Sunday, December 27, 2015

Henry Harmon Spalding --by CM Drury

Henry Harmon Spalding: Pioneer of Old Oregon – by Clifford M. Drury

History / Old Oregon
438 pages
4 Stars

I did not find this book as engaging as the two volumes by Drury about the Whitmans. Possibly because much of the same territory was covered; possibly because I had hoped to find more about Eliza Hart Spalding, his first wife, and her thoughts and contributions, and possibly; because I don't think I liked old Henry all that much. Still as a history of the opening of the Oregon Country, as a history of the early pioneers, this book was fascinating, and worth the time to read.

Drury was both an historian and a minister, so he brings a special insight into what these early pioneers had to up with put. This well-written book was published before the two volumes on the Whitmans, and during the intervening time, Drury uncovered new information. In this book, he states the idea that Spalding proposed to Narcissa before Marcus, and was refused, was false. In the later books, he found information to verify that. (I would love to find a copy of Eliza's diary of the overland journey the Spaldings and Whitmans made together. How did she feel, what did she think, every time Spalding looked at Narcissa? She knew about the prior proposal, what did she think of being 'second choice'?)

There are many illustrations and photos in this book that were not available during the time of the Whitmans. This book contains information somewhat different from the other one about the massacre. Whereas the Whitmans spent their time with the Cayuse, the Spaldings were with the Nes Perce. Spalding was fiercely loyal to 'his' Nez Perce, and resented interlopers. And he had the right idea, apparently, of teaching them in their language, of teaching them to farm rather than follow the game trails all year, of "civilizing" them. He and Eliza are well thought of by the Nez Perce this day. While I don't think we would have ever been fast friends, I hold a great deal of respect for both Henry, and Eliza, and his second wife, Rachel.

If you're a history buff interested in the Oregon Country and how it was opened to the emigrants, I recommend this book. This book, like the ones on the Whitmans, uses footnotes not end notes. A big plus in my mind!

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