The Willamette Mission - Marion County, Oregon
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member ddtfamily
N 45° 05.045 W 123° 02.640
10T E 496537 N 4992291
One of a series of signs describing life at the Methodist Mission established here in 1834
Waymark Code: WMHZA4
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 08/30/2013
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 1

Located in Willamette Mission State Park, this marker is one of a series of three describing the Reverend Jason Lee's establishment of the Methodist Mission at this site. From the platform, visitors can view the "ghost buildings," a set of steel "skeletons" which replicate the dimensions, orientation and chimney locations of the mission.

Text of the marker reads:

The Willamette Mission --

first and only mission to the Indians of the Willamette Valley

The "ghost structure" you see across Mission Lake shows the outline of the Willamette Mission school and living quarters. Primitive and uncomfortable, the log building was usually crammed with missionaries and their Indian children students. Used for only seven years, from 1834 to 1841, it was abandoned when the mission moved to a better site at "Chemeketa," now Salem.

It began in the rain.
Exhausted by a seven-month journey across the continent, Methodist Missionary Jason Lee, his nephew Daniel Lee and two lay helpers arrived here in October, 1834--just in time for Oregon's relentless winter rains. Desperate for shelter, they hastily built the wing on the left (in the illustration below), moving in even before the roof was finished. By February, they were sharing their two rooms with three orphaned Indian children who had arrived "filty, nearly naked, and covered with vermin [lice]."

The center wing was completed in spring, 1836. By then there were 19 children, plus the teacher, Cyrus Shepard, who had arrived from Fort Vancouver. The right wing was the last to be built.

A community grew...
Additional help, including women, started arriving from the East in 1837. In its final years the mission included farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, a cabinetmaker and more teachers, as well as wives and children. By then, the original building was surrounded by fields, barns, workshops, houses, and nearly everything needed for a self-sustaining community.

...but was abandoned
Jason Lee had selected a poor site. Clouds of mosquitoes, a lack of water power, and the eroding riverbank made it clear that the mission must move. (Mission Lake, at that time, was a channel of the Willamette River.) After they were abandoned in 1841, the buildings quickly rotted away. Only the fields remain.

Photo Captions:

  • The mission house as it appeared in 1841. This view is from the other side of the building.
  • An inspiring speaker and fund-raiser, Superintendent Jason Lee sacrificed the last 12 years of his life to the Oregon mission effort.

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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