Failure and Success - Marion County, Oregon
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member ddtfamily
N 45° 05.042 W 123° 02.640
10T E 496537 N 4992286
One of a series of signs describing life at the Methodist Mission established here in 1834
Waymark Code: WMHZC3
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 08/31/2013
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:

Failure and success.

The Methodist missionaries failed to reach their main goals: to convert the Indians to Christianity, and to teach them how to live like American farmers. Yet they helped to lead Oregon toward becoming an American state.

The dream...
In the early 1830's, Americans assumed that the distant Oregon country was untouched by white influences, and that it would remain that way for decades to come. The Methodists hoped to use that time to transform Oregon's Indians into sturdy Christian American farmers, immune to any evil or temptation that secular white settlers might someday bring. The missionaries would win a glorious victory.

...and the reality.
Although whites were few in number, the diseases they introduced to the Northwest, such as smallpox, tuberculosis, and malaria, had been destroying Indian lives for about 60 years. When Jason Lee arrived, native populations were already a fraction of what they had once been, and native cultures were collapsing. Every year brought more death and destruction.

Meanwhile, the number of whites increased every year. In 1843, only nine years after the mission began, the first large wagon train of permanent settlers arrived in the Willamette Valley. Many followed. The valley was rapidly becoming a land of American farms and towns.

The end...
In 1844 the Methodist dream was abandoned. The Willamette Mission--then in Salem--was closed, replaced by churches and circuit riders to serve the white settlers. Ten years later, the few remaining Indians, impoverished and dejected, were forced onto the Grand Ronde Reservation.

...and a beginning.
Even though their mission failed, the missionaries laid the foundation for the Oregon we know today. Their reports and letters encouraged large numbers of Americans to move west. They pushed for an American-style government--the first government in the Northwest--and held prominent political positions. Their "Oregon Institute" became Willamette University, and their Chemeketa community became Salem, Oregon's capital.

Photo Captions:

  • Built in 1841, the Jason Lee House was the first building erected by the missionaries at "Chemeketa," now Salem. You can tour this house and other historic buildings at Mission Mill Museum in Salem.
  • The Indian Manual Labor School in Salem, begun by Jason Lee in 1841, became the Oregon Institute when the Willamette Mission closed. The Oregon Institute later became Willamette University.
  • After the Methodists closed the mission to the Indians, they sent circuit riders to the settlers.

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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