Surviving The Oregon Trail

History - Geography - Survival - Homesteading

Narcissa March 1837

by Crystal Calhoun

March 30, 1837
Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters:
Again I can speak of the goodness and mercy of the Lord to us in an especial manner. On the evening of my birthday, March 14th, we received the gift of a little daughter-a treasure invaluable. During the winter my health was very good, so as to be able to do my work. About a week before her birth, I was afflicted with an inflammatory rash, which confined me mostly to my room. After repeated bleeding, it abated very considerably. Mrs. Pambrun had been with me two weeks previous to this, and has been much out of health. She, with my husband, dressed the babe. It would have made you smile to see them work over the little creature. Mrs. P. never saw one dressed before as we dress them, having been accustomed to dress her own in the native style. I was able to lend a helping hand and arrange the clothes for them, etc. Between us all, it was done very well. She slept very quiet that night, but the next night she cried very hard. All the reason of it was that she was hungry, and we did not think to feed her soon enough. On the second day I dressed her alone, sitting in the bed, and have ever since. I slept but little the two first nights, but since have got my usual sleep. She is a very quiet child, both night and day-sleeps all night without nursing more than once, sometimes not at all.

Thus you see, beloved sisters, how the missionary does in heathen lands. No mother, no sister, to relieve me of a single care-only an affectionate husband, who, as a physician and nurse, exceeds all I ever knew. He was excessively pressed with care and labor during the whole time of my confinement. I received all the attention I required of him. He had my washing and the cooking to do for the family. (Mrs. P. had two children with her, and, on account of her ill health, she could not give much assistance.) During the same week we were thronged with company, for the whole camp of Indians has arrived. Mr. Gray spent several days with us at this time; also, Mr. Pambrun and Mr. Ermatinger paid us a visit on Friday, and left on Saturday. All this, with the care of four men and two boys that know little or nothing about work, just at the commencement of plowing, etc., requires many steps for one man alone. It was a very great mercy that I have been able to take the whole care of my babe, and that she is so well and quiet. The little stranger is visited daily by the chiefs and principal men in camp, and the women throng the house continually, waiting an opportunity to see her. Her whole appearance is so new to them. Her complexion, her size and dress, etc., all excite a deal of wonder; for they never raise a child here except they are lashed tight to a board, and the girls' heads undergo the flattening process. I have not yet described my babe to you. I think her grandmother would willingly own her as one of her number of babies, could she see her. Her hair is a light brown, and we think will be like her aunts Jane and Harriet. She is plump and large, holds her head up finely, and looks about considerably. She weighs ten pounds. Fee-low-ki-ke, a kind, friendly Indian, called to see her the next day after she was born. Said she was a Cayuse te-mi (Cayuse girl), because she was born on Cayuse wai-tis (Cayuse land). He told us her arrival was expected by all the people of the country-the Nez Perces, Cayuses and Walla Wallapoos Indians, and, now she has arrived, it would soon be heard of by them all, and we must write to our land and tell our parents and friends of it. The whole tribe are highly pleased because we allow her to be called a Cayuse girl. We have beautiful weather here this month. Travel here is as pleasant as May in New York.

Narcissa March 1837 – Surviving the Oregon Trail
Welcome to our Whitman library. These letters and diary entries are available in the public domain.  Please note we have made light changes to the text (spelling errors) and have occasionally added some pictures to illustrate what they may have seen during that time, according to their letters or diary entries for reader enjoyment.In addition, we are in the process of creating lessons featuring the Whitmans, their travel on the Oregon Trail and their short stay in Walla Walla, Washington.  In the end we hope to provide you not a tragic tale of misfortune and misunderstandings but rather their story, full of inspiration, self-sacrifice, hope and a legacy of the lives they saved no matter the race or social standing.

The original letters are held by Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wa.Full text of "Mrs. Whitman's letters 1843-1847" are in the public domain
MRS. WHITMAN'S LETTERS[An additional number of the letters written by Mrs. Narcissa Whitman to her relatives in New York, have recently been secured, together with some very important ones from Dr. Whitman himself, incidentally alluding to matters which of late years have been the subject of much controversy. The originals of the letters in this pamphlet, as well as those in the Transactions of this Association for 1891, are in my possession as a permanent contribution to the archives of our Association. At my earnest solicitation they were donated to us by Mrs. Harriet P. Jackson, a sister of Mrs. Whitman, who lived at Oberlin, Ohio, in 1893, to whom we owe a vote of thanks. The letter of Rev. H. H» Spalding to Mrs. Whitman's father, giving probably the first account of the massacre, also appears in this pamphlet. — Geo. H. HlMES, Secretary.]More Free Resources from the Public Domain:Marcus Whitman, pathfinder and patriot Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer, Volumes 15-21