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TIL: Marcus Whitman

Posted by joeabbott on January 19, 2013

P1020466While touring the Washington State Capitol, I noticed a statue of Marcus Whitman in the entryway: which, at over 10’ in height, would be hard to miss! However, the plinth on which the statue stands carries the quote

My plans require time and distance.

And for some reason, that pithy phrase stuck with me enough to mark as something I like (TIL == Things I Like).

I’d never heard of Marcus Whitman before then, did a small amount of research and found him to be a pioneer, missionary, and doctor. He helped define the thoroughfare that would be known as the Oregon Trail and settled in an area around current day Walla Walla, WA. It was ultimately a sad but tragically familiar story in that the White settlers brought European diseases to the Native peoples. The story is saddened further in that, as a doctor, Whitman apparently tried to help all those afflicted (both Native Americans and the Whites) but was unable to stem the small pox (another source stated it was measles) plague that ultimately killed 50% of the Native tribe (the Cayuse) they were living among.

The Native Americans both noted that the Whites didn’t seem to suffer as much and have a belief amongst their people that if they believe a medicine man (doctor) could have saved someone but didn’t, the doctor’s life could be taken. In a glimpse that something stronger was brewing, the Native peoples wiped out many of the White settlers, took many more as hostage, and torched most of the town that had been built up. And, in an all-too-familiar replay of history, the response and retribution was deadly.

A sad story but I still looked upon the bronze figure of a man who fundamentally knew what he wanted to do and knew it well enough to utter that sentence: My plans require time and distance. Some day I may have that vision, too, but for now, I’ll just keep finding inspiration where I can and continue typing these little stories.

Thanks for stopping in.


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