Marcus Whitman dies to reach the Indians

This is the day that … Marcus Whitman was born in Massachusetts, in 1802. (Other sources say Rushville, N.Y.)

After studying medicine for eight years (four in Canada and four in New York), he heard Rev. Samuel Parker plead for missionaries to work on America’s western coast. He travelled to Oregon with Parker and at the Green River rendezvous they met several Indian tribes who so fervently requested missionary help that the two men returned east to ready men to go west.

Whitman married Narcissa Prentiss, who was born on 14 March, 1808, who had heard the same preacher and felt the same divine call, and off they set on a 2000-mile trek across the Rocky Mountains to a new world, to take the gospel to the Red Indians. That was in 1836.

They journeyed with a fur trading caravan and another missionary couple, Rev. Henry Spaulding and his wife. The fact that Narcissa had once been engaged to Henry Spaulding “was not an ideal situation”(!) (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth Tucker, page 99).

On this overland trip, Whitman drove a light cart from Ft. Hall to Ft. Boise, thereby opening a portion of the Oregon Trail to wagon traffic. Mrs Whitman and Mrs Spaulding were the first American women to cross the Rockies overland.

In Oregon the Whitmans established their mission compound, baby Alice was born … and accidentally drowned in a nearby river two years later. Whitman taught irrigated farming, ranching, construction and civilization to the Indians. A dynamic, vigorous, resourceful, even stubborn man, he was often overly optimistic.

Problems with the Red Indians surfaced. Not to mention problems with the mission board back on the east coast. Marcus Whitman found it essential to make a return visit and sort things out with the home board.

He left, with a companion, on 2 October, 1842, upon what has been described as “one of the most difficult rides in American history” (Great Women of the Faith, by E. Deen, page 211). Hostile Indians and fording flooded rivers nearly cost them their lives. At one stage, “their food gave out … and they had to eat their pack mules and dog” (page 212).

Having pacified the mission leaders, Marcus Whitman returned to Oregon, and Narcissa. But the new settlers who made the 1500-mile return trip with him brought an epidemic of measles. “In the space of eight weeks nearly half the 400 member tribe (of Cayuse Indians) suffered painful deaths…” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth Tucker, page 103).

On 29 November, 1847, five angry Indians attacked the mission station, massacred the Whitmans and 12 others, and burned the buildings, thus initiating a long and savage war between Indians and whites. Marcus was 45 years of age and his wife was 39.

Joe Meek carried news of the Indian war to Washington, pleading for protection so eloquently that Congress created the territory of Oregon and sent troops to it – just at the time the American Board for Foreign Missions was abandoning the region.

The Whitmans are described as “two of the most consecrated, successful and heroic missionaries ever sent out by any missionary society” (Great Missionaries, by T. Creegan, page 366).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

David Brainerd and the Indians

John Wesley said, “Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd,” and distributed his life story to all his societies. So while this post is only a summary, I commend to you a review of David Brainerd’s biography.

This is the day that … the “fire fell” at Crossweeksung, in 1745.

Twenty-seven year-old David Brainerd had been expelled from Yale College three years earlier, and had turned his eyes toward the mission field, among the Red Indians.

His diary almost becomes monotonous with “spent the day in prayer and fasting for my beloved Indians.”

He tells of preaching through a drunken interpreter, of riding 50 miles a day to Indian encampments “down hideous steeps, through swamp and most dreadful and dangerous places … pinched with cold … an extreme pain in my head.” At times he coughed up blood.

But on 8 August, 1745, about 64 Indians – men, women and children – gathered around him. He preached to them on the parable of the Great Feast (Luke 14:16-23) and, to use his own words:

“The power of God seemed to descend like a rushing mighty wind… Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together and scarcely one was able to withstand the shock of this surprising operation. Old men and women who had been drunken wretches for many years and some little children, not more than six or seven years of age, appeared in distress for their souls… There was almost universal praying and crying for mercy … numbers could neither go nor stand…”

In the days that followed more and more Indians cried: “Guttummaukalummeh!” (“Have mercy on me!”).

By October, 1747, Brainerd was on his deathbed in the home of the famous Jonathan Edwards, and on 9 October all the trumpets sounded as this 29 year-old man of God passed to his Heavenly reward.

William Carey read Brainerd’s Journal, and went to India. Robert Murray McCheyne read it, and went to the Jews. Henry Martyn read it, and went to India and Persia. Jim Elliott was also motivated by David Brainerd’s example. May it inspire you also.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

William Penn and Pennsylvania

This is the day that … William Penn died in 1718, at the age of 74.

His father was an Admiral in the British Navy, Admiral Sir William Penn, and so young William enjoyed “the favour of the king … he was admired at court, handsome in person, graceful in manners … expectant heir of a title of nobility …”

And all this he gave up for a life of ridicule and scorn. He was even expelled from Christ Church, Oxford (1661) because he held views no longer in keeping with that of the state church. William Penn had become a disciple of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (the Quakers).

Four times he found himself thrown into prison because of his non-conformist (i.e., not belonging to the Church of England) views. He courted trouble not only by street preaching and by means of the printed word (over 100 tracts and booklets came from his pen), but also by the distinctive Quaker attire, and his refusal to remove his hat to anyone – even King Charles!

Eventually Penn and a group of fellow Quakers migrated to America and a 45,000 acre tract of land was granted him by the king. It was called ‘Pennsylvania’, named after William’s father. Young William had inherited great wealth from his father, including a debt owed by King Charles II, which was paid by the grant of land in the New World.

In Pennsylvania the Quakers and Red Indians intermingled without problems for 70 years. “Whilst English and European settlers in neighbouring areas were constantly at war with the Indians, Penn and his company made friends and lived in perfect harmony …” (English Sects, by A. Reynolds, page 159). This achievement was due to Penn’s “Great Treaty” with the Delaware tribe.

It should be pointed out that the Quakers rejected the sacraments and placed more emphasis upon ‘the Light within’ than the Holy Scriptures. (See the post on George Fox on July 19)

Politically, it could well be argued that William Penn’s religious convictions were a primal component of the principles on which the nation of America was to be built.

Further information on William Penn can be found at: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/PENN/pnintro.html

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

David Zeisberger – Missionary to Red Indians

This is the day that … David Zeisberger was married – at the age of 60 – to Miss Susan Lecron, at the suggestion of the Moravian Mission Board. It was in 1781.

For the previous 40 years he had devoted his life to preaching of the Gospel among Red Indians. “He had made himself so truly their brother than they adopted him into their tribe and gave him the Indian name of Thaneraquechta …” (Torchbearers of the Faith, by A. Smellie, page 227).

Zeisberger’s translation of the Scriptures into the Iroquois language is described as “outstanding”. He pressed on with his work, despite being continually harassed by the French/Indian war, and the American Revolution. There are stories of massacres and imprisonment and hardship enough to daunt the most valiant of souls. Zeisberger persevered.

During a Moravian synod meeting the strong suggestion was made that David take himself a wife, which he did. He then returned to his Red Indians with the Gospel.

During the Revolutionary War, “The wrath of the British was directed mainly against Zeisberger… He and two fellow missionaries were arrested as spies. Practically starved, they appeared before the governor to defend themselves against vile and unjust accusations” (Early Missionary Endeavours Among the American Indians, by J. Mueller, page 92). Eventually Zeisberger was free to lead his Christian Indians across the border into Canada, where there was freedom – and “where the Moravian testimony continued for many generations”.

He died on 17 November, 1808, saying: “The Saviour is near; He will come and take me home…” He departed this life at the age of 87, over 60 years of which was spent in missionary service.

“No other Protestant missionary exercised more real influence, and was more sincerely honoured among the Indians, and none … excelled him in the frequency and hardship of his journeys through the wilderness” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia, page 2570).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.