Murder at the Mission : A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy of Lies, and the Taking of the American West
by Harden, Blaine






"The New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14 returns with the riveting and revealing story of one of the most persistent "alternative facts" in American history: the story of a missionary, a tribe, a massacre, and a myth that shaped the American West. In 1836, two missionaries and their wives were among the first Americans to cross the Rockies by covered wagon on what would become the Oregon Trail. Dr. Marcus Whitman and Reverend Henry Spalding were headed to present-day Washington stateand Idaho, where they aimed to convert members of the Cayuse and Nez Perce tribes. Both would fail spectacularly as missionaries. But Spalding would succeed as a propagandist, inventing a story that recast his friend as a hero, and helped to fuel the massive westward migration that would eventually lead to the devastation of those they had purportedly set out to save. As Spalding told it, after uncovering a British and Catholic plot to steal the Oregon Territory from the United States, Whitman undertook a heroic solo ride across the country to alert the President. In fact, he had traveled to Washington to save his own job. Soon after his return, Whitman, his wife, and eleven others were massacred by a group of Cayuse. Though they had ample reason-Whitman supported the explosion of white migration that was encroaching on their territory, and seemed to blame for a deadly measles outbreak-the Cayuse were portrayed as murderous savages. Five were executed. This fascinating, impeccably researched narrative traces the ripple effect of these events across the century that followed. While the Cayuse eventually lost the vast majority of their territory, thanks to the efforts of Spalding and others who turned the story to their own purposes, Whitman was celebrated well into the middle of the 20th century for having "saved Oregon." Accounts of his heroic exploits appeared in congressional documents, The New York Times, and Life magazine, and became a central founding myth of the Pacific Northwest. Exposing the hucksterism and self-interest at the root of American myth-making, Murder at the Mission reminds us of the cost of American expansion, and of the problems that can arise when history is told only by the victors"-





Blaine Harden is a contributor to The Economist, PBS Frontline, and Foreign Policy, and has formerly served as The Washington Post's bureau chief in East Asia and Africa. He is the author of The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot; Escape from Camp 14, an international bestseller published in 27 languages; A River Lost; and Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, which won a Pen American Center citation for a first book of non-fiction.





Marcus Whitman was killed in his kitchen by a tomahawk to his head and a shot to his neck on a foggy November day in 1847. His wife, Narcissa, was taken outside and shot, 11 others were killed, and 47 taken hostage at their Presbyterian mission in Oregon. Their deaths were only the beginning of the story, which would be twisted into a tale that cast the Whitmans as heroes and would lead to the near-extermination of the Cayuse tribe responsible, but the truth was far more complicated. The Whitmans had traveled west more than a decade before, Narcissa and another missionary wife the first white women to cross the Rockies. The years that followed were marred by infighting among the missionaries, selfishness, tragedy, and a measles epidemic that would seal their fate. Harden meticulously outlines how one bitter minister crafted an outlandish lie out of the Whitmans' deaths, promoting a narrow vision of heroic white Christians destined to conquer the land, a vision that persisted into the twentieth century, echoing far beyond the Pacific Northwest. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.





Marcus Whitman was killed in his kitchen by a tomahawk to his head and a shot to his neck on a foggy November day in 1847. His wife, Narcissa, was taken outside and shot, 11 others were killed, and 47 taken hostage at their Presbyterian mission in Oregon. Their deaths were only the beginning of the story, which would be twisted into a tale that cast the Whitmans as heroes and would lead to the near-extermination of the Cayuse tribe responsible, but the truth was far more complicated. The Whitmans had traveled west more than a decade before, Narcissa and another missionary wife the first white women to cross the Rockies. The years that followed were marred by infighting among the missionaries, selfishness, tragedy, and a measles epidemic that would seal their fate. Harden meticulously outlines how one bitter minister crafted an outlandish lie out of the Whitmans' deaths, promoting a narrow vision of heroic white Christians destined to conquer the land, a vision that persisted into the twentieth century, echoing far beyond the Pacific Northwest. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.





Revisionist account of the once-well-known 1847 Whitman Massacre, an event that helped catalyze the American annexation of Oregon and Washington. Harden focuses on the mission founded by Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, a place that became a locus for intrigue and murder. The two Presbyterian missionaries had come with pious intentions but a tendency not to listen to anyone, and they settled not among the more receptive Nez Perce but instead among the Cayuse people. "For eleven years," writes the author, "albeit with mounting disappointment and bitterness, the Indians allowed the Whitmans to preach, teach, farm, and build on their land." But on Nov. 29, 1847, a party of Cayuse massacred the Whitmans and 11 other White male settlers. The targets were deliberately chosen; other Whites were left alone. Harden diligently reconstructs the events over the years leading up to the killing, showing how Whitman opened Cayuse territory to White settlers streaming overland across the Oregon Trail without asking the Cayuse for permission to do so. The events were immortalized by another missionary, Henry Spalding, whom church authorities privately suspected of being a psychopath. Whitman had ridden back all the way to Boston to defend himself from church inquiries and secure further support for his growing mission, stopping in Washington on the way. Spalding, whose career was faltering, inflated the importance of Whitman‚??s trip, imagining that this sojourn in the nation‚??s capital was the "tale of a pious patriot riding east to save Oregon from the perfidious British." Harden‚??s vivid reconstruction illustrates the process of Western mythmaking, beloved of Americans when it paints them in a heroic light; and of cultural collision, with the Whitmans almost willfully ignoring the Cayuse worldview. There‚??s a strong strand of anti-Catholicism, Know-Nothingism, and racism throughout, too, which lends Harden‚??s welcome study an unfortunate timeliness. A boon for those who like their history unadorned by obfuscation and legend. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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