Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Whitman Massacre

The Whitman Massacre of 1847 –by Catherine, Elizabeth & Matilda Sager

Nonfiction / History
208 pages
4 Stars

It is, perhaps, not fair to give such a riveting story only 4 stars, but I often found it confusing, in great part, I am sure, that the original was written by long hand and the conventions of the day were not set as they are now.

Seven Sager children made it to the Whitman Mission after losing both parents on the way. They did not, as a popular book and movie has made out, come alone, but were brought by the wagon master and helpful people within the train.

The Whitman's adopted them and they stayed at the Mission until the massacre when the two boys were killed, and a younger girl died of complications or neglect, from the measles. (Once the massacre started, there was no one allowed to care for the recovering children.)

Of the four remaining girls, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Matilda each wrote their recollections of what happened, and the time-line of events. That they do not always match is to be understood and accepted. Every person sees and hears the same thing differently, add to that time and memory, and well, that's why eye-witnesses are not as good in a Court of Law as forensics and DNA. I don't believe Henrietta Naomi ever wrote anything that was published. She was very young and possibly had no memories of the massacre. She also died young, at age 26.

What confused me were the lack of names and often the lack of quotations. I was not always sure who spoke. Or to whom the missive was addressed. Probably at the time the book was originally published, people remembered, and the names were not as important. But I would like to know.

If the history of the Oregon Country is of interest to you, I do recommend this book. (I've read it twice). My book is a hard back, purchased at the Whitman Mission several years ago, and I am delighted to see it is still in print.

It shows the Whitmans as they were--genuine people who truly cared about people, and did not differentiate between white and red skin color.

No comments:

Post a Comment