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Mrs. Mary Richardson Walker


Mrs. Walker was born at Baldwin, Me., April 1, 1811. Her parents, Joseph and Charlotte (Thompson) Richardson, came of old American families, and for several generations were prominent members of the Congregational church. The Thompson's were originally of Scotch descent, the ancestry being traceable back for upwards of two hundred years. Count Rumford was of this family stock. Judge D. P. Thompson, the author of "The Green Mountain Boys," "Lock Amsden" and "May Martin," was a second cousin of Mrs. Walker's. Both her grandfathers were Revolutionary soldiers, Daniel Thompson falling in the second day's skirmish at Lexington. Miss Richardson's parents both had a good education. Her mother was of an intensely religious nature. Her father was a man of sterling worth, and had an original and practical turn of mind, which the daughter inherited.

There were eleven children in her father's family but the eldest child died when Mary was about three months old, leaving her the oldest of the remaining children. She received a good education at the Maine Wesleyan seminary, at Reedfield, Me., which she finished when about 20 years of age, after which she taught school until about the time of her marriage. She joined the Congregational Church at about 20, and six years afterwards offered herself to the American board as missionary and was accepted. At first she go as a single lady missionary to Siam, it was time to leave, she became united with Elkanah Walker, a then regraduate from the Bangor theological nary, whom she married March 5, 1838. Previous to this marriage it was the intention board to send them to the Zulus of Africa, but a war in that country between two Zulu chiefs delayed their departure.

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In the meantime, in the latter part of 1837, W. H. Gray came with a message from Dr. Marcus Whitman and Rev. H. H. Spalding, who had come out to Oregon as missionaries the year previous, for more helpers. They readily responded to this call, and started the day after their marriage, on a bridal tour that did not end until they reached Dr. Whitman's station, August 29, 1838, having traveled about 3,500 miles. The journey from the Missouri river over a trackless wilderness, the courage to face unknown dangers, hardships and trials incident to a trip to Oreness was made on horseback, or, rather, for Mrs. Walker, on mule back, for the Indians stole her pony soon after leaving the above river. The winter of 1838-39 was spent at Dr. Whitman’s, where Cyrus H. was born, December 7, 1838. Here they learned to know how horse meat tasted.

March 5, 1839, just one year from her marriage, they left Dr. Whitman's and went 150 miles further north, to Tshimakain, where the mission among the Spokane Indians was located. Here one daughter and four sons were born. This was her home until in the spring of 1848, when that mission was abandoned on account of the Whitman massacre the November previous. Nearly two years were spent in Oregon City, or until the fall of 1849, when the family removed to Forest Grove, which was her home until her death.

The summer of 1871 she accompanied her husband on a visit to their New England homes, after an absence of 33 years. She was left a widow, by the death of her husband, November 21, 1877. During the greater part of the succeeding years her affairs were looked after by her youngest born, Samuel T. In later years of her life her mind was sadly clouded, requiring patient and even heroic watchfulness,, that was faithfully rendered by her sons, Samuel T. and Levi C., she dying at the home of the latter. She was widely known as "Grandma Walker," and when her death took place, December 5, 1897, the sad news was swiftly heralded all over the North Pacific coast. She was laid to rest beside her husband and two sons, who had preceded her, on the 59th birthday of her eldest born. The funeral discourse was delivered by Rev. Myron Eells, in compliance with her request, made some time previous to her death. She was the last to die of the missionaries sent out by the American board, the longest on the coast, and the oldest when called from earth.

Source: Oregon Native Son and Historical Magazine, June 1899


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