The old West was a rugged, unforgiving place, and for a long time it was thought to be a man’s place, and completely unsafe for women. Men went west, mined for gold, and came home to their families. A man would have to be insane to bring his wife and children to the West. Nevertheless, it was really only a matter of time before someone decided that the west was going to be settled, and it was going to take both men and women to settle the West…otherwise it was always going to be a job site and not a home. Someone had to make the first move, and I can imagine how the parents of those first women must have felt when their daughters told them they were moving out west. It must have been like thinking, “who was this idiot their daughter has married!” Of course, women had come as far as the Rocky Mountains, so going further wasn’t that strange, but it was still the unknown.
On this day in 1836, Narcissa Whitman arrived in Walla Walla, Washington, becoming one of the first Anglo women to settle west of the Rocky Mountains. Narcissa and Marcus Whitman, along with their close friends Eliza and Henry Spalding, had departed from New York earlier that year on the long overland journey to the far western edge of the continent. These days, that trip can be made in a matter of hours, but in those days, it took lots of planning and months to accomplish such a trip. The two couples were missionaries, and Narcissa wrote that they were determined to convert the “benighted ones” living in “the thick darkness of heathenism” to Christianity. I guess there was no specific word for Indians, or Native Americans back then, or she just liked her version better. Mission work was one of the big reasons for heading west…besides land, and gold, of course.
That summer when they crossed the continental divide at South Pass, Narcissa and Eliza became the first Anglo-American women in history to travel west of the Rocky Mountains. I suppose it was like going to another planet to the women, who went with no real idea of what they would be facing in the new frontier. Toward the end of their difficult 1,800 mile journey, the two couples split up, with the Spaldings heading for Idaho while Narcissa and her husband traveled to a settlement near present-day Walla Walla, Washington, where they established a mission for the Cayuse Indians. I can only imagine how the two women must have felt, knowing that it would be a very long time before they had the company of another Anglo woman. For 11 years the couples’ missionary work went well, and they succeeded in converting many of the Cayuse to Christianity. Then in 1847, a devastating measles epidemic swept through the area, killing many of the Cayuse, who had no immunity to the disease, while leaving most of the white people at the mission suspiciously unharmed. Convinced that the missionaries or their god had cursed them with an evil plague, a band of the Cayuse Indians attacked the mission and killed 14 people, including Narcissa and her husband on November 29, 1847. Narcissa Whitman thus became not only one of the first white women to live in the Far West, but also one of the first white women to die there too. She was just 39 years old at the time she was murdered.
From the time the United States first declared their independence, there was a dispute over the border between the United States and its northern neighbor, Canada. In 1818, the situation finally got to a point whereby a final decision had to be made. It was determined that a convention needed to be held to handle the dispute. The convention, known as the London Convention, Anglo-American Convention of 1818, Convention of 1818, or simply the Treaty of 1818, was to discuss fisheries, boundary and the restoration of slaves between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Treaty of 1818 was signed during the presidency of James Monroe, and it resolved the boundary between the United States and Canada, then owned by the United Kingdom, once and for all. The treaty allowed for joint occupation and settlement of the Oregon Country, known to the British and in Canadian history as the Columbia District of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and also took in New Caledonia, near Australia.
It was ultimately decided that the boundary line should be a straight one, because it would be easier to survey. The prior boundaries were based on watersheds, and were difficult to survey. The treaty marked both the United Kingdom’s last permanent major loss of territory in what is now the Continental United States and the United States’ only permanent significant cession of North American territory to a foreign power. Britain ceded all of Rupert’s Land south of the 49th parallel and west to the Rocky Mountains, including all of the Red River Colony south of that latitude, while the United States ceded the northernmost tip of the territory of Louisiana above the 49th parallel.
Of course, the prior border from the Great Lakes to the east coast, was already established, so it isn’t straight, but the northwestern border is a straight line. I always thought that was odd, and didn’t know why it was that way. I don’t know if I was not paying attention in history class, which was not my favorite subject in my youth, although I don’t really know why it wasn’t, because now I find it quite fascinating. It’s interesting to find out that the northern border was simply a matter of convenience, and a bit of the barter system, if you will. In order to solve the border war, of sorts, Canada (United Kingdom) gave a little, and the United States gave a little. The end result was a clear cut border, and really, peaceful neighbors. I think the was a good way to settle things.
My nephew, Barry Schulenberg’s wife, Kelli is a summer girl. Winter is simply not her style. I can relate to that, because if you are the kind of person who loves to get outdoors and do some hiking, winter really cramps your style. Most summer girls don’t snow ski, ice skate, or snow mobile, because those things require cold weather. Even if you dress warmly…it just isn’t enough. A summer girl loves the warm weather. The heat goes clear to your bones and after the long winter, and even the early spring…you are finally warm. The thing that probably surprises me the most is that while Kelli is a summer girl, she has never lived anywhere but in the north, and at least for now, that doesn’t look like it will change soon.
I suppose that there are a lot of things that are harder to do in the winter. It can be rather cold riding horses or bicycles. Even driving a car is no fun in winter’s snow. Slick roads make driving treacherous, especially when you live in the country, as Kelli and Barry do. Kelli, especially doesn’t like driving on slick roads, and so she often rides into town with Barry, so she doesn’t have to drive the roads herself. I can understand that, because Bob and I used to live in the area they do. It is something I can’t say that I miss in the slightest.
For Kelli and Barry, summer means travel and concerts. Their weekends, during the summer months, often include day drives to Colorado, just to look at the beautiful scenery, and do a little shopping at their favorite stores. I can relate to that too, because while I don’t care much for shopping or concerts, I love nice long drives and beautiful scenery. Being nature girls, probably makes us both feel the same way about the scenic drives you can find in the Rocky Mountain area. Wyoming and Colorado are both filled with mountain scenes and lots of rivers and creeks. Camping and hiking can be done in so many places in the Rocky Mountains. Barry and Kelli have been to a number of them too.
Kelli loves animals too, especially their dog, Dakota, and donkeys, which she doesn’t own any of yet, but given time, I think she just might someday. That was one of the reasons they bought a place out in the country, and while this place didn’t turn out to be exactly what they had hoped for, in time it will either become what they want or they will find a different place that will provide what is needed to fulfill their dreams.
As winter approaches, I’m sure Kelli will be staying at home more, doing her nesting. She loves her home and works hard to make it pretty…with a western flair. Staying home and reading or getting on Facebook and Twitter are favorite pastimes of Kelli’s…when she can’t be outside hiking or riding her bicycle that is. Today is Kelli’s birthday. Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!