Spalding was sent away as a baby of 14 months to be fostered. When he grew up he was ordained a Presbyterian minister. He translated St. Matthew's gospel into Nez Perce and worked with the Nez Perce until his death. He was an associate of Marcus Whitman but was not a victim of the Whitman Massacre.
He was also responsible for introducing the potato into cultivation in Idaho, in the 1830s at Lapwai.
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