The Letters and Journals of Narcissa
1836 - 1847
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
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
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.
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.
April 1st. - Nothing of much importance occurred to-day. My eyes
are satiated with the same beautiful scenery all along the coasts of
this mighty river, so peculiar to this western country. One year ago
to-day since my husband first arrived in St. Louis on his exploring
route to the mountains. We are one week earlier passing up the river
this spring than he was last year. While the boat stopped to take in
wood we went on shore, found some rushes, picked a branch of cedar,
went to a spring for clear water (the river water is very rily at all
times), and rambled considerably in pursuit of new objects. One of
these circumstances I must mention, which was quite diverting to us.
On the rocks near the river we found a great quantity of the prickly
pear. Husband knew from experience the effects of handling them, and
cautioned me against them, but I thought I could just take one and
put it in my india-rubber apron pocket, and carry it to the boat. I
did so, but after rambling a little I thought to take it out, and
behold, my pocket was filled with its needles, just like a
caterpillar's bristles. I became considerably annoyed with them; they
covered my hands, and I have scarcely got rid of them yet. My husband
would have laughed at me a little, were it not for his own
misfortune. He thought to discover what kind of mucilage it was by
tasting it - cut one in two, bit it, and covered his lips completely.
We then had to sympathize with each other, and were glad to render
mutual assistance in a case of extermination.
April 2nd, evening, ten o'clock. - We have come on well since we
left St. Louis. Sailed all night last night, which is a rare thing on
this river, on account of snags and sandbars. We are now at Jefferson
City, about half way to Liberty from St. Louis. How long we stop here
I do not know - perhaps all night.
Monday, 4th. - We passed the wreck of the Steamboat Siam to-day
about noon. It is indeed a melancholy sight. She was not quite a year
old. She ran upon a snag and sank, last winter. No lives lost. We
stopped to-day at Chariton, about an hour. We went on shore and
visited a steam sawmill. It was quite a curiosity, as well as the
great engine that propels the boat upon the mighty waters.
Thursday, 7th. - Very pleasant, but cold. This morning the
thermometer stood at 24 at nine o-clock. I have not seen any snow
since we left the Allegheny mountains, before the 15th of March. I
should like to know about the snow in New York. Is it all gone? How
did it go, and the consequences? Mary, we have had a sick one with us
all the way since we joined Dr. Satterlee. Mrs. Satterlee has had a
very bad cough and cold, which has kept her feeble. She is now
recovering, and is as well as can be expected. The rest of us have
been very well, except feeling the effects of drinking the river
water. I am in exception, however. My health was never better than
since I have been on the river. I was weighed last week, and came up
to 136 pounds. I think I shall endure the journey well - perhaps
better than any of the rest of us. Mrs. Spalding does not look nor
feel quite healthy enough for our enterprise. Riding affects her
differently from what it does me. Everyone who sees me compliments me
as being the best able to endure the journey over the mountains.
Sister S. is very resolute - no shrinking with her. She possesses
much fortitude. I like her very much. She wears well upon
acquaintance. She is very suitable person for Mr. Spalding - has the
right temperment to match him. I think we shall get along very well
together; we have so far. I have such a good place to shelter - under
my husband's wings. He is so excellent. I love to confide in his
judgment, and act under him, for it gives me a chance to improve.
Jane, if you want to be happy get as good a husband as I have got,
and be a missionary. Mary, I wish you were with us. You would be
happy, as I am. The way looks pleasant, notwithstanding we are so
near encountering the difficulties of an unheard-of journey for
females. I think it would do your health good, as well as Lyman and
Brother J.G., too.
This letter is free plunder. Jane, I will write to you again. What
I say to one, I say to all. I should like to write to each of you,
separately, but I wish to write so many ways that my time is so
occupied that I cannot write as much I want to. Since we have been
here we have made our tent. It is made of bedticking, in a conical
form, large enough for us all to sleep under - viz.: Mr. Spalding and
wife, Dr. Whitman and wife, Mr. Gray, Richard Tak-ah-too-ah-tis, and
John Altz; quite a little family - raised with a centerpole and
fastened down with pegs, covering a large circle. Here we shall live,
eat and sleep for the summer to come, at least - perhaps longer.
Mary, you inquired concerning my beds and bedding. I will tell you.
We five spread our India-rubber cloth on the ground, then our
blankets, and encamp for the night. We take plenty of Mackinaw
blankets, which answer for our bed and bedding, and when we journey
place them over our saddles and ride on them. I wish you could see
I had made for me, in Brother Augustus' shoe store, in Rushville,
a pair of gentlemen's boots, and from him we supplied ourselves with
what shoes we wanted. We have each of us a life-preserver, so that if
we fall into the water we shall not drown. They are made of
India-rubber cloth, air-tight, and when filled with air and placed
under the arm will prevent one from sinking. Each of us take a plate,
knife and fork and a tin cup. Mary, when we are under way I will
describe the whole proceeding to you. When I see it before my eyes I
can give a better description, for I shall have a better
understanding of it. Husband has got me an excellent sidesaddle, and
a very easy horse. He made me a present of a mule to ride, the other
day, so I do not know which I shall like best - I have not tried the
latter, Richard says "That's very bad mule - can't catch buffaloes."
That is the test with him. An animal's speed makes him good, in his
eye. I shall write you from Council Bluffs and at every opportunity,
especially when Mr. Parker returns. We have lately received a letter
from Mrs. Parker. O, what a spirit it breathed! When we were there
she said if we could not get a minister to go with us we might keep
Mr. Parker until one came, if we would only go on, and even now she
has given permission for him to stay a year longer, and visit another
tribe to the south. I wish I could show you her letter. You say
Brother J.G. and his wife have been to Ithaca. Why did he not go when
I was there? I had a good visit with Deacon and Mrs. Rolla, and a
piece of a song, too, but not half enough. He sent me the
"Missionary's Farewell," by Dr. Satterlee; music, by himself. Alas!
my husband don't come to-night; the wind has blown so hard that I
expect he has not been able to cross the river. Brother Gray is with
him. I shall not feel so anxious about him on that account, so adieu
for to-night. It is almost ten o'clock, and the family have all gone
I should like to tell you how the western people talk, if I had
room. Their language is so singular that I could scarcely understand
them, yet it was very amusing. In speaking of quantity, they say
"heap of man, heap of water, she is heap sick", etc. If you ask, "How
does your wife today?" "O, she is smartly better, I reckon, but she
is powerful weak; she has been mighty bad. What's the matter with
PLATTE RIVER, JUST ABOVE THE FORKS,
JUNE 3RD, 1836.
Dear Sister Harriet and Brother Edward:
Friday eve, six o'clock. We have just encamped for the night near the
bluffs over against the river. The bottoms are a soft, wet plain, and
we were obliged to leave the river yesterday for the bluffs. The face
of the country yesterday afternoon and today has been rolling sand
bluffs, mostly barren, quite unlike what our eyes have been satiated
with for weeks past. No timber nearer than the Platte, and the water
tonight is very bad - got from a small ravine. We have usually had
good water precious to this.
Our fuel for cooking since we left timber (no timber except on
rivers) has been dried buffalo dung; we now find plenty of it and it
answers a very good purpose, similar to the kind of coal used in
Pennsylvania (I suppose now Harriet will make up a face at this, but
if she was here she would be glad to have her supper cooked at any
rate in this scarce timber country). The present time in our journey
is a very important one. The hunter brought us buffalo meat yesterday
for the first time. Buffalo were seen today but none have been taken.
We have some for supper tonight. Husband is cooking it - no one of
the company professes the art but himself. I expect it will be very
good. Stop - I have so much to say to the children that I do not know
in what part of my story to begin. I have very little time to write.
I will first tell you what our company consists of. We are ten in
number; five missionaries, three Indian boys and two young men
employed to assist in packing animals.
Saturday, 4th. Good morning, H. and E. I wrote last night till
supper; after that it was dark I could not see. I told you how many
bipeds there was in our company last night; now for the quadrupeds:
Fourteen horses, six mules and fifteen head of cattle. We milk four
cows. We started with seventeen, but we have killed one calf, and the
Fur Company, being out of provision, have taken one of our cows for
beef. It is usually pinching times with the Company before they reach
the buffalo. We have had plenty because we made ample provision at
Liberty. We purchased a barrel of flour and baked enough to last us,
with killing a calf or two, until we reached the buffalo.
The Fur Company is large this year; we are really a moving village
- nearly 400 animals, with ours, mostly mules, and 70 men. The Fur
Company have seven wagons drawn by six mules each, heavily loaded,
and one cart drawn by two mules, which carries a lame man, one of the
proprietors of the Company. We have two wagons in our company. Mr.
and Mrs. S., husband and myself ride in one, Mr. Gray and the baggage
in the other. Our Indian boys drive the cows and Dulin the horses.
Young Miles leads our forward horses, four in each team. Now E., if
you want to see the camp in motion, look away ahead and see first the
pilot and the captain, Fitzpatrick, just before him, next the pack
animals, all mules, loaded with great packs; soon after you will see
the wagons, and in the rear, our company. We all cover quite a space.
The pack mules always string one after the other just like Indians.
There are several gentlemen in the company who are going over the
mountains for pleasure. Capt. Steward (Mr. Lee speaks of him in his
journal - he went over when he did and returned) he is an Englishman
and Mr. Celam. We had a few of them to tea with us last Monday
evening, Capt. Fitzpatrick, Stewart, Major Harris and Celam.
I wish I could describe to you how we live so that you can realize
it. Our manner of living is far preferable to any in the States. I
never was so contented and happy before neither have I enjoyed such
health for years. In the morning as soon as the day breaks the first
that we hear is the words, "Arise! Arise!" - then the mules set up
such a noise as you never heard, which puts the whole camp in motion.
We encamp in a large ring, baggage and men, tents and wagons on the
outside, and all the animals except the cows, which are fastened to
pickets, within the circle. This arrangement is to accommodate the
guard, who stand regularly every night and day, also when we are in
motion, to protect our animals from the approach of Indians, who
would steal them. As I said, the mules' noise brings every man on his
feet to loose them and turn them out to feed.
Now, H. and E., you must think it very hard to have to get up so
early after sleeping on the soft ground, when you find it hard work
to open your eyes at seven o'clock. Just think of me - every morning
at the word, "Arise!" we all spring. While the horses are feeding we
get breakfast in a hurry and eat it. By this time the words, "Catch
up! Catch up," ring through the camp for moving. We are ready to
start usually at six, travel till eleven, encamp, rest and feed, and
start again about two; travel until six, or before, if we come to a
good tavern, then encamp for the night.
Since we have been in the prairie we have done all our cooking.
When we left Liberty we expected to take bread to last us part of the
way, but could not get enough to carry us any distance. We found it
awkward work to bake out of doors at first, but we have become so
accustomed to it now we do it very easily.
Tell mother I am a very good housekeeper on the prairie. I wish
she could just take a peep at us while we are sitting at our meals.
Our table is the ground, our table-cloth is an India-rubber cloth
used when it rains as a cloak; our dishes are made of tin-basins for
teacups, iron spoons and plates, each of us, and several pans for
milk and to put our meat in when we wish to set it on the table. Each
one carries his own knife in his scabbard, and it is always ready to
use. When the table things are spread, after making our own forks or
sticks and helping ourselves to chairs, we gather around the table.
Husband always provides my seat, and in a way that you would laugh to
see. It is the fashion of all this country to imitate the Turks.
Messrs. Dunbar and Allis have supped with us, and they do the same.
We take a blanket and lay down by the table, and those whose joints
will let them follow the fashion; others take out some of the baggage
(I suppose you know that there is no stones in this country' not a
stone have I seen of any size on the prairie). For my part I fix
myself as gracefully as I can, sometimes on a blanket, sometimes on a
box, just as it is convenient. Let me assure you of this, we relish
our food none the less for sitting on the ground while eating. We
have tea and a plenty of milk, which is a luxury in this country. our
milk has assisted us very much in making our bread since we have been
journeying. While the Fur Company has felt the want of food, our milk
has been of great service to us; but it was considerable work for us
to supply ten persons with bread three times a day. We are done using
it now. What little flour we have left we shall preserve for
thickening our broth, which is excellent. I never saw any thing like
buffalo meat to satisfy hunger. We do not want any thing else with
it. I have eaten three meals of it and it relishes well. Supper and
breakfast we eat in our tent. We do not pitch it at noon. Have
worship immediately after supper and breakfast.
Noon. - The face of the country today has been like that of
yesterday. We are now about 30 miles above the forks, and leaving the
bluffs for the river. We have seen wonders this forenoon. Herds of
buffalo hove in sight; one, a bull, crossed our trail and ran upon
the bluffs near the rear of the camp. We took the trouble to chase
him so as to have a near view. Sister Spalding and myself got out of
the wagon and ran upon the bluff to see him. This band was quite
willing to gratify our curiosity, seeing it was the first. Several
have been killed this forenoon. The Company keep a man out all the
time to hunt for the camp.
Edward, if I write much more in this way I do not know as you can
read it without great difficulty. I could tell you much more, but as
we are all ready to move again, so farewell for the present. I wish
you were all here with us going to the dear Indians. I have become
very much attached to Richard Sak-ah-too-ah. 'T is the one you saw at
our wedding; he calls me mother; I love to teach him - to take care
of him, and hear them talk. There are five Nez Perces in the company,
and when they are together they chatter finely. Samuel Temoni, the
oldest one, has just come into the camp with the skin and some of the
meat of a buffalo which he has killed himself. He started this
forenoon of his own accord. It is what they like dearly, to hunt
buffalo. So long as we have him with us we shall be supplied with
I am now writing backwards. Monday morning. - I begun to say
something here that I could not finish. Now the man from the
mountains has come who will take this to the office. I have commenced
one to sister Hull which I should like to send this time if I could
finish it. We have just met him and we have stopped our wagons to
write a little. Give my love to all. I have not told you half of what
I want to. We are all in health this morning and making rapid
progress in our journey. By the 4th of July our captain intends to be
at the place where Mr. Parker and husband parted last fall. We are a
month earlier passing here than they were last spring. Husband has
begun a letter to pa and ma, and since he has cut his finger so it
troubles him to write to the rest. As this is done in a hurry I don't
know if you can read it. Tell mother that if I had looked the world
over I could not have found one more careful and better qualified to
transport a female such a distance. Husband says, "stop."
Farewell to all.
ON PLATTE RIVER, 30 MILES ABOVE THE FORKS.
June 4th, 1836.
Dear Father and Mother Prentiss:
You will be anxious to hear from us at this distance and learn our
situation and progress. We have been greatly blest thus far on our
journey. We have had various trials, it is true, but they have mostly
been overruled for our good. Narcissa's health is much improved from
what it was when she left N.Y. We failed of going from Liberty to
Bellevue as was expected in the Fur Co's. steamboat. We were waiting
at Liberty for the boat for some time and though we would go on with
our cattle, horses and wagons, and let Mr. Allis from the Pawnee
agency stay with the ladies and go on the boat. Accordingly Messrs.
Spalding and Gray went on and I was to join them at Cantonment
Leavenworth. In the meantime Mrs. Saterlee died and boat passed but
refused to stop for us. Mr. Spalding wrote me he would wait eight
miles the other side of garrison until I came up, so that when the
boat passed I did not send an express as I otherwise should have
done, but proceeded to hire a team to take us on; but when we arrived
at the garrison he had crossed the river and gone directly on for
Bellevue and had been gone for three days, which caused me to have to
send an express for him, which did not overtake him until they were
within forty miles of the Platte. I followed with the women and
baggage, with a hired team. We met out teams the fourth day on their
return. From that on we were greatly favored with fair weather, never
having to encounter any rainstorm or serious shower. We have not been
once wet even to this time, and we are now beyond where the rains
fall much in summer.
We had several days delay from my going ahead to see Maj.
Dougherty's brother, who was very sick and sent for me when he
learned I was coming. It was Sabbath and we were within 18 miles of
the Otto Agency, which is on the Platte, where Mr. Dougherty lives.
On Monday I sent the man, who came for me, after the party, and I
went to see Fitzpatrick, the leader of the Fur caravan, with whom we
were to travel. I found him encamped ready for a start on Thursday
morning, about twenty-five miles from the Otto Agency. When I
returned our party had not arrived and did not come until Wednesday,
the man who was to pilot them having lost his way.
We had great difficulty in crossing the Platte which, together
with repairs to our wagons, detained us until Saturday noon, May
21st, and he (Fitzpatrick) had been gone from Sunday. We felt much
doubt about overtaking them, but we pushed on, and after ferrying the
Horn in a skin boat and making a very difficult ford of the Loup, we
overtook the Company at a few miles below the Pawnee villages on
Wednesday evening. We then felt that we had been signally blessed,
thanked God and took courage. We felt it had been of great service to
us that we had been disappointed in these several particulars,
particularly as it tested the ability of our ladies to journey in
this way. We have since made good progress every day, and are now
every way well situated, having plenty of good buffalo meat and the
cordial co-operation of the company with whom we are journeying.
June 6th. - We have just met the men by whom we can send letters
and have to close without farther particulars or ceremony.
With Christian regards to your family, farewell.
PLATTE RIVER,SOUTH SIDE,
SIX DAYS ABOVE THE FORT LARAMIE FORK,
NEAR THE FOOT OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS,
June 27, 1836.
Dear Brother and Sister Whitman:
We were in perplexity when we left Liberty, but it has been overruled
for good. I wrote Mother Loomis from the Otoe Agency. We were in
still greater perplexity there, while crossing our baggage. Husband
became so completely exhausted with swimming the river on Thursday,
May 9th, that it was with difficulty he made the shore the last time.
Mr. Spalding was sick, our two hired men were good for nothing; we
could not obtain much assistance from the Otoes, for they were away
from the village; we had but one canoe, made of skins, and that
partly eaten by the dogs the night before. We got everything over by
Friday night. We did not get ready to start until Saturday afternoon.
By this time the [American Fur] company had four and a half days the
advance of us. It seemed scarcely possible for us to overtake them,
we having two more difficult streams to pass, before they would pass
the Pawnee villages. Behind there we dare not venture more than one
day. We were at a stand; but with the advice of brethren Merrill and
Dunbar-missionaries among the Pawnees-after a concert of prayer on
the subject, we decided to start and go as far as it would be prudent
for us. Brother Dunbar kindly consented to become our pilot, until we
could get another. He started with us and came as far as the Elkhorn
river, then the man Major Dougherty sent for, for us, came up, and
Mr. Dunbar returned. We had passed the river on Monday morning and
taken down the rope, when our pilot and his Indian came up. It was
with difficulty we crossed him and returned Mr. Dunbar. While on the
opposite shore, just ready to leave us, he called to us to receive
his parting advice, with a word of caution which will never be
forgotten. Our visit with him and Brother Merrill's family was indeed
refreshing to our thirsty spirits-kindred spirits rejoicing in the
self denials and labors of missionary life.
The next day, in the morning, we met a large party of Pawnees
going to the fort to receive their annuities. They seemed to be very
much surprised and pleased to see white females; many of them had
never seen any before. They are a noble Indian - large, athletic
forms, dignified countenances, bespeaking an immortal existence
within. When we had said what we wished to them, we hurried on, and
arrived at the Elkhorn in time to cross all our effects.
Here I must tell you how much good Richard, John and Samuel -
Pacific coast Indian boys whom Dr. Whitman had taken to New York with
him the year before - did us. They do the most of driving the cattle
and loose horses. Occasionally husband and myself would ride with
them as company and encouragement. They came up to the river before
us, and seeing a skin canoe on the opposite side, they stripped
themselves, wound their shirts around their heads, and swam over and
back again with the canoe by the time we came up. We stretched a rope
across the river and pulled the goods over in the canoe without much
Monday and Tuesday we made hard drives - Tuesday especially. We
attempted to reach the Loup Fork that night, and a part of us
succeeded. Those in the wagons drove there by 11 o'clock, but it was
too much for the cattle. There was not water or feed short of this.
We rode with Richard and John until 9 o'clock, and were all very much
fatigued. Richard proposed to us to go on and he and John would stay
on the prairie with the cattle, and drive them in in the morning. We
did not like to leave them, and so we concluded to stay. Husband had
a cup tied to his saddle, in which he milked what we wanted to drink;
this was our supper. Our saddle blankets, with our India rubber
cloaks, were our beds. Having offered up our thanksgiving for the
blessings of the day and seeking protection for the night, we
committed ourselves to rest. We awoke in the morning much refreshed
and rode into camp before breakfast - five miles. The Fur Company was
on the opposite side of the river, which we forded, and, without
unloading our wagon much, were ready to move again about noon. We
wished to be with the company when they passed the Pawnee village.
This obliged us to make a day's drive to the camp in half a day,
which was too bad for our horses. We did not reach them until 1
o'clock at night.
The next day we passed all their villages. We, especially, were
visited by them both at noon and at night; we ladies were such a
curiosity to them. They would come and stand around our tent, peep
in, and grin in their astonishment to see such looking objects.
Since we came up with the camp, I rode in the wagons most of the
way to the Black Hills. It is astonishing how well we get along with
our wagons where there are no roads. I think I may say it is easier
traveling here than on any turnpike in the States.
On the way to the buffalo country we had to bake bread for ten
persons. It was difficult at first, as we did not understand working
out-doors; but we became accustomed to it, so that it became quite
easy. June found us ready to receive our first taste of buffalo.
Since that time I have had but little to do with cooking. Not one in
our number relishes buffalo meat as well as my husband and I. He has
a different way for cooking every piece of meat. I believe Mother
Loomis would give up to him if she were here. We have had no bread
since. We have meat and tea in the morn, and tea and meat at noon.
All our variety consists of the different ways of cooking. I relish
it well and it agrees with me. My health is excellent. So long as I
have buffalo meat I do not wish anything else. Sister Spaulding is
affected by it considerably - has been quite sick.
We feel that the Lord has blessed us beyond our most sanguine
expectations. We wish our friends at home to unite with us in
thanksgiving and praise for His great mercies to us. We are a month
earlier this year than husband was last, and the company wish to be
at Rendezvous by the 4th of July. We have just crossed the river and
shall leave here tomorrow morning.
Now, Sister Julia, between you and me, I just want to tell you how
much trouble I have had with Marcus, two or three weeks past. He was
under the impression that we had too much baggage, and could not
think of anything so easy to be dispensed with as his own wearing
apparel - those shirts the ladies made him just before he left home,
his black suit and overcoat - these were the condemned articles. Sell
them he must, as soon as he gets to the fort. But first I would not
believe him in earnest. All the reasons I could bring were of no
avail - he still said he must get rid of them. I told him to sell all
of mine, too; I could do without them better than he could. Indeed, I
did not wish to dress unless he could. I finally said that I would
write and get Sister Julia to plead for me, for I knew you would not
like to have him sell them, better than I should. This was enough; he
knew it would not do to act contrary to her wishes, and said no more
July 16th. - When I wrote this letter I expected to send it
immediately, but we did not meet the party expected, and have had no
opportunity since. We are now at the Rocky Mountains, at the
encampment of Messrs. McLeod and McKay, expecting to leave on Monday
morning for Walla Walla. It seems a special favor that that company
has come to Rendezvous this season; for otherwise we would have had
to have gone with the Indians a difficult route, and so slow that we
should have been late at Walla Walla, and not have had the time we
wanted to make preparations for winter. Husband has written the
particulars of our arrival, meeting the Indians, etc., to Brother
One particular I will mention, which he did not. As soon as I
alighted from my horse, I was met by a company of matrons, native
women one after another shaking hands and saluting me with a most
hearty kiss. This was unexpected and affected me very much. They gave
Sister Spalding the same salutation. After we had been seated awhile
in the midst of the gazing throng, one of the chiefs, whom we had
seen before, came with his wife and very politely introduced her to
us. They say they all like us very much, and thank God that they have
seen us, and that we have come to live with them.
It was truly pleasing to see the meeting of Richard and John with
their friends. Richard was affected to tears. His father is not here,
but several of his tribe and brethren are. When they met each took
off his hat and shook hands, as respectfully as in civilized life.
Richard does not give up the idea of again seeing Rushville.
Your affection sister,
Under the protection of Mr. McLeod and his company we left the
Rendezvous and came ten miles in a southwesterly direction. The
Flatheads and some of the Snake Indians accompanied us a short
distance. We make but one camp a day.
One the 22nd we had a tedious ride, as we traveled till half-past
four P.M. I thought of mother's bread, as a child would, but did not
find it on the table, I should relish it extremely well; have been
living on buffalo meat until I am cloyed with it.
Have been in a peaceful state of mind all day. Had a freedom in
prayer for my beloved parents; blessed privilege that such a sinner
as I may have access to a mercy seat, through such a Saviour as Jesus
Christ. It is good to feel that he is all I want, and all my
righteousness; and if I had ten thousand lives I would give them all
for him. I long to be more like him - to possess more of his meek
25th. - Came fifteen miles to-day; encamped on Smith's creek, a
small branch of Bear creek. The ride has been very mountainous -
paths winding on the sides of steep mountains. In some places the
path is so narrow as scarcely to afford room for the animal to place
his foot. One after another we pass along with cautious step. Passed
a creek on which was a fine bunch of gooseberries, nearly ripe.
Husband has had a tedious time with the wagon to-day. It got stuck
in the creek this morning when crossing, and he was obliged to wade
considerably in getting it out. After that, in going between the
mountains, on the side of one, so steep that it was difficult for
horses pass, the wagon was upset twice; did not wonder at this at
all; it was a greater wonder that it was not turning somersaults
continually. It is not very grateful to my feelings to see him
wearing out with such excessive fatigue, as I am obliged to. He is
not as fleshy as he was last winter. All the most difficult part of
the way he has walked, in laborious attempts to take the wagon. Ma
knows what my feelings are.
26th. - Did not move camp today. Mr. McKay has been preparing to
send out trappers from this place. Husband has been sick to-day, and
so lame with the rheumatism as to be scarcely able to move. It is a
great privilege that we can lie still to-day on his account, for he
27th. - had quite a level route to-day - came down Bear river. Mr.
McKay sent off about thirty of his men as trappers to-day. Several
lodges of Indians also left us to go in another direction, and we
expect more to leave us to-morrow. They wish to go a different route
from Mr. McLeod, and desire us to go with them; but it would be more
difficult and lengthy than Mr. McLeod's. We are still in a dangerous
country; but our company is large enough for safety. Our cattle
endure the journey remarkably well. They supply us with sufficient
milk for our tea and coffee, which is indeed a luxury. We are obliged
to shoe some of them because of sore feet. Have seen no buffalo since
we left Rendezvous. Have had no game of any kind except a few messes
of antelope, which an Indian gave us. We have plenty of dried buffalo
meat, which we have purchased from the Indians - and dry it is for
me. It appears so filthy! I can scarcely eat it; but it keeps us
alive, and we ought to be thankful for it. We have had a few meals of
fresh fish, also, which we relished well, and have the prospect of
obtaining plenty in one or two weeks more. Have found no berries;
neither have I found any of Ma's bread (Girls, do not waste the
bread; if you knew how well I should relish even the dryest morsel,
you would save every piece carefully.) Do not think I regret coming.
No, far from it; I would not go back for a world. I am contented and
happy, notwithstanding I sometimes get very hungry and weary. Have
six week's steady journey before us. Feel sometimes as if it were a
long time to be traveling. Long for rest, but must not murmur.
Feel to pity the poor Indian women, who are continually traveling
in this manner during their lives, and know no other comfort. They do
all the work and are the complete slaves of their husbands. I am
making some little progress in their language; long to be able to
converse with them about the Saviour.
28th. - Very mountainous all the way to-day; came over another
ridge; rode from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. We thought yesterday the Indians
were all going to leave us, except two or three; but not one has.
They fear to, on account of the Blackfeet tribe, who would destroy
them all, if they could. One of the axle-trees of the wagon broke
to-day; was a little rejoiced, for we were in hopes they would leave
it, and have no more trouble with it. Our rejoicing was in vain for
they are making a cart of the back wheels, this afternoon, and
lashing the fore wheels to it-intending to take it through in some
shape or other. They are so resolute and untiring in their efforts
they will probably succeed.
Had some fresh fish for breakfast and some antelope for supper,
sent us by Mr. McLeod and other friends in camp. Thus the Lord
provides, and smoothes all our ways for us, giving us strength.
July 29th. - Mr. Gray was quite sick this morning and inclined to
fall behind. Husband and I rode with him about two hours and a half,
soon after which he gave out entirely. I was sent on, and soon after
husband left him to come and get the cart; but I overtook an Indian,
who went back and soon met husband, and both returned to Mr. Gray.
The Indian helped him on his horse, got on behind him, supported him
in his arms and in this manner slowly came into camp. This was
welcome relief, and all rejoiced to see them come in; for some of us
had been riding seven hours, others eight, without any nourishment.
[The next sheet of the journal is missing, which contains the
account of their arrival at Fort Hall, where, she says,] We were
hospitably entertained by Captain Thing, who keeps the fort. It was
built by Captain Wyeth, a gentleman from Boston, whom we saw at
Rendezvous on his way east. Our dinner consisted of dry buffalo meat,
turnips and fried bread, which was a luxury. Mountain bread is simply
coarse flour and water mixed and roasted or fried in buffalo grease.
To one who has had nothing but meat for a long time, this relishes
well. For tea we had the same, with the addition of some stewed
The buildings of the fort are made of hewed logs, with roofs
covered with mud brick chimneys and fireplaces also being built of
the same; no windows, except a square hole in the roof, and in the
bastion a few port holes large enough for guns only. The buildings
were all enclosed in a strong log wall. This affords them a place of
safety when attacked by hostile Indians, as they frequently are, the
fort being in the Blackfeet country.
Since dinner we visited the garden and corn fields. The turnips in
the garden appeared thrifty - the tops very large and tall, but the
roots small. The peas looked small; but most of them had been
gathered by the mice. Saw a few onions, that were going to seed,
which looked quite natural. This was all the garden contained. He
told us his own did extremely well until the 8th of June, when the
frost of one night completely prostrated it. It has since came up
again, but does not look as well as it did before. This is their
first attempt at cultivation.
The buildings at Fort William, on Laramie Fork of the Platte, are
made the same, but are larger and more finished than here. Here we
have stools to sit on - there we had very comfortable chairs,
bottomed with buffalo skin. Thus you see we have a house of
entertainment almost or quite as often as Christian of the Pilgrim's
Progress did. We expect one more before we get to Walla Walla; that
is Snake Fort [Boise], belonging to Mr. McKay, who is journeying with
From this on our company will be small. The Indians all leave us to-day except
one or two who go with us to assist in driving the cattle - Kentuck, who
went with Mr. Parker last year, and the chief, Rottenbelly. The whole
tribe are exceedingly anxious to have us go with them. They use every
argument they can invent to prevail on us to do so - and not only argument
but strategy. We all think it not best; we are very much fatigued, and
wish to get through as soon as possible. To go with them would take us
two months or more, when now we expect to go to Walla Walla in twenty-five
days. When we get there rest will be sweet to us; so will it be to the
Christian when he gets to Heaven. Will father and mother get there before
I do? If so, then they will be ready to greet me on the threshold. Here
we have raised our Ebenezer saying, "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us."
Now we leave it and pass on. Our animals are nearly ready. It is now half-past
two and we expect to go but a short distance and encamp.
Morn; came all of ten miles last evening, and did not arrive here
till after dark. Mr. McLeod and his company started earlier than we
did, intending to come but a little way. We could not get ready to
come with him, and the man who piloted us led us wrong - much out of
the way. Those on whom we depended to drive cattle disappointed us.
Husband and myself fell in behind them to assist John Alts, who was
alone with them. This made us later into camp than the rest of our
company. We came through several swamps, and all the last part of the
way we were so swarmed with mosquitoes as to be scarcely able to see
- especially while crossing the Port Neuf, which we did, just before
coming into camp. It is the widest river I have forded on horseback.
It seemed the cows would run mad for the mosquitoes; we could
scarcely get them along. Mr. McLeod met us and invited us to tea,
which was a great favor. Thus blessings gather thick around us. We
have been in the mountains so long we find the scenery of this valley
very grateful to the eye - a large stream on my right and one on my
left, skirted with timber. At Fort Hall was our first sight of Snake
river. We shall follow the south side of it for many days. We have
passed many places where the soil is good, and would be fertile if
there were frequent rains; but usually the country is barren, and
would be a sandy desert were it not for the sage brush.
Eve. We passed the American Falls on Snake river just after
dinner. The roar of the water is heard at a considerable distance. We
stopped during the greatest heat for rest and dinner. Now that the
Indians are no longer with us we shall expect to make two camps. I
expect this to be a great mercy to us weak females, for it was more
than we could well endure to travel during the heat of the day
Aug. 6th. - Route very bad and difficult to-day. We crossed a
small stream full of falls. The only pass where we could cross was
just on the edge of rocks above one of the falls. While the pack
animals were crossing, both ours and the company's, there was such a
rush as to crowd two of our horses over the falls, both packed with
dried meat. It was with great difficulty they were got out, one of
them having been nearly an hour much to his injury. We have a little
rice to eat with our dry meat, given us by Mr. McLeod, which makes it
relish quite well.
Aug. 7th. - Sabbath; came fifteen miles and camped at a fine
place, with plenty of good grass for our weary animals. Thus are
blessings so mingled that it seems as if there was nothing else but
mercy and blessings all the way. Was there ever a journey like this
performed where the sustaining hand of God has been so manifest every
morning. Surely the children of Israel could not have been more
sensible of the pillar of fire by night than we have been of that
hand that has led us thus safely on. God had heard prayer in our
behalf, and even now while I am writing on this holy day is the sweet
incense of prayer ascending before the throne of Heavenly grace. Nor
are we forgotten by our beloved churches, at home in the prayers of
the Sanctuary, we are too sensible of its blessed effects to believe
otherwise; and oh! how comforting is this thought to the heart of the
missionary. We love to think and talk of home with such feelings as
these. It warms our hearts and strengthens and encourages us in the
work of our beloved Master, and make our journeyings easy.
Aug. 8th, Monday. - Snake river. We have an excellent camp ground
to-night; plenty of feed for our horses and cattle. We think it
remarkable that our cattle should endure the journey as well as they
do. We have two suckling calves that appear to be in very good
spirits; they suffer some from sore feet - otherwise they have come
on well and will go through. Have come eighteen miles to-day and have
taken it so deliberately that it has been easy for us. The hunters
came in last night well loaded; they had been in the mountains two
days after game and killed three elk and two antelope. This is the
first elk meat we have had, and it is the last opportunity we expect
to have of taking any more game. We are told that many have traveled
the whole distance from Rendezvous to Walla Walla without any fresh
meat. We think our will last until we reach the salmon fishing at
Snake Falls. Thus we are well provided for contrary to our
expectations. Mr. McLeod has excellent hunters; this is the reason
why we live so well. There is but little game and that is found at a
great distance from the route.
11th. - Tuesday and Wednesday have been tedious days, both for man
and beast - lengthy marches without water; rocky and sandy. Had a
present to-night of a fresh salmon; also a plate of fried cakes from
Mr. McLeod. (Girls, if you wish to know how they taste you can have
pleasure by taking a little flour and water, make some dough, and
roll it thin, cut it into square blocks, then take some beef fat and
fry them. You need not put either salt or pearlash in your dough.)
Believe me, I relish them as well as I ever did any made at home.
12th. - Friday; raised camp this morning at sunrise and came two
hours ride to the salmon fishery. Found a few lodges of Diggers, of
the Snake tribe, so called because they live on roots during winter,
who had just commenced fishing. Obtained some and boiled it for our
breakfast. Find it good eating; had we been a few days earlier we
should not have been able to obtain any fish, for they had but just
come up. They never go higher than these falls and come here every
Friday eve. - Dear Harriet, the little trunk you gave me has come
with me so far, and now I must leave it here alone. Poor little
trunk, I am sorry to leave thee; thou must abide here alone, and no
more by thy presence remind me of my dear Harriet. Twenty miles below
the falls on Snake river this shall be thy place of rest. Farewell,
little trunk, I thank thee for thy faithful services, and that I have
been cheered by thy presence so long. Thus we scatter as we go along.
The hills are so steep and rocky that husband thought it best to
lighten the wagon as much as possible and take nothing but the
wheels, leaving the box with my trunk. I regret leaving anything that
came from home, especially that trunk, but it is best. It would have
been better for me not to have attempted to bring any baggage
whatever, only what was necessary to use on the way. It costs so much
labor, besides the expense of animals. If I were to make the journey
again I would make quite different preparations. To pack and unpack
so many times, and cross so many streams where the packs frequently
get wet, requires no small amount of labor, besides the injury of the
articles. Our books, what few we have, have been wet several times.
In going from Elmira to Williamsport this trunk fell into the creek
and wet all my books, and Richard's, too, several times. The sleigh
box came off and all of us came near a wetting likewise. The custom
of the country is to possess nothing, and then you will lose nothing
while traveling. Farewell for the present.
13th. - Saturday; Dear Harriet, Mr. McKay has asked the privilege
of taking the little trunk along, so that my soliloquy about it last
night was for naught. However, it will do me no good, it may him.
We have come fifteen miles and have had the worst route in all the
journey for the cart. We might have had a better one but for being
misled by some of the company who started out before the leaders. It
was two o'clock before we came into camp.
The river is divided by two islands into three branches, and is
fordable. The packs are placed upon the tops of the highest horses
and in this way we crossed without wetting. Two of the tallest horses
were selected to carry Mrs. Spalding and myself over. Mr. McLeod gave
me his and rode mine. The last branch we rode as much as half a mile
in crossing and against the current, too, which made it hard for the
horses, the water being up to their sides. Husband had considerable
difficulty in crossing the cart. Both cart and mules were turned
upside down in the river and entangled in the harness. The mules
would have been drowned but for a desperate struggle to get them
ashore. Then after putting two of the strongest horses before the
cart, and two men swimming behind to steady it, they succeeded in
getting it across. I once thought that crossing streams would be the
most dreaded part of the journey. I can now cross the most difficult
stream without the least fear. There is one manner of crossing which
husband has tried but I have not, neither do I wish to. Take an elk
skin and stretch it over you, spreading yourself out as much as
possible, then let the Indian women carefully put you on the water
and with a cord in the mouth they will swim and draw you over.
Edward, how do you think you would like to travel in this way?
15th. - Yesterday Mr. McLeod with most of his men left us, wishing
to hasten his arrival at Snake Fort, leaving us a pilot and his
weakest animals to come in with us at our leisure. This is a relief
to us, as it is difficult to bring our cattle up to the speed they
wish to travel. We passed the hot springs just before noon, which was
quite a curiosity. Boiled a bit of dry salmon in one of them in five
16th. - This eve found plenty of berries called hawthorn on the
stream where we have encamped. They are large as a cherry and taste
much like a mealy sweet apple. Our route on this side of Snake river
is less hilly and difficult than on the south side, and said to be
two days shorter.
19th. - Arrived at Snake Fort, Boise, about noon. It is situated
on Bigwood river, so called because the timber is larger than any to
be seen this side of the mountains. It consists chiefly of cotton
wood and is small compared with timber in the states. Snake Fort is
owned and built by Mr. Thomas McKay, one of our company, whom we
expect to leave here. He, with Mr. McLeod, gave us a hearty welcome;
dined with them. Mr. McLeod was ready to leave on the morrow, but
said he would stay a day longer to give us the opportunity of doing
some necessary work, for which we were thankful.
20th. - Saturday. Last night I put my clothes in water and this
morning finished washing before breakfast. This is the third time I
have washed since I left home-once at Fort Williams and once at
Rendezvous. Mr. McLeod called this evening to see if we were ready to
leave. He observed we had been so engaged in labor as to have no time
for rest, and proposed for ourselves to remain over Sabbath. This I
can assure you was a favor for which we can never be too thankful,
for our souls need the rest of the Sabbath as well as our bodies.
21st. - Sabbath. Rich with heavenly blessings has the day of rest
been to my soul. Mr. Spalding was invited to preach in the Fort at 11
o'clock. The theme was the character of the blessed Savior. All
listened with good attention.
22d. - Left the Fort yesterday; came a short distance to the
crossing of Snake river, crossed and encamped for the night. The
river had three branches, divided by islands, as it was when we
crossed before. The first and second places were very deep, but we
had no difficulty in crossing on horseback. The third was deeper
still; we dare not venture horseback. This being a fishing post of
the Indians, we easily found a canoe, made of rushes and willows, on
which we placed ourselves and our saddles (Sister Spalding and
myself), when two Indians on horseback, each with a rope attached to
the canoe, towed us over. (O! if father and mother and the girls
could have seen us in our snug little canoe, floating on the water.)
We were favorites of the company. No one else was privileged with a
ride on it. I wish I could give you a correct idea of this little
bark. It is simply bunches of rushes tied together, and attached to a
frame made of a few sticks of small willows. It was just large enough
to hold us and our saddles. Our baggage was transported on the top of
our tallest horses, without wetting.
As for the wagon, it is left at the Fort, and I have nothing to
say about crossing it at this time. Five of our cattle were left
there also, to be exchanged for others at Walla Walla. Perhaps you
will wonder why we have left the wagon, having taken it so nearly
through. Our animals were failing, and the route in crossing the Blue
Mountains is said to be impassable for it. We have the prospect of
obtaining one in exchange at Vancouver. If we do not we shall send
for it, when we have been to so much labor in getting it thus far. It
is a useful article in the country.
Now, for Edward's amusement, and that he may know how to do when
he comes over the Rocky Mountains, I will tell how we got the cattle
over the rivers. Our two Indian boys, Richard and John, have had the
chief management of driving them all the way, and are to be commended
for the patience they have manifested. They have had some one or two
to help usually, but none so steady drivers as themselves. When a
stream is to be crossed, where it is necessary for the animals to
swim, Richard comes back after the cows. Having obtained consent he
rides over, accompanied by his fellow drivers, all stripped to the
shirt. Then they return with their horses, if the stream is wide and
difficult. If not they leave their horses, tie their shifts over
their heads, swim back, collect the cows and drive them through, all
swimming after them. If the stream is very wide, and they return with
their horses, they drive them swimming on the horses behind them.
This saves them from the too great fatigue of swimming for the river
twice. They love to swim, as they love to eat, and by doing so have
saved me many an anxious feeling, for the relief it has given my
husband many times. In this case all the horses and mules were driven
across likewise. Usually the best Indian swimmer was selected and
mounted the horse that was good for leading to go before the animals
as a guide, while many others swim after them to drive them over.
When once under way, such a snorting and halloaing you never heard.
At the same time you can see nothing save so many heads floating upon
the water. Soon they gain the opposite shore, triumphantly ascend its
banks, shake themselves, and retire to their accustomed employment.
26th. - Friday. On account of our worn out cattle and horses, it
was thought best to separate from Mr. McLeod's party, at least some
of us, and travel more deliberately. Two mules and a horse have
almost entirely given out. It is necessary that some of our party go
to Vancouver immediately for supplies and see Mr. Parker before he
leaves. It was thought best for my husband and Mr. Gray to go. As Mr.
McLeod intended to make but a day's stop at Walla Walla, we came on
with him, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Spalding, the hired men, with most of
our baggage, and the Nez Perce chief, Rottenbelly, to pilot them in.
We parted from them about 3 o'clock and came as far as the Lone Tree.
The place called Lone Tree is a beautiful valley in the region of
Powder river, in the center of which is a solitary tree, quite large,
but the side of which travellers usually stop and refresh themselves.
We left our tent for Mrs. Spalding, as we expect to be out only a few
nights, while she might be out many. Mr. McLeod kindly offered his
for my use and when I arrived in camp found it pitched and in
readiness for me. This was a great favor as the wind blew quite hard
and the prospect was for a cool night.
August 27th. - Came in sight of the hill that leads to the Grande
Ronde. This morning Mr. McLeod remained behind in pursuit of game,
and did not come into camp until we had made a long nooning, although
we had begun to feel a little concerned about him, yet about 3
o'clock he came into camp loaded with wild ducks, having taken
twenty-two. Now, mother, he had just, as he always did during the
whole journey, sent over nine of them. Here also, Richard caught
fresh salmon, which made us another good meal, and if we had been out
of provisions we might have made dinner upon the fresh-water clams,
for the river was full of them.
Girls, how do you think we manage to rest ourselves every noon, having no house
to shelter us from the scorching heat, or sofa on which to recline? Perhaps
you think we always encamp in the shade of some thick wood. Such a sight
I have not seen, lo, these many weeks. If we can find a few small willows
or a single lone tree, we think ourselves amply provided for. But often
our camping places are in some open plain and frequently a sand plain,
but even here is rest and comfort. My husband, who is one of the best
the world ever knew, is always ready to provide a comfortable shade, with
one of our saddle-blankets spread upon some willows or sticks placed in
the ground. Our saddles, fishamores and the other blankets placed upon
the ground constitute our sofa where we recline and rest until dinner
is ready. How do you think you would like this? Would you not think a
seat by mother, in some cool room preferable? Sometimes my wicked heart
has been disposed to murmur, thinking I should have no rest from the heat
when we stopped, but I have always been reproved for it by the comfort
and rest received. Under the circumstances I have never wished to go back.
Such a thought never finds a place in my heart. "The Lord is better to
us than our fears." I always find it so.
This morning lingered with husband on the top of the hill that
overlooks the Grande Ronde, for berries until we were some distance
behind camp. We have now no distressing apprehensions the moment we
are out of sight of the camp, for we have entirely passed the
dangerous country. I always enjoy riding alone with him, especially
when we talk about home friends. It is then the tedious hours are
sweetly decoyed away.
We descend a very steep hill in coming into Grande Ronde, at the
foot of which is a beautiful cluster of pitch and spruce pine trees,
but no white pine like that I have been accustomed to see at home.
Grande Ronde is indeed a beautiful place. It is a circular plain,
surrounded by lofty mountains, and has a beautiful stream coursing
through it, skirted with quite large timber. The scenery while
passing through it is quite delightful in some places and the soil
rich; in other places we find the white sand and sedge, as usual, so
common to this country. We nooned upon Grande Ronde river.
The camas grows here in abundance, and it is the principal resort
of the Cayuses and many other tribes, to obtain it, as they are very
fond of it. It resembles an onion in shape and color, when cooked is
very sweet and tastes like a fig. Their manner of cooking them is
very curious: They dig a hole in the ground, throw in a heap of
stones, heat them to a red heat, cover them with green grass, upon
which they put the camas, and cover the whole with earth. When taken
out it is black. This is the chief food of many tribes during winter.
After dinner we left the plain and ascended the Blue Mountains.
Here a new and pleasing scene presented itself-mountains covered with
timber, through which we rode all the afternoon; a very agreeable
change. The scenery reminded me of the hills in my native country of
29th. - Had a combination of the same scenery as yesterday
afternoon. Rode over many logs and obstructions that we had not found
since we left the states. Here I frequently met old acquaintances in
the trees and flowers, and was not a little delighted; indeed, I do
not know as I was ever so much affected with any scenery in my life.
The singing of birds, the echo of voices of my fellow travelers, as
they were scattered through the woods, all had a strong resemblance
to bygone days. But this scenery was of short duration-only one day.
Before noon we began to descend one of the most terrible mountains
for steepness and length I have yet seen. It was like winding stairs
in its descent, and in some places almost perpendicular. The horses
appeared to dread the hill as much as we did. They would turn and
wind around in a zigzag manner all the way down. The men usually
walked, but I could not get permission to, neither did I desire it
We had no sooner gained the foot of this mountain than another
more steep and dreadful was before us. After dinner and rest we
descended it. Mount Pleasant, in Prattsburg, would not compare with
these Mount Terribles. Our ride this afternoon exceeded anything we
have had yet, and what rendered it the more aggravating was the fact
that the path all the way was very stony, resembling a newly
macadamized road. Our horses' feet were very tender, all unshod, so
that we could not make the progress we wished. The mountain in many
places was covered with this black broken basalt. We were very late
in making camp to-night. After ascending the mountain we kept upon
the main divide until sunset, looking in vain for water and a camping
place. While upon this elevation we had a view of the Valley of the
Columbia River. It was beautiful. Just as we gained the highest
elevation and began to descend the sun was dipping his disk behind
the western horizon. Beyond the valley we could see two distinct
mountains - Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. These lofty peaks were
of a conical form, separated from each other by a considerable
distance. Behind the former the sun was hiding part of his rays,
which gave us a more distinct view of this gigantic cone. The beauty
of this extensive valley contrasted well with the rolling mountains
behind us, and at this hour of twilight was enchanting and quite
diverted my mind from the fatigue under which I was laboring. We had
yet to descend a hill as long, but not as steep or as stony as the
other. By this time our horses were in haste to be in camp, as well
as ourselves, and mine made such lengthy strides in descending that
it shook my sides surprisingly. It was dark when we got into camp,
but the tent was ready for me, and tea also, for Mr. McLeod invited
us to sup with him.
Dearest mother, let me tell you how I am sustained of the Lord in
all this journey. For two or three days past I have felt weak,
restless and scarcely able to sit on my horse - yesterday in
particular. But see how I have been diverted by the scenery, and
carried out of myself in conversation about home and friends. Mother
will recollect what my feelings were and had been for a year previous
to our leaving home. The last revival enjoyed, my visit to Onondaga
and the scenes there - these I call my last impressions of home, and
they are of such a character that when we converse about home these
same feelings are revived and I forget that I am weary and want rest.
This morning my feelings were a little peculiar; felt remarkably
strong and well - so much so as to mention it - but could not see any
reason why I should feel any more rested than on the morning
previous. Then I began to see what a day's ride was before me, and I
understood it. If I had had no better health to-day than yesterday I
should have fainted under it. Then the promise appeared in full view:
"As thy day, so shall thy strength be," and my soul rejoiced in God,
and testifies to the truth of another evidently manifest, "Lo, I am
with you always."
30th. - In consequence of the lengthy camp yesterday, and failure
of animals, two of the company's men left their animals behind, with
packs also. This occasioned some anxiety, lest the wolves should
destroy their beaver. To-day they send back for them, and we make but
a short move to find more grass. On following the course of the
stream on which we encamped last night we found cherries in
abundance, and had time to stop and gather as many as we wished. They
are very fine - equal to any we find in the States. When we arrived
Mr. Gray had the dinner waiting for us. This afternoon the men rested
and made preparations to enter Walla Walla. The men who went for the
animals returned late. We all regretted this hindrance, for Mr.
McLeod intended to see Walla Walla to-day and return again with a
muskmelon for Mrs. Whitman (so he said). he will go in tomorrow. It
is the custom of the country to send heralds ahead to announce the
arrival of a party and prepare for their reception.
31st. - Came to the Walla Walla river, within eight miles of the Fort (Wallula).
Husband and I were very much exhausted with this day's lengthy ride. Most
of the way was sandy with no water for many miles. When we left Mr. Spalding
husband rode an Indian horse when he had never mounted before and found
him a hard rider in every gait except a gallop, and slow in his movements,
nor could he pace as mine did, so for the last six days we have galloped
most of the way where the ground would admit of it.
September 1st, 1836
You can better imagine our feelings this morning than we can describe
them. I could not realize that the end of our long journey was so
near. We arose as soon as it was light, took a cup of coffee, ate of
the duck we had given us last night and dressed for Walla Walla. We
started while it was yet early, for all were in haste to reach the
desired haven. If you could have seen us you would have been
surprised, for both man and beast appeared alike propelled by the
same force. The whole company galloped almost the whole way to the
Fort. The fatigues of the long journey seemed to be forgotten in the
excitement of being so near the close. Soon the Fort appeared in
sight and when it was announced that we were near Mr. McLeod, Mr.
Pambrun, the gentleman of the house, and Mr. Townsend (a traveling
naturalist) sallied forth to meet us. After usual introduction and
salutation we entered the Fort and were comfortably seated in
cushioned armed chairs. They were just eating breakfast as we rode up
and soon we were seated at the table and treated to fresh salmon,
potatoes, tea, bread and butter. What a variety, thought I. You
cannot imagine what an appetite these rides in the mountains give a
person. I wish some of the feeble ones in the states could have a
ride in the mountains; they would say like me, victuals, even the
plainest kind, never relished so well before.
After breakfast we were shown the novelties of the place. While at
breakfast, however, a young rooster placed himself upon the sill of
the door and crowed. Now whether it was the sight of the first white
woman, or out of compliment to the company, I know not, but this much
for him, I was pleased with his appearance. You may think me simple
for speaking of such a small circumstance. No one knows the feelings
occasioned by seeing objects once familiar after a long deprivation.
Especially when it is heightened by no expectation of meeting with
them. The door-yard was filled with hens, turkeys and pigeons. And in
another place we saw cows and goats in abundance, and I think the
largest and fattest cattle and swine I ever saw.
We were soon shown a room which Mr. Pambrun said he had prepared
for us, by making two bedsteads or bunks, on hearing of our approach.
It was the west bastion of the Fort, full of port holes in the sides,
but no windows, and filled with fire-arms. A large cannon, always
loaded, stood behind the door by one of the holes. These things did
not disturb me. I am so well pleased with the possession of a room to
shelter me from the scorching sun that I scarcely notice them. Having
arranged our things we were soon called to a feast of melons; the
first, I think, I ever saw or tasted. The muskmelon was the largest,
measuring eighteen in length, fifteen around the small end and
nineteen around the large end. You may be assured that none of us
were satisfied or willing to leave the table until we had filled our
plates with chips.
At four o'clock we were called to dine. It consisted of pork,
cabbage, turnips, tea, bread and butter; by favorite dishes, and much
like the last dinner I ate with Mother Loomis. I am thus particular
in my description of eatables so that you may be assured that we find
something to eat beyond the Rocky mountains as well as at home. We
find plenty of salt, but many here prefer to do almost, and some
entirely without it, on their meats and vegetables.
Sept. 2d. - Have busied myself to-day in unpacking my trunk and
arranging my things for a visit to Vancouver. Mother will wonder at
this and think me a strange child for wishing to add three hundred
miles to this journey; not from necessity, but because my husband is
going, and I may as well go as to stay here alone. If we were obliged
to go on horseback, I think I should not wish to undertake it, but we
are going in a boat and it will not take us more than six days to go
there. A very agreeable change and I think I shall enjoy it as well
as to stay here. I feel remarkably well and rested-do not need to
lounge at all, and so it is with us all. I can scarcely believe it
possible of myself, but it is true, I feel as vigorous and as well
able to engage in any domestic employment as I ever did in my life.
I have not yet introduced you to the lady of the house. She is a
native, from a tribe east of the mountains. She appears well, does
not speak English, but her native language and French. The cooking
and housework is done by men chiefly. Mr. Pambrun is from Canada, and
much of the gentlemen in his appearance.
Sept. 3d. - Messrs. McLeod and Townsend left for Vancouver to-day,
but Mr. McLeod is so loaded as not to be able to give us a
comfortable passage. Mr. Pambrun is going by himself next week and
offers us a passage with him.
About noon Mr. and Mrs. Spalding arrived with their company,
having made better progress than was anticipated. Here we are all at
Walla Walla, through the mercy of a kind Providence, in health and
all our lives preserved. What cause for gratitude and praise to God!
Surely my heart is ready to leap for joy at the thought of being so
near the long-desired work of teaching the benighted ones the
knowledge of a Savior, and having completed this hazardous journey
under such favorable circumstances. Mr. Pambrun said to us the day we
arrived, that there had never been a company previous to ours, that
came into the Fort so well fed as ours for the last days of the
journey. All our friends of the East company, who knew anything about
the country, dreaded this part for us very much. But the Lord has
been with us and provided for us all the way, and blessed be his holy
name. Another cause for gratitude is the preservation of our animals,
in this difficult, dangerous and lengthy route, while many parties
previous to ours have had every animal taken from them, and been left
on foot in a dangerous land, exposed to death. Two horses have given
out with fatigue and have been left, two have been stolen or lost,
but most that we have now, have come all the way from the
settlements, and appear well. Two calves only have been lost. The
remainder came on well except those we left at Snake Fort.
Sabbath, 4th. - This has been a day of mutual thanksgiving with us
all. Assembled at the Fort at 12 o'clock for worship, our feelings
are better imagined than described. This first Sabbath in September,
a Sabbath of rest; first after completing a long journey, first in
the vicinity of our future labors. All of us here before God. It is
not enough for us alone to be thankful. Will not my beloved friends
at home, the disciples of Jesus, unite with us in gratitude and
praise to God for his great mercy? It is in answer to your prayers
that we are here and are permitted to see this day under such
circumstances. Feel to dedicate myself renewedly to His service among
the heathen, and may the Lord's hand be as evidently manifest in
blessing our labors among them, as it has been in bringing us here,
and that, too, in answer to your prayers, beloved Christian friends.
5th. - Mr. and Mrs. Spalding have concluded to go with us to
Vancouver, so nothing can be done by either of the parties about
location until the Indians return from their summer's hunt. Expect to
leave tomorrow. Have had exceedingly high winds for two days and
nights past, to which the place is subject. Our room shakes and the
wind makes such a noise that we can scarcely hear each other
Sept. 7, 1836. - We set sail from Walla Walla yesterday at two
o'clock p.m. Our boat is an open one, manned with six oars, and the
steersman. I enjoy it much; it is a very pleasant change in our
manner of traveling. The Columbia is a beautiful river. Its waters
are clear as crystal and smooth as a sea of glass, exceeding in
beauty the Ohio; but the scenery on each side of it is very
different. There is no timber to be seen, but there are high
perpendicular banks of rocks in some places, while rugged bluffs and
plains of sand in others, are all that meet the eye. We sailed until
near sunset, when we landed, pitched our tents, supped our tea, bread
and butter, boiled ham and potatoes, committed ourselves to the care
of a kind Providence, and retired to rest.
This morning we arose before sunrise, embarked and sailed until
nine o'clock, and are now landed for breakfast. Mr. Pambrun's cook is
preparing it, while husband and myself are seated by a little shrub,
writing. We are this moment called. Farewell.
8th. - Came last night quite to the Chute (above The Dalles), a
fall in the river not navigable. There we slept, and this morning
made the portage. All were obliged to land, unload, carry our
baggage, and even the boat, for half a mile. I had frequently seen
the picture of the Indians carrying a canoe, but now I saw the
reality. We found plenty of Indians here to assist in making the
portage. After loading several with our baggage and sending them on,
the boat was capsized and placed upon the heads of about twenty of
them, who marched off with it, with perfect ease. Below the main fall
of water are rocks, deep, narrow channels, and many frightful
precipices. We walked deliberately among the rocks, viewing the scene
with astonishment, for this once beautiful river seemed to be cut up
and destroyed by these huge masses of rock. Indeed, it is difficult
to find where the main body of water passes. In high water we are
told that these rocks are all covered with water, the river rising to
such an astonishing height.
After paying the Indians for their assistance, which was a twist
of tobacco about the length of a finger to each, we reloaded, went on
board, sailed about two miles, and stopped for breakfast. This was
done to get away from a throng of Indians. Many followed us, however,
to assist in making another portage, three miles below this.
Sept. 9th. - We came to The Dalles just before noon. Here our boat
was stopped by two rocks of immense size and height, all the water of
the river passing between them in a very narrow channel, and with
great rapidity. Here we were obliged to land and make a portage of
two and a half miles, carrying the boat also. The Dalles is the great
resort of Indians of many tribes for taking fish. We did not see
many, however, for they had just left.
Now, mother, if I was with you by the fireside, I would relate a
scene that would amuse you, and at the same time call forth your
sympathies. But for my own gratification I will write it. After we
landed, curiosity led us to the top of that rock, to see the course
of the river through its narrow channel. But as I expected to walk
that portage, husband thought it would be giving me too much fatigue
to do both. I went with him to its base, to remain there until his
return. I took a handful of hazelnuts and thought I would divert
myself with cracking and eating them. I had just seated myself in the
shade of the rock, ready to commence work, when, feeling something
unusual on my neck, I put my hand under my cape and took from thence
two insects, which I soon discovered to be fleas. Immediately I cast
my eyes upon my dress before me, and, to my astonishment, found it
was black with these creatures, making all possible speed to lay
siege to my neck and ears. This sight made me almost frantic. What to
do I knew not. Husband was away, sister Spalding had gone past
hearing. To stand still I could not. I climbed up the rock in pursuit
of my husband, who soon saw and came to me. I could not tell him, but
showed him the cause of my distress. On opening the gathers of my
dress around my waist, every plait was lined with them. Thus they had
already laid themselves in ambush for a fresh attack. We brushed and
shook, and shook and brushed, for an hour, not stopping to kill for
that would have been impossible. By this time they were reduced very
considerably, and I prepared to go to the boat. I was relieved from
walking by the offer of a horse from a young chief. This was a
kindness, for the way was mostly through sand, and the walk would
have been fatiguing. I found the confinement of the boat distressing,
on account of my miserable companions, who would not let me rest for
a moment in any one position. But I was not the only sufferer. Every
one in the boat was alike troubled, both crew and passengers. As soon
as I was able to make a change in my apparel I found relief.
We made fine progress this morning till 9 o'clock, when we were
met with a head wind and obliged to make shore. We met the crew last
night with the Western express. This express goes from and returns to
Vancouver twice a year.
Eve. - Have lain still all day because of the wind. This is a
detention, as we intended to have been at Vancouver by to-morrow
evening. A party of Indians came to our camp this eve. Every head was
flattened. These are the first I have seen near enough to be able to
examine them. Their eyes have a dull and heavy expression.
10th. - High winds and not able to move at all to-day.
11th. - We came to the Cascades for breakfast-another important
fall in the river, where we are obliged to make a portage of a mile.
The boat was towed along by the rocks with a rope over the falls.
This is another great place for salmon fishing. A boat load was just
ready for Vancouver when we arrived. I saw an infant here whose head
was in the pressing machine. This was a pitiful sight. Its mother
took great satisfaction in unbinding and showing its naked head to
us. The child lay upon a board between which and its head was a
squirrel skin. On its forehead lay a small square cushion, over which
was a bandage drawn tight around, pressing its head against the
board. In this position it is kept three or four months or longer,
until the head becomes a fashionable shape. There is a variety of
shapes among them, some being sharper than others. I saw a child
about a year old whose head had been recently released from pressure,
as I supposed from its looks. All the back part of it was a purple
color, as if it had been sadly bruised. We are told that this custom
is wearing away very fast. There are only a few tribes of this river
who practice it.
Sept. 12th. - Breakfasted at the saw mill five miles from
Vancouver, and made preparations for entering it. You may be
surprised to hear of a saw mill here when I said that there was no
timber on the Columbia. Since we passed the Cascades the scene is
changed, and we are told there is timber all the way to the coast.
Eve. - We are now in Vancouver, the New York of the Pacific Ocean.
Our first sight, as we approached the fort, was two ships lying in
the harbor, one of which, the Neriade, Captain Royal, had just
arrived from London. The Columbia, Captain Dandy, came last May, and
has since been to the Sandwich Islands, and returned. On landing we
first met Mr. Townsend, whom we saw at Walla Walla. He is from
Philadelphia, and has been in the mountains two years. He is sent
here by a society to collect the different species of bipeds, and
quadrupeds, peculiar to this country. We brought a parcel of letters
to him, the first he had received since he had left home. Mr.
Townsend led us into the fort. But before we reached the home of the
chief Factor, Dr. McLoughlin, we were met by several gentlemen, who
came to give us a welcome, Mr. Douglas, Mr. Tolmie and Dr.
McLoughlin, of the Hudson's Bay Company, who invited us in and seated
us on the sofa. Soon we were introduced to Mrs. McLoughlin and Mrs.
Douglas, both natives of the country-half breeds. After chatting a
little we were invited to walk in the garden.
What a delightful place this is; what a contrast to the rough,
barren sand plains, through which we had so recently passed. Here we
find fruit of every description, apples, peaches, grapes, pears,
plums, and fig trees in abundance; also cucumbers, melons, beans,
peas, beets, cabbage, tomatoes and every kind of vegetable too
numerous to be mentioned. Every part is very neat and tastefully
arranged, with fine walks, lined on each side with strawberry vines.
At the opposite end of the garden is a good summer house covered with
grape vines. Here I must mention the origin of these grapes and
apples. A gentlemen, twelve years ago while at a party in London, put
the seeds of the grapes and apples which he ate into his vest pocket.
Soon afterwards he took a voyage to this country and left them here,
and now they are greatly multiplied.
After promenading as much as we wished, and returning, we were met
by Mrs. Copendel, a lady from England, who arrived in the ship
Columbia last May, and Miss Maria, daughter of Dr. McLoughlin, quite
an interesting young lady. After dinner we were introduced to Rev.
Mr. Beaver and lady, a clergyman of the Church of England, who
arrived last week in the ship Neriade. This is more than we expected
when we left home-that we should be privileged with the acquaintance
and society of two English ladies. Indeed, we seem to be nearly
allied to Old England, for most of the gentlemen of the Company are
from there or Scotland.
We have not found Rev. Samuel Parker here, to our great
disappointment. He went to Oahu in the ship Columbia, a few weeks
before we arrived. We have mourned about it considerably, for we
thought it would be so acceptable to our dear parents and friends at
home to hear him say that he had seen us alive here, after completing
this long, unheard-of journey. Besides, I wished to send home many
things which I cannot now. More than all this, his counsels and
advice would have been such a relief to us, at this important time,
as to location, character of the Indians, and the like. But it is
wisely ordered, and we submit. He appears to have been a favorite
here, and to have done much good.
The Messrs. Lee left Vancouver on Saturday last for their station
on the Wallamet. Mr. Daniel Lee has been out of health, and for the
year past has been at Oahu. He returned on the Neriade, benefited by
Sept. 13. - This morning visited the school to hear the children
sing. It consists of about fifty-one children, who have French
fathers and Indian mothers. All the laborers here are Canadian
French, with Indian wives. Indeed, some of the gentlemen of the
company have native wives, and have adopted the custom of the country
not to allow their wives to eat with them. French is the prevailing
language here. English is spoken only by a few.
Just before dinner we went on board the Neriade, the first ship I
ever saw. She is a man-of-war, and goes to the Northwest coast soon.
The Columbia returns to London this fall. The Company have lost three
ships on the coast.
Sept. 14. - We were invited to a ride to see the farm. Have ridden
fifteen miles this afternoon. We visited the barns, stock, etc. They
estimated their wheat crops at four thousand bushels this year, peas
the same, oats and barley between fifteen and seventeen hundred
bushels each. The potato and turnip fields are large and fine. Their
cattle are numerous, estimated at a thousand head in all the
settlements. They have swine in abundance, also sheep and goats, but
the sheep are of an inferior kind. We find also hens, turkeys, and
pigeons, but no geese.
You will ask what kind of beds they have here. I can tell you what
kind of bed they made for us, and I have since found it a fashionable
bed for this country. The bedstead is in the form of a bunk, with a
rough board bottom, upon which are laid about a dozen of the Indian
blankets. These with a pair of pillows covered with calico cases
constitute our beds, sheets and covering. There are several feather
beds in the place made of the feathers of wild ducks, geese, cranes
and the like. There is nothing here suitable for ticking. The best
and only material is brown linen sheeting. The Indian ladies make
theirs of deer skin. Could we obtain a pair of geese from any quarter
I should think much of them.
Sept. 16th. - Every day we have something new to see. We went to
the stores and found them filled above and below with the cargo of
the two ships, all in unbroken bales. They are chiefly Indian goods,
and will be sent away this fall to the several different posts of the
company in the ship Neriade. We have found here every article for
comfort and durability that we need, but many articles for
convenience and all fancy articles are not here.
Visited the dairy, also, where we found butter and cheese in
abundance-saw an improvement in the manner of raising cream. Their
pans are an oblong square, quite large but shallow, flaring a little,
made of wood and lined with tin. In the center is a hole with a long
plug. When the cream has risen they place the pan over a tub or pail,
remove the plug, and the milk will run off leaving only the cream in
the pan. I think that these must be very convenient in a large dairy.
They milk between fifty and sixty cows.
On visiting the mill we did not find it in a high state of
improvement. It goes by horse power and has a wire bolt. This seemed
a hard way of getting bread, but better so than no bread, or to grind
by hand. The company have one at Colville that goes by water, five
days ride from Walla Walla, from whence we expect to obtain our
flour, potatoes and pork. They have three hundred hogs.
Dr. McLoughlin promises to loan us enough to make a beginning and
all the return he asks is that we supply other settlers in the same
way. He appears desirous to afford us every facility for living in
his power. No person could have received a more hearty welcome, or be
treated with greater kindness than we have been since our arrival.
Sept. 17th. - A subject is now before the minds of certain
individuals, in which I feel a great interest. It is that we ladies
spend the winter at Vancouver, while our husbands go to seek their
locations and build. Dr. McLoughlin is certain that it will be the
best for us, and I believe is determined to have us stay. The thought
of it is not very pleasant to either of us. For several reasons, I
had rather go to Walla Walla, where, if we failed to make a location,
or of building this fall, we could stay very comfortably, and have
enough to eat, but not as comfortably, or have a s great a variety as
here; besides, there is the difficulty of ascending the river in high
water, not to say anything of a six months' separation, when it seems
to be least desirable; but all things will be ordered for the best.
Sept. 18. - Mr. Beaver held two services in a room in Dr.
McLoughlin's barn to-day. Enjoyed the privilege much. This form of
worship, of the Church of England, differs in no way from that of the
Episcopalians in the States. The most of the gentlemen of the fort
are Scotch Presbyterians, very few being Episcopalians. The great
mass of the laborers are Roman Catholics, who have three services
during the Sabbath, one of which is attended at this house, at which
Dr. McLoughlin officiates in French. He translates a sermon or a
tract, and reads a chapter in the Bible and a prayer. The singing in
Mr. Beaver's church was done by the children, some of their tunes
having been taught them by Rev. Mr. Parker, and others by the Mr.
Shepherd, of the Methodist mission.
Sept. 19. - The question is decided at last that we stay here
about four or five weeks. There is so much baggage to be taken up
now, that the boat will be sufficiently loaded without us. Have the
cheering promise that our husbands will come for us in a short time
if prospered. One thing comforts us. They are as unwilling to leave
us as we are to stay, and would not if it were possible for us to go
now. From this we are sure that they will make every effort to return
for us soon. We are told that the rainy season will commence soon,
and continue through the winter, and late in the spring, while at
Walla Walla there is none. Vancouver, too, is subject to fever and
ague. These are quite good reasons for preferring Walla Walla, even
if we had to live in a lodge.
Have been making some necessary purchases for our two Indian boys,
Richard and John, which we are glad to do, partly as a reward for
their faithful care of the cattle during the journey. We left them at
Walla Walla. They regretted our leaving them, and now I cannot feel
willing to stay away from them all winter. Their anxiety to study
continues the same, especially Richard. We love them both and feel
deeply interested in their welfare, and shall treat them as our own
as long as they deserve it.
Sept. 20th. - Dr. McLoughlin gave my husband a pair of leather
pantaloons to-day. All the gentlemen here wear them for riding for
economy. Riding horseback and carrying a gun in very destructive to
Our husbands have been making preparations to leave us to-day, but
have found so much to do that they could not get ready to leave much
before night. They have concluded to start the boat a short distance
and camp, while they, with Mr. Pambrun and Mr. Gray, remain in the
Fort to leave early in the morning.
Sept. 21. - Our friends left us this morning early. One thing I
should have mentioned, as decided upon before they left, was the
propriety of making two stations. After consideration it was decided
best to do so for several reasons. The Cayuses as well as the Nez
Perces are very anxious to have teachers among them. They are a
numerous tribe not numerous, but wealthy and influential.-M. Eells]
and speak the same language as the Nez Perces. There are other fields
open ready for the harvest and we wish that there were many more
laborers here ready to occupy them immediately. Several places have
been recommended which our husbands intend visiting before they fix
upon any place. You will recollect that we had Grande Ronde in view
as a location when we left home. Our reasons for not fixing upon that
place are insurmountable. The pass in the Blue mountains is so
difficult and the distance so great that it would be next to
impossible to think of obtaining supplies sufficient for our support.
We could not depend upon game, for it is very scarce and uncertain.
Mr. Parker recommends a place on the Kooskooska (Clearwater) river,
six days' ride above Walla Walla. I hope to give you our exact
location before I send this.
Sept. 22. - Dr. McLoughlin has put his daughter in my care and
wishes me to hear her recitations. Thus I shall have enough to do for
diversion while I stay. I could employ all my time in writing and
work for myself if it were not for his wishes.
I have not given you a description of our eatables here. There is
such a variety I know not where to begin. For breakfast we have
coffee or cocoa, salt salmon and roast ducks with potatoes. When we
have eaten our supply of them, our plates are changed and we make a
finish on bread and butter.
For dinner we have a greater variety. First we are always treated
to a dish of soup, which is very good. All kinds of vegetables in use
are taken, chopped fine, and put into water with a little rice, ad
boiled to a soup. The tomatoes are a prominent article, and usually
some fowl meat, duck or other kind, is cut fine and added. If it has
been roasted once it is just as good (so the cook says), and then
spiced to the taste. After our soup dishes are removed, then comes a
variety of meats to prove our tastes. After selecting and changing,
we change plates and try another if we choose, and so at every new
dish have a clean plate. Roast duck is an everyday dish, boiled pork,
tripe, and sometimes trotters, fresh salmon or sturgeon-yea, articles
too numerous to be mentioned. When these are set aside, a nice
pudding or an apple pie is next introduced. After this a water and a
muskmelon make their appearance, and last of all cheese, bread or
biscuit and butter are produced to complete the whole. But there is
one article on the table I have not yet mentioned, and of which I
never partake. That is wine. The gentlemen frequently drink toasts to
each other, but never give us an opportunity of refusing, for they
know that we belong to the Tetotal Society. We have talks about
drinking wine, but no one joins our society. They have a Temperance
Society here and at Wallamet, formed by Mr. Lee.
Our tea is very plain. Bread and butter, good tea, plenty of milk
Sept. 30th. - We are invited to ride as often as once a week for
exercise, and we generally ride all the afternoon. To-day Mrs.
McLoughlin rode with us. She keeps her old fashion of riding
gentlemen fashion. This is the universal custom of Indian women, and
they have saddles with high backs and fronts. We have been
recommended to use these saddles, a more easy way of riding, but we
have never seen the necessity of changing our fashion.
I sing about an hour every evening with the children, teaching them new tunes,
at the request of Dr. McLoughlin. Thus I am wholly occupied, and can scarcely
find as much time as I want to write.
The Montreal Express came this afternoon, and a general time of
rejoicing it is to everyone. News from distant friends, both sad and
Mr. Spalding has come with it and brought a letter from my
husband, filled with pleasing information. The Lord has been with
them since they left us, and has prospered them beyond all
expectations. They have each selected a location. My husband remains
there to build, while Mr. Spalding comes after us. Cheering thought
this, to be able to make a beginning in our pleasing work so soon.
My Dear Sister Perkins: - Your letter was handed me on the 8th.
inst., a little after noon, and I must say I was a little surprised
to receive a return so soon. Surely, we are near each other. You will
be likely to have known opportunities of sending to us, more
frequently than I shall your way, which I hope you will not neglect
because you have not received the answer to yours. I do not intend to
be so long again in replying as I have this time. When I received
yours, I was entirely alone. My husband had gone to brother
Spalding's to assist him in putting up a house, and soon after, we
had the privilege of preparing and entertaining Mr. and Mrs. McDonald
and family of Colville. They came by the way of brother Spalding's,
spent nearly a week with them and then came here. They left here last
Thursday, and are still at Walla Walla. Had a very pleasant,
agreeable visit with them. Find Mrs. McDonald quite an intelligent
woman; speaks English very well, reads and is the principal
instructor of their children. She is a correspondent, also, with
myself and sister Spalding. She appears more thoughtful upon the
subject of religion than any I have met with before, and has some
consistent views. What her experimental knowledge is, I am unable to
say. It would be a privilege to have her situated near us, so that we
could have frequent intercourse; it would, no doubt be profitable.
You ask after my plan of proceedings with the Indians, etc. I wish
I was able to give you satisfactory answers. I have no plan separate
from my husband's, and besides you are mistaken about the language
being at command, for nothing is more difficult than for me to
attempt to convey religious truth in their language, especially when
there are so few, or not terms expressive of the meaning. Husband
succeeds much better than I, and we have good reason to feel that so
far as understood, the truth affects the heart, and not little, too.
We have done nothing for the females separately; indeed, our house is
so small, and only one room to admit them, and that is the kitchen.
It is the men only that frequent our house much. Doubtless you have
been with the Indians long enough to discover this feature, that
women are not allowed the same privileges as men. I scarcely see them
except on the Sabbath in our assemblies. I have frequently desired to
have more intercourse with them, and am waiting to have a room built
for them and other purposes of instruction. Our principal effort is
with the children now, and we find many very interesting ones. But
more of this in future when I have more time.
Mr. Pambrun has sent a horse for me to ride to his place tomorrow.
Mrs. Pambrun has been out of health for some time, and we have fears
that she will not recover. As I have considerable preparations to
make for the visit, must defer writing more at present. In haste, I
Your affectionate sister in Christ,
P.S. - I long to hear from Mrs. Lee.
WALLA WALLA, 11th.
My Dear Sister:
I am still here. The brigade arrived yesterday and having time and
opportunity to send home for this letter, both are sent by return
boats. We have just received three or four letters from our friends
at home, they being the first news received since we bade them
farewell. Find it good to know what is going on there, although all
is not of a pleasing character. Our Sandwich Island friends give us
pleasing intelligence of the glorious display of the power of God in
converting that heathen people in such multitudes.
Rev. Mrs. H.K.W. Perkins,
My Dear Sister Perkins:
I did not think when I received your good long letter that I should
have delayed until this time before answering it. But so varied are
the scenes that have passed before me, so much company and so many
cares, etc., besides writing many letters home, that I beg you will
excuse me. Notwithstanding all this, I have often, very often,
thought of you and wished for the privilege of seeing you. I must
confess I do not like quite so well to think of you where you now are
as when you were nearer. Why did you go? Some of our sisters might
just as well as not have spent a short season with you this fall (for
they have nothing else to do, comparatively speaking) rather than to
have you and your dear husband lose so much time from your
interesting field of labor; and besides we fear the influence of the
climate of the lower country upon your health. Our prayer is that the
Lord will deal gently with you and bless and preserve you to be a
rich and lasting good to the benighted ones for whom you have devoted
How changed the scene now with us at Wieletpoo from what it has
been in former days. Instead of husband and myself stalking about
here like two solitary beings, we have the society of six of our
brethren and sisters who eat at our table and expect to spend the
winter with us. This is a privilege we highly praise, especially when
we come to mingle our voices in prayer and praise together before the
mercy seat, and hear the word of God preached in our own language
from Sabbath to Sabbath, and to commune together around the table of
our dear Son and Saviour Jesus Christ. Those favors, dear sister,
almost make us forget we are on heathen ground. Since I last wrote to
you we have enjoyed refreshing seasons from the hand of our Heavenly
Father in the conviction and conversion of two or three individuals
in our family. Doubtless Brother Lee has given you the particulars,
yet I wish to speak of it for our encouragement who have been engaged
in the concert of prayer on Tuesday evening for the year past. I
verily believe we have not prayed in vain, for our revival seasons
have been on that evening, and I seem to feel, too, that the whole
atmosphere in all Oregon is effected by that meeting, for the wicked
know far and near, that there are those here who pray. We have every
reason to be assured that were there more faith and prayer and
consecration to the work among ourselves, we should witness in the
heathen around us many turning to the Lord. If I know my own heart I
think I, too, desire to be freed from so many worldly cares and
perplexities, and that my time may be spent in seeking the immediate
conversion of these dear heathen to God. O, what a thought to think
of meeting them among the blood-washed throng around the throne of
God! Will not their songs be as sweet as any we can sing? What joy
will then fill our souls to contemplate the privilege we now enjoy of
spending and being spent for their good. If we were constantly to
keep our eyes on the scenes that are before us, we should scarcely
grow weary in well doing, or be disheartened by the few trials and
privations through which we are called to pass.
Dear sister, I have written in great haste and hope you will
excuse me. Wishing and expecting to hear from you soon, of your
prosperity and happiness, with much love and sisterly affection to
you and yours, believe me,
Ever yours in the best bonds,
Rev. Mrs. H.K.W. Perkins,
WALLA WALLA, Dec. 5, 1836
My Dear Mother:
I have been thinking of my beloved parents this evening; of the
parting scene, and of the probability that I shall never see those
dear faces again while I live. Sweet as it used to be, when my heart
was full, to sit down and pour into my mother's bosom all my
feelings, both sad and rejoicing; now, when far away from the
parental roof, and thirsting for the same precious privilege, I take
my pen and find a sweet relief in giving her my history in the same
familiar way. Perhaps no one else feels as I do. It would be, indeed,
a great satisfaction to me to have my mother know how I do from day
to day-what my employment and prospects are-but more especially the
dealings, the kind dealings of my Heavenly Father towards us
We left Vancouver Thursday noon, Nov. 3rd, in two boats-Mr.
McLeod, myself and baggage in one, and Mr. S. in the other. We are
well provided for in everything we could wish-good boats, with strong
and faithful men to manage them; indeed, eight of them were Iroquois
Indians, from Montreal-men accustomed to the water from their
childhood, and well acquainted with the dangers of this river. Mr.
McLeod's accompanying us was as unexpected as desirable. He only came
into Vancouver two days previous to our leaving, from an expedition
to the Umpqua, south of the Willamette. It rained some that
afternoon, also on the 4th and 5th; the 6th it rained all day,
nearly, and the wind was very strong, but in our favor, so that we
kept our sail up most of the day. Our boat was well covered with an
oilcloth. At night, when a great fire was made, our tents pitched and
the cloth spread for tea, all was pleasant and comfortable. I rolled
my bed and blankets in my India-rubber cloak, which preserved them
quite well from the rain, so that nights I slept warm and comfortable
as ever. My featherbed was of essential service to me in keeping my
health this rainy voyage. Did not expect to get one when I wrote from
On the morning of the 7th we arrived at the Cascades, made the
portage and breakfasted. Had considerable rain. The men towed the
boats up the falls, on the opposite side of the river. The water was
very low, and made it exceedingly difficult for them to drag the
boats up, in the midst of the rocks and noise of the foaming waters.
Sometimes they were obliged to lift the boats over the rocks, at
others go around them, to the entire destruction of the gum upon
them, which prevents them from leaking. It was nearly night before
all were safely over the difficult passage, and our boats gummed,
ready for launching.
8th. - Breakfasted just below The Dalles. Passed them without
unloading the boats. This was done by attaching a strong rope of
considerable length to the stern of the boat, two men only remaining
in it to guide and keep it clear of the rocks, while the remainder,
and as many Indians as can be obtained, draw it along with the rope,
walking upon the edge of the rocks above the frightful precipice. At
the Little Dalles, just above these, the current is exceedingly
strong and rapid, and full of whirlpools. Not recollecting the place
particularly, at the request of the bowsman I remained in the boat,
being quite fatigued with my walk past the other Dalles. It is a
terrific sight, and a frightful place to be in, to be drawn along in
such a narrow channel between such high, craggy, perpendicular
bluffs, the men with the rope clambering sometimes upon their hands
and knees upon the very edge, so high above us as to appear small,
like boys. Many times the rope would catch against the rocks and
oblige someone to crawl carefully over the horrible precipice to
unloosen it, much to the danger of his life. When my husband came up,
in passing this place, the rope caught in a place so difficult of
access that no one would venture his life to extricate it, for some
time. At last, an Indian ventured. When he had ascended sufficiently
to unfasten it, he was unable to return, and did not until he was
drawn up by a rope. They had another accident which threatened both
the lives of some of them, and the property, and but for the
protecting hand of God would have been lost. While the men with the
rope were climbing up a steep and difficult ascent, the rope lodged
upon a rock, which held it fast, and had it remained there until all
hands had gained their point and commenced hauling, all would have
been well; but one of the men above prematurely shoved it off. The
current took the boat down stream rapidly, in spite of every effort
to save it, prostrating all hands upon the rocks, and some of them
were nearly precipitated down the precipice by the rope. The boat
received no injury, but was safely moored below The Dalles, on the
opposite shore. Our husbands, with the men, obtained an Indian canoe
and crossed to the boat. Thus they were preserved. It was just night
as we succeeded in passing this difficult place in safety, for which
we desired to be grateful. Many boats have been dashed to pieces at
these places, and more than a hundred lives lost. The water was very
low at this time, which makes the danger much less in passing them.
No rain to-day. Thursday we made the portage of the chutes, and were
all day about it. While on land, had several heavy showers. Friday,
also, was another soaking-wet day; the night, too. This was dreary
enough. Saturday was much more pleasant-no rain. We arrived at Walla
Walla early Sabbath morning, in health, with all our effects
preserved to us, mercifully. I felt that I had great cause to bless
and praise God, for so seasonable a return, and under such favorable
circumstances. Husband come from our location on the 18th. Had
succeeded in making a comfortable place for me, but because of Mr.
Pambrun's earnest solicitation for me to remain a few weeks with his
family. I did not return with him. Mr. and Mrs. P. are exceeding
kind-appear to feel that they cannot do too much to make us contented
and happy here. In the meantime, I am cheerfully engaged in teaching
the wife and daughter to read. We consider it a very kind providence
to be situated near one family so interesting, and a native female
that promises to be so much society for me. She is learning to speak
the English language quite fast. Mr. and Mrs. S. left Walla Walla for
their location, on the 22nd of November, Mr. Gray going with them to
assist in building, etc. This dear sister goes very cheerfully to her
location, expecting to live in a skin lodge until her house is built;
and this, too, in the dead of winter; But she prefers it to remaining
here, and so should I.
Heard from husband last week, and of the death of Hinds, a colored
man who came with us from Rendezvous on account of his health, being
far gone with the dropsy. Already death has entered our house, and
laid one low.
Dec. 8th. - Received intelligence that husband was coming tomorrow
to remove our effects and myself to our new home. It is an agreeable
thought to be so near a fixed location after journeying so long.
Dec. 26th. - Where are we now, and who are we that we should be
thus blessed of the Lord? I can scarcely realize that we are thus
comfortably fixed, and keeping house, so soon after our marriage,
when considering what was then before us. We arrived here on the
tenth-distance, twenty-five miles from Walla Walla. Found a house
reared and the lean-to enclosed, a good chimney and fireplace, and
the floor laid. No windows or door except blankets. My heart truly
leaped for joy as I alighted from my horse, entered and seated myself
before a pleasant fire (for it was now night). It occurred to me that
my dear parents had made a similar beginning, and perhaps a more
difficult one than ours. We had neither straw, bedstead or table, nor
anything to make them of except green cottonwood. All our boards are
sawed by hand. Here my husband and his laborers (two Owyhees from
Vancouver and a man who crossed the mountains with us), and Mr. Gray,
have been encamped in tents since the 19th of October, toiling
excessively hard to accomplish this much for our comfortable
residence during the remainder of the winter.
It is indeed, a lovely situation. We are on a beautiful level-a
peninsula formed by the branches of the Walla Walla river, upon the
base of which our house stands, on the southeast corner, near the
shore of the main river. To run a fence across to the opposite river,
on the north from our house-this, with the river, would enclose 300
acres of good land for cultivation, all directly under the eye. The
rivers are barely skirted with timber. This is all the woodland we
can see; beyond them, as far as the eye can reach, plains and
mountains appear. On the east, a few rods from the house, is a range
of small hills, covered with bunchgrass-a very excellent food for
animals, and upon which they subsist during winter, even digging it
from under the snow.