Kate and Sue McBeth, Missionary Teachers to the Nez Perce
Kate McBeth's Papers
Few of Kate McBeth's letter survive. She did not write to church authorities as
frequently (or as lengthily) as her older sister. Many of the microfilmed letters
are illegible. Kate's free-flowing writing style often neglects grammatical
niceties. Reading and understanding her writing style is laborious, but rewarding.
She is, as Sue McBeth remarked to Dr. John Lowrie, "a very pleasant letter writer,
and her letters have perhaps done good...."
Kate McBeth's journal served multiple purposes. It records church related expenses,
presbytery financial reports, and contains the rough draft for her book The Nez Perce
Since Lewis and Clark. The journal spans early 1891 to 1905 - 1906. Although
the later dates fall beyond the time limits of 1873 -1893 emphasized on this website, the
material contributes significantly to the collection. All original text is maintained
editorially subdivided by topic. The Nez Perce legends section contains legends told
to Kate by Rev. Mark Arthur, her student. The illustrations are drawn by Keith
TwoHatchet, a great-great-grandson of Rev. Arthur.
The diary was kept generally by Sabbath date, i.e., 1st Sabbath in October (abbreviated 1
Sab.) The original spelling and punctuation has been retained. Editorial notes
are enclosed in brackets [ ].
Kate's diary reveals her frustrations and achievements. A sizable component of sibling
rivalry cannot be discounted when analyzing her impressions of people and events.
The distinctly different personalities of the sisters are sharply drawn.
Frequently, Kate disagreed with her older sister on school management issues.
Certainly, Kate sought to expand her teaching role from domestic science to
theology. This ambition placed her in direct competition with Sue's work and
interests. During the times of closest contact between the sisters (1879 - 1885),
Kate wrote regularly. Between 1885 - 1893, entries taper dramatically. In the
last entry, April 23, 1893 (approximately a month before Sue's death), Kate notes she has
"cut out" and destroyed sections of the diary "that ...however true...ought
never to have been written."
The diary is available for scholarly use in the Special Collections department of the
University of Idaho Library.