13 June 2017
While traveling to our next stop, we visited the WhitmanMission National Historic Site near Walla Walla, WA. We did not know the story of this site but discovered that it was both interesting and important in the history of the westward migration of settlers.
In 1836 a small group of missionaries headed west to share their faith with others. They chose a spot along the Walla Walla river to settle. As it would turn out, this was to become a major route and stopping off point along the Oregon Trail. Mrs. Whitman became the first white woman to travel across the continent.
Over the years, they developed a tenuous relationship with the Cayuse tribe. In addition to tending to the needs of the eastern settlers passing thru, Dr. Whitman worked with the natives and taught them his beliefs. His attempts to get them to give up their way of life and become farmers and practice the Christian religion created regular conflict with these natives.
With the increase of traffic on the Oregon Trail in the mid 1840’s these tensions grew. When a measles outbreak occurred in 1847, Dr Whitman was able to save many of the Europeans who were sick. He also cared for the natives but perhaps because of their lack of exposure to white man diseases, many more of them died. The natives attacked the mission killing Dr and Mrs. Whitman along with 11 other travelers at the site. Additional 47 other travelers at the mission were taken hostage.
This attack became a rallying call which resulted in Congress declaring Oregon a U S Territory and began what came to be known as the Cayuse War. There was no doubt what the outcome would be.