February 29: Henry & Eliza Spalding

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Alone on the Oregon Trail

Oh no!  When Wayne Sparkman, the  director of the PCA History Center agreed with my suggestion  that I write a year’s worth of Presbyterian people, places, and events, the year of 2012 became the goal for the finished series of historical devotionals.  I readily agreed to the proposal, but then I discovered that 2012 was a leap year, with its corresponding extra day.  Where could I possibly find something associated with Presbyterianism which occurred on February 29?

God is so good!  For it was on February 29, 1836, Rev Henry Spalding and his wife Eliza  boarded a steamer to Ohio to wait for the other Presbyterian missionary couple, the Whitman’s, who would be accompanying them as they traveled to minister to the Nez Pierce Indian tribe in the northwest. The trip in itself would be historic in that Eliza Spalding and Narcissa Whitman would be the first white women to travel on the historic Oregon Trail. They would be the first women to cross the Continental Divide.

The first leg of the travels were on the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. When they reached present day Kansas, the party of missionaries traveled on by horseback, making 15 miles on a good day, and camping each night. A company of fur traders shot buffalo which they feasted on night after night. The trip from Kansas to Washington was approximately 2100 miles, and crossed the present day states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.  US 26 later was constructed on this historic path.  They would arrive in what is today Walla Walla, Washington on September 1, 1835, a trip of six months.

Henry Spalding, as a Presbyterian minister, dearly loved his wife Eliza.  As they had sadly lost their first child, being stillborn, Henry was at first hesitant for his wife to travel on such a taxing journey.  Eliza answered her caring husband by saying, “I like the command just as it stands, ‘Go ye into all the world,’ and no exceptions for poor health.”  And so they went on this historic journey to evangelize the native tribes of that northwest part of the country.

Words to Live By: Each Christian should  like the command just as it stands, “Go into all the world to proclaim the good news of eternal life,” without any exceptions to the duty.  God gives strength to do what He commands.

Through the Scriptures: Deuteronomy 3

Through the Standards: Proof texts on the fall of man into sin:

Read Genesis 3; Romans 5:12 – 21; Romans 3:10 – 19;

1 John 3:4
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (NASB);

James 4:17
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (NASB)



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