Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker Papers, 1830-1938

Overview of the Collection

Walker, Elkanah, 1805-1877
Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker Papers
1830-1938 (inclusive)
13 Linear feet of shelf space, (14 Boxes)
Collection Number
Cage 57 (collection)
Correspondence, diaries, photographs and other papers, as well as artifacts, related to country life in New England, overland journey to Oregon in 1838, missionary work among the Spokane Indians at Tshimakain Mission, 1839-1848, and educational and religious activities in the Willamette Valley. Correspondence includes letters to and from family members, the ABCFM Mission Board, and other missionaries and settlers in Oregon.
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

When Elkanah Walker (1805-1877) was a senior at the Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary in 1836, he was planning a mission career among the Maritime Zoolaks of South Africa. He was told that it would perhaps be better for him to be married before undertaking such a mission. At the same time Mary Richardson (1811-1897) of Baldwin, Maine, was told that she too must be married to become a missionary. The result was a whirlwind courtship and marriage which did not go to South Africa but the equally distant and primitive Oregon Mission. Eventually settling at Tshimakain on Walker's Prairie near Spokane they ministered to the Spokane Indians and their fellow missionaries: Marcus Whitman, Cushing Eells, Henry H. Spalding and William H. Gray and their wives. After the Whitman Mission killings in 1847, the Walkers moved to Fort Colville for nearly three months and then spent the remainder of their days in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Here they helped establish the Congregational Association of Oregon City and Tualatin Academy (now Pacific University) at Forest Grove.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The papers of the Walkers can be divided into three groups: the manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, documents and other papers of the Walkers and their family; photocopies of Walker papers from the files of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) and from the Huntington Library, as well as from the papers at Washington State University; and typescript transcripts of the documents and photocopies.

The original papers of Elkanah and Mary Walker consist of their correspondence, diaries, autograph albums, essays and photographs. In addition there is some correspondence and reminiscences of their children. The extensive correspondence file, while mostly incoming, is very complete for the earlier school days, their courtship and marriage, and their missionary experiences. There is very little regarding their life in the Willamette Valley. Perhaps the largest body of material is family letters from relatives in New England.

In addition there is an extensive run of the diaries of Mary Richardson Walker from 1833-1878, except for the two volumes which are now in the Huntington Library. There is also a volume of Elkanah Walker's diary, 1854-1857, which is primarily a register of ministerial services.

Both of the Walkers maintained autograph albums which were also used in the manner of a guest book while at Tshimakain. Other papers include Elkanah's theological notes made as a student, Mary's essay on the Discouragements & Consolations of missionaries written in 1837, constitutions of Maternal Associations, Elkanah's translation of the Book of Matthew into the Flathead or Spokane language, and Mary's drawings and paintings of botanical subjects.

Sons Joseph and Samuel wrote accounts of their parents which are in the collection, as is a portion of son Levi's scrapbook of clippings. The photographs are mostly portraits of the Walkers and their family.

Rounding out the gaps in the collection are photocopies of the material from the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and the archives of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. These include additional diaries and correspondence. A large part of the photocopies are of original material in the Washington State University Library.

Artifacts are also included in the collection: John Mix Stanley's portrait in oil of Abigail B. Walker, C.A. Geyer's sketch of Tshimakain, a pencil sketch of Mary Walker, and a photograph portrait of Samuel T. Walker; clothing and other textile items; a portable writing desk and bread paddle.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Preferred Citation

[Item description]

Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker Papers, 1830-1938 (Cage 57)

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

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


This collection is arranged in four series: Series 1. Manuscripts and papers, 1830-1966; Series 2. Photocopies of documents from Walker collections at other repositories; Series 3. Typescript transcripts; Series 4. Artifacts.

Location of Collection

(MASC STAFF USE): Boxes 9-14: Holland 428, W4-7-1 and 2

Location of Originals

Rounding out some gaps in the collection are photocopies of the material from the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and the archives of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. These include additional diaries and correspondence. A large part of the photocopies in the collection are of original material in the Washington State University Library.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker were acquired by gift and purchase from members of the family: S.T. Walker, Ruth Karr McKee, Eunice V. Karr, Elda R. Walker, Leva B. Walker, Josephine Claghorn Walker, Herbert J. Gilkey and Nellie M. Walker; and from Dr. C.M. Drury. Much of the collection was acquired through the efforts of Dr. Drury in researching the lives of the missionaries. These materials were acquired by Washington State University Library between 1935 and 1966. In 2014, the textiles and other artifacts in boxes 9-14 were transferred to the WSU Libraries from the WSU Historic Costume and Textile Collection (part of MS.2014.09).

Processing Note

The preliminary processing of the collection in the early 1940s was done by Lucille M. Luttropp, and included the preparation of typescripts of nearly all the manuscript and photocopy material in the collection. Much of this was bound and includes the diaries, the correspondence between the Walker's and the ABCFM, and the correspondence between Elkanah and Mary. Other transcripts, now in chronological order, were also made. In 1972, additional processing was done by Terry Abraham.


These papers were extensively used by Dr. Clifford M. Drury in the preparation of his book Elkanah and Mary Walker; pioneers among the Spokanes. (Caldwell, Caxton, 1945. 283 p. illus.) Portions were also edited and used by Ruth Karr McKee, a grand-daughter of the Walkers, in Mary Richardson Walker: her book. (Caldwell, Caxton, 1945. 357 p. illus.)

Dr. Drury described this collection in the Oregon Historical Quarterly 42 (September, 1941) 269-271.

Related Materials

In addition to manuscripts the Washington State University Library has received a large collection of books owned and used by the Walkers. These books are now cataloged and a web site devoted to the library may be found on the WSU MASC web site.

Cushing and Myra Fairbanks Eells Papers, 1838-1938 (Cage 148)

Additional materials on the Walkers may be found at the Whitman National Monument Collections, Walla Walla (NUCMC 61-1597); at the University of Oregon Library (Schmitt); Yale University Library (Washington); the Oregon Historical Society Manuscript Collections; at the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California (NUCMC 61-2207); and in the papers of C.M. Drury at the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane (NUCMC 61-1109). The archives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions are now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University (NUCMC 61-1964).

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series 1: Manuscripts and papers, 1830-1966Return to Top

750 items.
Container(s) Description Dates
Subseries 1.1: Correspondence, 1830-1934
650 items.
Box Folder
1 1
11 items.
1 2
21 items.
1 3
22 items.
1 4
27 items.
1 5
33 items.
1 6
47 items.
1 7
47 items.
1 8
Jan-Jun, 1837
42 items.
1 9
Jul-Dec, 1837
33 items.
1 10
36 items.
2 11
25 items.
2 12
37 items.
2 13
28 items.
2 14
37 items.
2 15
32 items.
2 16
27 items.
2 17
32 items.
2 18
37 items.
2 19
10 items.
Subseries 1.2: Diaries of Mary Walker, 1833-1878
14 items.
Box Folder
3 20
January 1, 1833-May 6, 1837
1 volume.
3 21
December 20, 1848-September 9, 1849
3 22
May 16, 1851-February 23, 1852
3 23
March 2, 1852-April 9, 1854
3 24
April 10, 1854-October 24, 1855
3 25
February 15, 1859-August 1, 1861
3 26
4 volumes.
3 27
3 volumes.
3 28
Diary and accounts of Elkanah Walker, November, 1854-November, 1857
1 volume.
Subseries 1.3: Autograph albums, 1832-1892
2 volumes.
Box Folder
3 29
Autograph album of Elkanah Walker
1 volume.
3 30
Autograph album of Mary R. Walker
1 volume.
Subseries 1.4: Essays and notes, 1836-1846
19 items.
Box Folder
3 31
E. Walker. Theological studies and notes
3 32
M.R. Walker. The discouragements & consolations of missionaries; or the bitter and the sweet (an address)
October, 1837
3 33
Constitution of the Willamette Falls Maternal Association
3 33
Constitution of the Lynn and Oregon City Maternal Association
3 34
Bible. New Testament. Matthew. Flathead. Translated by E. Walker
3 35
M Walker. Drawings and paintings
14 items.
Some dated 1832
Subseries 1.5: Miscellaneous items, reminiscences, letters, photographs, clippings, etc., 1840-1966
200 items.
Box Folder
4 36
Joseph Elkanah Walker. A sketch of the lives of Rev. Elkanah Walker and Mary Richardson Walker
4 37
Joseph Elkanah Walker. Pedigrees, Walker, Richardson, Thompson, Hay, Boutwell, Kendall with foreword and additional notes by Herbert J, Gilkey
1910, 1968
Box Folder
4 38.1
Elkanah Walker.
4 38.2
Mary Richardson Walker (photo by Bowers, Lynn, Mass.)
Sept 27, 1871
4 38.3
Mary and Elkanah Walker.
4 38.4
Marcus W. Walker and Samuel T. Walker by D.G. Hendee, Milwaukee, Oregon
4 38.5
Joseph Richardson.
4 38.6
Samuel, Levi, Joseph and Cyrus Walker, Forest Grove.
1907 September 7
4 38.7
James A. Karr.
1913 September 14
4 38.8
Abigail B. Karr.
1913 September 14
4 38.9
Jannetta M. Walker, Foochow, China.
October, 1873
4 38.1
Geyer drawing of Tshimakain Mission.
4 38.11
Samuel T. Walker.
4 38.12
Walker Family: Mary, Cyrus, Abigail, Marcus, Joseph, John, Levi, and Samuel on lawn in front of first frame house in Forest Grove.
4 38.13
Four Generations: Mary, Abigail, Olive and Wilna.
4 38.14
Mary Walker's trunk.
4 38.15
Mary Walker's trunk and briefcase.
Clippings, reminiscences, and miscellaneous items
Box Folder
4 39
Clippings re: Tshimakain Centennial Celebration
5 items
1938 September 18
4 40
Levi C. Walker scrapbook: clippings and other papers re: missionary work in Oregon and China
20 items
4 41
Samuel T. Walker. (Reminiscences)
4 42
First Congregational Church of Christ in Baldwin and the "Emerson Meeting-House."
4 43
Donor File and container list
150 items

Series 2: PhotocopiesReturn to Top

225 items.
Container(s) Description Dates
Subseries 2.1: Huntington Library
8 items.
Box Folder
4 44
Elkanah Walker. Journal to the Rocky Mountains (Huntington Library)
4 45
Elkanah Walker. Diary (Huntington Library)
June 3-October 13, 1848
4 46
Mary Richardson Walker Diary (Huntington Library)
May 9, 1837-March 5, 1838
4 47
Mary Richardson Walker. Diary (Huntington Library)
September 30-November 11, 1848
4 48
Letters to Elkanah Walker, from P.C. Pambrun, A.B. Smith and David Greene (Huntington Library)
3 items, photocopy.
Subseries 2.2: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
17 items.
Box Folder
5 49
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Correspondence received. Letters from E. Walker, M.R. Walker and others in favor of their going on the mission to Oregon; and the authorization by the Oregon Mission for Whitman to return to the U.S.
17 items, photocopy.
Subseries 2.3: Indian Office
1 item
Box Folder
5 50
E. Walker and C. Eells Letter, Cimakain, to Elijah White, sub-agent, Indian Office re: Spokane Indians. Also White's explanatory note and statement: "This is a true copy. E. White"
January 9, 1843
Subseries 2.4: Washington State University Library
200 items.
Box Folder
5 51-55
Photocopies of Walker Mission material in the Washington State University Library
200 items.

Series 3: Typescript transcriptsReturn to Top

120 items.
Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 56
Journal of Mary Richardson Walker
January 1, 1833-May 6, 1837
6 57
Journal of Mary Richardson Walker
March 5, 1838-October 1, 1848
6 58
Journal of Mary Richardson Walker
September 30, 1848-January 1, 1879
6 59
Letters concerning Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker and American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1836-1859. State College of Washington
7 60
Letters between Elkanah Walker and Mary Richardson Walker, 1837-1873. State College of Washington
7 61
Walker family correspondence, obituaries and geneology
7 62-63
Diary of Mary Richardson Walker, 1838-1848. Transcription by C.M. Drury
Subseries 3.1: Letters, diaries, essays, notebooks and other papers connected with the Walker Mission
Box Folder
7 64
64 items, typescript.
7 65
42 items, typescript.

Series 4: ArtifactsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
"Tshimakain" drawing by Karl Geyer (pen and ink on paper, 31 x 51 cm). Depicts the Tshimakain mission.
circa 1843-1844
Portrait of Abigail B. Walker by John Mix Stanley (oil on board, framed), 36 x 29 cm.
Items removed from Walker family books (pressed flowers and leaves; two small paintings)
circa 1800s
Cape (Mary Richardson Walker)
Lengths of homespun fabric, with repairs (2); baby shirt
Collection documentation file (transferred with artifacts from WSU Historic Costume and Textile Collection)
Thimbles (4), pincushions (2)
Lace collar, ribbons, scarf, hot pad
Writing desk

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Indians of North America -- Missions -- Northwest, Pacific.
  • Missionaries -- Oregon -- Correspondence.
  • Missions -- Oregon -- History -- Sources.
  • Overland journeys to the Pacific.
  • Spokane Indians -- Missions.

Personal Names

  • Walker, Elkanah, 1805-1877 -- Archives
  • Walker, Mary Richardson, 1811-1897 -- Archives

Geographical Names

  • New England -- Social life and customs.

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Walker, Mary Richardson, 1811-1897. (creator)
    Corporate Names
    • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. (creator)