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Whitman Mission National Historic Site


Whitman Mission National Historic Site
©National Park Service
Whitman Mission National Historic Site
is a memorial to a family of true pioneers.

In 1836, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, the Rev. Henry and Eliza Spalding, and William Gray successfully crossed the North American continent from New York to the largely unknown land called Oregon Country. The trail they followed was later known as the Oregon Trail. Narcissa and Eliza were the first white women to achieve this feat, and the Whitman's baby, Alice Clarissa, was the first child born of U.S. citizens in the Pacific Northwest.

The Whitmans settled among the Cayuse and Nez Perce Indians and established the first mission on the Columbia Plateau at Waiilatpu, near present-day Walla Walla, Washington. The site is preserved as the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, though only wagon ruts and stones in the lawn, marking the outlines of buildings, remain. Trails and wayside exhibits lead visitors past the mission, the Whitmans' graves, and the Whitman monument. The visitor center has artifacts from the days of the mission, including tools, clothes, and the bible that Marcus Whitman brought with him from the East.

The Whitmans helped guide other immigrants traveling the Oregon Trail and offered the mission as a way station. Their efforts to convert the Indians ended in 1847 when a band of Cayuse attacked the mission and killed the Whitmans and 11 others, whom they thought were responsible for a measles epidemic that had wiped out half the tribe.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site Information

Address: Whitman Mission is located west of Walla Walla and just north of the border with Oregon, Walla Walla, WA
Telephone: 509/522-6360
Hours of Operation: Park is open from dawn until dark daily. Visitor center hours are:

  • 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. (summer)
  • 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (rest of the year)

Admission: $3 adult; $5 per family; chil­dren under 17 free

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.