The Souvenir of Western Women/Mrs. Whitman's Diary
Mrs. Whitman's Diary
Extracts from a copy of the original journal kept by Mrs'. Whitman on her trip across the plains in 1836. Preserved by her niece, Miss Cornelia Jackson, of Oberlin, Ohio.
August 1. Dearest Mother: We commenced our journey to Walla Walla July 18, 1836, under the protection of Mr. McLeod. The Flathead and Nez Perce Indians and some lodges of the Snake tribe accompany us to Fort Hall. Have traveled two months. Have lived on fresh meat for two months exclusively. Our ride to-day has been so fatiguing. Felt a calm and peaceful state of mind all day. In the morning had a season of prayer for my dear parents. We have plenty of dry buffalo meat. I can scarcely eat it, it appears so filthy, but it will keep us alive, and we ought to be thankful. Do not think I regret coming. No, far from it. I would not go back for the world; am contented and happy. Feel to pity the poor Indian women. Am making some progress in their language; long to be able to converse with them about the Savior.
August 3. Came to Fort Hall this morning. Was much cheered with a view of the fort. Anything that looks like a house makes us glad. Were hospitably entertained by Captain King, who keeps the fort. It was built by Captain Wyeth from Boston, whom we saw at the Rendezvous, on his way to the East. Our dinner consisted of dry buffalo meat, turnips and fried bread, which was a luxury. Mountain bread is simply coarse flour mixed with water and fried or roasted in buffalo grease. To one who has had nothing but meat for a long time, this relishes very well.
August 4. Enjoyed the cool retreat of an upper room this morning while writing. Was there ever a journey like this? performed when the sustaining hand of God has been so manifest every moment. Surely the children of Israel could not have been more sensible of the "Pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night" than we have been of that hand that has led us thus safely on.
August 12. Came to salmon fishing; obtained some fish and boiled for breakfast; find it good eating. They are preparing to cross Snake river. I can cross the most difficult streams without the least fear. There is one manner of crossing husband has tried, but I have not. Take an elk skin and stretch is over you, spreading yourself out as much as possible, then let the Indian women carefully put you in the water and with a cord in the mouth they will swim and drag you over.
August 19. Arrived at Snake fort about noon. Left wagon at this fort.
August 29. We are now on the west side of the Blue mountains. Crossed them in a day and a half. 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 been weak and restless and scarcely able to sit on my horse, but I have been diverted by the scenery and carried out of myself. This morning my feelings were a little peculiar. I felt remarkably well and strong; so much so as to mention it, but could not see any reason why I should be any more rested than on the morning previous. When I began to see what a day's ride was before us 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 lull view, "As the day is so shall thy strength be," and my soul rejoiced in the Lord and testified to the truth of another evidently manifest, "Lo, I am with you always."
September 1. Arrived at Fort Walla Walla. You may better imagine our feelings this morning than I can describe them. When it was announced we were near, Mr. McLeod, Mr. Pambrun, the gentleman of the house, and Mr. Townsend sallied forth to meet us. After the usual introduction, we entered the fort.
They were just eating breakfast when we rode up, and soon we were at the table, treated to fresh salmon, potatoes, tea, bread and butter. After breakfast we were shown the novelties. We were shown to the room Mr. Pambrun had prepared for us, on hearing of our approach. It was the west bastion in the fort, full of port holes in the sides, but no windows, and was filled with firearms. A large cannon, always loaded, stood behind the door by one of the holes. These things did not move me.
At 4 we were called to dinner. It consisted of pork, potatoes, beets, cabbage, turnips, tea, bread and butter. I am thus particular in my description of eatables, so that you may be assured we find something to eat beyond the Rocky mountains. I have not introduced you to the lady of the house. She is a native born from a tribe east of the mountains. She appears well; does not speak English, but her native tongue and French. Mr. Pambrun is from Canada; is very agreeable and much of gentleman in appearance. About noon Mr. and Mrs. Spalding arrived with their company.
September 7. We set sail from Walla Walla to Vancouver yesterday. Our boat is an open one, manned with six oarsmen and the steersman. I enjoy it much. The Columbia is beautiful.
September 12. We are now in Vancouver, the New York of the Pacific Coast. Before we reached the house of the chief factor, Dr. McLoughlin, were met by several gentlemen who came to give us welcome. Mr. Douglas, Dr. Tolmie and Dr. McLoughlin of the Hudson's Bay Company, who invited us in and seated us on the sofa. Soon after we were introduced to Mrs. McLoughlin and Mrs. Douglas, both natives of the country (half-breeds). We were invited to walk in the garden. Here we found fruit of every description. I must mention the origin of the apples and grapes. A gentleman twelve years ago, while at a party in London, put the seeds of the apples and grapes he ate into his vest pocket, and soon after took a voyage to this country and left them here. Now they are greatly multiplied. Returning from the garden we were met by Mrs. Copendel, a lady from England, and Miss Maria. daughter of Dr. McLoughlin, quite an interesting young lady.
September 13. This morning visited the school to hear the children sing. It consists of about fifty scholars, children who have French fathers and Indian mothers, and many orphans. No person could have received a more hearty welcome or be treated with greater kindness- than we have since our arrival.
September 22. Dr. McLoughlin has put his daughter in my care, and wishes me to hear her recitations. I sing with the children also, which is considered a favor. We are invited to ride as often as once a week; To-day Mrs. McLoughlin rode with us. She prefers the old habit of riding gentleman fashion. I sing about an hour every evening with the children, teaching them new tunes, at the request of Dr. McLoughlin. Mrs. McLoughlin has a fine ear for music, and is greatly delighted. She is one of the kindest women in the world. Speaks a little French, but mostly loves her native language. She wishes to go and live with me; her daughter and Mrs. Douglas also. The Lord reward them for their love and kindness to us. The doctor urges me to stay all winter. He is a very sympathetic man; is afraid we will suffer. Husband is so filled with business that he writes but little. He is far away now, poor darling, three hundred miles.I intended to have written this so plainly that father and mother could read it.Adieu,
The Columbia Maternal Association was organized September 3, 1838, at Dr. Whitman's. The preamble reads: "Sensible of the evils that beset the young mind in a heathen land, and confident that no arm but God's can secure our children or those committed to our care from the dangers that surround them and bring them early into the fold of Christ and fit them for usefulness here and glory hereafter, we, the subscribers, agree to form ourselves into an association for the purpose of adopting such rules as are best calculated to assist us in the right performance of our maternal duties." The last Wednesday in the month was observed as a season of prayer for their children. Mrs. Eells was chosen president of this first organized body of women on the Pacific Slope.
At the time of the Whitman massacre an Indian, who held one of the captive women as his wife, was careful to have morning and evening prayers, and to read a portion of Scripture.
Mrs. Whitman's last words, "Tell mother that I died at my post."