The New International Encyclopædia/Whitman, Marcus

1427294The New International Encyclopædia — Whitman, Marcus

WHITMAN, Marcus (1802-47). An American pioneer and missionary, born at Rushville, N. Y. He studied medicine at the Berkshire Medical Institution at Pittsfield, Mass., and practiced for four years in Canada. In 1834 he offered himself for missionary work to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In 1835, with Samuel Parker, he was sent to explore the Oregon country, but turned back at Green River. In 1836 he married, and with three other missionaries, H. H. Spalding and his wife, and W. H. Gray, started westward. The party took the first wagon across the Rocky Mountains, reached the Columbia River on May 21st, and located near the site of the present Walla Walla, Wash. Other missionaries came out and four stations were organized. Friction ensued, and numerous quarrels were reported to the board, which voted in 1842 to discontinue the southern branch of the work. Whitman immediately started East, through the dead of winter, and after suffering much inconvenience reached Boston, March 30, 1843, and secured a reversal of the board's resolution. On November 29, 1847, the Cayuse Indians attacked the station, murdered Whitman, his wife, and twelve other persons, and took the other residents prisoners. The prisoners were afterwards released by the influence of the chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company. The massacre has been attributed to the instigation of the Hudson's Bay Company or of the Catholic missionaries; but the probable explanation is the prevalence of epidemic diseases, unknown before the coming of the whites, which the Indians attributed to poison. In 1864-65 the statement was made by H. H. Spalding that Whitman's visit to the East in 1842-43 was made for political reasons, and that by a visit to Washington and interviews with President Tyler, Secretary Webster, and others, he prevented the cession to England of the American claim to Oregon (q.v.), and in fact prevented Oregon from being traded for a cod-fishery on Newfoundland. This belief has gained wide circulation, but Professor E. G. Bourne, in Essays in Historical Criticism (New York, 1901), presented an elaborate documentary study which seems to disprove the claim. For the other side consult: Mowry, Marcus Whitman (New York, 1901); and Nixon, Life of Marcus Whitman (Chicago, 1895).