The Whitman massacre was without a doubt the most tragic event in Pacific Northwest history. Marcus Whitman was a man on a mission. Not just a mission for the Presbyterian Church, but a mission to “save” and civilize the Native American culture in the Pacific Northwest. The Whitman family set out to change the world west of the Rocky Mountains. Even though they didn’t lead the Oregon Trail expedition, they did show other American families that westward expansion was no longer impossible. .
Unfortunately, due to cultural differences the Whitmans never had a chance to finish their mission.
Marcus Whitman was born in upstate New York in 1802. After graduating from medical school he went to work in Canada. After four years he returned home and started working as part of the Presbyterian Church. Missions were a new way to spread the word of God and Whitman wanted part of the action. In 1835, he journeyed to Oregon in search of a potential mission location. Upon his return he knew Oregon was the number one candidate. The American Board, a group who was in charge of sending missionaries to save Native Americans, had one last request of Marcus. They had a well-educated woman who wanted to join the mission, but she needed a husband. Her name was Narcissa, she wanted to go on the mission but single women could not partake in such expeditions. An arranged marriage took place and the rest was history. “The board offered the two positions as being missionaries in the same year they were married, Narcissa and Marcus made their way westward.” .
In 1836 they left St. Louis in hopes of reaching the “ultimate destination” Oregon. They were a small group of missionaries being lead by fur traders. Joining the Whitmans were Henry and Eliza Spalding another aspiring Protestant couple who wanted to educate the Far Western Indians. Narcissa and Eliza became the first white women too ever cross the Rocky Mountains.