Narcissa Whitman Letters March 1836Crystal Calhoun
ON BOARD STEAMBOAT SIAM
March 15, 1836.
Dear, Dear Mother:
Your proposal concerning keeping a diary as I journey comes before my mind often. I have not found it practicable while traveling by land, although many events have passed which, if noted as they occurred, might have been interesting. We left Pittsburgh this morning at ten o’clock and are sailing at the rate of thirteen miles an hour. It is delightful passing so rapidly down the waters of the beautiful river. The motion of the boat is very agreeable to me, except while writing. Our accommodations are good; we occupy a stateroom where we can be as retired as we wish. Two boats left Pittsburgh before we did, but they are now in our rear. The captain of one of them became very angry because we attempted to pass, and shot into our path before us. For a time we thought injury would be done by their coming in contact but we passed her unhurt. The siam was a very strong boat and might have sunk the other without much difficulty. It is an imposing scene to see the march of these stately figures as they pass us on the waters. Some are very large, and are swarming with inhabitants. It has been quite pleasant to-day, but too cold to be on deck much of the time. We have seen no snow since we left the Allegheny mountains.
March 28.- We have just come on board the Majestic. It is rightly named, for it is one of the largest boats on the river. We are now sailing on the waters of the great Mississippi. When I commenced this sheet we had just left Pittsburgh. We arrived in Cincinnati Thursday noon. Found Brother Spalding. Said he had been waiting for us anxiously for a fortnight; spent the remainder of the week in making arrangements for our journey, and on the Sabbath had a very interesting time with the disciples of Jesus there; felt strengthened and comforted as we left them, to pursue our journey into the wilderness. Much good feeling was manifested in the churches – a deep interest appeared to be taken in the missions. Especially our two Indian youth attracted the gaze and admiration of a crowd on Sabbath, but our expectations were not realized, and Saturday night found us on the waters of the Mississippi, eighty-nine miles from St. Louis. We felt it our duty not to travel on the Sabbath, and determined to leave the boat, although many on board tried to persuade us to remain, and have preaching on the Sabbath, and of the number one was a Presbyterian minister from New York, who appeared quite anxious to detain us. At ten o’clock we landed at Chester, Illinois, and had a most delightful Sabbath of rest with the few disciples of Jesus we found there. An aged minister, who had been toiling in this part of the vineyard ever since the year 1817, we found of a kindred spirit. He preaches to several congregations. Said he had not had a brother minister to preach for him since he had been there; and to have a mission family call and enjoy the privileges of the Sabbath with him seemed like angels’ visits. He had heard of their passing and repassing, often, Mr. Spalding preached in the forenoon, and in the afternoon my husband requested the children and youth to meet in a Sabbath school, and we distributed a number of books among them. Of the number we found one young man who professed to be a Roman Catholic – said he wanted to know our religion – had not a Protestant Bible, but if he had one would read it attentively. My husband gave him a testament, for which he appeared grateful.
Since we came on board we have come on very pleasantly; our accommodations are better here than on any previous boat-excellent cooks, and enough to eat – servants who stand at our elbows ready to supply every want.
Five o’clock.- We are now fast upon a sand-bar, but think we shall soon get off. It has rained all day – a dense fog covers the river, so that it is impossible to shun them. We shall be obliged to lie still to-night.
29th, Tuesday morning. – Fog very thick this morning, but now appears to be dispersing. We shall expect to see St. Louis to-day. Cold and damp, and am obliged to stay in my room. Can scarcely resist the temptation to stand out to view the shores of this majestic river. Varied scenes present themselves as we pass up – beautiful landscapes – on the one side high and rugged bluffs, and on the other low plains.
Evening. – We are now in port. Husband has been to the office, expecting to find letters from dear, dear friends at home, but find none. Why have they not written? seeing it is the very last, last time they will have to cheer my heart with intelligence from home, home, sweet home, and the friends I love. But I am not sad. My health is good. My mind completely occupied with present duty and passing events. St. Louis has a commanding situation. It is so late and foggy, our view of it as we come in is quite indistinct.
Wednesday, 30th. – A boat is in port, ready to take us up the Missouri, and will leave to-day. I intended to write several letters from here, expecting to spend some time, but as we made our purchases at Cincinnati, it is not necessary. When we were in Pittsburgh we heard that the Fur Company’s steamboat Diana had left St. Louis. We then expected to make our journey from Liberty to Bellview by land, probably on horseback, 300 miles of which would have been the most difficult part of the journey, on account of the season and high water. But Providence has ordered it otherwise. Since we arrived here we learn that the Diana snagged herself and sunk, but in shallow water, so that no lives were lost. We have the promise of overtaking her before we reach Liberty. She is now lying up for repairs and drying her freight. We had a call from a gentleman this morning, who has resided in the mountains. Richard knew him very well. Is going back with us. He was formerly from Cincinnati. It seems to me now that we are on the very borders of civilization, although we shall pass many towns on our way to Liberty. At this moment my feelings are peculiar. I hardly know how to define them. I have not one feeling of regret at the step which I have taken, but count it a privilege to go forth in the name of my Master, cheerfully bearing the toil and privation that we expect to encounter. I intend to write home from Council Bluffs if I am not prevented, and give some statements which I cannot now. We could not pack all contained in that box sent us from Angelica. What we could not, Brother Whitman took home to sell for us, and sent the avails to St. Louis. How anxiously I looked for a line or two from some one of the dear family, in that box somewhere, but I saw none. Jane, don’t forget to write to them for me. It is out of my power to write as much as I should like to. How often I think of the Christians in Angelica – those beloved sisters and brothers, with whom we have knelt before the altar of prayer. Surely, now I feel the influence of their prayers, although widely separated. Say to them we wish them to rejoice with us, and thank God for his kind protection, and the prosperity which has attended us since we left home; we are making arrangements for crossing the mountains, and shall expect o, unless prevented in the Providence of God. It think I should like to whisper in mother’s ear many things which I cannot write. If I could only see her in her room for one-half hour. This much I can, mother. I have one of the kindest husbands, and the very best every way. Tell father by the side of his calomel he has taken a quarter of a pound of lobelia and a large quantity of cayenne, which will answer my purpose better than some of the apothecary medicines.
My husband unites with me in sending a great deal of love to dear friends there – G. and F. J., C.H.E. and N., and to father and mother. Mr. and Mrs. Spalding will go with us over the mountains. We send our Christian regard to Brother and Sister Hull, Brother and Sister Allen and Sister Patrick, and all who inquire. I have become very much interested in the Nez Perces lads; they are very affectionate and seem to wish to please us in everything. We think they will be of great service to the mission in various ways. We have just had a call from Dr. and Mrs. Misner. We expect the boat will leave us soon.
Farewell dear, dear parents. Pray for your unworthy children.
P.S. – Mother, I forgot to say that I heard Dr. Beecher in C., when I was there. Was introduced to Rev. Mr. Galliger, but did not hear him. My husband heard him in Pittsburgh – I was not able to go to church that day, because of a severe headache. Dr. B. appears the same in the pulpit that he does at a distance – I mean his preaching. He is a small man, quite indifferent in his appearance. I could hardly believe it was he when I saw him come.
Mr. Stephen Prentice,
Angelica, Allegheny Co., New York.
ON BOARD STEAMBOAT CHARITON
Thursday, March 31, 1836.
Dear Sister Jane:
We did not leave last night as expected, and the day being very pleasant, gave me an opportunity of visiting the city. Received a call from our old acquaintance, Rev. Milton Kimball, and with him visited the cathedral. It was high-mass day.
We left the cathedral, after staying about an hour; called and made some purchases, then returned to the boat, and found that Mr. Lovejoy had called, to give us an invitation to dinner with him. Felt regret very much that I did not see him. My husband saw him. he wished to know when we were married, because he designed to publish it in the Observer. He still continues to edit his paper in St. Louis.
We left St. Louis immediately after dinner. Passed many delightful residences in Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi, just as we leave the city. Dwellings situated upon mounds, and many remaining ones yet to be occupied – natural mounds, in appearance like that at Amity, only much larger. One of them is the situation of a female academy, now building. My curiosity was Uncle Sam’s toothpullers – two huge-looking boats lying to. They fearlessly run into danger, search out difficulties, and remove them. I should like to see them in operation, but shall not expect to now. Twilight had nearly gone when we entered the waters of the great Missouri, but the moon shone in her brightness. It was a beautiful evening. My husband and myself went upon the top of the boat, to take a more commanding view of the scenery. How majestic, how grand, was the scene! the meeting of two such great waters. “Surely, how admirable are thy works, O Lord of Hosts.” I could have dwelt upon the scene still longer with pleasure, but Brother Spalding called us to prayers, and we left beholding the works of God for his immediate worship.