Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, part 1


In Prattsburg, New York, in the early years of the 1800s there stood a church whose combined congregation consisted of Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This staunch building, though dedicated to devotion, wasn’t much to look at. It was neither painted nor heated. The minister who attended his flock there had the distinction of wearing striped mittens while he preached. This was not a statement of style, but a necessary function to prevent his fingers from frosting while he prayed to his God and administered to his faithful.

This church, like many others of the time, had survived with its Puritan influence intact. Strict rules were followed. The Sabbath began on Saturday just as the sun sank into the vast Atlantic. Even before the holy observance was in full swing on a Saturday night, members of this church were forbidden to attend any types of Saturday raisings. This was strictly enforced whether it was house, barn, or cane raising, unless it was of the sugar or chair-fixing variety.

In fact, any type of afternoon social gatherings throughout the Sabbath was banned. To insure this ordinance was observed anyone caught traveling through this township during this period of worship was punished. And though the everlasting sun rose again on Sunday, Sabbath continued until the sun once more bowed its golden head below the waving waters.

This was the world and way of thinking that one of Gods pretty creatures was born into. She belonged to this church and there she dutifully bowed her golden head. Often this child of devotion was seen at the only social gathering that was not forbidden during the Sabbath, the revivals that were held. This lovely child was about eleven years old and her bowed head was crowned with a glory of sun-washed locks. Her name was Narcissa Prentiss.

Seven years later, as Narcissa continued to display her devotion to God, a young man had begun to attend this same church. He was extremely devout and had joined this church. His name was Henry. Henry, like many others of the time and including Narcissa Prentiss, kept a diary. It was the fashionmore lasting than wearing striped gloves while preaching. In this dutiful recording of Henrys life he often berated himself for being wayward and unfaithful to his faith. Those that truly knew him said differently. In spite of Henrys feelings and doubts about his own personal devotion, this same devotion and other related matters would be the cause of him being distinctively recorded throughout the history of the settling of Americas Great Plains and the Far West. Often, in these historical recordings, Henry would be referred to as the Reverend Spalding.

More years passed and Narcissa Prentiss grew to be a lovely though rather large, it is recorded, young woman. Her devotion intensified and grew, just as did her lustrous halo of golden hair.

Henry Spalding also remained faithful and devout. In 1825 he attended the Church Academy. He had reached his twenty-second year and was older than the other students. It is recorded that Henry was extremely shy and possessed an inferiority complex. Getting a rather late start on his religious education, as compared to his fellow students, certainly must have contributed to his shyness and unsureness. The questionable stigma of Henry Harmon Spaldings birth must have also caused considerable damage to his self-esteem. However, it must not have been severe enough to prevent Henry from attempting to spark the lovely Narcissa.