
There being considerable snow we took our passage down the Clearwater River to the Snake + so down the snake to the Columbia + Walla Walla; which we reached in four day + a half travel laying by on the sabbath
We spent the Sabbath with a large camp of Indians who appeared very attentive to religious instruction as all the Indians do in this section. There is little to be seen in a voyage down the Snake River but abrupt shores + Basaltick rocks which rise in many places with great grandure presenting almost perpendicular columns having the appearance of fluted work.
The navigation of the River is very difficult + in Some places dangerous in low water
We had a faithfull Indian for our guide who took every possible precaution for our safety
In all his arrangements he spoke of the danger to our babe + said it was only for her he was anxious
At one time we rode past one rappid on horseback + at another after long search for a place to pass + running along by the shore we came to a very bad but short rappid + we tried to get to the shore in order for Mrs Whitman to walk but finding it difficult for the rocks we ran the rappid with all on board + by the favour of a kind Providence got safely through.
After remaining one day at Walla Walla we reached our home on the ninth of December.
We found all things safe as when we left. Our corn was in a crib but was not disturbed or any thing about our premises injured.
During our absence we left one Hawaiian + a half breed boy to take care, + engaged a faithfull Indian to keep his lodge near We felt we had abundant reason for thankfullness that we had been permitted to perform this journey with so little inconvenience to ourselves or our bade and particularly that we had been permitted to dedicate her to God by baptism
The Sabbath before we left Mrs Spalding was able to sit up + attend upon the administration of the sacrament + baptisms of our babes.
The last of December + first part of January there was a heavy thaw which raised the water to a very great height + threatened to destroy our house.
There being no stone near I had walled the cellar with dobies the same as the walls of the house
The water entered the cellar + we were obliged to fill it up very much + by that means together with bailing night + day our house was mercifully preserved although much injured by setling of the wall. But by farther filling the cellar probably the wall will stand some time + we shall proceede to finish it when we have got through with the cultivation of our crops. We have plenty of boards sawed for that purpose
Brother Spalding has kindly made our window sash so that all is in a forward start for finishing. As the timber is very poor for building near us I have had some pine boards sawed about twelve miles distant + for all future building I think I shall try to get pine from the Mountains for the important work which can be easily done when we have something to feed a team in the winter
During the winter we have been greatly favoured by having a few very kind Indians near us so that we have had a school of from fifteen to twenty scholars many of whom have made good proficiency in learning to read the English language
Those who have been away for the winter hunt are now returned + the presant number of children is much greater than we have books or ability to teach
The only books we have for teaching were kindly + gratuituously furnished us by our Methodist Brethren of the Willamette Mission
The disposition of the Indians appears much more friendly + accommodating than last year but still I need not tell you we have many perverse dispositions to encounter for which we often felt we lack wisdom + should be discouraged were it not for the promises of God to be with us to enlighten + sustain us
The Indians are making arangement for planting + I am in hopes they will do much but their great fear is that other Indians will steal from them is a great hinderance to them + all are anxious to plant where I can watch their crops for as they say the Indians fear me but do not fear them
Our system of religious instruction is much as when I wrote in the fall We have two meetings for Indians on the Sabbath + in the evening what we call a sabbath school for the children + youth.
The attention on religious instruction is good + solemn. Worship is strictly maintained in the principal lodges morning + evening.
Lately I have been explaining the ten Commandments + our Saviours first + great commandment to which they listen with great attention + from their inquiries I think they understand them They say they do not worship Idols but still I think many of their traditions are evidences of Idolitrous worship of some Animals + Birds
One prominent Nez Perces told me they did formerly worship the Praire Wolf who is the subject of many traditions + to whome they ascribe many wonderful changes in nature + even the formation of the world.
Their tradition is that formerly he was a superior being but is now fallen
My plan for teaching the children is not to take them to board but let them live with their parents + come for instruction When their Parent are to be gone for a short time I will give them food + let them lodge + cook in my Indian room untill their Parents return Some of the Parents begin to be unwilling to be absent on account of their childrens learning to read The young Cayuse who had been about seven years at the Mission School at Red River died about a year since just as he was about to return to his People
We had looked for his return with much interest as he had been home on a visit + behaved very well. But Providence has removed him from either good or harm in this life any farther than his People remember his good advise.
We are looking for a visit from Doct McLaughlin in his way in a few days.
Brother Spalding has drawn a letter of introduction for him to the Missionary Rooms which it gives me great pleasure to sign + present him.
An interview with him will be of great service I trust to the cause of Missions in this region + cannot be too highly prised by the Secretaries + Prudential Committee I hope you will introduce the subject of the letter from him to Mr Spalding + Myself a copy of which was sent you on the subject of Ardent Spirits As you have his views from his own pen you can approach him in safety + as he is to visit the Committee of the Company in London he can do much for any object he attempts to advocate. You must be aware he has had the charge of the Companies business on this side of the Mountains for many years We cannot speak to highly of his kindness to us since we have been in this country.
Our family consists of a Daughter of Mr McKay a Clerk of the H B Co + one Indian Girl One Boy whome Doct McLaughlin furnished us + two Sandwich Islanders furnished us by the same gentleman + as Brother Spalding did not want either I have both But as I had some trouble with them on account of the Indian women having left their wivs at home I have written to Mr Levi Chamberlain to Send me two men from the Islands with their wives I have also for the winter + spring a free man who has been trapping in the Mountains he has been of great service to me + I should like to retain his services longer
I am also at presant giving food to two Indian boys who take care of our animals + learn to read
We have now seen two winters in this climate + I think I can say it is as fine as one could desire.
Our animals wintered in good order in the plains nothwithstanding three of the cows had calves in the early part of the winter + one calf that was weaned from his Mother was even fat at the opening of the Spring I think we may expect good grass for cattle by the first + at fartherest the fifteenth of March
At first view the country does not seem adapted for settlement but I am satisfied it will support a great population
I think that on the borders of the small streams there is Sufficient land suitable for cultivation + the plains are unquestionably well adapted to herds. And farther no question can be raised as to the healthiness of this upper country
There is no part of the country where timber cannot be obtained either by rafts down the large Rivers or from Mountains.
We have no want of Provisions for ourselves + Seed for the Indians + I have been enabled to furnish Brother Spalding with considerable corn + potatoes + also to return in a small degree the kindness of our neighbour at Walla Walla
Indians from a distance are continually coming for Seed to plant + as I am not streightened it afords me great pleasure to give them There seems to be a general interest among the neighbouring Indians to plant I am axious to cultivate largely as I expect we may have associate + perhaps some of our friends from the Sandwich Islands may spend some time with us for health + our Situation renders it necessary to entertain many friends + passing Strangers.
We now have a boy sent by Doct McLaughlin + the Attending Phisician at Vancouver for Medical aid. The same reasons require us to build larger than we otherwise would
I find great difficulty to carry on my secular affairs as I have no one who understands how to labour without much supervision I am obliged to spend much time in manual labour but still the heaviest part of our establishment is made
We are in good health + find it a privilege if we can be the humble instruments of good to the bodies + souls of the benighted Indians. We feel as though there were many at home who might do much good in this field + who would not wish to return were they once engaged in labour upon the ground We are anxiously looking for Brother Gray's return in expectation that associates + more labourers will be Sent to help gather in the surrounding harvest. There are several fields where it seems very desirable that Missionaries associated with us should immediately occupy. Brother Spalding will mention several + I would urge that one be made at the Dalls or near there (if it is not first occupied by our Methodist Brethren) It Seems to be a very important point to be connected with these stations; Some of the people speak the Nez Perces language + I think books in this toungue would easily be read by them
These Indians do not move much but live by fishing which gives an abundant support + besides they are very numerous
This would bring us in a near connexion to Vancouver as there is only one portage below + would be of great use in getting supplies from that quarter. A Mission might either cultivate or receive its Supplies from here as it should be though best.
My report accompanies this letter. We have not been unmindfull of your instruction for us to avoid expence as much as possible + I hope it will be satisfactory to the Committee But while we remember your instruction we feel bound by our situation to make provision not only for ourselves but to be mindful of such as may be expected to be associated with us in future
It has seemed important to make a beginning that would encourage the Indians in the ouset that we might the sooner gain access to them + try the influence of cultivation + a more settled life; not forgetting that it is the gospel we came to bring + that our great business is with the mind + not the body; but while we acquire their language + are preparing to instruct them they are not idle spectators + need to be directed in the most usefull habits. Every thing seems encouraging in our propects both as to instruction + cultivation May the Lord bless us + direct our efforts in the best way among their People + make us a blessing to them.
Last updated: March 1, 2015