Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Collection, 1834-1936  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Whitman College. Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Collection
1834-1936 (inclusive)
24.19 linear feet, (44 manuscript boxes, 3 flat boxes, 1 mapcase drawer)
Collection Number
The Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Collection contains materials related to Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, who arrived in the Walla Walla Valley in 1836 where they established the Waiilatpu Mission and lived until they were massacred in 1847.
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Penrose Library, Room 130
345 Boyer Avenue
Walla Walla, WA
Telephone: 509-527-5922
Fax: 509-526-4785
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Marcus Whitman was born on September 4, 1802 in Federal Hollow, New York. He attended Fairfield Medical College and became a physician. In 1836, Whitman married Narcissa Prentiss and they had one daughter, Alice Clarissa Whitman who died at the age of two. Narcissa Prentiss was born on March 14, 1808 in Prattsburgh, New York. She taught primary school before becoming a missionary with her husband. On May 25, 1836, the Whitmans joined another group of missionaries, traveled west, and established a mission at a Cayuse settlement called Waiilatpu. Whitman farmed and provided medical care to the local Cayuse and Nez Perce tribes and Prentiss set up a school for Native American children. They pair unsuccessfully attempted to Christianize the tribes. The Whitmans and the missionaries brought new infectious diseases to the region that the Native Americans lacked immunity to. Severe epidemics of these diseases killed half of the Cayuse adults and almost all of the Cayuse children. The Cayuse people rightfully blamed the Whitmans for the spread of the diseases and killed the pair on November 29, 1847. The Cayuse warriors also killed 12 other white settlers and held another 53 women and children captive before releasing them after a month. This conflict led to the Cayuse War that lasted from 1847 to 1855. A significant amount of Cayuse were killed in the war and they were left defeated. As a result of their defeat, the Cayuse ceded most of their tribal lands to the U.S. government and were moved onto reservations.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Collection consists of correspondence, diaries, trail reports, notes and journals, genealogical information, images, artifacts and Whitman family and Whitman Mission Bibles. Accounts of the Whitman Massacre include newspaper articles, reports and personal recollections.

Materials describing the establishment of the Whitman Monument and the celebration of the Whitman Centennial are also included.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Materials found in the collection; provenance is unknown.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Personal Names

  • Whitman, Marcus
  • Whitman, Narcissa Prentiss