Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Whitman, Marcus

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

WHITMAN, Marcus, pioneer, b. in Rushville, Ontario co., N. Y., 4 Sept., 1802; d. in Waülatpu, Ore., 29 Nov., 1847. He was educated under private tutors, studied in Berkshire medical institution, Pittsfield, Mass., and in 1834 was appointed by the American board a missionary physician to Oregon. Dr. Whitman, Rev. Henry N. Spaulding, and their young wives, set out in 1836, and, journeying slowly westward, crossed the Rocky mountains by the South Pass through which John C. Frémont's party penetrated six years later. Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spaulding were the first white women to cross the mountains. On 2 Sept. the party arrived at Fort Walla Walla. Whitman had insisted on bringing one wagon with him despite assertions that the route was impassable for wheels, and by thus opening a wagon-road he led the way for emigration. The Hudson bay company's officers at Fort Hall, whose interest it was that no American settlers should be allowed to enter Oregon, and who had turned away many trains of intending emigrants, had vainly tried to dissuade him from his attempt. After several years' residence in the country, Dr. Whitman, seeing that the purpose of the British was to discourage American colonization of the territory by spreading reports of its inaccessibility and at the same time to fill it with English emigrants, resolved to visit Washington and lay the matter before the U. S. government. In October, 1842, the rejoicing at the English fort at Walla Walla over the approach of a large party of English colonists, and the knowledge that the Webster-Ashburton treaty was then under consideration, impelled him to lose no time, and he set out within twenty-four hours for the east on horseback after much opposition from his associates. With him were one companion and a guide, with three pack-mules. On 3 Jan., 1843, they reached Bent's fort, on Arkansas river, after undergoing many hardships, and soon afterward Whitman arrived at St. Louis, where he learned that the Ashburton treaty had been ratified already and that it left the Oregon question unsettled. On 3 March he was in Washington, where the information that he gave the government served to show how valuable Oregon was notwithstanding the efforts of interested persons to prove that it was inaccessible. Had it not been for him the United States might have given up Oregon to England as comparatively worthless. He was also earnest in his endeavors to show how easily it could be reached, and on his return in 1843 he led back a train of 200 wagons to the valley of the Columbia. Others followed in great numbers, and this “army of occupation” went far toward securing Oregon to this country. Four years later, Dr. Whitman, with his wife, two adopted children, and ten others, was massacred by the Cayuse Indians. See “Oregon: the Struggle for Possession,” by William Barrows (Boston, 1884).