Dr. Whitman May 1843Crystal Calhoun
SHAWNEE MISSION SCHOOL,
May 27, 1843
Dear Brother Edward:
I take this opportunity to write you a few lines before I leave the border. I was sorry not to see you when I was at Quincy, but was glad to hear so much about you. It gave me great pleasure to see Sister Jane.
I suppose you think yourself a man now, and perhaps are not anxious for advice. I will venture, however, to let you know how anxious I am for you to complete your education. Entering the ministry a year or two sooner will not avail for any good purpose. We ought to aim at the greatest usefulness. I trust your manhood will only add to your firm determination to do all in your power for the glory of God, and good of his cause. I do not feel that I shall never see you, but I cannot tell how it will be likely to be, except you come to Oregon. I am sorry I have not got a letter from you for Narcissa. I need not tell you that she loves you, for I have no doubt she spoke for herself in the letter I brought you.
I cannot tell you very much about the immigrants to Oregon. They appear very willing, and I have no doubt are generally of an enterprising character. There are over two hundred men, besides women and children, as it is said. No one can well tell, until we are all on the road and get together, how many there are. Some have been gone a week and others have not yet started. I hope to start tomorrow. I shall have an easy journey as I have not much to do, having no one depending on me.
Lieut. Fremont, of the United States Engineers Corps, goes out with about thirty men to explore for the government, and expects to return this fall. His men are Canadian voyageurs mostly, and himself a Catholic. Two Papal priests and their lay helpers are along, and Father DeSmet has gone back in order to go to Europe to bring out others by ship.
I think, however, the immigrants who are going out will be a good acquisition. It will call on Christians to labor for their good. What a pity a good minister was not with us to go along at once. My expectations are high for that country. I believe it must become one of the best of countries very soon.
Let us hear from you as often as you can. If you send letters for crossing the mountains, direct to the care of Boone & Hamilton, Westport, Missouri. You can send letters every fall by merchants to be left with them; Rev. Doctor Armstrong, in New York, at the office of A.B.C.F.M., or to Boston, as the Mission House of the A.B.C.F.M., care of Rev. David Greene. Ships mostly sail in the fall, so that fall letters should go by ship and spring letters come the other way. Tell Jane two or three young lawyers will be in the party for Oregon, but I hope this will not deter her from coming if she has an opportunity.
I should not be surprised if I saw a number of your father’s family west of the mountains before long. Jackson and Galusha may come. I hope to start to-morrow. It is very late starting, but I hope to go on fast after I cross the mountains, and have no more dangerous Indians.
With best regards and brotherly affection I am, dear brother,
Mr. Edward Prentiss,
My Dear Father and Mother:
A little more than a year has elapsed since I had the pleasure of seeing you. The remembrance of that visit will never be effaced from my mind. I did not misjudge as to my duty to return home; the importance of my accompanying the emigration on one hand and the consequent scarcity of provisions on the other, strongly called for my return, and forbid my bringing another party that year.
As I hold the settlement of this country by Americans rather than by an English colony most important, I am happy to have been the means of landing so large an emigration on to the shores of the Columbia, with their wagons, families and stock, all in safety.
The health of Narcissa was such in my absence and since my return as to call loudly from my presence. We despaired of her life at times and for the winter have not felt she could live long. But there is more hope at present, although nothing very decisive can be said. While on the way back, I had an inflammation in my foot which threatened to suppurate, but I discusses it and thought nothing more of it until I got home, when I found I had a tumor on the instep. It appears to be a bony tumor and has given me a good deal of apprehension and inconvenience, but is now some better, but not well.
It gives me much pleasure to be back again and quietly at work again for the Indians. It does not concern me so much what is to become of any particular set of Indians, as to give them the offer of salvation through the gospel and the opportunity of civilization, and then I am content to do good to all men as “I have opportunity.” I have no doubt our greatest work is to be to aid the white settlement of this country and help to found its religious institutions. Providence has its full share in all these events. Although the Indians have made, and are making, rapid advance in religious knowledge and civilization, yet it cannot be hoped that time will be allowed to mature either the work of Christianization or civilization before the white settlers will demand the soil and seek the removal of both the Indians and the Mission. What Americans desire of this kind they always effect, and it is equally useless to oppose or desire it otherwise. To guide, as far as can be done, and direct these tendencies for the best, is evidently the part of wisdom. Indeed, I am fully convinced that when a people refuse or neglect to fill the designs of Providence, they ought not to complain at the results; and so it is equally useless for Christians to be anxious on their account. The Indians have in no case obeyed the command to multiply and replenish the earth, and they cannot stand in the way of others in doing so. A place will be left them to do this as fully as their ability to obey will permit, and the more we can do for them the more fully will this be realized. No exclusiveness can be asked for any portion of the human family. The exercise of his rights are all that can be desired. In order for this to its proper extent in regard to the Indians, it is necessary that they seek to preserve their rights by peaceable means only. Any violations of this rule will be visited with only evil results to themselves.
The Indians are anxious about the consequence of settlers among them, but I hope there will be no acts of violence on either hand. An evil affair at the Falls of the Willamette, resulted in the death of two white men killed and one Indian. But all is now quiet. I will try to write to Brother Jackson when I will treat of the country, etc.
It will not surprise me to see your whole family in this country in two years. Let us hear from you often. Narcissa may be able to write for herself. We wish to be remembered with your other children in your prayers.
Your affectionate son,