Catherine Sager was born in Ohio in 1835, the third of seven children of Henry and Naomi Sager. Sager was a pioneer farmer, blacksmith and workman; Naomi a teacher. Elizabeth, their fourth child, was born in 1837.
The Sagers moved from place to place in Ohio, and in 1838 traveled to Missouri. In 1844, having heard of Marcus Whitman's venture across the Rockies, they decided to follow him to Oregon. During the course of the journey, Henry and Naomi Sager both died, and their seven children (one was born on the journey) were taken by a friend to the Whitman mission, where they were adopted by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. The mission was attacked by Indians in 1847 and two of the Sager children, John and Louisa, were killed, as were the Whitmans. Catherine Sager married Clark Pringle in 1851. Elizabeth Sager, after spending a few years living with different families as a servant, went to live with the Pringles shortly after their marriage and became a teacher.