Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Papers, 1823-1961

Overview of the Collection

Whitman, Marcus, 1802-1847
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Papers
1823-1961 (inclusive)
1 Linear foot of shelf space, (2 Boxes)
Collection Number
Cage 142 (collection)
Correspondence, journals, church records, clippings, photographs and other papers, and a small number of artifacts related to the missionaries, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.
Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman, WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open and available for research use.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Marcus Whitman was born on September 4, 1802 in Rushville, New York. His father's early death necessitated his living with relatives from 1810 to 1820. During this time he was educated and received religious instruction. He received his medical degree in 1824 and practiced medicine for several years in Canada, was ordained for the ministry in 1834, and married in early 1836.

Narcissa Prentiss Whitman was born March 14, 1808 in Prattsburgh, New York. She attended Franklin Academy and Collegiate Institute and later a female seminary in Troy, New York that specialized in the training of teachers. Following the completion of her studies she taught in several places.

The Whitmans arrived in the Oregon Territory in 1836 and settled near Fort Walla Walla, where Whitman cultivated land and practiced medicine and Mrs. Whitman started an Indian school. In 1842, he travelled to the east to argue against the closing of the Oregon Missions. On his return, he led the first major emigrant wagon train to Oregon, the forerunner of the American settlement. On November 29, 1847, Whitman, his wife, and twelve others were killed by a group of Cayuse, who blamed the Whitmans for the severe measles epidemic in the area.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Marcus and Narcissa Whitman papers were secured by Dr. Clifford M. Drury for his biographies of Pacific Northwest missionaries. The Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Papers range in date from 1823 to 1961 (the bulk of them being from 1835 to 1846--approximately the time of their missionary work in the Oregon Territory). The collection includes materials by and about the Whitmans. Most of the papers are transcribed or reproduced from the originals, although a few very early originals are included in the collection. The collection consists of correspondence, photographs, church records and deeds, newspaper clippings and other papers.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Preferred Citation

[Item description]

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Papers, 1823-1961 (Cage 142)

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is arranged in a single series, presumed to be Clifford Drury's original order.

Acquisition Information

Clifford Drury gifted the papers to the Washington State University Libraries between 1940 and 1961 (MS 1983-42).

Processing Note

This inventory, prepared by Paul Green in December 1983, replaces a 1972 register now lost.

Separated Materials

The papers of Jonathan Pratt were recieved with these papers. The material relating to Marcus Whitman have been included here with the remaining materials seperated into the Jonathan Pratt Paper, 1818-1861 (Cage 4004)

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1 Marcus Whitman letter to Jonathan Pratt
1 item.
1 1 Provenance statement by Clifford M. Drury
1 item.
1 2 Narcissa Whitman letter to Maria Pambrun
1 item.
1 3 Diary of Jonathan Pratt of Rushville
2 items.
1 4 Letter of Mary J. Peabody to Jonathan Pratt
1 item.
1 5 Letter of Mary J. (Peabody) Whitman to Jonathan Pratt
3 items.
1 6 Attestation of Character and Training for Jonathan Pratt
1 item.
1 7 Ira Bryant Letter Recommending Jonathan Pratt
2 items.
1 8 Rules and Other Directions for the Band Society of Rushville
1 item.
1 9 Butterworth Poem and Letters by and about Whitman
23 items.
1 10 Whitman's Early Life, Plus Letters
1 item.
1 11 Whitman's Mission Life
3 items.
1 12 Whitman's Early Life (Incidents)
1 item.
1 13 Church Deeds and Documents
6 items.
1 14 Photos
8 items.
1 15 Documentation and Correspondence
41 items.
1 16 Clippings about Marcus Whitman collected by Ellen Bates
1 17 Clippings collected by James A. Miller
1 18 Newspaper Clipping File
31 items.
1 19 Photo File
15 items.
1 20 Photocopied Whitman Letters
22 items.
1 21 Murder Trial Documents
26 items.
1 22 Newspaper Clipping File
8 items.
1 23 Whitman Mission Correspondence
6 items.
1 24 Whitman Mission Correspondence
20 items.
1 25 Whitman Journal
1 item.
1 26 Narcissa Whitman Journal (typed transcription)
1 item.
1 27 Container List
1 item.
2 Lock of Narcissa Whitman's hair (in display mount) circa 1830s
2 Narcissa Whitman's stationery (single sheet) circa 1820s-1830s
2 Bonnet worn by Mrs. Henry Whitman (1811-1880), Marcus Whitman's sister-in-law circa 1800s

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Missionaries -- United States -- Archives
  • Missions -- Oregon -- History -- Sources
  • Missions -- Washington (State) -- History -- Sources

Personal Names

  • Barday, Maria Pambrun
  • Whitman, Marcus, 1802-1847 -- Archives
  • Whitman, Narcissa Prentiss, 1808-1847 -- Archives

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Drury, Clifford Merrill, 1897-1984 (creator)
    • Peabody, Mary J. (creator)
    • Pratt, Jonathan, 1801-1880 (creator)
    • Pratt, S. W. (Samuel Wheeler), 1838-1910 (creator)
    • Whitman, Narcissa Prentiss, 1808-1847 (creator)