H. Spalding | April 1848 Re: MassacreCrystal Calhoun
April 6, 1848.
To Stephen Prentiss, Esq., and Mrs. Prentiss,
the Father and Mother of the late Mrs. Whitman of the Oregon Mission
My Dear Father and Mother in Christ:
Through the wonderful interposition of God in delivering me from the hand of the murderer, it has become my painful duty to apprise you of the death of your beloved daughter, Narcissa, and her worthy and appreciated husband, your honored son-in-law, Dr. Whitman, both my own entirely devoted, ever faithful and eminently useful associates in the work of Christ. They were inhumanly butchered by their own, up to the last moment, beloved Indians, for whom their warm Christian hearts had prayed for eleven years, and their unwearied hands had administered to their every want in sickness and in distress, and had bestowed unnumbered blessings; who claimed to be, and were considered, in a high state of civilization and Christianity. Some of them were members of our church; others candidates for admission; some of them adherents of the Catholic church-all praying Indians. They were, doubtless, urged on to the dreadful deed by foreign influences, which we have felt coming in upon us like a devastating flood for the last three or four years; and we have begged the authors, with tears in our eyes, to desist, not so much on account of our own lives and property, but for the sake of those coming, and the safety of those already in the country. But the authors thought none would be injured by the hated missionaries-the devoted heretics, and the work of hell was urged on, and has ended, not only in the death of three missionaries, the ruin of our mission, but in a bloody war with the settlements, which may end in the massacre of every family.
God alone can save us. I must refer you to the Herald for my views as to the direct and remote causes which have conspired to bring about the terrible calamity. I cannot write all to every one, having a large family to care for; Mrs. Spaulding is suffering from the dreadful exposure during the flight and since we have been this country-destitute of almost every thing, no dwelling place as yet, food and raiment to be found, many, many afflicted friends to be informed, my own soul bleeding from many wounds; my dear sister, Narcissa, with whom I have grown up as a child of the same family, with whom I have labored so long and so intimately in the work of teaching the Indians, and my beloved Dr. Whitman, with whom I have for so many years kneeled in praying, taking sweet counsel, have been murdered, and their bones scattered upon the plains-the labors and hopes of many years in an hour at an end, the house of the Lord to the amount of thousands of dollars, in the hands of the robbers, a once large and happy family reduced to a few helpless children, made orphans a second time, to be separated and compelled to find homes among strangers; our fears for our dear brothers Walker and Eells of the most alarming character; our infant settlements involved in a bloody war with hostile Indians and on the brink of ruin-all, all, chill my blood and fetter my hands.
The massacre took place on the fatal 29th of November last, commencing at half past one. Fourteen persons were murdered first and last. Nine men the first day. Five men escaped from the Station, three in a most wonderful manner, one of whom was the trembling writer, with whom I know you will unite in praising God for delivering even one. The names and places of the slain are as follows: The two precious names already given, my hand refuses to write them again. Mr. Rogers, young man, teacher of our Mission school in winter of ’46; since then has been aiding us in our mission work and studying for the ministry, with a view to be ordained and join our Mission; John and Francis Sager, the two eldest of the orphan family, ages 17 and 15; Mr. Kimball of Laporte, Indiana, killed second day, left a widow and five children; Mr. Saunders of Oskaloosa, Iowa, left a widow and five children; Mr. Hall of Missouri, escaped to Fort Walla Walla, was refused protection, put over the Columbia river, killed by the Wall Wallas, left a widow and five children; Mr. Marsh of Missouri, left a son grown and a young daughter; Mr. Hoffman of Elmira, New York; Mr. Gillan of Oskaloosa, Iowa; Mr. Sails of latter place; Mr. Bewley of Missouri. Two last dragged from sick beds eight days after the first massacre and butchered; Mr. Young, killed second day. Last five were unmarried men. Forty women and children fell captives into the hands of the murderers, among them my own beloved daughter, Eliza, ten years old. Three of the captive children soon died, left without parental care, two of them your dear Narcissa’s, one a widow woman’s. The young women were dragged from the house by night and beastly treated. Three of them became wives to the murderers. One, the daughter of Mrs. Kimball, became the wife of him who killed her father-often told her of it. One, Miss Bewley, was taken twenty miles to the Utilla and became the wife of Hezekiah, a principal chief and member of our church who, up till that time had exhibited a good character. Eight days after the first butchery, the two families at the saw-mill, twenty miles distant, were brought down and the men spared to do work for the Indians. This increased the number of captives to forty-seven, after the three children died. In various ways they were cruelly treated and compelled to cook and work late and early for the Indians.
As soon as Mrs. Spaulding heard of my probable death and the captivity of Eliza, she sent two Indians (Nez Perces) to effect her deliverance, if possible. The murderers refused to give her up until they knew whether I was alive, as I had escaped their hands, and whether the Americans would come up to avenge the death of their countrymen. Should the Americans show themselves, every woman and child should be butchered. The two sick men had just been beaten and cut to pieces before the eyes of the helpless children and women, their blood spilled upon the floor, and their mangled bodies lay at the door for forty-eight hours, over which the captives were compelled to pass for wood and water.
Eliza says when she heard the heavy blows and heard dying groans, she stopped her ears. She was and such had been for several days the situation of Eliza, when the two Nez Perces, particular friends to our children, told Eliza they must return without her. The murderers would not give her up. She had given up her father as dead, but her mother was alive and up to this hour she hoped to reach her bosom, but now this hope went out and she began to pine. Besides, she was the only one left who understood the language, and was called up at all hours of the night and kept out for hours in the cold and wet, with almost no clothing left by the hand of the robbers, to interpret for whites and Indians, till she was not able to stand upon her feet, and they beset her lying upon the floor-bed she had none-till her voice failed from weakness.
I had reached home before the Indians who went for her returned, and shared with my wife the anguish of seeing the Indians return without her child. Had she been dead, we could have given her up; but to have a living child a captive in the hands of Indians whose hands were stained with the blood of our slain friends, and not able to deliver her, was the sharpest dagger that ever entered my soul. Suffice to say, we found our daughter at Fort Walla Walla with the ransomed captives, too weak to stand, a mere skeleton, her mind as much injured as her health. Through the astonishing goodness of God she has regained her health and strength, and her mind has resumed its usual tone.
The captives were delivered by the prompt interposition and judicious management of Mr. Ogden, Chief Factor of the H.B. Co., to whom too much praise cannot be awarded. He arrived at Walla Walla Dec. 12th. In about two weeks he succeeded in ransoming all the captives for blankets, shirts, guns, ammunition, tobacco, to the amount of some five hundred dollars. They were brought into the fort on Dec. 30th. Myself and those with me arrived on the first of January. Oh, what a meeting-remnants of once large and happy families; but our tears of grief were mingled with tears of joy. We had not dared to hope that deliverance could come so soon and so complete.
For some time previous to the massacre the measles, followed by the dysentery, had been raging in the country. The families at Waiilatpu had been great sufferers. I arrived at Waiilatpu the 22nd of November; eight days before the dreadful deed. All the doctor’s family had been sick, but were recovering; three of the children were yet dangerously sick; besides Mr. Osborn, with his sick family, were in the same house. Mrs. Osborn and three children were dangerous; one of their children died during the week. A young man, Mr. Bewley, was also very sick. The doctor’s hands were more than full among the Indians; three and sometimes five died in a day. Dear sister Whitman seemed ready to sink under the immense weight of labor and care. But like an angel of mercy, she continued to administer with her ever-ready hand to the wants of all. Late and early, night and day, she was by the bed of the sick, the dying, and the afflicted. During the week, I enjoyed several precious seasons with her. She was the same devoted servant of the Lord she was when we enjoyed like precious seasons in our beloved Prattsburg many years ago, ready to live or die for the name of the the Lord Jesus Christ. Saturday the Indians from the Utilla, sent for the doctor to visit their sick. He wished me to accompany him. We started late, rode in a heavy rain through the night, arrived in the morning. The doctor attended upon the sick and returned on the Sabbath on account of the dangerous sickness in his family. I remained till Wednesday. Monday morning the doctor assisted in burying an Indian; returned to the house and was reading-several Indians, as usual were in the house; one sat down by him to attract his attention by asking for the medicine; another came behind him with tomahawk concealed under his blanket and with two blows in the back of the head, brought him to the floor senseless, probably, but not lifeless; soon after Telaukaikt, a candidate for admission in our church, and who was receiving unnumbered favors every day from brother and sister Whitman, came in and took particular pains to cut and beat his face and cut his throat; but he still lingered till near night. As soon as the firing commenced at the different places, Mrs. Hayes ran in and assisted sister Whitman in taking the doctor from the kitchen to the sitting-room and placed him upon the settee. This was before his face was cut. His dear wife bent over him mingled her flowing tears with his precious blood. It was all she could do. They were her last fears. To whatever she said, he would reply “no” in a whisper, probably not sensible. John Sager was sitting by the doctor when he received the first blow, drew his pistol, but his arm was seized, the room filling with Indians, and his head was cut to pieces. He lingered till near night. Mr. Rogers, attacked at the water, escaped with a broken arm and wound in the head, and rushing into the house, shut the door. The Indians seemed to have left the house now to assist in murdering others. Mr. Kimball, with a broken arm rushed in; both secreted themselves upstairs. Sister Whitman in anguish, now bending over her dying husband and now over the sick; now comforting the flying, screaming children, was passing by the window, when she received the first shot in her right breast, and fell to the floor. She immediately arose and kneeled by the settee on which lay her bleeding husband, and in humble prayer commended her soul to God and prayed for her dear children who were about to be made a second time orphans and fall into the hands of her direct murderers. I am certain she prayed for her murderers, too. She now went into the chamber with Mrs. Hayes, Miss Bewley, Catharine, and the sick children. They remained till near night. In the meantime the doors and windows were broken in and the Indians entered and commenced plundering, but they feared to go into the chamber. They called for sister Whitman and brother Rogers to come down and promised they should not be hurt. This promise was often repeated, and they came down. Your dear Narcissa, faint with the loss of blood, was carried on a settee to the door by brother Rogers and Miss Bewley. Every corner of the room was crowded with Indians having their guns ready to fire. The children had not been brought down and huddled together to be shot. Eliza was one. Here they had stood for a long time surrounded by guns pointing at their breasts. She often hear the cry “Shall we shoot?” and her blood became cold, she says, and she fell upon the floor. But now the order was given, “Do not shoot the children,” as the settee passed through the children over the bleeding, dying body of John. Fatal moment! The settee advanced about its length from the door, when the guns were discharged from without and within, the powder actually burning the faces of the children. Brother Rogers raised his hand and cried, “my God,” and fell upon his face, pierced with many balls. But he fell not alone. An equal number of deadly weapons were leveled at the settee and, oh! that this discharge had been deadly. But oh! Father of Mercy, so it seemed good in thy sight. She groaned, she lingered. The settee was rudely upset.-Oh, what have I done? Can the aged mother read and live? Think of Jesus in the hands of the cruel . I thought to withhold the worse facts, but then they would go to you from other sources, and the uncertainty would be worse than the reality. Pardon me, if I have erred.
And now, shall I attempt to sooth your bleeding hearts? It would be like one drowning man stretching out his hand to hold up another. I, myself, am in the deepest waters of affliction. My dear brother and sister Whitman no more; their mission house demolished; myself and family driven from our first own home, and the little church which we had been gathered around; our brothers, Walker and Eells, perhaps, slain and their wives and children captives in the hands of the murderers. “But why art thou disquieted, oh my soul?” “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.” “This world is poor from shore to shore.” There is no place like heaven, and it has seemed doubly precious since the day my dear associates ended their toils, and left this world of blood and sin to enter upon the unending song of Moses and the Lamb. I know where you will go, my honored father and mother in Christ, when you have read this letter, you will go to the Mercy Seat, and there you will find balm for your deeply wounded soul, for you know how to ask for it. And when there, you will not forget the scattered sheep and the trembling lambs of our broken mission.
At the same time of the massacre, Perrin Whitman nephew of Dr. Whitman, was at The Dalles in the family of Mr. Hinman, whom we had employed to occupy the station which had been lately transferred to our mission by the Methodist mission. On hearing of the bloody tragedy, they left the station and came to the Wallamette. He is here. The little half-breed Spanish boy by the name of David Malin was retained at Walla Walla. I fear he will fall into the hands of the priests who remain in the country. Catherine, Elizabeth, Matilda, Henrietta and Mary Ann, we brought with us to this place; Mary Ann has since died. For the other four we have obtained good places and they seem satisfied and happy. Catharine is in the family of the Rev. Mr. Roberts, Superintendent of the Methodist mission.
Three Papists, one an Indian formerly from Canada and late from the state of Maine, had been in the employ of the doctor a few weeks; one a half breed with Cayuse wife, and one a Canadian who had been in the employ of the doctor for more than a year, seemed to have aided in the massacre, and probably secured most of the money, watches and valuable property. The Canadian came down with the captives, was arrested, brought before a justice bound over for trial at next court charged with having aided in the murders. The night before he was arrested, he secreted in the ground and between the boards of a house considerable of Mr. Hoffman’s money and a watch of one of the widows. The Canadian Indian, Jo Lewis, shot Francis with his own hand and was the first to commence breaking the windows and doors; is now with the hostile Indians. The half-breed named Finley was camped near the station, and in his lodge the murderers held their councils before and during the massacre. He was at the head of the Cayuses at the battle near the Utilla; managed by pretended friendship, to attract the attention of our officers, while his warriors, unobserved, surrounded our army. As soon as they had gained their desired position, he wheeled and fired his gun, as the signal for the Indians to commence. Although they had had the advantage of the ground, far superior in number, and the first fire, they were completely defeated, driven from the field and finally from their possession of the country, and expect to fortify at the mission station at Waiilatpu. The Cayuses have removed their families and their stock over Snake river into the Palouse country in the direction of brothers Walker and Eells. Our army came upon them at Snake river as they about were to cross. About 1,500 head of cattle and the whole Cayuse camp were completely in their hands. But here our officers were again for the third and fourth time outwitted by some Indians riding up to them and pretending friendship, saying that some of their own cattle were in the band, and begged time to separate them. Our commander having received orders not to involve the innocent with the guilty, gave them till morning. It is said his men actually wept at the terrible mistake. Next morning, as might be expected, most of the cattle and nearly all the Cayuse property had been crossed over and were safe. Our army started away with some 500 head. The Indians with the pretended friendly ones at the head, fought all day. At night, being double the number of the whites, the Indians retook their cattle. The whites were obliged to retreat to the station. The Indians continued to fight them through the night and the next day. The third day the officers reached the station, none killed, but seven wounded. The commander and half of the army immediately started for this country for provisions, ammunition and more men. If the few left are not soon reinforced, and supplied, they will be in danger of being cut off, and the Indians will be down on the settlements. The commander was accidentally killed on his way down.
The Lord has transferred us from one field of labor to another. Through the kindness of Rev. Mr. Clark, Mr. Smith and others, we have been brought to this place, “Tualatin Plains.” Mrs. Spaulding has a large school, and I am to preach, God assisting, at three stations through the summer.
As I cannot write to all, I wish this letter printed and copies of the papers sent to Rev. David Greene, Mission House, Boston, Mass.; Dudley Allen, M.D., Kinsman, Trumbull Co., Ohio; Rev. C.F. Scoville, Holland Patent, Oneida Co., New York; Calvin C. Stowe, Lane Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio; Mr. Seth Paine, Troy, Bradford Co., Penn.; Mr. G.W. Hoffman, Elmira, Chemung Co., New York; Hon. Stratton H. Wheeler, Wheeler Streuben Co., New York, and Christian Observer, Philadelphia, Penn.
Yours in deep water of affliction,