We Who Survived -12 Mary Cason and Rev Henry Spalding.
I have finally had a reply from Mary Marsh Cason.
November 10, 1880
Spray, Wheeler County
Dear Mr. Young,
I am sorry for the delay in writing to you. I am interested to know that you are writing up your memories of those early days. I should do the same myself. Maybe this will inspire me
to get started. Anyway, I will pencil in what memories I have of that time and hope it will be of some use to you. If you do manage to get out this way, I would hope to be able to meet up with you, as I am not too far away from Prineville.
We reached Dr. Whitman's Missionary Station in October. Father, being tired of travel, concluded to stop there until spring - then go on to the Willamette Valley. He got employment from the
It was on the 29th of November, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon that the Indians broke out and murdered the Doctor and Mrs. Whitman and eight others. Six families were living in an adobe house
not far from the doctor's house. Father and I occupied an upper-room, where we cooked our meals and slept. He had come in and had his dinner, his last dinner, and had gone to work - attending the grist mill. That was the last time that I ever saw my poor dear father.
I was washing the dishes when I heard the report of a gun. It was the gun that killed Gilliland, the
tailor. He was doing some sewing of some kind when an Indian stood in the door and shot him. At the same time the horrible work was going on outside. I and some others went upstairs where we could look from a window and see a part of the conflict near the Doctor's house. Three or four men were butchering a beef there. I saw them engaged with quite a number of Indians. Mr. Kimball was dealing hard with several, he having an ax to fight with. He fought desperately for awhile but they killed him at last. I saw Mr. Hall chased by an Indian with an uplifted tomahawk (the Indian on a horse) but Mr. Hall made his escape. Meanwhile Mrs. Whitman had barred the doors and
windows to keep them out of the house - but they broke in anyway. I saw them break into the house, led by Joe Lewis, the instigator of the trouble. There they finished their bloody work for that day. Mr.
Sales and Bewley were sick and were not killed that day. A week later they were killed on their beds. Afterwards, I saw Bewley laying outside the house with his head almost torn from his body. He laid there all night. All of the dead bodies were buried in one grave by the four men who were not killed - Elam Young, his two sons (I guess one of them was you) and Mr. Smith. When the Indians killed the two sick men I was so frightened I ran to an Indian for protection - one who claimed to be friendly. The place of burial was some 20 rods to the north, near the foot of the higher ground where the mission cemetery was situated, and when asked why he did not go to the cemetery itself, Joe Stanfield replied that the ground was too hard up there, that he had to dig it lower down where
the soil was moist and where it could be more easily excavated. None of the Indians made any effort to help.
After the killings, I stayed with Mrs. Saunders and her five children. Joe Stanfield, a Canadian who had crossed the plains in ‘46, took charge of 33 survivors in four rooms, dealing out provisions to his favorites. He had fallen in love with Mrs. Hayes, and tried to get her to marry him. At one point, he called me into his room, to try to get me to accompany him and Mrs. Hayes in an elopement.
After the horrible work was done there were nearly 50 widows and orphans in captivity - expecting any time to share the same fate of the others, but we were spared - only to endure the fear, suspense and cruel treatment that an Indian is capable of inflicting. For one month the prisoners were kept well guarded and made to work. One old fellow put me to knitting for him a pair of
long - legged socks. I got one nearly made when Mr. Ogden of the Hudson Bay Company came to our relief and bought us from the heathens and took us away. We went in wagons to Fort Walla Walla. The first day there we were put in batteaux and started down the river. The batteaux were open boats with canvas to spread over the top to keep the rain out. Whenever a head showed up Mr. Ogden would holler, "duck that head." I, for one, suffered with the cold and I suppose the others did too, for we were so scant of clothing.
When we reached The Dalles the volunteers were there. My brother was one of them as he had gone on down to the Valley in the fall. We journeyed on down the Columbia and up the Willamette River
to Oregon City. When we arrived there a lady gave me a piece of bread and molasses. I did enjoy it for bread was not very plentiful those days. There was plenty of salmon and sometimes boiled wheat for a change.
There we were turned loose with thankful hearts that we had escaped the merciless foe. Most of the children had their mothers but I was entirely alone among strangers. My brother being with the
volunteers, so I was left to the charity of the people. You know how an orphan would fare among perfect strangers. They are soon not wanted any longer. In '49 my brother went to California, but before he left he found me a home with Mrs. A.L. Lovejoy who was very careful of my welfare. There I remained until I was married to James P. Cason, son of F.C. Cason, who crossed the plains in '43.
Mrs. Mary C. Marsh Cason
Rev. Henry Spalding, (pictured above) Eliza's father, died a few years ago, but I know that he did much writing about the massacre, and the period preceding it. I have taken a bit from some of his writings as it gives another slightly different point of view.
Spalding wrote, "On 23rd November, '47, three Indians died including a child. The doctor as usual had coffins made for them and winding sheets prepared and assisted in burying the dead. It was most distressing to go into a lodge of some 10 fires, and count 20 or 25 sick with measles, others in last stages of dysentery, in the midst of every kind of filth, enough of itself to cause sickness, with no suitable means of alleviating their almost incurable suffering with perhaps one well person to look after the wants of the others.
"My daughter Eliza and I arrived on Monday November 22, with my intention being to leave her there to attend the school there over the winter. But the school was closed, due to so many being down with the measles. I brought with me a pack train of 17 animals loaded with grain to supplement Marcus's store. These animals under the care of a Mr. Jackson were sent back to Lapwai on the
morning of the ill fated day, November 29.
"All the doctor's family had been sick, but were recovering, three of the children were dangerously sick. Mrs. Osborne and three children were dangerous ill, one of the children died the following week. A young man, Mr. Bewley was also very sick. The doctor's hands were more than full among the Indians - three and sometimes five died in one day. Mrs. Whitman was ready to sink under
the immense weight of labour and care but she continued to administer with her ever ready hand to the wants of all. Late and early, night and day, she was by the sick and the dying and the afflicted.
"On Thursday, November 25, Mr. Rodgers and I rode to Yellow Serpent's lodge near Fort Walla Walla where we spent the night. This chief had established a Catholic mission, Saint Rose Mission in his territory, yet remained friendly with the Protestants. Something very strange happened. One of the Nez Percé entered and asked, "Is Dr. Whitman killed?" as though he were expecting it. On Friday we rode to Fort Walla Walla and dined with Bishop Blanchet and some of his clergy. They asked and I cheerfully agreed to furnish them all needed supplies from my station. At this meeting
I argued with the Catholic missionaries regarding the theory of transubstantiation.
"John Settle came to Oregon in '46. He reached the Whitman mission late in the fall and his cattle being in poor shape, Dr. Whitman urged him to stay, and he spent the winter there. At that time his family consisted of six boys and six girls. During the winter spent at the Whitman Station John Settle built a sawmill about twenty miles from the Mission. While staying there he also helped to erect certain cabins. He learned from the Indians that they were very much dissatisfied with Whitman's ways. He decided that trouble was soon coming so he left there. And three days after he left, the massacre started. Some of the hostile Indians followed him for three days on his way. Some friendly natives approached him in November urging him to induce Dr. Whitman to leave. He thought
that their intention was to kill Dr. Whitman, and used every argument possible to get Marcus to leave, but he would hardly listen to him and ridiculed his fears. Settle loaded his possessions into his wagon and left on Friday November 26.
"But Marcus really had nowhere to go. He was responsible for the lives of 70 in his mission, some of whom were seriously ill. The nearest place of refuge was Fort Walla Walla, but even if Mc Bean had been willing to receive them, it would be impossible for all to go there.
"Mr. Rodgers and I returned to Waiilatpu on Saturday morning the 27th. Marcus told us of the warning Settle had given and his departure, and I related the account of the Indian at the lodge who had asked if the doctor had been killed. All evidence pointed to a plot. I also told him that Bishop Blanchet, Fathers Brouillet and Le Claire had left for the Young Chief's house on the Umatilla where they were to open St. Anne's mission.
"A messenger arrived from Five Crows and Young Chief with a plea for Dr. Whitman to visit their camps and minister to the sick. Because there were already so many dangerous sick at Waiilatpu, it is doubted if he would have gone except for the fact that he had a possible solution for the dangerous situation he was facing. He objected strongly to the Catholic missionaries, but now
they were there, he considered turning his mission over to them, if that was what the Cayuse Indians wanted. Such a move might have appeased the hostility to him, and allowed his family to withdraw in
peace. He left to go visit them on Saturday evening. I requested to accompany him to Umatilla but worried about his leaving his dear wife greatly exhausted with her long care over the sick and three ill of her own, and she was reluctant to see her husband go. She said goodbye at dusk on Saturday with tears in her eyes.
"We arrived thoroughly wet. My horse had fallen and rolled partly over me, causing severe pains in my head and leg during the night. We spread our blankets by a good fire. On Sunday after
devotions we had a good breakfast of potatoes, squash, fresh beef and wheat bread. I commented that they made a much more comfortable living compared to their wretchedness and starvation when we came among them, 11 years before.
"Stickus later came and he said the Indians about the mission were talking bad about Marcus and that he was in danger, especially due to the evil intentions of Joe Lewis and Tamsucky who had said they were going to kill him. Marcus returned home about 10 on Sunday evening. That was the last I ever saw of him."