Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, part 3


Narcissa Prentiss continues to uphold her desire to bring Christianity and salvation to the Indians in that nearly unknown land in the Far West. No doubt, she prays for the divine opportunity to descend on her and for the perfect and devout mate that will make it all possible. Narcissa Prentiss Whitman While Narcissa is hoping and praying Henry Spalding is struggling through four years of education to make his similar desires come true. All seems possible for Henry, even to the advantage, over that of Miss Prentiss, of having nearly acquired a mate when he became engaged to Levina Linsley. But, even for the devout, life seems to have a way of putting a hitch in the get-along of mere mans meager plans.

Miss Linsley is afflicted with tuberculosis. Because of her ailment she breaks her engagement to Henry Spalding. She fears she would not be able to survive the rigorous life of a missionaries wife.

An article in the Prattsburg News, dated August 17, 1893, says that Miss Levina, as the affianced bride of Mr. Spalding, went into a rapid decline. And that her disease was such that it was evident she would never be able to enter a foreign field.

Miss Linsleys rapid decline lasted until December 21, 1838 at which time, according to church records, she died at the age of 40. Quite a long decline10 years.

One historian has Spalding engaged to Miss Linsley at the exact same time another historian has him engaged to Narcissa Prentiss. A bedbug in the batting, here, might have an interesting tale to tell, but that is an aspect of the shy Spaldings life well never know for certain.

Now, both Mr. Spalding and Miss Prentiss are without marital prospects. If life was simple, as it is not, and if it had storybook endings, which it doesnt, they would have found the solution to each others situation. But they didnt.

The powers above had other historical hands to deal before these two young persons problems were solvedor begun. At this time, about one hundred and forty miles east of Prattsburg, at a place called Holland Patent, lived Captain and Mrs. Levi Hart and their six children. The eldest of these offspring, having been born on August 11, 1807 at Kensington, was called Eliza. This daughter was taught all the usual arts necessary to run a farming household at this period of time. Eliza had also received an education at a young womens seminary at Clinton, New York. For a time Eliza taught school and when Hamilton College added a female department she attended.

Eliza Hart was a serious girl. She was deeply religious and, in 1826, was officially received into the Presbyterian Church of Holland Patent. A description by William H. Gray, though ten years later, describes Eliza as being of medium height, slender, and with coarse features. He says she had dark brown hair, blue eyes and spoke with a coarse voice. He gives her credit for having a serious mind and being quick to understand language. In other words, Eliza Hart was anything but pretty, but she was really smart. Both of these attributes may account for the fact that by the old age of twenty-three she was still unmarried.

After all of this time that the powers above were shuffling their cards it seems they were now ready to deal Eliza Hart a winning hand, or at least one she could bet on. It took the form of a letter from a friend of Elizas who lived in Prattsburg. Her friend told her of a fine young man who desired to correspond with her. The man was Henry Harmon Spalding.

Time progressed. Eliza and Henry wrote to each other and became close friends. In time, Henry transferred his studies to Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio. He was much happier there than he had been previously except for one detail. He was too far away from Eliza who still lived in Holland Patent, New York. But, perhaps, there are storybook endings, of a sort.

In September of 1832, Spalding went to Holland Patent, proposed to Eliza, and was accepted. He went through the traditional ritual of speaking to Elizas parents before he and Eliza were married. It was agreed that Eliza would further her education by attending a girls school in Hudson.

What wedded bliss Mr. and Mrs. Spalding had, until he became displeased with the colleges upholding of abolition. However, he did highly approve of Negro Colonization which was an idea intended, simply, to ship all free Black Americans to un-Christian Africa. When graduation came Spaldings speech, with seems a contradiction of ideals, centered on making Christians of the heathens. While all the other graduates had family and friends around them to wish them well, there was no one there for Henry. That is, except for his Eliza. Perhaps for this shy man of questionable parentage it was enough.

But what of the still single Miss Narcissa Prentiss whose desire to administer to the Far Western savages continued?