The Willamette Station of the Oregon Mission - Salem, Oregon
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member ddtfamily
N 44° 56.070 W 123° 01.592
10T E 497906 N 4975674
Marker provides the history of the Methodist mission to the Willamette Valley
Waymark Code: WMH46T
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 05/19/2013
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 3

This marker is located within the grounds of the Mission Mill Museum park and describes the establishment of the Methodist mission in the Willamette Valley. In the background of the wide-view photo is the historic Jason Lee House. The text reads:


The Oregon Mission (1831-1846) began as an effort by the Methodist Episcopal Church to convert the Native Peoples of the far West. Although the Mission largely failed in its initial goal, it had a profound effect on the future of education, government and immigration in Oregon.

According to a story in the Christian Advocate and Journal, in 1831 four Nimi'ipuu (Nez Perce) Indians walked from the Oregon Country to Missouri to meet with General William Clark, the Indian Agent at St. Louis. It was reported that they were seeking the book a White man had told their people about that contained instructions on how to converse with the Great Spirit and join Him after death. How much truth there was to this account is unclear, nonetheless, the Methodists took the story as a cry for help by the Indians of the West.

The first to answer this call was Reverend Jason Lee, who was ordained into the New England Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and in 1833 was charged with leading the Oregon Mission. Guided by entrepreneur Nathaniel Wyeth, Rev. Jason Lee, his nephew Rev. Daniel Lee, Cyrus Shepard and P.L. Edwards, with aid from John McLaughlin of the Hudson's Bay Company, established the Willamette Mission Station in 1834.

They located their Mission in the Willamette Valley, about 10 miles north of present-day Salem, and called it Mission Bottom. There they slowly built log cabins and a school. In the first year, there were 14 Kalapuya Indian students in the Mission's school. Seven of these students died and five ran away. In 1836, there were 25 Kalapuya students of which sixteen died. The Native Peoples of the Valley were dying at a horrendous rate and it appears this may have been due in part to diseases unwarily brought by the new immigrants.

In March 1836, Lee wrote to the Mission Board telling of their need for tradesmen and farmers, complaining that there was little time for the business of religion, education and conversion. This resulted in two reinforcements being sent in 1837 and one in 1840. In 1841, serious flooding resulted in the relocation of the Willamette Station to Chemeketa Prairie. The Mission Bottom site is now preserved at Willamette Mission State Park. The Chemeketa Prairie site grew to become Salem.

Photo Captions:

  • This is a sketch of the original Willamette Mission Station at the Mission Bottom site.
  • A few of the missionaries who lived at the Willamette Station: William Willson, Daniel Lee, Chloe Clark Willson, Gustavus Hines, Ira Babcock
  • Grand Ronde trial judge Joseph Shangretta was a Kalapuya/Iroquois who was educated at the Mission Bottom site as a young man.

Click a photo to enlarge

Historic Topic: Pioneer

Group Responsible for placement: Historical Society

Marker Type: City

Region: Willamette Valley

County: Marion

State of Oregon Historical Marker "Beaver Board": Not listed

Web link to additional information: Not listed

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