When Elkanah Walker (1805-1877) was a senior at the Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary in 1836, he was planning a mission career among the Maritime Zoolaks of South Africa. He was told that it would perhaps be better for him to be married before undertaking such a mission. At the same time Mary Richardson (1811-1897) of Baldwin, Maine, was told that she too must be married to become a missionary. The result was a whirlwind courtship and marriage which did not go to South Africa but the equally distant and primitive Oregon Mission. Eventually settling at Tshimakain on Walker's Prairie near Spokane they ministered to the Spokane Indians and their fellow missionaries: Marcus Whitman, Cushing Eells, Henry H. Spalding and William H. Gray and their wives. After the Whitman Mission killings in 1847, the Walkers moved to Fort Colville for nearly three months and then spent the remainder of their days in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Here they helped establish the Congregational Association of Oregon City and Tualatin Academy (now Pacific University) at Forest Grove.
The papers of the Walkers can be divided into three groups: the manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, documents and other papers of the Walkers and their family; photocopies of Walker papers from the files of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) and from the Huntington Library, as well as from the papers at Washington State University; and typescript transcripts of the documents and photocopies.
The original papers of Elkanah and Mary Walker consist of their correspondence, diaries, autograph albums, essays and photographs. In addition there is some correspondence and reminiscences of their children. The extensive correspondence file, while mostly incoming, is very complete for the earlier school days, their courtship and marriage, and their missionary experiences. There is very little regarding their life in the Willamette Valley. Perhaps the largest body of material is family letters from relatives in New England.
In addition there is an extensive run of the diaries of Mary Richardson Walker from 1833-1878, except for the two volumes which are now in the Huntington Library. There is also a volume of Elkanah Walker's diary, 1854-1857, which is primarily a register of ministerial services.
Both of the Walkers maintained autograph albums which were also used in the manner of a guest book while at Tshimakain. Other papers include Elkanah's theological notes made as a student, Mary's essay on the Discouragements & Consolations of missionaries written in 1837, constitutions of Maternal Associations, Elkanah's translation of the Book of Matthew into the Flathead or Spokane language, and Mary's drawings and paintings of botanical subjects.
Sons Joseph and Samuel wrote accounts of their parents which are in the collection, as is a portion of son Levi's scrapbook of clippings. The photographs are mostly portraits of the Walkers and their family.
Rounding out the gaps in the collection are photocopies of the material from the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and the archives of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. These include additional diaries and correspondence. A large part of the photocopies are of original material in the Washington State University Library.
Artifacts are also included in the collection: John Mix Stanley's portrait in oil of Abigail B. Walker, C.A. Geyer's sketch of Tshimakain, a pencil sketch of Mary Walker, and a photograph portrait of Samuel T. Walker; clothing and other textile items; a portable writing desk and bread paddle.
Restrictions on Access :
This collection is open for research use.Preferred Citation :
[Item Description]. Cage 57, Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker Papers . Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
This collection is arranged in four series: Series 1. Manuscripts and papers, 1830-1966; Series 2. Photocopies of documents from Walker collections at other repositories; Series 3. Typescript transcripts; Series 4. Artifacts.
Location of Originals :
Rounding out some gaps in the collection are photocopies of the material from the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and the archives of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. These include additional diaries and correspondence. A large part of the photocopies in the collection are of original material in the Washington State University Library.Acquisition Information :
The papers of Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker were acquired by gift and purchase from members of the family: S.T. Walker, Ruth Karr McKee, Eunice V. Karr, Elda R. Walker, Leva B. Walker, Josephine Claghorn Walker, Herbert J. Gilkey and Nellie M. Walker; and from Dr. C.M. Drury. Much of the collection was acquired through the efforts of Dr. Drury in researching the lives of the missionaries. These materials were acquired by Washington State University Library between 1935 and 1966. In 2014, the textiles and other artifacts in boxes 9-14 were transferred to the WSU Libraries from the WSU Historic Costume and Textile Collection (part of MS.2014.09).Processing Note :
The preliminary processing of the collection in the early 1940s was done by Lucille M. Luttropp, and included the preparation of typescripts of nearly all the manuscript and photocopy material in the collection. Much of this was bound and includes the diaries, the correspondence between the Walker's and the ABCFM, and the correspondence between Elkanah and Mary. Other transcripts, now in chronological order, were also made. In 1972, additional processing was done by Terry Abraham.Bibliography :
These papers were extensively used by Dr. Clifford M. Drury in the preparation of his book Elkanah and Mary Walker; pioneers among the Spokanes. (Caldwell, Caxton, 1945. 283 p. illus.) Portions were also edited and used by Ruth Karr McKee, a grand-daughter of the Walkers, in Mary Richardson Walker: her book. (Caldwell, Caxton, 1945. 357 p. illus.)
Dr. Drury described this collection in the Oregon Historical Quarterly 42 (September, 1941) 269-271.
In addition to manuscripts the Washington State University Library has received a large collection of books owned and used by the Walkers. These books are now cataloged and a web site devoted to the library may be found on the WSU MASC web site.
Additional materials on the Walkers may be found at the Whitman National Monument Collections, Walla Walla (NUCMC 61-1597); at the University of Oregon Library (Schmitt); Yale University Library (Washington); the Oregon Historical Society Manuscript Collections; at the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California (NUCMC 61-2207); and in the papers of C.M. Drury at the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane (NUCMC 61-1109). The archives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions are now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University (NUCMC 61-1964).
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.