Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, part 5


Doctor Marcus Whitman and Narcissa Prentiss were married in February of 1836. That Narcissa was considered bordering on old maidenhood no longer mattered and ceased, that wonderful day, to be the case. Mrs. Narcissa WhitmanNot only that, her childhood dream to become a missionary to the western heathens was about to come true. Whether her dream was a blessing or a curse would become a controversial historical question.

The wedding was like any other of the period except for a minor changethe bride wore black. Not only did she wear black, but she also dressed her entire family in black. Why? The reason is uncertain. Perhaps it was symbolic of lying to rest a past of singleness and unfulfilled desires. In her somber attire, Narcissa sang with the choir and congregation a hymn by the Reverend Samuel F. Smith, who was also the author of America.

Historian and author Bernard De Voto writes, She was a fine singer, she had a voice which, like her bearing, troubled mens hearts. Translated, I take that to mean that Narcissa Prentiss Whitman was stacked and could sing like a bird.

The finale of this heavenly performance Narcissa sang alone. The solemn words of her solo stanza were: In the deserts let me labor, On the mountains let me tell How he diedthe blessed Savior To redeem a world from hell! Let me hasten Far in heathen lands to dwell.

And that is exactly what she did, not long after.

Shortly after their wedding Marcus and Narcissa traveled westward where they crossed the Ohio River to Cincinnati. Here, they met Henry and Eliza Spalding. And here, the fun began.

As stated previously, Henry Spalding had been born out of wedlock and was guilt-ridden by his bastardly status. He had, believed by many historians, fallen in love with the attractive Narcissa who sang like an angle and had a body that brought out the demon in men. Spalding had proposed marriage to Narcissa and had been rejected.

But now, perhaps putting the past behind him, the Reverend Henry Spalding was in Cincinnati with his wife, Eliza, who had recently miss-carried their first child. Henry Harmon Spalding It was only after considerable discussion, with each other and God, that the decision was made to travel to the Far West in spite of the fact that Eliza was still in extremely poor health.

So now it was on to St. Louis for the four of them. Here was Henry Spalding who had just discovered that his long, lost love was the newly wedded wife of Doctor Marcus Whitman who was to hold the position of superior over Spalding. With the reverend was his wife, Eliza, so ill she could not sit astride a horse and probably could not accomplish many wifely duties as well. Rounding out the party, in more ways than one, was the bubbling, bright, healthy Narcissa who was thoroughly enjoying her honeymoon.

That a journey between Cincinnati and the frontier town of St. Louis was easy, no matter the means of travel, was far from the truth. The way was made considerably rougher by Spalding who, for the sake of holiness, took it upon himself to make the wife of Doctor Whitman understand the evil in her character. Spalding was also willing to share his superior knowledge of Narcissas nature with others. Strangely, there seems to be no record of Whitman defending, at least verbally, his wifes honor.

Marcus Whitman On the Wednesday following the partys arrival in St. Louis the Whitmans and the Spaldings toured the city. Eliza Spalding was not impressed by what she saw. She considered the buildings uncouthly constructed, for whatever that is suppose to mean. In her diary she expressed her opinion that St. Louis was a city going to decay. She must have meant morally. Structurally, if that were the case, she would be surprised today to learn that St. Louis is taking her own sweet time about it.

While on their tour the Whitmans and Spaldings were attracted by the ringing of the bells on the new Catholic Cathedral and spent a few moments watching the service. This was a situation that Mrs. Spalding also had an exact opinion of. She later recorded that she had unpleasant sensations while witnessing their heartless forms and ceremonies. And seemingly assuming her opinion matched that of the others, she rejoiced that they had never been left to embrace such delusions.

In Narcissas writings she also mentions this church. It seems she watched a High Mass for about an hour. Her lengthy observance surely must have sent Reverend Spaldings opinion of Narcissas character into a soaring tailspin.

But at last their sojourn in this sordid city came to an end. Their next major stop would be Liberty, Missouri after some three hundred miles westward up the Missouri River.