Spalding and Lapwai Missions (1836)

Abstracted from "History of the State of Idaho," by Cornelis J. Brosnan, published by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1918.

"The first missionaries directly connected with Idaho were Reverend Henry Spalding and his wife, sent out by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions of Boston. They came over the plains with Doctor and Mrs. Marcus Whitman, whose tragic fate at the hands of the Cayuse Indians on November 29, 1847, is so well known. Whitman College, located at Walla Walla, Washington, is a memorial to these martyrs, while a marble slab marks their grave near the scene of the massacre.

"First White Woman Through Idaho.—Mrs. Spalding and Mrs. Whitman were the first white women to make the long, hard trip across the country, and they showed the highest degree of courage and endurance. This party brought a wagon nearly to Fort Hall in southern Idaho. When the road became seemingly impassable Doctor Whitman removed from the wagon two of its wheels, making it into a cart, and succeeded in getting this as far as old Fort Boise, where it was left.

"The Lapwai Missions.—The Whitmans settled near the present town of Walla Walla and the Spaldings went to Lapwai Creek, situated about twelve miles above the present site of Lewiston, the two mission stations being no miles apart. Here the Spaldings built a house of logs and opened a school for the Indians, which was attended by men, women, and children In addition to the Bible lessons and the religious services the Indians were taught valuable lessons in industry and a civilized mode of life.

Mrs. Spalding Teaches Indian Women. — Mrs. Spalding instructed the women how to card, weave, spin, knit, and sew. At first there was little need of what could be termed housekeeping, for the Nez Perces at that time lived together in bands under the control of a chief, rather than as families. Great numbers would occupy a single long house or tent, with a row of fires down the middle. Instead of speaking of the number of rooms these Indians would refer to a house as having so many fires.

Indians Learn Farming.—Mr. Spalding gave the Indians their first lessons in farming, for prior to his arrival among them in November, 1836, they had not engaged in any agricultural pursuits and had been living upon native berries, roots, fish, and wild game. Soon after this arrival at Lapwai Mr. Spalding procured some small apple-trees at Fort Vancouver and began the planting of orchards among the Nez Perces. Some of these old apple trees may still be seen. When the mission was closed in 1847, due to the menacing attitude of the Cayuse Indians, who had perpetrated the Whitman massacre in November of that year, this zealous missionary had already erected a small church building, which served also as a school, a grist mill, a printing-office, a blacksmith's shop, and a few small dwelling houses. Herds of cattle and horses, and a few hogs evidenced the first faint beginnings of stock raising in Idaho outside of the Hudson's Bay Company posts. Peas, as well as other vegetables, had been grown in the little garden patches near the mission.

First Printing-Press in the Northwest.—One May day in 1839 an article of unusual interest was received at the Lapwai mission. It was a small " Ramage writing, copying, and seal press, number 14," that had, been presented to the Oregon mission by a native church in Honolulu. After a long ocean voyage this useful machine reached Oregon. It was packed on horseback from Fort Walla Walla to Lapwai, and set up on May 16. It was the first printing press in the Pacific Northwest, and at Lapwai were printed the first books in the Oregon country. Among the books and pamphlets that were printed on this press by Mr. Spalding and his assistants were a primer, a hymn book, a code of laws for the Nez Perces, and a translation of the Gospel of Matthew.

A short time before the Whitman massacre, November 29, 1847, this historic press was moved to the Dalles. From there it was soon sent to Hillsboro, Oregon, where it came into the possession of Reverend J. S. Griffin, a brother-in-law of the Reverend H. H. Spalding. In 1875 it was presented by Mr. Griffin to the State of Oregon and deposited in the State Historical rooms at Salem. Destined to make one more short journey, this pioneer press was in 1900 removed to the rooms of the Oregon Historical Society at Portland, where it may be seen to-day.

This treasured relic should recall to the minds of our citizens a long train of events associated with the pictur-esque and romantic story of " Old Oregon."

Idaho's First White Child.—In the small log house built by Mr. Spalding shortly after his arrival at Lapwai, on November is, 1837, was born Idaho's first white child, Eliza Spalding. To her belongs the distinction of having been the second white child born in the Pacific Northwest and the first who grew to years of maturity. Eliza Spalding, now Mrs. A. J. Warren, has spent most of her life in the States of Oregon and Washington, but at present (1918) resides at Cataldo, Idaho.

The Lapwai Mission Re-opened.—In 1871, in accordance with the provision of President Grant's so-called "Peace Policy" with reference to American Indian tribes, the Lapwai Mission was reopened by Reverend Mr. Spalding. During the long interval of over twenty-three years which had elapsed since the Whitman massacre Mr. Spalding had made his home first in the Willamette Valley and later in the Walla Walla country. His second period of residence among the Nez Perces was destined to be brief, however, for he died August 3, 1874. Today, near the confluence of the Lapwai Creek and the Clearwater River, in a little grove of locust trees, near the spot where Idaho's first mission was established, are the graves of Reverend Henry H. Spalding and the devoted and efficient companion of those early years, Eliza Hart Spalding.

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