Surviving The Oregon Trail

History - Geography - Survival - Homesteading

Narcissa October 1842

by Crystal Calhoun

Mr. Edward W. Prentiss,
Mission Institute,
Quincy, Illinois

Favour of Dr. Whitman Care of Rev. Wm. Beardsley
Oct. 4th, 1842

My Dear Husband:
The line you sent me to-day by Aps did me great good. I thought I was cheerful and happy before it came, but on the perusal of it I found that it increased my happiness four-fold. I believe the Lord will preserve me from being anxious about you and I was glad to hear you say with so much confidence that you trusted in Him for safety. He will protect you I firmly believe. Night and day shall my prayer ascend to Him in your behalf and the cause in which you have sacrificed the endearments of home, at the risk of your life, to see advancing, more to the honor and glory of God. Mr. G and family did not leave until this morn; they spent the night here, which was a great relief to me. I am sorry we forgot your pencil, comb and journal. Aps brought back Mr. Lovejoy's-said you left it in camp. He told me quite a story about the Prince stopping you, and so did Ipuantatawiksa. Prince came in very pleasant this afternoon-said he wanted John to go up and help him to-morrow.

5th. In arranging the cupboard to-day, I found you had not taken the compass as you designed to. I fear you will suffer for the want of it; wish I could send it to you with the other things you have forgotten. I intended to have spoken to you about purchasing one or two pair of spectacles. Perhaps you will think of it. Mr. G. and family had some trouble in getting to Walla Walla yesterday. The cart broke. Hannah had an ague fit and one of the children-Helen is recovering; she has appeared quite well to-day. I feel in much better health than when you left. You will see by this that I do not neglect the tree you have given me to cultivate. Where are you tonight, precious husband? I hope you have been prosperous to-day and are sleeping sweetly. Good night, my loved one.

7th. My Dear Husband:-I got dreadfully frightened last night. About midnight I was awakened by some one trying to open my bedroom door. At first I did not know what to understand by it. I raised my head and listened awhile and then lay down again. Soon the latch was raised and the door opened a little. I sprang from the bed in a moment and closed the door again, but the ruffian pushed and pushed and tried to unlatch it, but could not succeed; finally he gained upon me until he opened the door again and as I supposed disengaged his blanket (at the same time I calling John) and ran as for his life. The east dining room door was open. I thought it was locked, but it appears that it was not. I fastened the door, lit a candle and went to bed trembling and cold, but could not rest until I had called John to bring his bed and sleep in the kitchen. It was in such a time that I found he was too far off. Had the ruffian persisted I do not know what I should have done. I did not think of the war club, but I thought of the poker. Thanks be to our Heavenly Father. He mercifully "delivered me from the hand of a savage man." Mungo arrived in the night some time and came in to see me this noon. I told him about the Indian coming into my room-the first I spoke of it to any one. Soon after he went to Walla Walla and left his wife with me. I did not think to write by him. He returned this eve bringing letters from Mr. McKinlay and Mr. Gray, who it seems is not off yet, urging me to remove immediately to Walla Walla. Mungo told them of my fright last night; it alarmed them very much. Mr. McK. and wife were coming up here to-morrow and she was going to stay some time with me, but he says he will not do it now, but insists upon my removing there immediately. He has told Mungo to stay until he comes on Monday and to-morrow he sends back the wagon for me to be ready to go on Tuesday. I shall go if I am able. They appear so anxious about me; doubtless it is not safe for me to remain alone any longer. In talking to Mr. McKay and Feathercap about it, I told them I should leave and go below-I could not stay and be treated so. I told them I came near beating him with the war club; they said it would have been good if I had done so and laid him flat so that they all might see who he was. Some think there will be no further danger. I think it safer for me to go now, as our friends are so anxious about me, and Mr. and Mrs. Mck. so kindly offer to prepare a room to make me comfortable, and Mrs. G. says "Bring a small stove with you." Mungo appears quite humble-says he is sorry for his bad conduct and wants I should teach his wife to write or rather have her work for me. He came near having a fight with the one that had the first claim upon her. In the first place the Indian stole one of his horses. M. went and took it back again. He was then met by him and others armed with bows and arrows. M. resorted to his pistol, but Charles told him not to shoot him. They settled it by his requesting some present and M. paying him a shirt. Messrs. W. and E. did not marry them, but sent him to you for your direction. M. gave for his wife 4 horses, 1 gun, 1 coat, vest, pantaloons, leggings, 2 shirts and 100 loads of ammunition and a blanket. The poor girl had everything taken from her but the dress she had on. Ask Deborah how she would like beginning in the world in that style. For my part I should prefer the winter just past rather than just begun for such a beginning.

My good woman did not go away as we expected when you paid her. She came in sick on Wednesday; I gave her some pills and this morning she cam again and has washed for me. Pitiitosh's wife came also and I set her to work as I had enough to do before the day was gone. Feathercap's wife came in and set herself to work. She has done so before, since you left. Cleaned out the cellar and helped arrange the things brought from the other house. John ground for them to-day-our Indians.

Sat. eve, 8th-I do not feel as sad and lonely this eve as I always have formerly done when you have been away. The tree you had given me to cultivate no doubt has a good effect upon me. You could not have selected one so useful to me. I see plainly that it will not fail to test my affection for my dear husband in the end. I hope you do not have a sad moment about me. Where are you to-night, my love, preparing to spend the holy Sabbath. My heart has met thine at the mercy seat and I trust blessings are in store for you on the morrow, both for body and mind. Methinks you have taken leave of Monsieur Bayette and gone a comfortable day beyond. The Indians say more Americans are coming-perhaps I shall hear from you again. Again let me say, be not anxious for me-for the sympathies of all are excited for me the moment they hear you have gone. I shall be well taken care of and no doubt shall have more letters to answer than I am able to write. Received one to-day from Mr. Spaulding expressing the kindest sympathy and concern, both for you and myself, and desire for the success of your undertaking. He is coming here next week; says Mr. Eells will be here at the same time. It is the Lord sustains me; I know it must be that or I should not feel as happy about you as I do, and I trust you feel no less his supporting hand that I do. O, may we continue to feel it until we are brought together again rejoicing in his goodness.

The Indians have been so engaged in singing their hunting songs for several days past that but few have come around the house until to-day. The bride has attracted them, I suppose. How will you feel, dear husband, when you seat yourself in Sister Julia's house, or with our mothers, and not see the windows filled with Indians, and the doors also; will you not feel lost? I can scarcely imagine how you will feel. Could it consistently with duty have been so I should rejoice to be a partaker with you of the feelings necessarily produced by a visit to those dear firesides-but I am happy in remaining, while you are permitted the prospect-and I hope for the reality of seeing those beloved objects once more.

Sabbath eve, 9th-My dear husband would like to know what kind of a Sabbath we have had here, for I know his heart is with the people. Ellice, who brought me Mr. Spaulding's letter, was their minister to-day. This afternoon I had a Bible class in English with him, John and Mungo, besides the time I spent with the children. He read and appeared to understand very well. He thinks he loves the Saviour. I urged the duty of secret prayer in addition to his family worship, and showed him the passage in Matthew. He said he would in future attend to the duty daily. He told me yesterday that if he had been here he would have gone with you to the States. Although I am alone as to associates and my husband is gone, yet I have not been lonely to-day. The presence of the Saviour fills every vacancy. My little children appear thoughtful and solemn. Helen said, "Will father come home to-day?" when the people were assembling for worship. She is quite well now.

12th.-My Dear Husband:-I am now at Walla Walla-came here yesterday; was too unwell to undertake the journey, but could not refuse, as Mr. McKinlay had come on purpose to take me. He came in the wagon and brought the trundlebed and I laid down most all the way. To-day I have been scarcely able to get off the bed; feel a little better tonight, so I thought I must write a little to you, although it must be but a little, for the want of strength. The Indians did not like my leaving very well-seemed to regret the cause. I felt strongly to prefer to stay there if it could be considered prudent, but he care and anxiety was wearing upon me too much. Good night, beloved husband.

Friday eve, 14th.-My Dear Husband:-Your letter written last Saturday, the 8th, was handed me this afternoon by Raymond. I rejoice to hear of your prosperity so far, and hope by this time you are near Fort Hall.

17th.-I undertook to write to you last Friday, but was too sick to do it and had to give it up. Took a powder of quinine and calomel that night-the next day and yesterday could scarcely go or lie in bed. I suffered much for the conveniences of our dear home; think I received serious injury in sleeping on damp made blankets for a bed, for I have been sick ever since I have been here. I anticipated being not as comfortable here as at home, and could I have been left a week longer I should have preferred it, for I did not think I should be further molested, but Mr. McKinlay would not leave me there any longer. Mr. and Mrs. McKinlay are very kind, but they know not how to make one as easy and comfortable as Mr. Pambrun used to. It has been warmer for two days past and the stove is now up, so that I am pretty comfortably situated now.

But why should I say so much about myself? My dear husband does not give me such an example. Indeed, I wish to hear so much about your own and my other self, and hear so little when you do write, that I probably am more particular than I otherwise would be in speaking of myself.

Mr. McDonald arrived yesterday from Vancouver. The ship Victoria is not in. He says Mr. Ermatinger has become a Catholic. He wrote you and sent me a box of raisins.

Letters arrived today from Messrs. W. and Eells. They have no idea that you are at Fort Hall, as you probably are at this time. They wish an "invoice of property taken by Mr. G." but he has left none. I shall write him that they wish it.

Mr. Walker has written you. His closing remark is, "Be assured that whether you go or stay, you and Mrs. W. will have our prayers and best wishes for your peace and usefulness. May the Lord direct us all." The letters came to Wieletpoo and the mule was sent, but the bearers returned without coming here, and of course no opportunity of sending them the intelligence of your departure.

I have filled this sheet-perhaps I shall another before the express arrives. Mr. Perkins has sent word to have me come down there in the express boats without fail. I have not yet determined what I shall do. Should like to be relieved of the care of David if I could while you are gone, but do not know as I can. I want to see Mr. S. before then, if I conclude to go.

Your affectionate wife,


Narcissa October 1842 – 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