Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, part 2


From that time on, Man and Woman created the eternal triangle. It was no different in the early 1800s, nor for prospective missionaries or their parents. NARCISSA PRENTISS WHITMAN Henry Spaldings mother had her own eternal triangle to deal with, but that is another story. However, the result was Henryborn out of wedlock. It was a fact of life he did not discover until he was a young man. That he resented his birth status throughout his life is shown in a letter, dated May of 1871, that he wrote many years later to his second wife. Henry Spaldings illegitimate standing did not, however, keep him from pursuing a religious calling.

During the winter of 1828-1829, Spalding was attending school and also teaching school to support his self. It was during this time that he learned of the urgent need by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for missionaries. This plea for missionaries showed Henry the direction his life must take. But before he could begin such a devoted venture four years of higher learning awaited him. For the first two of these studious years he returned to Prattsburg where the bright and sunny Narcissa Prentiss still lived and attended church.

Narcissa Prentiss, too, had heard of the need for missionaries. Her hearts desire and devotion was to go west and save the souls of the savages. It was a good plan but there was just one little hitch in the harness. The Mission Board didnt allow single women to go west for the church no matter how devout they were, or said they were. Therein lay the reasoning behind the Mission Boards rule. Male missionaries might be far above the morals of regular fellows, but still they were male with natural urges and inclinations. No doubt the same could have been said of single female missionaries.

Narcissa was about as devout as they come, but she was single.

Narcissa Prentiss needed to find herself a man to marry.

Henry Spalding, though he was willing to take on a mission amongst the Indians most anywhere, had a similar problem. He needed a helpmate of the female variety.

Though no completely accurate likeness of Narcissa Prentiss exists, as the well-known portrait of her is a composite of various opinions given to the artists after her death, Narcissas most pleasing looks and fine soprano voice allowed her a secure position in the church and its choir. The congregated members on a Sunday morn surely were appreciative of the young womans talent.

This congregation once again included the shy, studious and pious Henry Harmon Spalding. It is doubtful that Henry failed to notice pretty Miss Prentiss. But Henry was also noticing another fair, though consumptive, young lady.

Miss Levine Linsley and Henry Harmon Spalding were engaged to be married.

At this point it is possible that historical fact and fanciful fiction may have been thrown into the same pot and mixed a bit. One historian insists that during this same time Spalding and Narcissa were engagedor also engaged. Another source stresses repeatedly that Henry and Miss Prentiss were never remotely romantically involved. All other sources, which will be listed at the conclusion of this multi-part saga, believe there was indeed something sparking between Narcissa and Henry.

It must be remembered that all of the sources, no matter their various opinions, never actually knew the persons involved. However, those claiming there was a romantic situation between Narcissa and Spalding present items of proof far weightier than those who claim otherwise. Narcissa dictates some of that proof, herself, in the several journals and letters she wrote that still exist.

It could be said that any reference Narcissa may have made concerning a romantic connection between her self and Spalding may have been a female flight of fancy. Female readers, at least, take a glance at the photo of Henry Spalding, to the right, and see if your fancy goes into flightor just flees from the photo. HENRY HARMON SPALDING Romance aside, Narcissa wanted to go west as a missionary and she needed a devout mate to accomplish her goal. It is believed that Spalding, on numerous occasions, proposed to Narcissa Prentiss. But Henry wasn’t Narcissas first choice of a mate. Narcissa didnt even consider Henry as a choice. Each of his proposals were met with refusal. But what of Henrys intended, the ailing Lovina?