Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Whitman Mission

In 1836 missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions crossed the Rockies and established a mission at Waiilatpu (the place of rye grass), near modern Walla Walla. (The wives were the first white women to come west overland, though Sacajawea and Madame Dorion both preceded them, the latter also living in the area). After an apparently successful first few years, the Whitmans found that the Native Americans in the area weren't converting, and he turned his attention to the increasing Oregon Trail pioneers, setting up a school and hospital, taking in orphans from the trail, and giving them a place to rest up after the mountains, though he did continue to treat the Cayuse and Nez Perce, though  unfortunately without much success. On November 29, 1847, after a particularly dreadful attack of measles (brought by the pioneers) killed half of the local Cayuse, including almost all their children, the Whitmans and some of the pioneers overwintering at the mission were killed, the rest of the residents held for ransom and later released. The wonderfully curated Whitman Mission National Historic Site is a great place to visit, providing an even-handed view of the tragic incidents that sparked the eight-year Cayuse War. The rangers are great, knowledgeable and helpful, and they have a terribly good (and new) film about the incident, and a ranger talk that places it in the greater geopolitical context of US history.

The marker for Waiilatpu (Why-ee-lat-poo)

Entry to the National Historic Site

Rye grass

A photo from the exhibit, a Cayuse chief

Diorama of Cayuse meeting the Whitmans

The Great Grave

The Whitman obelisk

On top of the hill, a drawing of the site in 1847 overlooking the area illustrated...

... so you can compare

Soaring overhead, several Swainson's hawks

Surely this is an unnecessary sign!

Ruts from the actual Oregon Trail

Concrete blocks outlining the buildings

A dragonfly

Here's a redtailed hawk overlooking the road between the mission and Frenchtown (next post!)



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