Marcus and Narcissa Whitman along with Henry Harmon Spalding were Presbyterian missionaries who were the first people to roll into what is now Idaho. Literally, they had the first set of wheels to enter the country. Four wheels were on a wagon that got them almost to Fort Hall in 1836 before they decided that a cart would work better to cross the desert land. So, they took two wheels off and converted the wagon to a cart.
Books have been written about both sets of missionaries, so we’re going to do just a touch and go with our airplane-cum-starship, saying only that the Spaldings set up the first mission in what would become Idaho at Lapwai, not far from what would become Lewiston. The Whitman’s mission was near Walla Walla. They were murdered by Indians, and, we don’t have time to tell that whole story, so off we go into the air.
From our perch in the metaphorical sky we spot Perrin Beza Whitman, the adopted son, and nephew, of Marcus and Narcissa. He survived the massacre because he was in the Dalles on an errand when it happened. Zooming over the years Perrin Whitman is seen moving to Lapwai in 1863 to work as an interpreter in the Indian schools. In 1883 he and his family moved to Lewiston, where he became a trusted businessman for his remaining years, passing away in 1899.
Here’s where we swoop to pick up the trail of Perrin Whitman’s daughter, Elizabeth Auzella “Lizzie” Whitman, born in 1856. We’re picking up speed, so skipping to 1875 we find Lizzie marrying Harry K. Barnett, a title company executive in Lewiston. Lizzie was a singer, entertaining the community with her voice, and playing guitar and violin as well. No time for a standing ovation, though, because we’re back in the air and following Lizzie’s son, Marcus—no doubt named after the murdered Marcus.
Marcus Barton had a wife, but we’re going too fast to mention her—nearing light speed now. Marcus had a daughter who was named Virginia. Virginia—buckle in tight—met a man named Wilford Wing at the University of Washington where both were students. They married and had some kids, one of whom was named Grace Barnett Wing, born in 1939. The family ended up in Palo Alto, where Grace went to high school before building the nearby city of San Francisco out of rock and roll.
And that’s the Marcus and Narcissa Whitman—and Idaho—connection to Grace Slick, one of rock and roll’s greats and the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane-cum-Jefferson Starship.