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Mary Richardson Walker
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.
||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
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
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,
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