For Better or Worse

By Elesha Coffman, assistant editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY

This week's featured article at the Christian History Web site, "Tested on All Sides," comprises excerpts from the diary of Mary Richardson Walker (1811-1897), a pioneer missionary to the Oregon Territory. She kept a diary her whole life, opening a window into 1800s family life, ministry, and major events like traveling the Overland Trail. Her husband, Reverend Elkanah Walker (1805-1877), began a diary as well in 1841. Their different renderings of the same days highlight their distinct roles and unique personalities—and the huge differences between their time and ours.

Saturday, December 25, 1841
Mary: Made, cut & made two pair drawers for A. & a dress & one pair for Elizabeth. My health good except I can not sit long without my sides aching [Mary was pregnant at the time] so I mix in my house work to rest me & sew a great part of the time.

Elkanah: Taught the children in the morning. I had a request to let the Indians thrash the wheat of the Chief in the new house but did not consent.

Wednesday, March 16, 1842
Mary: Rose about 5 o'clock, had an early breakfast, got my house work done up about 9. Baked six more loaves of bread. Made a kettle of mush & have made out to put my clothes away & set my house in order. May the mercy of the Merciful be with me through the expected scene. Nine o'clock p.m. was delivered of a son.

Elkanah: Mrs. W. was safely delivered of a son this evening. We have every reason for gratitude from our heavenly father for his unnumbered mercies.

Thursday, March 17, 1842 Mary: Rested pretty well last night. The rain disturbed me some. My little boy laid still all night. We call his name Marcus Whitman [after another ...

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