Biography of Rev. Elkenah Walker

REV. ELKANAH WALKER. – Rev. E. Walker was born at North Yarmouth, Maine, August 7, 1805, and was the son of a farmer. He was brought up in his native place. He was converted when about twenty-six years old, and soon afterwards began to study for the ministry. He took an academic course, but did not go to college, a fact which he afterwards regretted. he entered Bangor Theological Seminary, Maine, in 1834, and graduated in 1837.

Having given himself to the foreign missionary work, he was appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to South Africa, with Rev. C. Eells. But a fierce war between two native chiefs there detained them; and in the meantime the call from Oregon became so urgent that, with their consent, their destination was changed to this coast. He was ordained at Brewer, Maine, as a Congregational minister in February, 1838, and was married March 5, 1838, to Miss Mary Richardson. She was born at Baldwin, Maine, April 1, 1811. Before her engagement to Mr. Walker she was appointed as a missionary by the board to Siam; but after that event her destination was changed first to Africa and then to Oregon.

The next day after their marriage they started on their bridal tour across the Rockies, in company with Rev. C. Eels, A.B. Smith, Mr. W.H. Gray and their wives, where no white women had ever traveled, except Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spalding. They made the journey from Missouri on horseback, and arrived at Doctor Whitman’s station at Walla Walla, August 29, 1838. The next ten years were spent at Tshimakain, Walker’s Prairie, among the Spokane Indians, in company with Rev. C. Eels and wife. At first the Indians were much interested; but, when they found that Christianity meant that they should give up gambling, incantations and such things, their interest grew less, so that none united with the church before they left.

Mr. Walker studied the language of those Indians quite thoroughly, and learned its scientific, grammatical construction more thoroughly than his companion, Mr. Eells. He prepared a small primer, which was printed in 1841 on the mission press at Lapwai, Idaho, – the only book ever printed in the Spokane language.

After the massacre of Doctor Whitman and others at Walla Walla in November, 1847, they remained at their station until March, 1848, when they went to Fort Colville, where they enjoyed the protection of Chief Factor Lewis until June, when they were escorted to the Willamette valley by Oregon volunteers.

Mr. Walker remained at Oregon City from June, 1848, until 1850, when he moved to Forest Grove, Oregon, which was his home as long as he lived, – nearly thirty years. While at Oregon City he made a tour with Doctor Hart, Indian Agent, through some of the country east of the Cascades, but decided that it was not his duty to return to that region to live, although the Spokane Indians were friendly, and wished him to go. He also, with four other ministerial brethren, organized the Congregational Association at Oregon City in July, 1848.

From 1852 to 1856 he was pastor of a Presbyterian church at Forest Grove; and from 1856 and 1875, with the exception of about three years and a half, he was pastor or joint pastor of the Congregational church at the same place, having been assisted by Rev. S.H. Marsh, E.D., H. Lyman, C. Eells and T. Condon. During that time eighty-two persons united with the church, fifty of them on profession of faith. The church building was also erected during his pastorate at great effort, and at a cost of over seven thousand dollars, of which he gave one thousand.

In 1848 he aided in establishing Tualatin Academy and Pacific University at Forest Grove, of which he was chosen a trustee in 1866, in which capacity he served until his death, – eleven years, – and for which he gave a thousand dollars of his property.

In 1870 he returned to Maine with his wife on a visit, which he greatly enjoyed.

He died at Forest Grove, November 21, 1877, aged seventy-two years. His wife still survives him, and is living at the old homestead. He had eight children, – Cyrus H., Abigail B. (Mrs. J.A. Karr), Marcus W., J. Elkanah, Jeremiah (deceased), John R., Levi C. and Samuel T. Of these, the oldest, Cyrus H., was the first white boy born in Oregon, Washington or Idaho, – December 7, 1838. J. Elkanah has been a missionary in China since 1872; and four of them have at different times been engaged in christian work among the Indians of Oregon and Washington.


Biography, Spokane,

History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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