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Oregon Indians of North America--Missions--Northwest, Pacific English
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Jason Lee papers

  • Mss 1212
  • Collection
  • 1834-1845

Collection consists of the personal and professional papers of Reverend Jason Lee. The papers date from 1834 to 1845. Included are Lee’s diary of his overland journey to Oregon and the construction of his mission with entries dating from 1834 to 1838; an 1844 report Lee made to the Methodist Missionary Board; miscellaneous papers related to the illness and death of Lee in 1845; and fragments of an undated biography of Jason Lee likely written by Harvey Kimball Hines. The collection also contains a folder of Anna Maria Pittman Lee's correspondence dated from 1834 to 1835.

Jason Lee was born on June 28, 1803, in Stanstead, Quebec. After his ordination in 1834, Lee and his nephew, Daniel Lee, journeyed overland to Oregon with the intention to establish a mission to minister to the Flathead Indians. He instead established his mission in the Willamette Valley near present-Day Salem, Oregon, in territory that was home to bands of the Kalapuyan people. Lee returned east in 1838 to justify his decision and recruit reinforcements for the Willamette mission, as well as missions at The Dalles and Clatsop plains. In 1840, The Great Reinforcement, a group of 51 men, women, and children, arrived in Oregon on the ship Lausanne in response to Lee’s promotion in the East. In 1843, Jason Lee participated in the founding of Oregon's provisional government and Willamette University. Lee was relieved of his missionary post in 1844. Lee married Anna Maria Pittman, who died in 1838, and then Lucy Lee who died in 1842. Jason Lee died on March 12, 1845.

Lee, Jason, 1803-1845

Letter from Jason Lee to the Christian Advocate and Journal, April 29, 1834

Typed letter written by Reverend Jason Lee to the Christian Advocate and Journal. Written at the Shawnee Mission on April 29, 1834 and published in the Christian Advocate and Journal on June 13, 1834. Letter is titled, "News from Rev. Jason Lee." Lee wrote this letter shortly after his departure from Independence, Missouri as he began his journey on the Oregon Trail to become a missionary in Oregon. He writes of the difficulties he had in finding an adequate crew of men to accompany him on the Oregon Trail. Page 2 of this document was written at a later date, on May 2, 1834. It quotes Mr. Lee's observations of the native tribes in Kansas as he travels on the Oregon Trail. [Lee used language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Lee, Jason, 1803-1845

Letter from Jason Lee to the Corresponding Secretary of the Missionary Society of the Methodist E. Church, March 14, 1836

Typed letter written by Reverend Jason Lee to the Corresponding Secretary of the Missionary Society of the Methodist E. Church. Written at the Mission House on the Willamette River in Oregon on March 14, 1836 and published in the Christian Advocate and Journal on September 2, 1836. Letter is titled, "Oregon Mission." Subjects include illnesses in the region, the mission's "manual labor school", Lee's support for a temperance society, and John McLoughlin's support for the mission. [Lee used language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Lee, Jason, 1803-1845

Reverend Jason Lee's Diary, 1833-1838

Leather-bound diary of the Reverend Jason Lee, Methodist missionary who traveled on the Oregon Trail to Oregon Country in 1834. The first entry is dated August 19, 1833 and the last entry is dated June 1, 1838. Lee first describes his overland journey on the Oregon Trail, leaving Independence, Missouri in April 1834 and arriving at Fort Vancouver, Washington in September 1834. Subjects include obstacles faced on the Oregon Trail, various people met along the journey, and the party's leader, Captain Nathaniel Wyeth. Upon arriving at Fort Vancouver, Lee writes of meeting Dr. John McLoughlin, and heeding McLoughlin's advice that he build his mission 60 miles to the south in the Willamette Valley in Oregon Country. He then writes of building a mission house for the Methodist Episcopal Church, and of his attempts at converting local Native peoples to Christianity. [Lee originally intended to do missionary work among the Flathead Indian tribe, but the area where he eventually settled in the Willamette Valley, near present-day Salem, was home to bands of the Kalapuyan people. Lee used language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Lee, Jason, 1803-1845

"The Late Jason Lee." Sketch written for the Christian Advocate

Handwritten article by Francis Hall for the Christian Advocate and Journal, entitled, "The Late Jason Lee." Page 5 is missing. Hall praises Lee's missionary work in Oregon and defends him from several allegations of wrongdoing. Other subjects include farming at the mission, Dr. John McLoughlin, and the Hudson's Bay Company. Several handwritten notes on back of document from D. Lee, possibly Daniel Lee, including one that reads, "A imfinished sketch from the pen of Hon. Francis Hall designed for the Christian Advocate in 1852. D Lee." Second handwritten note reads, "A sketch published in CA&J, 1845." [Lee originally intended to do missionary work among the Flathead Indian tribe, but the area where he eventually settled in the Willamette Valley, near present-day Salem, was home to bands of the Kalapuyan people. Hall uses language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Hall, Francis

"Flat Head Indian Missionaries."

Typed article written by Samuel Dickinson for Zion's Herald, a Methodist publication. Written in Louisville on March 28, 1834 and published in Zion's Herald on April 30, 1834. Dickinson writes that Reverend Jason Lee arrived in Louisville on March 22, 1834 while on his way to Oregon to become a missionary to the Flathead Indian tribe. The article sums up a missionary meeting in which Lee addressed a small crowd. Lee shared his views of the Flathead Indian tribe, and of the destruction that the white man's introduction of alcohol had caused. The article concludes by stating that Lee left for St. Louis on March 26, 1834. [Lee originally intended to do missionary work among the Flathead Indian tribe, but the area where he eventually settled in the Willamette Valley, near present-day Salem, was home to bands of the Kalapuyan people. Dickinson uses language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Dickinson, Samuel

Meeting Minutes, Special Meeting of Methodist Board of Missions, 1844

Handwritten minutes from a special meeting of the Methodist Board of Missions, held July 1, 1844 in New York. The meeting was called to discuss the Oregon Mission. Reverend Jason Lee was present, along with members of the Oregon Committee of the Episcopal Church. The minutes describe Jason Lee addressing allegations of wrongdoing, speculation, and mismanagement at the Oregon Mission. Lee also addresses allegations against local Native tribes, and defends his decision to build the Mission House in the Willamette Valley. Other subjects include daily life in Oregon, the Hudson's Bay Company, and Lee's conversations with Dr. Joseph (sic) McLoughlin. Lee asks that the Board continue to support the mission. A typed preservation copy of this document is available in file Mss1212_B1F3_002.pdf.

Episcopal Church

Meeting Minutes, Special Meeting of Methodist Board of Missions, 1844, Preservation Copy

Typed preservation copy of Mss1212_B1F3_001. Minutes from a special meeting of a Board of the Episcopal Church, held July 1, 1844. The meeting was called to discuss the Oregon Mission. Reverend Jason Lee is present, along with members of the Oregon Committee of the Episcopal Church. The minutes describe Jason Lee addressing allegations of wrongdoing, speculation, and mismanagement at the Oregon Mission. Lee also addresses allegations against local Native tribes, and defends his decision to build the Mission House in the Willamette Valley. Other subjects include daily life in Oregon, the Hudson's Bay Company, and Lee's conversations with Dr. Joseph (sic) McLoughlin. Lee asks that the Board continue to support the mission.

Episcopal Church

Letter from Jason Lee to the Corresponding Secretary of the Missionary Society of the Methodist E. Church, February 6, 1835

Typed letter written by Reverend Jason Lee to the Corresponding Secretary of the Missionary Society of the Methodist E. Church. Written on the banks of the Willamette River in Oregon on February 6, 1835 and published in the Christian Advocate and Journal on October 30, 1835. Letter is titled, "Flat Head Indians." In this letter, Lee sums up the last leg of his journey on the Oregon Trail, from the Rocky Mountains to Oregon. Subjects include Soda Spring, the Lewis River, Captain Nathaniel Wyeth, and Lee's observations of Native tribes including the Nez Perce, Flathead, Snake, Cayuse, and Wallawalla peoples. He then summarizes his arrival in Vancouver, Washington, his interactions with John McLoughlin, and his subsequent move to the Willamette River, where he built a house. He writes of his observations of the local native tribes, including the Kalapuyan peoples. [Lee originally intended to do missionary work among the Flathead Indian tribe, but the area where he eventually settled in the Willamette Valley, near present-day Salem, was home to bands of the Kalapuyan people. Lee used language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Lee, Jason, 1803-1845

Notes on the life of Jason Lee

Handwritten document containing notes about Jason Lee's life, possibly written by the author Harvey Kimball Hines as he wrote Lee's biography. The pages are numbered 5-13, indicating that the first 4 pages may be missing. The writer praises Lee's bravery and strong Christian faith in traveling to Oregon to do God's work, calling him, "the real pioneer of Civilization and Christianity on the Pacific Coast." Subjects include Lee's efforts to convert Native peoples to Christianity, Dr. John McLoughlin, and the Hudson's Bay Company. [The writer uses language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Hines, H. K. (Harvey Kimball), 1828-1902

Letter from E.W. Sohon to the Editors of Zion's Herald, 1834

Typed letter by E.W. Sohon to the editors of Zion's Herald, a Methodist publication. Written in St. Louis on April 11, 1834 and published in Zion's Herald on May 21, 1834. Letter is titled, "Flat Head Mission." Sohon writes that Reverend Jason Lee and other missionaries have arrived in St. Louis on their way to Oregon to build the Flathead Indian mission. He writes of Lee addressing a meeting, and of Lee's views concerning the importance of missions and the work they undertake with native tribes. Daniel Lee, nephew of Jason Lee, and other speakers echo these beliefs. [Lee originally intended to do missionary work among the Flathead Indian tribe, but the area where he eventually settled in the Willamette Valley, near present-day Salem, was home to bands of the Kalapuyan people. Sohon uses language common to justifying the nineteenth century missionary movement, including using disparaging and inaccurate terms and/or descriptions of Native peoples.]

Sohon, E. W.