No picture of Dr. Whitman is in existence. The portrait you see above was made from the basis of a photograph of Rev. Marcus Whitman Montgomery, who resembled Dr. Whitman very closely. Changes were made under the supervision of the family, who pronounced this as a very correct likeness.
How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon
by Oliver W. Nixon, M.D., LL.D.,
Narrative of the winter trip across the rocky mountains of Dr. Marcus Whitman and Hon. A. Lawrence Lovejoy, in 1842, furnished by request, from Mr. Lovejoy, the survivor.
Feb. 14, 1876.
Dr. Atkinson - Dear Sir: In compliance with your request, I will endeavor to give you some idea of the journey of the late Dr. Marcus Whitman from Oregon to Washington, in the winter of 1842 and '43. True, I was the Doctor's traveling companion in that arduous and trying journey, but it would take volumes to describe the many thrilling scenes and dangerous hair-breadth escapes we passed through, traveling, as we did, almost the entire route through a hostile Indian country, and enduring much suffering from the intense cold and snow we had to encounter in passing over the Rocky Mountains in midwinter. I crossed the plains in company with Dr. White and others, and arrived at Waiilatpui the last of September, 1842. My party camped some two miles below Dr. Whitman's place. The day after our arrival Dr. Whitman called at our camp and asked me to accompany him to his house, as he wished me to draw up a memorial to Congress to prohibit the sale of ardent spirits in this country. The Doctor was alive to the interests of this coast, and manifested a very warm desire to have it properly represented at Washington; and after numerous conversations with the Doctor touching the future properity of Oregon, he asked me one day in a very anxious manner, if I thought it would be possible for him to cross the mountains at that time of the year. I told him I thought he could. He next asked: "Will you accompany me?" After a little reflection, I told him I would. His arrangements were rapidly made. Through the kindness of Mr. McKinly, then stationed at Fort Walla Walla, Mrs. Whitman was provided with suitable escorts to the Willamette Valley, where she was to remain with her missionary friends until the Doctor's return. We left Waiilatpui, October 3, 1842, traveled rapidly, reached Fort Hall in eleven days, remained two days to recruit and make a few purchases. The Doctor engaged a guide and we left for Fort Uintah. We changed from a direct route to one more southern, through the Spanish country via Salt Lake, Taos and Santa Fe. On our way from Fort Hall to Fort Uintah, we had terribly severe weather. The snows retarded our progress and blinded the trail so we lost much time. After arriving at Fort Uintah and making some purchases for our trip, we took a new guide and started for Fort Uncompahgra, situated on the waters of Grand River, in the Spanish country. Here our stay was very short.
We took a new guide and started for Taos. After being out some four or five days we encountered a terrible snow storm, which forced us to seek shelter in a deep ravine, where we remained snowed in for four days, at which time the storm had somewhat abated, and we attempted to make our way out upon the high lands, but the snow was so deepand the winds so piercing and cold we were compelled to return to camp and wait a few days for a change of weather.
Our next effort to reach the high lands was more successful; but after spending several days wandering around in the snow without making much headway, our guide told us that the deep snow had so changed the face of the country that he was completely lost and could take us no farther. This was a terrible blow to the Doctor, but he was determined not to give it up without another effort. We at once agreed that the Doctor should take the guide and return to Fort Uncompahgra and get a new guide, and I remain in camp with the animals until he could return; which he did in seven days with our new guide, and we were now on our route again. Nothing of much importance occurred but hard and slow traveling through deep snow until we reached Grand River, which was frozen on either side about one-third across. Although so intensely cold, the current was so very rapid, about one-third of the river in the center was not frozen. Our guide thought it would be dangerous to attempt to cross the river in its present condition, but the Doctor, nothing daunted, was the first to take the water. He mounted his horse and the guide and myself shoved the Doctor and his horse off the ice into the foaming stream. Away he went completely under water, horse and all, but directly came up, and after buffeting the rapid, foaming current he reached the ice on the opposite shore a long way down the stream. He leaped from his horse upon the ice and soon had his noble animal by his side. The guide and myself forced in the pack animals and followed the Doctor's example, and were soon on the opposite shore drying our frozen clothes by a comfortable fire. We reached Taos in about thirty days, suffering greatly from cold and scarcity of provisions. We were compelled to use mule meat, dogs and such other animals as came in our reach. We remained at Taos a few days only, and started for Bent's and Savery's Fort, on the headwaters of the Arkansas River. When we had been out some fifteen or twenty days, we met George Bent, a brother of Gov. Bent, on his way to Taos. He told us that a party of mountain men would leave Bent's Fort in a few days for St. Louis, but said we would not reach the fort with our pack animals in time to join the party. The Doctor being very anxious to join the party so he could push on as rapidly as possible to Washington, concluded to leave myself and guide with the animals, and he himself, taking the best animal, with some bedding and a small allowance of provision, started alone, hoping by rapid travel to reach the fort in time to join the St. Louis party, but to do so he would have to travel on the Sabbath, something we had not done before. Myself and guide traveled on slowly and reached the fort in four days, but imagine our astonishment, when on making inquiry about the Doctor, we were told he had not arrived nor had he been heard of.
I learned that the party for St. Louis was camped at the Big Cottonwood, forty miles from the fort, and at my request, Mr. Savery sent an express telling the party not to proceed any further until we learned something of Dr. Whitman's whereabouts, as he wished to accompany them to St. Louis. Being furnished by the gentlemen of the fort with a suitable guide, I started in search of the Doctor, and traveled up the river about one hundred miles. I learned from the Indians that a man had been there, who was lost, and was trying to find Bent's Fort. They said they had directed him to go down the river, and how to find the fort. I knew from their description it was the Doctor. I returned to the fort as rapidly as possible, but the Doctor had not arrived. We had all become very anxious about him.
Late in the afternoon he came in very much fatigued and desponding; said that he knew that God had bewildered him to punish him for traveling on the Sabbath. During the whole trip he was very regular in his morning and evening devotions, and that was the only time I ever knew him to travel on the Sabbath.
The Doctor remained all night at the fort, starting early on the following morning to join the St. Louis party. Here we parted. The Doctor proceeded to Washington. I remained at Bent's Fort until Spring, and joined the Doctor the following July, near Fort Laramie, on his way to Oregon, in company with a train of emigrants. He often expressed himself to me about the remainder of his journey, and the manner in which he was received at Washington, and by the Board for Foreign Missions at Boston. He had several interviews with President Tyler, Secretary Webster, and a good many member of Congress - Congress being in session at that time. He urged the immediate termination of the treaty with Great Britain relative to this country, and begged them to extend the laws of the United States over Oregon, and asked for liberal inducements to emigrants to come to this coast. He was very cordially and kindly received by the President and members of Congress, and, without doubt, the Doctor's interviews resulted greatly to the benefit of Oregon and to this coast. But his reception at the Board for Foreign Missions was not so cordial. The Board was inclined to censure him for leaving his post. The Doctor came to the frontier settlement, urging the citizens to emigrate to the Pacific. He left Independence, Mo., in the month of May, 1843, with an emigrant train of about one thousand souls for Oregon. With his energy and knowledge of the country, he rendered them great assistance in fording the many dangerous and rapid streams they had to cross, and in finding a wagon road through many of the narrow rugged passes of the mountains. He arrived at Waiilatpui about one year from the time he left, to find his home sadly dilapidated, his flouring mill burned. The Indians were very hostile to the Doctor for leaving them, and without doubt, owing to his absence, the seeds of assassination were sown by those haughty Cayuse Indians which resulted in his and Mrs. Whitman's death, with many others, although it did not take place until four years later.
I remain with great respect,
A. Lawrence Lovejoy.