While there was some limited European settlement on the west coast prior to her journey, the popularization of the Oregon Trail for families can be traced to publication of the letters of Narcissa Whitman after her journey in 1836. While in the Black Hills she wrote, “It is astonishing how well we get along with our wagons where there are no roads. I think I may say it is easier traveling here than on any turnpike in the States.” Narcissa came with her doctor husband and other Protestants to establish missions among the American Indians. The Whitmans did much to open the west to emigrant families and you can visit their graves at this 138-acre National Park Service (NPS) site in Walla Walla, Washington.
Museum, film, millpond, Whitman Memorial, Oregon National Historic Trail
The Whitmans set up near Waiilatpu, which translates to “place of the people of the rye grass.” The main Oregon Trail would eventually detour south of their mission, but the couple would still care for stragglers, even adopting 10 children. Following a devastating 1847 measles epidemic they and eleven others were killed by grieving Cayuse families who blamed the doctor for poisoning them. News of the November 29 attack and subsequent retaliations spurred Congress to create the Oregon Territory within the year.
A self-guided interpretive trail leads up to an overlook of Waiilatpu from atop the Whitman Memorial hill. The trail passes a restored millpond and the Great Grave where 13 victims were buried in 1847, including Narcissa Whitman and her husband.
A portion of the Oregon Trail passed through Waiilatpu until rerouted south after 1844.
All roads paved
There is not an NPS campground, but private campgrounds are located in Walla Walla, Washington.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Washington)
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (Washington)
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (Oregon-Washington)
Explore More – In addition to those killed in the attack at Whitman Mission on November 29, 1847, how many others were held hostage for a month until their ransom was paid?