Fort Walla Walla Museum to present early trader, missionaries' daughter

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WALLA WALLA -- Hudson's Bay Company trader Pierre Pambrun, and early missionary daughter and farm wife Eliza Spalding Warren will be portrayed at Fort Walla Walla Museum this weekend. Performances are at 2 p.m. each day in the museum's pioneer village, 755 Myra Road.

Pambrun will be portrayed on Saturday by his great-great-grandson, Sam Pambrun, local historian, teacher and past president of the Umatilla Historical Society.

Eliza Spalding Warren will be portrayed by Eatonville, Wash., resident Harriet Hart Beach on Sunday,

In the first half of the 19th century, when the word "fort" meant "trading post" in the Mid-Columbia region, one man stood out. Pierre Pambrun took charge of Fort Nez Perce at Wallula in the fall of 1831, arriving from his previous Hudson's Bay Company post at Fraser Lake in what is now British Columbia.

Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun was born at L'Islet, Quebec, in December 1792. He served the Canadian Voltigeurs as a lieutenant in the War of 1812 before joining the Hudson's Bay Company as a clerk in 1815.

In 1816, Pierre was captured by Northwest Company employees at the Seven Oaks Massacre at Red River in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He spent two years in Montreal and London, testifying in court proceedings brought by the Hudson's Bay Company to recover damages.

Pierre first crossed the Rocky Mountains in 1823, to New Caledonia, now British Columbia. He and his wife, Catherine, met Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in 1836 at Fort Nez Perce, and accompanied them down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver. Pierre and Marcus selected the site for the Whitmans' mission and Pierre negotiated with the Cayuse Indians for permission to build the Waiilatpu Mission. Catherine assisted Narcissa when the Whitman's daughter, Clarissa, was born. Pierre also met other well-known immigrants and explorers of the Columbia Plateau, including Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, David Douglas, Jason and Daniel Lee, Nathanial Wyeth, John C. Freemont and Kit Carson. The Pambruns and Whitmans remained friends and neighbors until Pierre's death in 1841.

Henry Harmon and Eliza Hart Spalding, along with Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, came to the Northwest in 1836, and the Spaldings' daughter, Eliza, was born Nov. 15, 1837, at Lapwai, the oldest child of the Presbyterian missionaries. She was the first white child born in what is now Idaho.

In 1847, Spalding took Eliza to Waiilatpu to attend school under Narcissa Whitman's tutelage. Shortly after Eliza's arrival, a band of disgruntled Cayuse Indians attacked the mission and killed Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and others. Eliza was among 46 survivors taken hostage. At 10, she was the only person there who could speak to the Indians in their own language, so she was the interpreter until the captives were rescued on Dec. 29, 1847, exactly one month after the massacre.

When she was 17, Eliza married Andrew Jackson Warren, a farmer. She lived until 1919.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Individual admission is free to members and children under 6, $3 for children ages 6-12, $6 for seniors and students, and $7 for adults. Memberships, which include free admission to more than 40 Living History performances and other events, begin at $27. For more information, call 509-525-7703 or email: info@fortwallawallamuseum.org.

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