Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
(1835 - 1848.)
Page 193 - 207
Establishment of the Oregon Mission Under the Auspices of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions.
THE American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, chiefly sustained by Congregationalists, furnished support to missionaries connected with Presbyterian, Congregational and Dutch Reform Churches. Its Oregon Mission embraced the Indian tribes east of the Columbia river. Its several stations or branches were established among the Cayuse, Nez Perce and Flathead nations. In the spring of 1834, the Board appointed Rev. Samuel Parker, Rev. John Dunbar and Samuel Allis, Jr., to make an exploring tour "among the Indian tribes near or beyond the Rocky Mountains." If impracticable to proceed so far that year, they were to visit the Pawnee nation, on Platte river. They left Ithaca, New York, May 5, 1834, and arrived at St. Louis on the 23d too late to accompany the annual caravan of the American Fur Company. Messrs. Dunbar and Allis continued their journey to the Pawnee country. MR. Parker returned to the East.
(1835.) Marcus Whitman, M.D., having been associated with Rev. Samuel Parker, the latter left Ithaca on the 14th of March, 1835, reaching St. Louis April 4th, where Dr. Whitman awaited him. The missionary explorers crossed the plains and Rocky Mountains with the annual caravan of the American Fur Company; and on the 12th of August they reached Green river. The missionaries remained together several days, meeting a large number of Indians. Nez Perce and Flathead chiefs, to whom were explained the designs of the American Board, enthusiastically welcomed the coming of missionaries and teachers, and desired that religious instructors might be sent to their country to establish missions among them. Both missionaries concurred in the opinion, that there was a promising field beyond the Rocky Mountains; both assured the Indians present that their wishes should be gratified.
On the 22d of August, Dr. Whitman returned with the caravan to report to the Board. Mr. Parker, escorted by Indians, arrived at Fort Walla Walla on the 6th of October. On the 16th, he was most hospitably received by Chief Factor McLoughlin, at Fort Vancouver. Stopping over one night at the fort, he continued his exploration to the mouth of the Columbia. On the 30th, he returned to Fort Vancouver, where he remained during the winter. In the spring, he traversed much of Oregon.
On the 28th of June, 1836, he embarked on the Hudson's Bay Company's bark Columbia for Honolulu, en route to the United States. At the Sandwich Islands, he sojourned from July 14th until the 17th of December, then sailed for New London in the Whaling ship Phoenix, where he arrived May 15, 1837. On the 23d, he reached his home at Ithaca. The journal of this missionary tour imparted most valuable information. The route to Oregon, and importance of that territory, and many interesting features as to native population, climate, geology and natural history, became known.
It exhibited how Oregon was then reached by land and sea; its isolation; its mail communications, afforded only by whaling vessels which resorted to the Sandwich Islands, connecting with the Hudson's Bay Company's vessels which remained on the coast, making occasional voyages to those islands and from thence to the United States; or by the annual expresses accompanying the caravan of the American Fur Company; or a brigade of the Hudson's Bay Company en route between Fort Vancouver and York Factory.
On receiving Dr. Whitman's report in the fall of 1835, the Board determined to establish the Oregon Mission, and selected him to perform the labor. Betrothed to Narcissa Prentice, she consented to accompany him. Rev. Henry H. Spalding and wife, and William H. Gray, mechanic, were associated in the proposed mission. The party accompanied a caravan of the American Fur Company to Green river. There they met a trading party of the Hudson's Bay Company, with whom they traveled to Fort Vancouver, where they arrived September 12, 1736. This journey demonstrated that the continent could be safely crossed by women; that Oregon could be peopled overland from the western frontier; that the great American desert and Rocky Mountains were not insurmountable barriers to transcontinental travel.
By the middle of November, a station among the Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu, twenty-five miles east of Fort Walla Walla, in charge of Dr. Whitman, and another among the Nez Perces, at Lapwai, on the Koos Kooskie or Clearwater river, 110 miles eastward from Waiilatpu (Rev. H.H. Spalding), had been established.
(1837.) (1) Necessary buildings having been erected at the two stations, Mr. Gray returned to the East for missionaries. His little party reached the headwaters of the Platte in safety, where they were attacked by the Sioux. The Nez Perces who accompanied him were killed. Mr. Gray, with his white companions, succeeded in making their escape.
(1838.) Revs. Cushing Eells, Elkanah Walker and A.B. Smith, with their wives, Cornelius Rodgers, mechanic and teacher, William H. Gray, mechanic and teacher, and wife, reached Waiilatpu on the 1st of September. Rev. A.B. Smith was assigned to Waiilatpu, Messrs. Gray and Rodgers to Lapwai. Messrs. Eells and Walker having selected Tshimikan, near Fort Colvile, among the Spokane Indians, as the site for their station, returned to Waiilatpu, where they wintered.
(1839.) Edwin O. Hall, printer of the Honolulu Mission, accompanied by his wife, arrived at Lapwai early in May. This was the introduction of printing west of the Rocky Mountains. During the subsequent fall and winter, elementary books were printed in the Nez Perce and Flathead languages. In the fall, another station was established among the Nez Perces, at Kamiah, on the Clearwater river, about sixty miles east of Lapwai, Rev. Asa B. Smith, Missionary.
(1840.) On the 11th of January, the mission building at Tshimikan was destroyed by fire. Through the efficient service of A. McDonald, a chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, in charge of Fort Colvile, and the zealous co-operation of the Indians, buildings to protect the missionary families from the inclemencies of the winter were promptly afforded. At the outset the Indians had welcomed the missionaries, and assisted in the selection of land for the several stations. For a time they had continued friendly and well disposed, and eagerly received religious as well as other instruction. The officials of the Hudson's Bay Company, uniformly courteous, had always proffered their good offices and active sympathy.
(1) On the 14th of March, 1837,
Alice C. Whitman, daughter of Marcus Whitman, M.D., was born at Waiilatpu.
She was the first white female child born in Oregon. She was drowned in
the Walla Walla river June 22, 1839.
The American Board exercised no ecclesiastical control. The missionaries were allowed to adopt their form of church government. "Six members favored Congregational church polity, four were Presbyterians, two Dutch Reformed. The Mission church was Presbyterian in name, but practically Congregational. The Oregon Mission was first formed, afterwards the number of stations determined. The mission was the body, the stations the branches. According to men and means, operations were enlarged or contracted, the number of stations increased or diminished. It began with two stations, which were increased to four. The missions of the American Board of Foreign Missions were little republics. All important arrangements in regard to each station were made in annual meetings of all members of the mission, and determined by a vote of the majority of those present" (1).
(1841.) To this constitution of the mission, its irresponsibility to a superior ecclesiastical tribunal, without a chief officer or superintendent, must be attributed that non-congeniality of its several constituents which so soon detracted from its success. In that "little republic," jealousies had already arisen. Complaints and harsh criticisms, as to motives, competency and Christian character of the most prominent missionaries, and inveigling against the utility of certain stations, had been forwarded to the Missionary Board. Criminations and recriminations, personal rancor and suspicion of each other, were too certain indications to the Board, that the mission was not in a healthy or hopeful condition.
In April, Rev. A.B. Smith and wife sailed for the Sandwich Islands, leaving Kamiah station vacant. Sectarian differences among the native population had also made their appearance. In 1839, the Catholic missionaries had commenced labors among the indians of the interior. The priests had not located permanent stations; but missions were designated to which, at fixed times, the Indians repaired to receive instruction. Already there were Catholic as well as Protestant believing Indians. The Cayuses - though called Dr. Whitman's Indians - numbered partisans of each faith. In the same camp, the two religions had their respective votaries. About Waiilatpu the Indians had begun to display insolence. There were not settlements, no settlers, no white population in the valley of the Upper Columbia, except the missionary stations of the American Board with their thirteen members, six of whom were women, and the trading-posts of the Hudson's Bay Company at Walla Walla and Colvile. Those missionaries, the entire American population, were at the mercy of the Indians, who were only restrained by a knowledge that the missionaries had the active sympathy of the officials of that company in charge at Forts Walla Walla and Colvile.
In September, indignities to Dr. Whitman and family by Cayuses were of frequent occurrence. This condition of affairs, known at Fort Walla Walla, had been communicated to Dr. McLoughlin, who thereupon invited Dr. Whitman to Fort Vancouver. He recommended his absence from Waiilatpu for a year or two, predicting that the Indians would beg his return. Between Dr. Whitman and Chief Trader Archbald McKinlay, in charge of Fort Walla Walla, there was great intimacy. The latter was extremely anxious about the condition of things, and frequently warned Dr. Whitman of the restless and perfidious character of the Cayuses. The missionary acted with Christian forbearance, endeavoring to conciliate and gain the Indian's confidence and respect by kind treatment. The Indian mistook this kindness for fear of him, and only increased his insolence. A
(1) Extract from letter of Rev.
Cushing Eells to author.
difficulty occurred, occasioned by an employé ordering an Indian out of the kitchen. Mr. Gray, the mechanic, resented the indignity, while Whitman literally obeyed the injunction to "turn the other cheek." Such Christian example was entirely lost on the perfidious race among whom Dr. Whitman labored. McKinlay, on learning of that outbreak, warmly espoused the cause of the outraged missionaries. He sent for the Indians engaged in it, severely lectured them, and informed them if such a thing again occurred, that Governor McLoughlin would send a force to teach them better manners. These good offices were reported to the Board by Dr. Whitman and Chief Trader McKinlay received the thanks of its Executive Committee.
Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company's territories, visited Fort Walla Walla in August, 1841. He met the missionaries. Adept as he was in discipline and knowledge of Indian character, he thus noted his conclusions:
But the ministers of the gospel moreover had a grievance peculiar to themselves; for, instead of finding the savages eager to embrace Christianity, as they had been led to expect, they saw a superstitious, jealous and bigoted people. They soon ascertained that they could gain converts only by buying them; and they were even reproached by the savages on the ground that, if they were really good men, they would procure guns and blankets for them from the Great Spirit, merely by their prayers. In short, the Indians discovering that the new religion did not render them independent of the traders any more than their old one, regarded missionaries as mere failures, or nothing better than impostors."
The Executive or Prudential Committee of the Board had been fully advised of the condition of affairs. So discouraging had become the outlook, that an order had been issued discontinuing Waiilatpu, Lapwai and Kamiah stations, recalling Rev. H.H. Spalding and Mr. Gray, and directing Dr. Whitman to settle the business of the southern branch (which included those stations), and to join Revs. Eells and Walker at Tshimikan. This order was the special matter of consideration of a meeting of the mission at Waiilatpu in September, 1842. Dr. Whitman was opposed to abandoning Waiilatpu. To maintain it as a station, he had resolved on going East to secure a rescinding of the order. The Spaldings at Lapwai had secured a large attendance of Nez Perce youths of both sexes, and had a keen solicitude to continue their labors. Whitman and Spalding opposed immediate compliance with the order of the Board. Instead of breaking up the southern branch, Dr. Whitman insisted that such stations should be strengthened by reinforcement. An immigration of Christian families to the vicinity of the several stations would relieve the missionary of secular responsibility, and afford more time to labor for the social and moral improvement of the Indian. A minister for Waiilatpu, qualified to come in contact with frontiersmen, was also required. Waiilatpu was on the line to be traveled by those who crossed the Rocky Mountains en route to the lower Columbia and the Willamette valley. Dr. Whitman thoroughly appreciated the value of the country and the importance of the station, and was not willing to surrender it, nor abandon the field. Actuated by such motives, Dr. Whitman determined to make the winter journey of 1842-3.
There was a decided opposition
on the part of Revs. Eells and Walker to Dr. Whitman's proposed journey;
but when it became evident that he would go, even if such going should
cause his severance form the mission, those gentlemen finally united in
approval. Mrs. Whitman having made preparations to remain at The Dalles
during her husband's absence, Dr. Whitman, accompanied by General A.L.
Lovejoy, started October 3, 1842.
He crossed the continent by way of Salt Lake, Taos and Santa Fé, and reached Boston on the 30th of the ensuing March (1843). He labored earnestly with the Prudential committee of the Board. They censured his leaving his post, but revoked the obnoxious order. The stations of Waiilatpu and Lapwai were continued; but the Board, however, refused to engage in Dr. Whitman's missionary colonization scheme for the Oregon missions.
When he had abandoned hope that the Board would encourage a missionary colony of christian families to accompany him to Oregon. Dr. Whitman left Boston and overtook the great migration of 1843 upon the Platte river. He reached Waiilatpu on the 25th of September.
To this journey, actuated solely by the condition of affairs of the mission, great political consequences have been attributed:
1. It has been alleged that Dr.
Whitman projected the journey to defeat the British claim to that part
of Oregon lying north of the Columbia river;
2. That he arrived at the city of Washington about the time a treaty exchanging Oregon, north of the Columbia river, for enlarged fishing privileges on the coast of Newfoundland, was being negotiated between Great Britain and the United States; that his opportune presence frustrated such surrender of territory;
3. That he went East to organize, and that to his efforts was due, the great migration of 1843.
As to the first claim, it is sufficient to reply that Dr. Whitman's zealous interest in the mission prompted the journey to secure assistance for it. The statement of the second refutes itself. There were no negotiations pending at the time as to the Oregon boundary. There never was, either by Great Britain or the United States, an offer of exchange of the character referred to; nor could Dr. Whitman under any circumstances have interfered with or influenced pending negotiations.
The third claim is based upon an impossibility. Dr. Whitman left Waiilatpu October, 1842, and reached Boston March 30, 1843. No opportunity, by mail or otherwise, afforded communication with parties proposing to start for Oregon in the spring of 1843. Such persons had made all preparations during the previous fall or winter.
Dr. Whitman had but taken his departure, in October, 1842, when the Walla Walla and Cayuse Indians became turbulent. Dr. Elijah White, United States Sub-Agent for the Indian tribes west of the Rocky Mountains, had crossed the plains in the summer of 1842. In the Willamette settlements, rumors were current that a hostile combination of Walla Wallas, Cayuses and Nez Perces had been formed, whose purpose was to destroy the Protestant missions in the interior, and American settlements in the Willamette Valley. The Walla Wallas occupied the country surrounding Fort Walla Walla, numbering about two thousand, with six hundred warriors. The Cayuses, speaking a similar dialect with the Nez Perces, numbered six hundred, of whom two hundred were warriors. The Nez Perce country extended from the mouth of the Salmon to the mouth of the Palouse, and that breadth eastward to the Bitterroot Mountains. The nation numbered two thousand, with six hundred warriors.
Appreciating the isolation and
defenseless condition of the mission stations, the Indians at Lapwai and
Waiilatpu had grown insolent. The missionaries had yielded to their demands
in the hope that conciliatory conduct would retain their good will. Proportionate,
however, to Christian forbearance, Indian insolence increased. At Lapwai,
Rev. H.H. Spalding was grossly assaulted by members of the Nez Perce tribe.
his wife were the only Whites in a circuit of fifty miles. At Waiilatpu, similar indignities had been committed. United States Sub-Agent White, accompanied by Thomas McKay and Cornelius Rodgers, as interpreter, reached Fort Walla Walla on the 30th, where they were joined by Chief Trader McKinlay. When they arrived at Waiilatpu, the Indians were scattered. A time was fixed for their return, and the Walla Wallas and Cayuses notified to come in. The agent and party then proceeded to Lapwai, reaching that station December 3d. On the 5th, a council was held, which was addressed by Agent White, Chief Trader McKinlay, Cornelius Rodgers and Thomas McKay, who were followed by Ache-kiah, or Five Crows, Bloody Chief (over ninety years of age, and a chief when Lewis and Clark visited the country) and six others. At this meeting, Dr. White caused Ellis to be elected head chief, together with twelve sub-chiefs. A code of laws was adopted, prescribing penalties for homicide, arson, larceny and trespass. If any Indian violated this code, he was to be tried by the chief. If a white man transgressed against an Indian, he was to be reported to the agent. Murder and arson were punishable by death, other offenses by fines and lashes. On the return of Sub-Agent White and party to Waiilatpu, so many of the Indian principal head men were absent, that the council was postponed until the 10th of May, 1843.
For many years the system of
chieftainship among the Indians had been ignored by the Hudson's Bay Company;
and prominent or influential members of bands had been distributed, thereby
effectually defeating mischievous combination. That wise policy, attended
with most salutary results, was now reversed by Sub-Agent White. Ellis,
newly elected head chief of the Nez Perces, had been educated at Red river,
and with that education had acquired great self-importance. As chief, he
was haughty and overbearing, and administered White's code with extreme
harshness. Indians were humiliated by punishment for acts which in their
eye had no turpitude; and the belief prevailed that White designed their
ultimate subjugation. The arrival of the immigrants of 1842, accompanying
the sub-agent, the rumor that Dr. Whitman would return with increased numbers,
unsettled the Indians. Reports were prevalent of a general combination
against the White settlements, and that hostile parties had been sent to
the Rocky Mountains to cut off the expected immigrant train of 1843. On
the 20th of April, exciting rumors reached the Willamette. The great complaint
of natives was that Americans designed to appropriate their lands. Father
Demers, Catholic missionary, had returned to Fort Vancouver from the interior
with intelligence that hostile feeling existed only against Americans.
Upon the strength of that statement, dr. McLoughlin had counseled against
Agent White going, and advised that all should remain quiet; that in all
probability the excitement among the Indians would soon subside. But Dr.
White was agent; and it was all-important that, from and by him, the Indians
should learn that fact. Accompanied by Rev. Gustavus Hines, an interpreter
and servant, he started on the 28th of April, and reached Waiilatpu. The
story had been assiduously circulated among the Indians that the Americans
would deprive them of their lands. On hearing such statements, the young
men of the disaffected tribes were for going to the Willamette to attack
the settlements. The old men, who advised cautious measures, had sent Peu-peu-mox-mox
(Yellow Serpent), chief of the Walla Wallas, to consult Dr. McLoughlin.
Yellow Serpent had returned and informed the Cayuses that the Americans
had no intention to attack them. The indians at once peaceably returned
to the cultivation of their little garden-patches, which before they had
refused to do. The Walla Wallas and Cayuses refused to treat with Sub-Agent
White without Ellis and the Nez Perces were present.
On the 23d of May, the chiefs and principal men had assembled at Waiilatpu. Tau-i-tan, chief of the Cayuses, called the council to order. The object having been explained by Sub-Agent White, Ellis said that it was not proper for the Nez Perces to speak until the Cayuse nation should receive the laws, to which the Cayuse chiefs replied: "If you want us to receive the laws, bring them forward and let us see them. We cannot take them unless we know what they are."
The reading of the code followed, and then general discussion by the Indians. The first day's talk ended without result. The next day, after long debate, in which most of the chiefs expressed themselves, the code of laws was adopted. Tau-i-tau received a majority for head chief of the Cayuse nation, after a bitter opposition, but on the following day declined serving, because a majority of his tribe were of a different religion. Ache-kiah (Five Crows), the brother of Tau-i-tau, was then elected. The council closed with a barbecue; and Sub-Agent White returned to the Willamette.
The proceedings had demonstrated that the Indians of the interior were soured at the presence of the American; that their promises, which had been made as to compensation for lands occupied by the missionary stations, were to be complied with, and that further delay was a grievance; that sectarian opinions had been introduced, which had already engendered feeling between the Protestant and Catholic believing Indians.
Dr. Whitman had returned to Waiilatpu in the fall of 1843. He was keenly solicitous that the country should be occupied by Americans. Upon the arrival of each immigrant train, he endeavored to secure reinforcements to his little missionary colony. The Indians, both at Lapwai and Waiilatpu, for the next few years, had conducted themselves to the entire satisfaction of the missionaries. They had given evidence of improvement in industrial pursuits; an number had attached themselves to the Church and professed religion. The number of Catholic-professing Indians had also increased. In 1847, it had become manifest that the Indians were disaffected towards the Protestant missionaries. Archibald McKinlay, the firm friend of Dr. Whitman, had left Fort Walla Walla. Dr. Whitman was loth to abandon Waiilatpu; and, at times discouraged, he resolved to submit the question to a vote of the Indians.
The real obstacle was his objection to relinquishing the missionary field to Catholics. he had been fully advised of, and thoroughly understood, the animus of the Indians, which, though seemingly friendly, was liable at any time to manifest itself in hostility. Despite those discouragements, the Doctor and his wife remained at their posts, and continued to treat the Indians as brothers; zealously they labored for their advancement.
The station of Waiilatpu, on
the line of travel from the Rocky Mountains to the Willamette settlements,
had become an asylum and resting-place for the immigrant, worn out and
broken down by the severe journey across the plains; a hospital for the
disease-stricken, regardless of caste or condition; a church and altar
for spiritual culture and consolation; a school to disseminate knowledge;
a farm to supply the necessaries of life; an industrial school to impart
to Indians lessons of labor, and to teach them how to earn a subsistence.
Saw and grist mills, shops and granaries, had been erected. The superintendent's
residence had been furnished with a good library; and a valuable cabinet
of specimens had been collected, illustrating the natural history and mineral
wealth of the country. The Indian room, including kitchen, school and lecture
room, over which, upon the second floor, were lodging apartments, were
attached to the superintendency. Another large building afforded accommodations
for travelers. At a distance of eight miles up Mill Creek, was the saw-mill
and a dwelling-house.
The Catholic bishop of Walla Walla (Very Rev. A.M.A. Blanchet), Rev. J.B.A. Brouillet, V.G., and six other priests from Canada, arrived at Fort Walla Walla September 5, 1847, and were sojourning at the camp of Tau-i-tau, on the Umatilla river, twenty-five miles from Waiilatpu station. Seventy-two persons resided at Dr. Whitman's station. Dr. Whitman's household illustrates the character of that missionary and hs wife. It consisted of Dr. Whitman and wife; Mr. Rodgers, teacher; ten adopted children, seven of whom were the Sagar orphans, whose parents had died crossing the plains in 1844, and three half-breed girls; two half-breed boys whom he had raised; Joseph Stanfield, a Canadian, and Joe Lewis, the latter of whom had come with the immigrants of 1847 from Fort Hall. Dr. Whitman, scant of accommodations, had objected to Lewis stopping, but gave him employment. Lewis detailed to the Indians a conversation which eh represented that he overheard between the doctor and members of the family. To his diabolical lying may in great measure be attributed that excitement of feeling which made the events transpiring so soon thereafter a possibility.
At Waiilatpu were Miss Bewley and her brother, Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Sales, Eliza Spalding, ten years of age, daughter of Rev. H.H. Spalding. Of those Messrs. Bewley and Sales were sick patients, confined to their beds. The remaining fifty were Americans, principally of the overland immigration, en route to the Willamette valley, who had remained to winter. Eighteen were adults, eight of whom were women. Of the number, ten were under Dr. Whitman's medical treatment.
Early in the afternoon of the 29th of November, 1847, school having just been called, an ox, which had been shot and was being dressed, engaged the attention of several of the mission employés at a distance from the house. The Indians came, as was their wont when a carcass was being cut up. When all the conspirators had assembled, their weapons concealed under their blankets, one went to the kitchen, called the doctor, complained of sickness and asked for medicine. The kind physician was bestowing his attention. Tamahos stepped behind him, and felled him by two desperate blows of a tomahawk. Then followed a carnival of butchery, which scarcely finds a parallel in the narratives of Indian perfidy and murder. The victims were Dr. and Mrs. Whitman, the teacher, Rodgers, Mr. Saunders, John and Francis Sagar, Messrs. Marsh, Kimball, Gill, Gittern, Young, and the two sick men, Bewley and Sales. Excepting Mrs. Whitman, the lives of the women and children were spared. Mr. Hall, Mr. Canfield, MR. Osborn and family, a child of Mrs. Hayes, and two of the doctor's adopted children, succeeded in concealing themselves during the confusion, and reached Fort Walla Walla in safety. Two families (Messrs. Smith and Young), were at the saw-mill up Mill Creek, from whence they were brought to the station next day. Of these there were four men, Mr. Smith, Mr. Young, and two grown-up sons. by the interposition of a Nez Perce chief, the lives of these men were spared; and they swelled the number of captives to fifty-one.
Upon Mr. Hall's communicating
the sad tidings to Chief Trader McBean, that officer dispatched an interpreter
and men to Waiilatpu, to rescue survivors. The party met Finlay and the
half-breed boys coming to the fort, and returned with them. On the 30th
of November, McBean forwarded letters to the Board of Management of the
Hudson's Bay Company, at Fort vancouver, in which he states: "Fever and
ague have been raging here and in this vicinity, inconsequence of which
a great number of Indians have been swept away, but more especially at
the Doctor's (Whitman's) place, where he attended upon the Indians. About
thirty of the Cayuse tribe died, one after another. The survivors eventually
believed the Doctor had poisoned them, in which opinion they were
unfortunately confirmed by one of the Doctor's party (Joe Lewis). As far as I have been able to learn, this has been the sole cause of the dreadful butchery. In order to satisfy any doubt as to their suspicion that the Doctor was poisoning them, it is reported that they requested the Doctor to administer medicine to three of their friends, two of whom were really sick, but the third only feigning illness. All of these were dead the next morning."
The ringleaders in this horrible butchery were Telo-ka-ikt and his son Tamsuky, Esticus and Tamahos. The murderers were the Doctor's Indians, the Cayuses. Governor James Douglas, communicating the disastrous news to Governor George Abernethy, of the Provisional government of Oregon, and to the American Board of Commissioners of foreign missions, thus commented:
"The Cayuses are the most treacherous and intractable of all the Indian tribes in this country, and had on many former occasions alarmed the inmates of the mission by their tumultuous proceedings and ferocious threats; but unfortunately these evidences of a brutal disposition were disregarded by their admirable pastor, and served to arm him with a firmer resolution to do them good. He hoped that time and instruction would produce a change of mind, a better state of feeling towards the mission; and he might have lived to see his hopes realized had not the measles and dysentery, following in the train of immigrants from the United States, made frightful ravages this year in the upper country, many Indians having been carried off through the violence of the disease, and others through their own imprudence. The Cayuse Indians of Waiilatpu, being sufferers in this general calamity, were incensed against Dr. Whitman for not exerting his supposed supernatural powers in saving their lives. They carried this absurdity beyond that point of folly. Their superstitious minds became possessed with the horrible suspicion that he was giving poison to the sick instead of wholesome medicine, with the view of working the destruction of the tribe, their former cruelty probably adding strength to this suspicion. Still some of the more reflecting had confidence in Dr. Whitman's integrity; and it was agreed to test the effects of the medicine he had furnished on three of their people, one of whom was said to be in perfect health. They all unfortunately died. From that moment, it was resolved to destroy the mission. It was immediately after burying the remains of these three persons that they repaired to the mission and murdered every man found there."
Upon the receipt of the intelligence at Fort Vancouver, Governor Peter Skeen Ogden, associate chief factor, on the 7th of December left for Fort Walla Walla with sixteen men, servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, to prevent further bloodshed and to rescue the American captives. On arriving at Fort Walla Walla on the 19th of December, couriers were dispatched to the chiefs and head men of the Cayuse nation.
On the 23d, a council was held which continued until late in the night, the Indians agreeing to deliver up the captives within six days upon the payment of the ransom agreed upon. At that council Governor Ogden thus addressed the Cayuses:
"I regret to observe that all
the chiefs whom I asked for are not present. Two being absent, I expect
the words I am about to address to you to be repeated to them and your
young men on your return to your camps. It is now thirty years since we
have been among you. During this long period, we have never had any instance
of blood being spilt until that inhuman massacre which has so recently
taken place. We are traders, and a different nation from the Americans.
But recollect we supply you with ammunition not to kill the Americans.
They are the same color as ourselves, speak the same language, are children
of the same God; and humanity makes our hearts bleed when we
behold you using them so cruelly. Besides this revolting butchery, have not the Indians pillaged, ill-treated the Americans, and insulted their women when peaceably making their way to the Willamette? As chiefs, ought you to have connived at such conduct on the part of your young men? You tell me the young men committed the deeds without your knowledge. Why do we make you chiefs if you have no control over your young men? You are a set of hermaphrodites, and unworthy of the appellation of men as chiefs. You young, hot-headed men, I know that you pride yourselves upon your bravery, and think no one can match you. Do not deceive yourselves. If you get the Americans to commence once, you will repent it; and war will not end until every one of you is cut off from the face of the earth. I am aware that a good many of your friends and relatives have died through sickness. The Indians of other places have shared the same fate. It is not Dr. Whitman who poisoned them; but God has commanded that they should die. We are weak mortals, and must submit; and I trust you will avail yourselves of the opportunity. By so doing, it may be advantageous to you; but at the same time remember that you alone will be responsible for the consequences. It is merely advice that I give you. We have nothing to do with it. I have nt come here to make promises or hold out assistance. We have nothing to do with your quarrels; we remain neutral. On my return, if you wish it, shall do all I can for you; but I do not promise you to prevent war.
"If you deliver me up all the prisoners, I shall pay you for them on their being delivered; but let it not be said among you afterwards that I deceived you. I and Mr. Douglas represent the company (H.B. Co.); but I tell you once more we promise you nothing. We sympathize with these poor people, and wish to return them to their friends and relatives by paying you for them. My request in behalf of the families concerns you, so decide for the best."
The young chief Tau-i-tan replied as follows:
"I arise to thank you for your words. You white chiefs command obedience with those that have to do with you. It is not so with us. Our young men are strong-headed and foolish. Formerly we had experienced good chiefs. These are laid in the dust. The descendants of my father were the only good chiefs. Though we made war with the other tribes, yet we always looked and ever will look upon the Whites as our brothers. Our blood is mixed with yours. My heart bleeds for the death of many good chiefs I had known. For the demand made by you, the old chief Telau-ka-ikt is here. Speak to him. As regards myself, I am willing to give up the families."
Telau-ka-ikt said: "I have listened to your words. Young men, do not forget them. As for war, we have seen little of it. We know the Whites to be our best friends, who have all along prevented us from killing each other. That is the reason why we avoid getting into war with them, and why we do not wish to be separated from them. Besides the tie of blood, the Whites have shown us a convincing proof of their attachment to us, by burying their dead alongside with ours. Chief, your words are weighty. Your hairs are gray. We have known you a long time. You have had an unpleasant trip to this place. I cannot therefore keep these families back. I make them over to you, which I would not do to another younger than yourself."
Pue-pue-mox-mox continued: "I
have nothing to say. I know the Americans to be changeable; still I am
of the opinion as the young chief. The Whites are our best friends, and
we follow your advice. I consent to your taking the families."
Mr. Ogden then addressed two Nez Perce chiefs in behalf of Rev. Mr. Spalding and party, requesting that they should be delivered to him on receiving the ransom, and spoke to them at length. Both chiefs, James and Fiminilpilp, promised to bring them, and immediately started with a letter from Chief Factor Ogden to Mr. Spalding.
On the evening of the 29th of December, a few principal Cayuses arrived at Fort Walla Walla, bringing in captives and returning stolen property. The next day the ransom was paid. A day later the Spaldings were brought in, and on New Year's day, 1848, Governor Ogden, with the American captives, left Fort Walla Walla for Fort Vancouver.
In recounting his successful mission, Governor Ogden wrote, December 31st: "I have endured many an anxious hour, and for the last two nights have not closed my eyes. But, thanks to the Almighty, I have succeeded. During the captivity of the prisoners, they have suffered every indignity, but fortunately were well provided with food. I have been enabled to effect my object without compromising myself or others; and it now remains with the American government to take what measures it deems most beneficial to restore tranquility; and this, I apprehend, cannot be finally effected without blood flowing freely. So as not to compromise either party, I have made a heavy sacrifice of goods; but these indeed are of trifling value compared to the unfortunate beings I have rescued from the hands of these murderous wretches; and I feel truly happy."
The following comprises a list
of the captives ransomed by Governor Ogden:
Missionary children adopted by Dr. Whitman, viz.: Mary T. Bridger; Catherine Sagar, aged 13 years; Elizabeth Sagar, 10; Matilda J. Sagar, 8; Henrietta N. Sagar, 4; Hannah L. Sagar; Helen M. Meek. (The two last named died soon after the massacre.) From Du Page county, Illinois: Joseph Smith; Mrs. Hannah Smith; Mary Smith, aged 15 years; Edwin Smith 13; charles Smith 11; Nelson Smith, 6; Mortimer Smith, 4. From Fulton county, Illinois: Mrs. Eliza Hall; Jane Hall, aged 10 years; Mary Hall, 8; Ann E. Hall, 6; Rebecca Hall, 3; Rachael M. Hall, 1. From Osage county, Mississippi: Elam Young; Mrs. Iren Young; Daniel Young, aged 21 years; John Young, 19. From La Porte county, Indiana: Mrs. Harriet Kimball; Susan Kimball, aged 16 years; Nathan Kimball, 13; Byron M. Kimball, 8; Sarah S. Kimball, 6; Mince A. Kimball, 1. From Iowa: Mrs. Mary Sanders; Helen M. Sanders, aged 14; Phoebe L. Sanders, 10; Alfred W. Sanders, 6; Nancy I. Sanders, 4; Mary A. Sanders, 2; Mrs. Sally A. Canfield; Ellen Canfield, 16; Oscar Canfield, 9; Clarissa Canfield, 7; Sylvia A. Canfield, 5; Albert Canfield, 3. From Illinois: Mrs. Rebecca hays; Henry C. Hays, aged 4 years; also Eliza Spalding, Nancy E. Marsh, Lorinda Bewley.
The ransom was effected with the following property, expended out of the Nez Perce outfit, viz., Sixty-two blankets, three points; sixty-three cotton shirts; twelve company guns; 600 loads ammunition; thirty-seven pounds tobacco; twelve flints.
Received from Telau-ka-ikt, appertaining to the mission, for the use of the captives: Seven oxen, small and large; sixteen bags coarse flour.
Governor George Abernethy, in acknowledging the philanthropic services of Governor Ogden, says:
"Their (the captives) condition
was a deplorable one, subject to the caprice of the savages, exposed to
their insults, compelled to labor for them, and remaining constantly in
dread lest they should be butchered as their husbands and fathers ahd been.
From this state, I am fully satisfied, we could not have relieved them.
A small party of Americans would have been looked upon with contempt; the
approach of a large party would have
been the signal for a general massacre. your immediate departure from Vancouver, on receipt of the intelligence fro Waiilatpu, enabling you to arrive at Walla Walla before the news reached them of the American party having started from this place (Oregon City), together with your influence over the Indians, accomplished the desirable object of relieving the distressed."
The Cayuse murderers, before Governor Ogden arrived at Fort Walla Walla, had, on the 20th of December, assembled in council at Umatilla, Tau-i-tau, or Young Chief, Telau-ka-ikt, Ache-kiah, or Five Crows, and Camaspelo, the head chief of the Cayuses, with all the principal men of the nation. Bishop Blanchet told them that they were assembled to deliberate on a most important subject, that of avoiding war, which is always a great evil. It was wise to consult each other, to hold a council. Had they deliberated together but a few days before, probably they would not now have to deplore the horrible massacre at Waiilatpu, nor to fear its consequences. Two Nez Perces had asked him to write to the Governor of Oregon to obtain peace; but this he could not do without consent of the Cayuse chiefs. That the Nez Perces proposed: 1st, that the Americans should not come to make war; 2d, that they should send up two or three great men to make a treaty of peace; 3d, that when these great men should arrive, all the captives should be released; 4th, that they would offer no offense to Americans before knowing the news from below.
Camaspelo spoke first, approving the proposition. Telau-ka-ikt followed, speaking for two hours. He recounted the killing of the Nez Perces who had, in 1837, accompanied Mr. Gray east; the killing of Elijah, son of Pue-pue-mox-mox by Americans, in California. He concluded by saying that, as the Indians had forgotten all this, he hoped the Americans would also forget what had been recently done; that now they were even.
Neither Ache-kiah nor Tau-i-tau had much to say. Edward, son of Telau-ka-ikt, made the closing speech, justifying the Cayuses and arraigning Dr. Whitman for poisoning the Indians, pretending to credit the statement of Joe Lewis, alleging that the dying declaration of Mr. Rodgers corroborated Joe Lewis. After deliberation, the Cayuses requested Bishop Blanchet, in their names, to send to Governor Abernethy the following manifesto:
"The principal chiefs of the Cayuses, in council assembled, state: That a young Indian (Joe Lewis), who understands English and who slept in Dr. Whitman's room, heard the Doctor, his wife and Mr. Spalding express their desire of possessing the land and animals of the Indians; that he stated also that Mr. Spalding said to the Doctor: 'Hurry giving medicines to the Indians that they may soon die;' that the same Indian told the Cayuses; 'If you do not kill the Doctor soon, you will all be dead before spring;' that they buried six Cayuses on Sunday, November 24th, and three the next day; that the schoolmaster, Mr. Rodgers, stated to them, before he died, that the Doctor, his wife and Mr.. Spalding poisoned the Indians; that, for several years past, they had to deplore the death of their children, and that, according to these reports, they were led to believe that the Whites had undertaken to kill them all, and that these were the motives which led them to kill the Americans. The same chiefs asked at present:
"1st. That the Americans may
not go to war with the Cayuses;
"2d. That they (the Americans) may forget the lately committed murders, as the Cayuses will forget the murder of the son of the great chief of the Walla Wallas, committed in California (1);
refers to the killing, in 1844, of Elijah (son of pue-pue-mox-mox), by
Californians. In the spring of 1847, a band of Cayuses and Walla Wallas
went to California to avenge his death, but, finding the Americans too
strong, they returned without striking a blow, leaving, according to the
Indian view, the matter unsettled. They returned early in the fall, and
several of the party died from sickness; such an unfortunate termination
of their expedition added fuel to the flame, and only intensified their
hostility to the Americans.
"3d. That two or three great men may come up and conclude peace:
"4th. That as soon as these great men have arrived and concluded peace, they may take with them all the women and children:
"5th. That they give assurance that they will not harm the captives before the arrival of these two or three great men;
"6th. That they ask that Americans may not travel any more through their country; as their young men might do them harm."
This document was signed by Telau-ka-ikt, who led the murderous gang at Waiilatpu, Camaspelo, Tau-i-tan and Ache-kiah (Five Crows), the wretch who appropriated Miss Bewley as his share of the triumph.
In the letter accompanying, Bishop Blanchet states:
"After an interview with the chiefs separately, I succeeded in assembling them in council, which was held yesterday, and lasted four hours and a half. Each of the chiefs delivered a speech before giving his opinion. The document which accompanied the present will show you the result. It is sufficient to state that all these speeches went to show that hostilities had been instituted by the Whites; that they abhorred war; and that the tragedy of the 29th of November had occurred from an anxious desire of self-preservation; and that it was the reports made against the Doctor and others which led them to commit this act. They desired to have the past forgotten, and to live in peace as before. Your Excellency has to judge of the document, which I have been requested to forward to you. Nevertheless, without having the least intention to influence one way or another, I feel myself obliged to tell you that by going to war wit the Cayuses you will undoubtedly have all the Indians of the country against you. Would it be to the interest of a young colony to expose herself? But that you will decide with your council."
The status of the several elements of population within the hostile region has now been fully exhibited. The Americans expelled from the country; the Protestant Missions at an end; whilst officers and servants of the Hudson's Bay Company and the Catholic priest with safety remain.
Many causes for this enormity have been alleged; its immediate precursor was the death of several Indians caused by dysentery and measles. Several families of the overland migration (1847) had reached the Waiilatpu station, members of whom were sick with those diseases. As a consequence, the former disease broke out with considerable fatality among the Indians. Those savages who adopted the Indian remedy of the sweating-oven followed by plunging into the river, invariably died. Of those who applied to Dr. Whitman for treatment, several cases proved fatal.
By Indian custom, the medicine-man forfeits his life to the kindred of the patient if death ensues. It has never been claimed that the Indians exacted this penalty as to Dr. Whitman; still, by their superstitious tenets, he was regarded as instrumental in compassing those deaths which occurred. They pretended to believe that Dr. Whitman could sicken or kill by aid of his "bad medicines." This being their state of mind, how easy the task of the infamous fiend, Joe Lewis, who had inflamed them by representing that he had overheard Dr. Whitman, his amiable wife and Rev. H.H. Spalding, plotting to poison the Indians, and secure their lands and horses.
Had Dr. Whitman alone been killed,
his murderer laboring under a delusion that he was a "bad medicine-man,"
a poisoner of Indians, such might be accepted as prompting
the act. But the Cayuse murderers slaughtered those who were unsuspected of any meditated wrong; sick men, and those who had but recently come from the East, who were on their journey to the Willamette. Instead of their murderous acts being restricted to those who had been accused of meditating or practicing wrong, all the concomitants of savage warfare were displayed against those of certain nationality, against whom war was thereafter to be waged. The fuel had been accumulating for years. The pile of inflammable material embraced jealousy of a superior race; opposition to the permanent settlement in the country of Americans; a bias in favor of the "King George" as the Hudson's Bay Company's employés were called, the natural result of a quarter-century's intercourse with the company's posts, and, in a corresponding degree, a prejudice against the American or "Boston;" the presence of diverse religious systems, and Dr. Whitman's encouragement of American settlement. As a doctor of medicine, he was an object of awe tot he Indians, and, by their ritual, amenable for the life of his patients. The more superstitious pretended to believe that he was instrumental in causing a contagious disorder to have been spread among them. This mass of combustibles was readily fired by a ruthless incendiary, who acquired prestige with the Indian, because he was by them regarded as a member of the Doctor's household. All these influences contributed to create that animus towards Americans, to engender the motive for breaking up the mission, and the expulsion of Americans from the country. The massacre was an outburst of national hostility and hatred against Americans. Waiilatpu and its peaceful and unarmed inmates had been doomed because it was an American missionary station, and because it was the home of Americans. The Whitman massacre was an Indian raid by hostile Cayuses against the American inmates of Waiilatpu.
The immediate sequel of the massacre was a bitter controversy between Protestant and Roman Catholic settlers of Oregon. There were those who claimed to believe that the Cayuses had been incited by the agency of servants of the Hudson's Bay Company. That company almost exclusively occupied the interior, and, by its matchless Indian policy, had acquired perfect control of the Indians. The horror of Waiilatpu was accredited by others as the result of anti-American combined with anti-Protestant influences. Time, alike mollifying sectarian rancor and national prejudice, has dissipated such opinions, which are merely chronicled as among the most unhappy concomitants of that terrible crime.
The introduction of a religion in conflict with one previously taught, the presence of two sets of religious teachers denouncing the teachings of each other, two white races, with adverse interests, striving for mastery of the country and control of that race, with adverse interests, striving for mastery of the country and control of that race, must of necessity have aroused prejudices liable to be dangerous in their consequences. Except, however, the efforts of the Catholic clergy to propagate their faith, to establish missions in a field preoccupied, no blame can attach to the Catholic missionaries present in the vicinity. While the Catholic priests could and did remain in the country, there is no evidence that any of their number counseled those barbarities, approved the deed, or attempted to shield the murderers. It must also be remembered that the Catholic fathers had apprised Dr. Whitman of the growing hostility of the indians to the presence of the mission; and it is due to the memory of the Blanchets and Brouillets and their missionary confréres to say that their piety and Christina virtues forbid the thought that they could have, in the slightest degree, directly contributed to incite that perfidious massacre.
The early consequences of the
great crime was the erection of Oregon into a territory of the United States,
and the arrival of United States troops to afford protection to
American settlements hitherto ignored. The blood shed at Waiilatpu was the eloquent protest against the continuance of a policy which had rendered possible such a loss of valuable lives. With the Whitman massacre terminated the existence of missionary stations of the American Board in Oregon. In 1848, Tshimikan was abandoned; the Revs. Eells and Walker, with their families, left the country at the close of the Cayuse campaign, in the spring of that year.
The Cayuse war was the necessary consequence of that massacre; its history belongs to the history of the Oregon Provisional government, who declared and waged that war to punish the perfidious murderers of the Whitmans and the innocents who were sojourning at Waiilatpu on that dread day, the 29th of November, 1847.