Eliza was the daughter of Presbyterian Missionaries who survived the Whitman Massacre and subsequent capture by a violent band of Cayuse Indians.
The Whitman Massacre took place on Nov. 29, 1847, at Waiilatpu, a Christian mission on the Walla Walla River. Fourteen residents of the mission were murdered by a disgruntled band of Cayuse Indians who blamed them for a measles epidemic that had killed many members of the tribe, and also feared that there were too many white settlers.
More than forty women and children, including Eliza Spalding, were taken captive by the Cayuse but were later ransomed by Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson Bay Company.
Although only ten years old at the time of the massacre, Eliza played a vital role. She was the only survivor who could speak Cause and understand her captors.