- Historic Sites
Murder At The Place Of Rye Grass
The call to convert the heathen brought gentle Narcissa Whitman and her husband to Oregon Territory—and a brutal death
August 1959 | Volume 10, Issue 5
Undoubtedly the martyrdom of the Whitmans helped settle the fate of this portion of the American West. Today, historical museums treasure not only Narcissa’s remarkable letters, and other documents from early mission days, but even locks of her bright hair, cut from the mangled body that poor Joe Meek had to help rebury in Waiilatpu ground. The mission precincts have been made a national monument under the supervision of the National Park Service.
The site of the ruins has been carefully excavated and plainly marked for all to see, and there is even a small museum that houses artifacts excavated from the site. Every year thousands of visitors come out from Walla Walla to climb the hill of the rye grass and gaze down at the shaft that marks the grave of the victims. Perhaps they wonder, as they stand there in the clear bright light, where on the green plains below lie the bones of little Alice Clarissa Whitman, that “treasure invaluable” who briefly gladdened the daily cares of the first white woman to cross the Rocky Mountains.