The Willamette Mission - Marion County, Oregon
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member ddtfamily
N 45° 05.045 W 123° 02.646
10T E 496529 N 4992291
Sign marking the site where U.S. government began in the Pacific Northwest
Waymark Code: WMHYFZ
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 08/27/2013
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 1

Part of Willamette Mission State Park, this landmark describes the history of the Reverend Jason Lee's establishment of the Methodist Mission at this site. From a nearby platform, visitors can view the "ghost buildings," a set of steel "skeletons" which replicate the dimensions, orientation and chimney locations of the mission.

In 1834, Rev. Jason Lee established Willamette Mission. It included a Mission House which served as a school, chapel, and living quarters. Also on site was a barn, blacksmith shop, granary, and hospital. An archaeological dig confirmed the location of the mission with the recovery of more than 7,500 artifacts at the site.

This site proved difficult to maintain due to flooding and in 1841 Lee moved the mission to what is now the Mission Mill property in present-day Salem.

Text of the marker reads:



The Willamette Station of the Methodist Mission in Oregon stood across Mission Lake from this marker. It was established in 1834 by the Rev. Jason Lee and four assistants. They traveled overland from the East Coast to teach Christianity, agriculture, and domestic arts to native Indians in the Oregon Country. On October 6, they selected this site among the Kalapuya Indians. Nearby was a scattered community of French Canadians, retired employees of the Hudson's Bay Company, and their Indian wives and children.

The missionaries immediately began to build a one-room log "Mission House" to use as a school, chapel, hospital, kitchen and living quarters. They started a school for children that winter.

A barn was completed soon after the Mission House. The missionaries fenced 30 acres with split rails and began farming in the spring of 1835. They added another log room to the Mission House the next winter. By 1836, the mission was caring for about 20 Indian children, the farm was producing and the endeavor was becoming self-sufficient.

A small party of reinforcements, including the first white women to enter the Willamette Valley, arrived by ship in May, 1837. Among the new arrivals were Anna Maria Pittman, who soon married Jason Lee, and the Beers family with three small children. Rachel Beardsley Beers, wife of mission blacksmith Alanson Beers, brought with her a cutting of a favorite rose. She presented it as a wedding gift to Anna Maria Pittman and Jason Lee. Now known as the "Mission Rose," the roses around this marker are directly descended from that original start. Anna Maria Pittman Lee and her newborn child died here a year after she arrived.

A "Second Reinforcement" arrived by ship in September, 1837, and additional buildings, including a blacksmith shop, granary and hospital were built. A combination school and dining hall was added, probably as a wing to the Mission House, in 1839.

A "Great Reinforcement" of more than 90 adults and children arrived by ship in June, 1840. Activity was expanded to include missionary operations at Wascopam (now The Dalles), Clatsop Plains near Astoria, Nisqually on Puget Sound, and a commercial operation at Oregon City. The missionaries also maintained contact with missions at Waiilatpu (now Walla Walla, Washington) and the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii).

The old "Oregon Country" (now the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Wyoming and Montana) was jointly claimed by the United States and Great Britain in those years. The presence of American missionaries helped attract American settlement. This in turn led to establishment of an American "Provisional Government" in 1843 and United States jurisdiction in the Oregon Country followed after 1846. Many early missionaries played leading roles in development of pioneer law, government, commerce and education.

After 1840, operations were shifted from this site to Chemeketa (now Salem) and this property was sold. Jason Lee returned to the East and died at his birthplace on the Quebec-Vermont border in 1845. The great flood of 1861 severely damaged the former mission site and changed the river course to its present channel. The old channel is now Mission Lake. Archeological excavations in 1980 confirmed the location of the site and uncovered remaining artifacts associated with the old mission.

Photo Captions:

  • This sketch of the mission was made from about where the community of Wheatland is now located. It shows the old river channel, now Mission Lake, and mission buildings. These sketches were made in 1841 by Navy Lieutenant Henry Eld, a member of the U.S. Surveying and Exploring Expedition of 1837-42.
  • This is how the Mission House appeared in 1841, about the time it was abandoned. This view is from the other side of the old river channel from where you are now. The Mission House faced east. The river was immediately behind it to the west.

Click a photo to enlarge

Historic Topic: Pioneer

Group Responsible for placement: State of Oregon

Marker Type: Trail

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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