Tag: Whitman Mission

Welcome Guest Author Tracie Peterson!

Hello all of you wonderful readers,

This month I’m debuting a new series titled Heart of the Frontier. Book one is titled Treasured Grace and is the story of three sisters in 1847. The focal setting of the story is the Whitman Mission in the area of present day Walla Walla, Washington.Whitman Mission, Walla Walla, Washington

Whitman Mission aerial of grounds layout

This is a model of the mission layout with the main mission house to the right, the blacksmith shop in the center and the Emigrant’s House on the left. The mill pond (upper left) was where they also had a grist mill.

Treasured Grace by Tracie PetersonThis location was the site of the Whitman Mission Massacre that took place November 29, 1847. It was this massacre that truly changed the course of westward expansion and brought on the setting up of military forts along the Oregon Trail.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (she was one of the first two white women who crossed the Rocky Mountains) had tried for over ten years to win the hearts and minds of the Cayuse Indians in their area. However, a measles epidemic struck and killed a great many Cayuse, as well as whites. The Cayuse were convinced that Whitman (who was a doctor as well as a preacher) was trying to kill them and so on November 29th, they attacked and killed the doctor and Narcissa, along with most of the other men who were living at the mission. The remaining fifty-four women and children were taken hostage and held for nearly a month by the Cayuse.

The mission site is part of the National Parks system and open to visitors.

On my many visits there to glean information for my series, I found the park rangers to be some of the best I’ve encountered while doing research.  It was fascinating to learn about the Cayuse people. They were a nomadic people who were known for their horses and horsemanship. They were also considered to have some of the fiercest warriors.

They lived in tulle mat lodges and traveled with the seasons to harvest various roots and vegetation, as well as take advantage of the salmon fishing.

In the 1840’s this area of America was called Oregon Country. It was mostly inhabited by Native Americans and the British. The latter ran a string of Hudson’s Bay Company forts and traded with both the Native Americas and whites who came west. I mention this because another fascinating aspect of this massacre and the aftermath was the part the Hudson’s Bay Company played.

When it was learned that 54 white women and children were being held captive, Peter Skene Ogden (one of the factors at Fort Vancouver – now present day Vancouver, Washington) went to work to secure their release.  He and Chief Factor James Douglas put together a ransom hoping they could convinced the Cayuse to let the women and children go without harm. The ransom included 62 blankets, 63 cotton shirts, 12 Hudson Bay rifles, 600 loads of ammunition, 7 pounds of tobacco and 12 flints.  Eventually the Cayuse did agree to this and the women and children were set free. I thought it quite interesting, if not touching that The Hudson’s Bay Company never billed the American settlers for the ransom. I thought it equally interesting that reimbursement by the American government was never offered.

If you’d like to read a brief summary of the actual attack, this website should help.

I had a lot of fun researching this series and hope you enjoy it.  Book 2 Beloved Hope will come out in June and Book 3 Cherished Mercy is due out in September.Tracie Peterson

 

Tracie will send one of today’s commenters a lovely gift basket containing Treasured Grace and five more of her latest book, plus some other goodies. Take our word for it: You’ll love the prize!

 

Find Tracie online at her website, TraciePeterson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Seven Alone

Do you remember those books from your childbhood that made a lasting impression on you? I can remember walking into my elementary school library and choosing a book from the shelves because the title made me laugh – The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles – written by none other than Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews Edwards. That was the first book I remember reading that caused my imagination to picture a story unfolding without the use of illustrations. I was amazed that I could actually SEE the story happening in my mind.

There was another book from my childhood, however, that shaped my love for western historicals. A story that still holds me in awe today because of the courage and determination of the real family whose lives inspired the novel.

Seven Alone chronicles the tale of the Sager children who were orphaned while on the Oregon Trail. Henry and Naomi Sager joined a wagon train led by Captain William Shaw in 1844 in a quest for a better life. With them, they brought their six children: John 14, Frank 12, Catherine 9, Elizabeth 7, Matilda 5, and Louisa 3 years old. Along the trail, Naomi gave birth to child number 7 –  baby Henrietta. At first all was well with the family, but as the trip grew more arduous accidents and  sickness befell them. Catherine fell beneath a wagon and broke her leg. Then Henry fell ill. The father of the Sager family passed away and was buried on the banks of the Green River, not far from Laramie, WY. Naomi was out of her mind with grief. The women on the wagon train did all they could to help her – taking care of the baby, tending to Naomi when her grief led to illness.

They found a single man to help drive the Sager wagon, but after promising to bring back meat if allowed to use Henry’s rifle, he absconded with the weapon and was never heard from again. The doctor who had set Catherine’s leg did his best to aid the family along with Captain Shaw. Naomi struggled to hold on to life, determined to get her family to the Whitman Mission and winter there before continuing on to the Willamette. Despite her determination to hang on, Naomi Sager died near Idaho Falls.

Everyone in the wagon train pitched in to help the orphans, and by October they reached the Whitman Mission. Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, agreed to take in the Sager children. In July of the following year, Dr. Whitman petitioned for legal custody of the children. Yet, tragedy continued to follow these children. The Whitmans ministered to the Cayuse Indians, and maintained peaceful relations with them. However, as more and more settlers passed through on wagon trains, disease came with them. In 1847, an outbreak of measles decimated the Indians tribes of the area. The Cayuse held the white man responsible and attacked the Whitman Mission. The Whitman massacre claimed 14 lives at the mission including Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the two Sager boys, John and Frank. The women and children were taken captive. Louisa Sager was one of those who died while in capitivity. One month after the massacre, Peter Ogden from the Hudson’s Bay Company, arranged for their release trading sixty-two blankets, sixty-three cotton shirts, twelve rifles, six hundred loads of ammunition, seven pounds of tobacco and twelve flints for the return of the forty-nine surviving prisoners.

Catherine, Elizabeth, and Matilda Sager meet at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Whitman massacre in November 1897.

After losing both their biological and adoptive parents, the four remaining Sager girls were split up and sent to different families. Henrietta (the baby born on the trail) died young at age 26, supposedly shot mistakenly by an outlaw. The other three girls, Catherine, Matilda, and Elizabeth all married, had children, and lived well into old age.

About ten years after her arrival in Oregon, Catherine wrote an account of the Sager family’s journey west. She hoped to earn enough money to set up an orphanage in the memory of Narcissa Whitman. She never found a publisher. Her children and grandchildren, however, saved her manuscript without modification, and today it is regarded as one of the most authentic accounts of the American westward migration.

The book Seven Alone, and the movie that followed, only chronicles the Sager children’s hardships and adventures while on the wagon train. Yet, I couldn’t resist telling the rest of the story.

So what about you? What stories (biolgraphical or purely fiction) do you remember reading as a child that made such an impact on you that you still remember them today?

Oh, and as an aside, if you haven’t read Jody Hedlund’s book The Doctor’s Lady, you might find it enjoyable. It is a fictionized account of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman’s journey west and how these two missionaries who married for convenience found love along the way.

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