Marcus Whitman, MD: Proofs of his Work in Saving Oregon to the United States
Marcus Whitman, M. D.
Proofs of His Work in Saying Oregon to the United States, and in Promot- ing the Immigration of 1843.H1MES THE PRINTER.
MARCUS WHITMAN, M. D.
PROOFS OF HIS WORK
To the United States,
PROMOTING THE IMMIGRATION
If any one can give additional information on the subjects herein mentioned, the writer will be thankful to receive it.Skokomish, Mason Co., Wash. Terr'y.
Did Dr. M. Whitman Save Oregon?
AS this subject has been somewhat widely discussed, and entirely opposite opinions reached by different individuals, the writer has gathered all the evidence in regard to the subject that he has been able to obtain, and herewith gives it. The witnesses are eleven in number, and consist mainly of those who were most intimate with Dr. Whitman. Much of this evidence is dated within a few years, because the writer has only become thoroughly interested in the subject since 1879.
(1.) WILLIAM GEIGER, JR., M. D.
The writer has known Dr. Geiger for thirty-four years. About 1880 he learned through Rev. G. H. Atkinson, D. D., that Dr. Geiger knew considerable on the subject, and in 1881, while on a visit to Forest Grove, he had a conversation with Dr. Geiger and took down the most of the following statement. Thinking, how- ever, that it would be best to have the doctor's own signature to it, in 1883 he obtained it as follows:
Forest Grove, Oregon, June 5, 1883.
Rev. M. Eells:
Sir—In answer to your inquiries about Dr. M. Whitman I will .say that, I came to this country in 1839, and was at Dr. Whitmans request in charge of his station in 1842-3, while be went East, and remained there after his return about three weeks, and had many conversations with him on the object of his going, after his return. I was there again in 1845 and 1846.
His main object in going East was to save the country to the United States. as he believed there was «reat danger of its falling into the hands of Eng- land. Incidentally he intended to obtain more missionary help, and for this object I sent provisions to Fori Hall for them in 1843. The Immigration of 1842, especially Mr. A. 1,. Lovejoy, brought word thai there was danger thai the English would obtain Oregon, hence Dr. Whitman went East. When be reached Missouri he heard that the danger was very ureal ot losing this country, hence lie hurried on without taking time to gel a clean shirt or pair of pants. Hither himself or brother had been a classmate of the secretary of war, and Dr. Whitman went to him and through him obtained an introduction to Secretary Webster. But Webster said that it was too late, that he had signed the papers and given them to the president. He would not intro- duce him to the president. Dr. Whitman went back to the secretary of war, and through him obtained an introduction to the president, who heard his statements of the value of Oregon, and the possibility of taking an emigra- tion there. At last the president promised to wait before proceeding further in the business, until Dr. Whitman should sec whether he could get the emigration through. "That is all I want," said Dr. Whitman. He immedi- ately sent back word to Missouri to those who wished to go, and had it published in the papers and in a pamphlet.
He then went to Boston. When he first met Mr. Hill, treasurer of the Board, Mr. Hill received him quite roughly. Mr. Hill said, "What are you here for— leaving your post?" and at last said, in not a very pleasant way, as he offered him some money, 'Go and get some decent clothes." Dr. Whitman turned on his heel and left. The next day Mr. Hill was more cor- dial. If Dr. Whitman told me this once, he told it to me perhaps twenty times. He told it to me first on his return at Mr. Spaulding's station, as I was there temporarily on account of sickness in Mr. Spaulding's family. About the same time he told Mr. Spaulding the same. He afterwards told it to us both, and in riding together afterwards on the road he said the same, and these repeated statements, which were always precisely alike, impressed it on my mind, or I might perhaps have forgotten them. As far as I know, he told this only to Mr. Spaulding and myself, and said he had his reasons for not telling everybody.
After the immigration arrived in 1842, and he had learned what I have pre- viously stated from them about the danger of losing Oregon, he went to Fort Walla Walla (now Wallula) to learn if it was true, as the Hudson's Bay Com- pany's annual brigade or express had just arrived from Montreal. Dr. Whit- man there learned that the treaty had not been signed by which England was to obtain Oregon, but they said that they expected to get it. Dr. Whit- man, however, knew that if he should let it be known that he went on this business alone, the Hudson's Bay Company would never allow him to go through, hence he" called the mission together, and there was considerable said about missionary business and more laborers, so that the Hudson's Bay Company would not interfere with him.
(Signed) WILLIAM GEIGER, JR., M. D.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this oth day of June, A. D. 1883.
(Signed) S. HUGHES,
Notary Public for Oregon.
(2.) REV. H. H. SPAULDING.
Mr. Spaulding came to the country in 1836, in company with Dr. Whitman, and was in the mission of the A. B. C. F. M. till after Dr. Whitman's death. His station was at Lapwai, now in Idaho. He died in 1874, but has left this statement in Executive Document No. 37, 41st Congress, 3d Session, Senate, 1871, pp. 20-22:
The peculiar event that aroused Dr. Whitman, and sent him through the mountains of New Mexico during that terrible winter of 1813 to Washington, just in time to save this now so valuable country from being traded off by Webster to the shrewd Englishman for a "cod fishery" down East, was as follows: In October, 1812, our mission was called together on business at Waiilatpu, Dr. Whitman's station, and while in session Dr. W. was called to Fort Walla Walla to visit a sick man. while there tin- Brigade tor New Cal- edonia, fifteen bateaux, arrived at that point onthelr,waj up the Columbia, with Indian goods for the New Caledonia '>r Frazer river country. They were accompanied by some twenty chlel factors, traders and clerks of the Hudson's Bay Company, and Bishop Demois [Demers], .who had crossed the mountains from Canada in 1839 , the first Catholic priest on this coast.
Hishop Blanchetl came at the same time. While this great company were at dinner an express arrived from Fort Colville announcing the (to them) glad news that the colony from Red river bad passed the Rocky mountains, and were near Fort Colville. An excla- mation of joy burst from the whole table, at first unaccountable to Dr. Whit- man, till a young priest, perhaps not so discreet as the older, and not thinking there was an American at the table, sprang to his feet, and swing- ing his hand, exclaimed, "Hurrah for Columbia (Oregon)! America is too late; we have got the country." In an instant, as if by Instinct, Dr. Whit- man saw through the whole plan, clear to Washington, Fort Hall and all [i. r. the stopping of all immigrant and American wagons at Fort Hall by the Hudson's Hay < 'ompany every year to that time]. He immediately rose from the table, and asked to be excused, sprang upon his horse, and in a very short time stood with his noble "cayuse" white with foam before his door, and without stopping to dismount, he replied to our anxious inquiries with great decision and earnestness, "I am going to cross the Rocky mountains and reach Washington this winter, God carrying me through, and bring out an immigration over the mountains, or the country is lost." The events soon developed that if that whole-souled American missionary was not the "son of a prophet," he guessed right when he said, " a deep-laid scheme was about culminating, which would deprive the United States of this Oregon, and it must be broken at once or this country is lost."
We united our remonstrances with those of sister Whitman, who was in deep agony at the idea of her husband perishing in the snows of the Rocky mountains. We told him it would be a miracle if he escaped death, either from starving, or freezing, or the savages, or the perishing of his horses, during the five months that would be required to make the only possible circuitous route, via Fort Hall, Taos, Santa Fe, and Bent's Fort. His reply was that of my angel wife six years before : " I am ready, not to be bound only, but to die at Jerusalem or in the snows of the Rocky mountains for the name of the Lord Jesus or my country." And taking leave of his mission- ary associates, his comfortable home and his weeping companion, with but little hope of seeing them again in this world, he entered upon his fearful journey the 2d [3d] of October, 1842, and reached the City of Washington the 2d of March, 18t:>, with bis face, nose, ears, hands, feet and legs badly frozen.
On reaching the settlements, Dr. Whitman found that many of the now old Oregonians, Waldo, Applegate, Hamtree, Keyser and others, who had once made calculations to come to Oregon, had abandoned the idea, because of the representations trom Washington that every attempt to take wagons and ox teams through the Rocky and Blue mountains to the Columbia had failed. Dr. Whitman saw at once what the stopping of wagons at Fort Hall every year meant. The representations purported to come from Secretary Webster, but really from Governor Simpson, who, magnifying the state- ments of his chief trader, Grant, at Fort Hall, declared the Americans must be going mad from their repeated fruitless attempts to take wagons and teams through the impassable regions of the Columbia, and that the women and children of those wild fanatics had been saved from a terrible death only by the repeated and philanthropic labors of Mr. Grant at Fort Hall, in fur- nishing them with horses. The doctor told these men as he met them that his only object in crossing the mountains in the dead of winter, at the risk of his life, through untold sufferings, was to take back an American immi- gration that summer through the mountains to the Columbia with their wagons and teams. The route was practicable. We had taken our cattle and our families through seven years before. They had nothing to fear, but to be ready on his return. The stopping of wagons at Fort Hall was a Hud- son's Bay Company scheme to prevent the settling of the country by Ameri- cans, till they could settle it with their own subjects from the Selkirk settlement. This news spread like wild-fire through Missouri, as will be seen from Zachary's statement. The doctor pushed on to Washington, and im- mediately sought an interview with Secretary Webster— both being from the same state— and stated to him the object of his crossing the mountains, and laid before him the great importance of Oregon to the United States. But Mr. Webster lay too near Cape Cod to see things in the same light with his fellow statesman, who had transferred his worldly interests to the Pacific coast. He awarded sincerity to the missionary, but could not admit for a moment that the short residence of six years could give the doctor the knowledge of the country possessed by Governor Simpson, who had almost grown up in the country, and had traveled every part of it, and represents it as one unbroken waste of sand deserts and impassable mountains, fit only for the beaver, the gray bear and the savage. Besides he had about traded it off with Governor Simpson to go into the Asbburton treaty (!) for a cod fishery in Newfoundland.
The doctor next sought through Senator Linn an interview with President Tyler, who at once appreciated his solicitude, and his timely representations of Oregon, and especially his disinterested though hazardous undertaking to cross the Rocky mountains in winter to take back a caravan of wagons. He said that although the doctor's representations of the character of the country, and the possibility of reaching it by wagon route, were in direct contradiction to those of Governor Simpson, his frozen limbs were a sufficient proof of his sincerity, and his missionary character were a sufficient guar- anty for his honesty, and he would therefore as president rest upon these and act accordingly; would detail Fremont with a military force to escort the doctor's caravan through the mountains ; and no more action should be had toward trading off Oregon till he could hear the results of the expedition. If the doctor could establish a wagon route through the mountains to the Columbia river, pronounced impassable by Governor Simpson and Ashbur- ton, he would use his influence to hold on to Oregon. The great desire of the doctor's American soul, Christian withal, that is, the pledge of the president that the swapping of Oregon with England for a cod fishery should stop for the present, was attained, although at the risk of life, and through great suf- ferings, and unsolicited and without the promise or expectation of a dollar's reward from any source. And now, God giving him life and strength, he would do the rest, that is, connect the Missouri and Columbia rivers with a wagon track so deep and plain that neither national envy nor sectional fanaticism would ever blot it out. And when the 4th of September, 1843, saw the rear [van] of the doctor's caravan of nearly two hundred wagons, with which he started from Missouri the last of April, emerge from the western shades of the Blue mountains, the greatest work was finished ever accom- plished by one man for the coast. And through that great emigration, dur- ing the whole summer, the doctor was everywhere present, an angel of mercy, ministering to the sick, helping the weary, encouraging the waver- ing, cheering the mothers, mending wagons, setting broken bones, hunt- ing stray oxen, climbing precipices, now in the rear, now at the center, now at the front; in the rivers looking out fords through the quicksands, in the deserts looking out water, in the dark mountains looking out passes; at noontide or midnight, as though those thousands were his own children, and those wagons and those flocks were his own property. 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