This was the place where Marcus and Narcissa Whitman finally ended their epic 1836 journey. Their small expedition was the first to bring families to Oregon by wagon (See Introduction to the Trail) . The Whitmans named their mission Waiilatpu "place of rye grass."
"The season has arrived when the emigrants are beginning to pass us on their way to the Willamette. Last season there were such a multitude of starving people passed us, that quite drained us of our provisions, except potatoes. Husband has been endeavoring this summer to cultivate so as to be able to impart without so much distressing ourselves."
Beginning in 1845, most wagon trains took a shortcut that bypassed the Whitman Mission. Emigrants came here only if they were sick, or low on supplies. In 1847, one of those emigrant wagon trains brought measles to the mission. The white children recovered, but the local Cayuse tribe had no resistance. Half the tribe died. In a fit of rage, two Cayuse killed Marcus and Narcissa Whitman--and a dozen others. The story of the Whitman mission came to an end.