The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.XIV. Travellers and Explorers, 18461900
§ 5. Missionaries
South America was not forgotten by our American travellers and explorers, and a naval expedition in 1851–53 carried on an Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon (1854) under William L. Herndon and Lardner Gibbon, while, earlier than this, John Lloyd Stephens was investigating the intermediate part of the Western Hemisphere, publishing his admirable results in Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (1841) and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan (1843). E. G. Squier’s operations came out in Nicaragua (1856) and The States of Central America (1858). Far away in Turkey the Rev. Doctor William Goodell was having the experiences which he recounts in Forty Years in the Turkish Empire (1876), edited by his son-in-law, E. D. G. Prime. Dr. Goodell belonged to a class of workers, the religious missionaries, who travelled far and wide seeking out all manner of places. They also became active in the Far West at an early date. Samuel Parker for the Presbyterian Church went to Oregon in 1836, taking with him a physician, Marcus Whitman. Parker wrote A Journal of an Exploring Tour Beyond the Rocky Mountains (1838), one of the valuable books of the period. Whitman became so deeply interested in the religious welfare of the Indians that he turned missionary and established a working centre at Waiilatpu. Later, in the winter of 1842–43, he made the now much discussed overland journey by the southern route to Washington. This adventure is recorded in How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon (1895) by O. W. Nixon. Whitman is said to have exposed nefarious British designs to the American government, but this service has been disputed on good authority. W. I. Marshall is one of those who oppose the “saviour” idea, and he presents his views in the Report of the American Historical Association (1900) and also in Acquisition of Oregon, and the Long Suppressed Evidence about Marcus Whitman (1911). At any rate, Whitman was a splendid character and devoted his life to work among the Indians, who, imagining some superstitious grievance against the whites, murdered many of them, including their own benefactor and his wife, and held the others prisoners. M. Cannon in his account of pioneer days tells the story of this massacre in Waiilatpu, Its Rise and Fall (1915).
The captives were rescued by the skill and determined bearing of one of the greatest frontiersmen of the West, Peter Skene Ogden. Ogden, while not an American, was next thing to it, as his father was born in Newark, New Jersey, but the family, being royalists, travelled to more genial climes at the outbreak of the trouble with George III. T. C. Elliott, in a very entertaining and instructive pamphlet, Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader (1910), relates the remarkable career of Ogden, chiefly in the region south of the forty-ninth parallel. Ogden wrote Traits of American Indian Life and Character by a Fur Trader (1853), revised in manuscript by Jesse Applegate. Ogden is said to have taken it to Washington Irving, who was prevented by circumstances from editing it.
Most of the travellers who penetrated the Western wilderness in those early days were close and quite accurate observers, and many of their books, like Gregg’s and Kendall’s and Edwin Bryant’s, have become of immeasurable historical value. Another whose works take a similar high place is Thomas Jefferson Farnham. No library of Americana can be considered complete which lacks his Travels in the Great Western Prairies, the Anahuac and Rocky Mountains and in the Oregon Territory (1843), and his Life, Adventures and Travels in California (1849). Farnham followed some seldom travelled trails, and he tells not only what he saw but what he heard—giving in the latter field one of the early descriptions of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, not accurate but interesting. A missionary who roamed widely over Oregon was Father P. J. De Smet, and his writings are among the most vital, especially Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains in 1845–46 (1847) and Letters and Sketches (1843).