Arriving in Walla Walla

September 1, 1836

After growing up in New York state in the early 1800’s, Narcissa Prentiss was swept away by the Second Great Awakening in America. Shortly after turning down one marriage proposal, she agreed to another. Dr. Marcus Whitman and Narcissa were married in February of 1836 and left the following day, en route to Oregon Territory to set up a mission.

On September 1, 1836, Narcissa Prentiss Whitman arrived at Fort Walla Walla (in present day Washington). She and her husband were traveling with Henry Spalding and his wife Eliza, but the group was barely on speaking terms at their point of arrival. Henry had been the first to ask for Narcissa’s hand in marriage back in New York, and spent a great deal of the trip pointing out the fact that Narcissa paled in comparison to the exemplary wife he’d married. And so not one but TWO missions were established…the Whitman Mission and the Spalding Mission. Narcissa would become the first woman to give birth to a white American in Oregon Country.

Eleven years passed (with a tremendous number of events worth reading about…Narcissa Whitman wrote fabulous letters chronicling her life…just an amazing story) before Narcissa and her husband were killed. Dr. Whitman had been a favorite among the Cayuse and Nez Perce tribes until this point. A missionary who could also practice medicine was a bit of an enigma in the West. However, when a measles outbreak began to claim more Native American lives than lives of the white people (whites had a small amount of immunity to the disease built up), the unrest became violent in an event remembered today as the “Whitman Massacre.”

In present day Walla Walla, Washington, you can attend Whitman College, visit Cordiner Hall to listen to the Walla Walla Symphony, and visit any number of restaurants to sample a recipe featuring the world-renowned Walla Walla Sweet Onion.

The following side dish is from Chef Dave Munson and Keystone Fruit Marketing:

Bistro Mashed Sweet Onions and Potatoes

4 sliced Walla Walla Sweet Onions
2 lbs red potatoes
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 cups of ricotta cheese
½ lb butter
½ cup cream
4 T extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Paprika as a garnish
Boil the potatoes with the skin on. Carmelize the onions in the oil. Melt 5 T of the butter with the garlic to brush over the top of the potatoes (at the end). Mix the potatoes, cream, cheese, and onions – mixture should be slightly chunky. Place the potatoes in a large baking dish and bake at 400 degrees, brush with the garlic butter, dust with Paprika, and bake until they are golden brown on top.

Click here to read more about Narcissa Prentiss’ life in Walla Walla

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