Whitman Mission Route

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History[edit | edit source]

The Whitman Mission Route served as the main stem of the Oregon Trail during the earliest years of the mass overland migrations. The Oregon Trail’s route led emigrants out of the Blue Mountains and north to the Whitman Mission, where hungry and road-weary emigrant groups could buy provisions, make repairs, and obtain medical services if needed. The Whitman Mission was an important way-station for Oregon Trail emigrants.

Between 1841 and 1847, the Oregon Trail’s main route stretched from the Blue Mountains’ western summit at Deadman Pass, crossed the Umatilla River and continued northward to the Whitman Mission, where Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa operated a Presbyterian Mission and supplied travelers with much needed services and supplies. Hudson’s Bay trappers, mountain men, explorers, and emigrants traveled to and from Whitmans’ mission. This route remained open until the Whitman Massacre of 1847 when emigrants began crossing through the Umatilla Valley near present Pendleton (bypassing the Walla Walla area, Fort Nez Perces, and the Upper Columbia River Route) on their way to the vast Columbia Plateau.

Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa established the Whitman Mission in 1836. The Whitman Mission remained in operation until 1847, when the Whitmans and several others were killed inside the mission during an Indian attack.