“The wide extent of country beyond the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, with its inhabitants and physical condition, has been a subject of interesting enquiry …”
“Many things, relating to the possession of this country, its future probable importance in a political view, its population and trade, have occupied much attention.”
“The Christian public have not been in attentive to the interests, moral and religious, of those whom the God of providence has placed in these remote regions, and who are without the blessings of civilization and Christianity.”
“The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions appointed an exploring mission (led by Rev Samuel Parker and Dr Marcus Whitman) to ascertain by personal observation, the condition of the country, and the character of the Indian nations and tribes, and the facilities for introducing the gospel and civilization among them.”
“That difficulties and dangers would be incident to a journey through a country of such extent, uninhabited except by wandering bands of Indians, where no provisions could be obtained besides uncertain game, could not be doubted.”
“It was not a consciousness of undaunted courage, or indifference to suffering, or the love of romance, which fixed my purpose; but it was the importance of the object.”
“Although it was painful to bid adieu to my family and friends, unapprised of the events of the future, yet committing all to the guidance and protection of an all-wise Providence, the enterprise was undertaken without reluctance, on the 14th of March, 1835.”
“Pursuing the journey by the way of Buffalo, and Erie, I arrived at Pittsburgh on the 25th … Leaving Pittsburgh, which, from its multiplied manufactories, may be styled the Birmingham of America …”
“Having traveled over a greater extent of territory than any who had preceded, and with the express object of exploring the condition of the aboriginal population, this position can not be considered as assumed.”
“Messrs. Lewis and Clarke passed the Rocky Mountains under a governmental appointment to explore the country, more than thirty years since … yet their opportunities beyond the mountains were somewhat limited.”
“They passed over the great chain of mountains from the head waters of the Missouri between the 45° and 46° of north latitude, and came upon the head waters of the Cooscootske, and followed that river to its junction with the Lewis or Snake river …”
“… and then proceeded by water to the Pacific ocean at the mouth of Columbia river, wintered upon the south side of the bay, and early the following spring returned to the mountains by the same route which they pursued on their outward journey. …”
“As it was the principal object of my tour to ascertain the character and condition of the Indians beyond the Rocky Mountains, their numbers, and prospects of establishing the gospel among them, it will not only be proper but important to give a full and connected description of these particulars.”
“These live in the upper country from the Falls of the Columbia to the Rocky Mountains, and are called the Indians of the plains, because a large proportion of their country is prairie land.”
“The principal tribes are the Nez Perces, Cayuse, Walla Wallas, Bonax, Shoshones, Spokeins, Flatheads, Cceur De Lions, Ponderas, Cootanies, Kettlefalls, Okanagans, and Carriers.”
“In their persons the men are tall, the women are of common stature, and both men and women are well formed. While there is a strong natural as well as moral resemblance among all Indians, the complexion of these is much the same as other Indians, excepting a little fairer.”
“There is a great resemblance in their dress, which generally consists of a shirt, worn over long, close leggins, with moccasons for their feet. These are of dressed leather made of the skins of deer, antelope, and mountain goats and sheep; and over these they wear a blanket or buffalo robe.”
“They appear to have less of the propensity to adorn themselves with painting, than the Indians east of the mountains; but still at their toilet, vermilion, mixed with red clay, is used not only upon their faces, but also upon their hair.”
“The dress of the women does not vary much from the men, excepting, that instead of the shirt, they have what may be called a frock coming down to the ancles. Many of them wear a large cape …”
“As regards the religion of the Indians, (they resemble that of the) ancient Jews, that they believe in one God, in the immortality of the soul, and in future rewards and punishments.”
“They believe in one Great Spirit, who has created all things, governs all important events, and who is the author of all good; and who is the only object of religious homage.”
“They believe he may be displeased with them for their bad conduct, and in his displeasure bring calamities upon them. They also believe in an evil spirit, whom they call cinim keneki meohōt cinmo-cimo; that is, the black chief below …”
“They believe in the immortality of the soul, that it enters the future world with a similar form, and in like circumstances to those under which it existed in this life. They believe that in a future state, the happiness of the good consists in an abundance and enjoyment of those things which they value here, that their present sources of happiness will be carried to perfection …”
“Taking the various circumstances under deliberate and prayerful consideration, in regard to the Indians, we came to the conclusion, that, though many other important stations might be found, this would be one.”
“So desirable did this object appear, that Doct. Whitman proposed to return … and to obtain associates to come out with him the next year, with the then returning caravan, and establish a mission among these people, and by so doing, save at least a year, in bringing the gospel among them.” (Parker)
Upon return from his shorten investigative trip, Whitman had observed that it was possible to take women over the Rockies, hence he could return, be married to Narcissa Prentiss to whom he was engaged, and took her with him to Oregon.
Whitman hoped to find another couple to join them in their Oregon venture. He heard of Henry and Eliza Spalding who were to be missionaries among the Osage people; they had already started for their destination, but Marcus caught up to them and convinced them to join the Oregon missions.
The Whitmans and Spaldings formed the forerunners of the ABCFM’s missionary effort in the Pacific Northwest. In April 1836 Whitman’s party set out; he ultimately chose a spot in southeastern Washington on Mill Creek on the north bank of the Walla Walla River, 22-miles above its junction with the Columbia and the Hudson’s Bay Company post of Fort Walla Walla.
The local Indians, the Cayuse, called the spot Waiilatpu (“Place of the Rye Grass.”) Spalding chose a site 110-miles farther east, where he founded among the Nez Perce Indians what came to be known as the Spalding Mission, Idaho. (LegendsOfAmerica)
Parker continued his journey and ultimately, as part of his exploring mission came to the Hawaiian Islands, as well as other areas in the south Pacific. “On the 18th of June, according to previous arrangements, I took passage in the steam-boat Beaver, for Fort George to join the barque Columbia for the Sandwich islands.” (Parker)
Parker returned to the continent in 1837; he wrote a book that went through five editions, and was published in England, and with his subsequent lectures through the East.
In his later days Mr. Parker did much volunteer missionary work, and preached with his old vigor far past his three-score-and-tenth year. He was a plain, practical, prayerful, and earnest man. He died at Ithaca, 1866. (ancestry)