Newlyweds: Mary and Elkanah Walker

NMy mind runs with thoughts as we silently undertake the first leg of our long journey.  Mr. Walker’s dear friend, brother Hamlin  bid us farewell in Portland, and now we are on our way to Saco.  Portsmouth will be our next stop, then a pause in Salem before ending in Boston.  From Boston New York, and then we head west.

I catch a glimpse of the man sitting next to me and we exchange a smile.  Mr.Walker… Elkanah… my husband.

Just under a year ago, has it really only been?  I still recall the emotions, the blush in my cheeks and the uncertainty as he made his proposal, handing me the letter that his friend Mr. Thayer had written on his behalf.  Proposal of marriage, when we had known one another less than two days! And now, not even a year later, we have married and are on our way to the Oregon Country.  It is overwhelming to think of.

Finally, we shall be able to serve our calling!  Since I was bust a child I’ve wanted to undertake this work.  I remember clearly how it hurt me when the letter from the American Board arrived informing me they had no use for an unmarried woman.  That Province should deem to bring Mr. Walker and I together so that we may now set off on this journey and mission together, I am grateful.

It is funny how Mr. Walker is still awkward.  Mr. Thayer’s note had warned that Mr. Walker was a man that must be known in order to be appreciated, and I feel I have scarce gotten to know him.  Though we have exchanged letters for the time of our engagement I know there is much more that I still have to learn.  He is so tall, rather still as awkward as the day he arrived at my home, but I do love him dearly.

My home… the home of my family. I suppose it shall not be my home any more – will I ever see it again?  It is strange, to have said goodbye to my brothers, sister, Mother and Father on the same day I committed to my husband.  To let go of my name — to no longer be Miss Richardson, or simply, Mary – on the same day I say goodbye to the ones I love who have been bound to me by that name.  Do all newlyweds feel this way?  Though, I suppose a great many do not find themselves immediately leaving all they know to go to a foreign land.  It is what I desire, and I am glad to be undertaking this with Mr. Walker, but I shall miss my home and my dear family and friends.


Mary and Elkanah Walker were part of a group of missionaries that traveled across North America in 1837 to serve in the Oregon Country.  They originally settled in the area of Spokane with the Whitman‘s and a number of other families.  Mary and Elkanah would eventually leave Spokane and settle in Cottage Grove Oregon, where they would help in the early establishment of the Tualatin Academy (which woudl eventually become Pacific University).

My interest in the Walker’s grew out of the discovery of Elkanah’s name while I was putting together a typed database of graduates from my seminary, Bangor Theological Seminary.  He was the one that caught my attention (because I certainly hadn’t expected to see mention of towns and university’s I knew from home when I was working with early historical information in Maine!) but it is Mary I have become more and more intrigued by.  Their story is amazing, and I intend to do a lot more research (including getting my hands on the primary source material that is available) and write more on them.  For now, though, I wanted to get into Mary’s head.  Drawing on the small amount of information I’ve been able to access so far, and imagine what it might have been like for her in one particular moment of her life.


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5 thoughts on “Newlyweds: Mary and Elkanah Walker”

    1. One of the really amazing things about Mary’s story is that she left a journal.. kept for herself! So many women in that time were writing for others to read, but she wrote for herself so the diaries are such an amazing thing to read. I’m hoping to do a lot more with her!

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    1. Thank you! That’s one of the reason I’m excited about Mary’s diary… though, being a true New Englander, she isn’t overly emotive even in her writing that she didn’t intend for anyone else to see.

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