Captain George Vancouver Julia Butler Hansen Carlos Bulosan Ernestine Anderson Kurt Cobain Bill Gates & Paul Allen Home
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7100 essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Dr. Marcus Whitman establishes a mission at Waiilatpu on October 16, 1836. Essay 5191 : Printer-Friendly Format

On October 16, 1836, Dr. Marcus Whitman (1802-1847), a Presbyterian missionary and a physician, establishes a mission at Waiilatpu on the Walla Walla River. He chooses the site because of its proximity to the Cayuse tribe and to the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Walla Walla. Whitman will assist many wagon-train immigrants from the United States, but will convert few of the natives. In 1847, members of the Cayuse tribe will kill Whitman and 12 other whites at Waiilatpu.

In 1835, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, an interdenominational missionary group, commissioned Whitman to found a mission for the tribes in the Oregon country. The board believed that the Native Americans yearned for the word of Christianity and funded the enterprise. Whitman was joined by Rev. Henry H. Spalding (1803-1874) and their wives Narcissa (Prentiss) Whitman (1808-1847) and Eliza Spalding (1807-1851). William H. Gray (1810-1881) accompanied the group as mechanic and farmer.

Whitman selected the site at Waiilatpu and Spalding selected a site at Lapwai. Whitman built a farm and a gristmill and provided medical care. He also conducted religious services. The first winter, the Whitmans received vital support from the Hudson's Bay Company and from Native Americans. But the response of the Native Americans to conversion was so dismal that in 1842, the missionary board planned to close the missions. Whitman made a dramatic journey during winter to Boston to plead to keep the missions open. While Whitman was in the East, some Indians burned the mill and Narcissa Whitman took refuge first at Fort Walla Walla and then with Methodist missionaries at The Dalles. 

When Whitman returned, in September 1843, he came with a wagon train of about 800 emigrants. The mission became an important resting place for wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. The Whitmans cared for orphans whose parents died on the trail.

In 1847, both Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and 11 others were killed by Indians in what became known as the Whitman Massacre (a fourteenth victim apparently drowned after escaping the initial attack).

George W. Fuller, A History of the Pacific Northwest, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), 127-147; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Whitman, Narcissa Prentiss (1808-1847" (by Cassandra Tate), (accessed January 7, 2014).
Note: This essay was revised slightly on January 8, 2014.

Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Firsts | Religion | Pioneers | Education |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

Marcus Whitman (1802-1847), idealized portrait based on 1847 sketch
Courtesy National Park Service

Narcissa (Prentiss) Whitman (1808-1847), idealized portrait based on 1847 sketch
Courtesy National Park Service

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM) is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email