The Whitman Mission National Historic Site (tel. 509/529-2761 or 509/522-6360; www.nps.gov/whmi), 7 miles west of Walla Walla, just off U.S. 12, is dedicated to a tragic page in Northwest history. Missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were among the first settlers to travel to the Northwest and arrived in this area in 1836. Although the Whitmans had come here to convert Indians, Marcus Whitman was also a doctor and often treated the local Cayuse people. During the mid-1840s, a wagon train brought a measles epidemic to the area, and the Cayuse, who had no resistance to the disease, began dying. Though Whitman was able to save his own family, most of the Cayuse who contracted the disease died from it. Legend has it that the Cayuse had a tradition of killing medicine men who could not cure an illness, and on November 29, 1847, several Cayuse attacked and killed the Whitmans and 11 other residents of the mission. The massacre at the Whitman mission prompted a war on the Cayuse and a demand for territorial status for what was at that time the Oregon country. In 1848, in response to pleas brought about by the Whitman massacre, Oregon (which included present-day Washington state) became the first territory west of the Rocky Mountains.
Today, nothing remains of the mission, but a trail leads through the mission site and the building locations are outlined with concrete. An interpretive center provides historical background on the mission and has artifacts from the days when the Whitmans worked with the Cayuse. The site is open daily from dawn to dusk; the visitor center is open from 8am to 6pm in summer and from 8am to 4:30pm in other months (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day). Admission is $5 per person or $10 per family.
In town, the Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Rd. (tel. 509/525-7703; www.fortwallawallamuseum.org), is a collection of pioneer-era buildings, including log cabins, a one-room schoolhouse, an old railway station, and several other buildings. It's open April through October, daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. In addition to displays on pioneer life, there's a large collection of horse-era farming equipment, including an old combine pulled by 33 life-size fiberglass mules. There are also living-history programs here on Sunday afternoons at 2pm.
If you appreciate old homes, then the Kirkman House Museum, 214 N. Colville St. (tel. 509/529-4373; www.kirkmanhousemuseum.org), an impressive brick Victorian home built in 1874, is also worth a visit. Inside you'll find rooms full of period antiques. The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sunday from 1 to 4pm. Admission is by donation.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.