Pacific Northwest Missionary Collection
The Pacific Northwest Missionary Collection is a digitized collection of letters, diaries and personal writings belonging to some of the most notable missionary figures who served in the Pacific Northwest during the nineteenth century. The collection also includes official documents, drawings, sketches, photographs, an autograph album, and maps. The Sheppard Foundation helped make this digitized collection possible.
The American Foreign Mission movement was born in the earliest years of the nineteenth century. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), formed in 1810, sent missionary men and their wives to places like India, Sri Lanka, Palestine, and Hawai‘i with a goal of spreading Christianity across the globe. In the 1820s, the board elected to establish missions in what is now the American Pacific Northwest.
This collection offers a wealth of sources generated by Elkanah and Mary Walker, who departed from Maine in 1838 and travelled across the Oregon trail to the Oregon Territory. They were sent as reinforcements for the missionaries already there and were charged with establishing another mission station. Both Elkanah and Mary Walker were prolific writers and recorded their experiences on the trail and at the Tshimakain mission, near current-day Spokane, in great detail. Because the pair was often separated, they also generated a vast correspondence. Mary Walker also wrote home quite frequently, offering a rich description of her life as a mission wife. Many of those letters are digitized here.
The Pacific Northwest Missionary Collection also includes items belonging to Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who are perhaps the best-known missionary couple to serve in the region. In addition, the collection contains several items—including his diary and several letters—belonging to Jonathan Pratt, a colleague of Marcus Whitman’s. Materials belonging to Henry and Eliza Spaulding—who travelled with the Whitmans and established a mission in Lapwai, near present-day Lewiston, Idaho—are also present.
These collections highlight the fervor with which American missionaries approached their work—and the urgency that compelled them to participate in the foreign mission movement. The collection also provides an insight into the day-to-day experience of the men and women who served in this region.
The Pacific Northwest Missionary collection contains both handwritten documents as well as transcriptions. The documents digitized here represent a portion of the collections from which they came.
Creating the collection: With funding from the Harold and Helen Shepherd Foundation, Morgan Clendenning scanned the images and prepared the metadata. Jakob Ullman and Nicole Kindle transcribed the manuscripts and created sound files for some of the documents. Jennifer Thigpen and Trevor James Bond directed the project.