|Born||June 28, 1803|
|Died||March 12, 1845 41) (aged|
|Spouse(s)||Anna Maria Pittman|
|Church||Methodist Episcopal Church|
|Title||Superintendent of the Oregon Mission|
Jason Lee (June 28, 1803 – March 12, 1845) was a Canadian Methodist Episcopalian missionary and pioneer in the Pacific Northwest. He was born on a farm near Stanstead, Quebec.
After a group of Nez Perce and Bitterroot Salish men journeyed to St. Louis requesting the Book of Heaven in 1831 (their people had heard of it years before), Lee and his nephew Daniel Lee volunteered to serve as missionaries for them. Both were appointed as missionaries by the church, given orders to open and maintain a mission among the Salish. At the time, the Pacific Northwest was "jointly occupied" by the United Kingdom and the United States as agreed to in the Treaty of 1818. The missionaries went overland in 1834 with Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, an American merchant who previously visited the Columbia River basin to enter the regional fur trade market. The party of priests and fur trappers arrived at Fort Vancouver later that year and were greeted by Chief Factor John McLoughlin. While there, McLoughlin influenced Jason Lee to open the station among the Kalapuya in the Willamette Valley rather than the Salish.
Jason Lee was the first of the Oregon missionaries and instrumental in the American settlement in the Oregon Country.
Jason Lee was the youngest of fourteen siblings.  At the age of 13 Lee was self-supporting, converted to Methodism at 23 and later attended the Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy. While studying there, he became friends with Osman Baker and graduated in 1830.  Between 1830 and 1832 he was minister in the Stanstead area and taught school. Lee had applied to the London-based Wesleyan Missionary Society to proselytize to the First Nations of Canada but his application wasn't processed as Richard Watson, the secretary had died. 
In 1832, four men of the Nez Perce and Bitterroot Salish or Flathead tribe journeyed to St. Louis and requested from resident William Clark for someone to bring the "Book of Heaven", prophesied in a vision, to the Salish people.  An account was editorialized by the Christian Advocate and Journal the subsequent year, calling upon its readers to send preachers to the Rocky Mountains and beyond. The article quickly was given the attention of Wilbur Fisk, President of the Wesleyan University, who tabled a proposal for the Methodist Church to establish a presence among the Salish. Jason Lee, a former student of Fisk, and his nephew Daniel volunteered for service in the planned mission among the Flathead Indians.  
Arrangements were made with Nathaniel Wyeth for the small missionary group to travel with his party. In early 1834 the combined group departed from Independence, Missouri.  Lee didn't refrain from judging and comparing the various native cultures along the Columbia River basin while en route west. He found the Walla Walla in particular "far more filthy and indolent than the Kioos Cayuse."  The close to two thousand mile trek ended at the Hudson's Bay Company's (HBC) fur trading station of Fort Vancouver, where the missionaries wintered. During their stay there Chief Factor John McLoughlin advised against creating a mission in interior Flathead land and instead recommended the nearby Willamette Valley.  Lee eventually settled on a location northwest of the present site of Salem, Oregon. There he found about a dozen French-Canadian settlers who previously had been employed by the HBC, in addition to their native wives and children. 
Over time the superintendent began to request additional missionaries and laymen be sent to relieve him of temporal duties. This view was shared by Daniel Lee and later missionaries, all of whom complained of having to spend too much time away from conversion efforts. Additionally Lee downplayed the accounts from fellow priests by proclaiming that hundreds of natives had become Methodists.  It wasn't until the arrival of George Abernethy in 1840 that Lee was finally allowed to focus solely on proselyting to indigenous peoples.
Lee also highlighted that the indigenous populations were on the decline from disease in 1836: "unless the God of heaven undertake their cause, they must perish from off the face of the Earth, and their name blotted out from under heaven."  This became a typical view of Lee despite his continued conversion efforts. According to his biographer Brosnan, Lee saw "Oregon as the home of a future white civilization" as early as 1837 while back in New York.  In a letter addressed to the Methodist Missionary Board he beseeched for agriculturalists. Lee felt that because "this country will settle ere long," if the board were to send "a few good, pious settlers" then "an incalculable benefit" would benefit "generations yet unborn." 
Lee formed the Oregon Temperance Society in 1836, composed of lay members of the Mission and former HBC employees. Blocked out of the local fur trade by the HBC, pioneer Ewing Young began plans to create an alcohol distillery for sale to natives. Once this became known to the Society its members were mobilized into action. In a letter signed by residents of the valley, Young was requested to refrain from opening the distillery and offered to cover the costs of forfeiting the venture. Young blamed the HBC for "tyranizing oppression" and the situation he was in but nonetheless agreed to forfeit production of alcohol without compensation. 
The first representative from the United States to visit the Methodist station was Navy Lieutenant William A. Slacum on board the Loriot . John McLoughlin welcomed the naval official and informed Jason Lee of his arrival, who met Slacum at Champoeg in January.  A common topic Slacum had with French-Canadian and American settlers residing in the Willamette Valley was about livestock. All the cattle residing in Oregon at the time was then owned by the HBC. Despite this, McLoughlin authorized the loaning out of livestock as needed to missionaries and settlers.  To resolve this pressing issue, Slacum suggested that cattle from Alta California be purchased. The Willamette Cattle Company was formed and the Loriot gave passage to Young and other men to California. Returning overland with a herd of 600 livestock, the portion for Lee and the Mission bestowed a sound means of nutritional self-sufficiently. 
Ewing Young became the center of attention of the Willamette Valley farmsteads once again with his death and his extensive estate, which had no heirs to claim it in 1841 Several meetings were held and Lee chaired the first one where he put forth a proposal for a singular jurisdiction for all inhabitants south of the Columbia river. This was the culmination of feuds with Vicar General Blanchet who had till then dispensed justice on the Catholic population of the Willamette Valley. Blanchet was accused by Lee of splitting the settler community by refusing to submit to the attempted civic authority. This attempt was aimed at cutting the financially supportive relationship and patronage the HBC gave the Catholic Missionaries. By removing the political control over Catholics, the Company would lose influence among the settlers. An additional motive was that the Oregon Mission was in debt to the Company. These were the roots of Lee's support for a government in 1841, rather than finding a local regime necessary in and of itself. 
At the time of the Champoeg Meetings Lee was no longer an active participant of the political activities in the valley. By this point noted a biographer, "Jason's Lee acumen made him realize that a local provisional government was not the direction that lay Oregon's true interest."  Abernethy joined Lee in criticizing the Champoeg Meetings and their developments as unnecessary. 
The delays in communication with the Board of Managers back in the United States eventually necessitated Lee to return there to give a more thorough description of the activities of the Mission. Prior to leaving he was influential in the propagation of a memorial by many residents of the Willamette Valley addressing the United States Congress. The document requested that the American government establish rule over the regions of the Oregon Country south of the Columbia River and highlighted the potentials of trade with Asia and the Pacific. Besides gathering funds for missionary work, Lee apparently left for the east as he had a "desire to promote" Oregon as a worthwhile place for colonization.  Lee spent three weeks at the interior ABCFM missions run by Marcus Whitman and Henry H. Spalding while waiting for an escort from the HBC.  Viewing the growing farms maintained by the Cayuse and Nez Perce, Jason considered them both "superior to those upon the Willamette [River] ..." despite the occasional whipping by the two missionaries.  After giving birth to their child, both his wife, Anna Maria Pittman Lee, and their infant died in June. News of this reached Lee as he entered Missouri, who soon remarried to Lucy Thompson Grubbs. 
While traveling through Illinois, Lee convinced John P. Richmond to join him in Oregon, later being appointed as the head of the Nisqually Mission in modern Washington. While in Peoria he held a speech on Oregon that enthralled some locals who formed the Peoria Party to attempt to colonizing Oregon. At a meeting with the Missionary Board in November the Board approved his plan for the creation of recruiting laymen such as blacksmiths and mechanics, the creation of grist mill, and expansion of agricultural production. After the memorial arrived in Washington D.C. it was presented to Congress by Senator Lewis F. Linn in January 1839.  In correspondence with Representative Caleb Cushing Lee noted that if America were to control the area many of the laymen of the Mission would in time become permanent settlers, which did eventually occur as predicted. During his time in the United States Lee went on several speaking tours throughout the nation along with a visit to his hometown in Canada to raise funds for the mission. Despite his position that only two additional preachers were needed, the Board recruited five.  Lee and the "great reinforcement" sailed aboard the Lausanne and arrived in Oregon on 1 June 1840. 
Letters were sent to the Board of Managers from Elijah White, John P. Richmond, Gustavus Hines attacking the leadership of Lee for several years. Conflict with White, who previously managed the mission financial records, had been a source of discontent for years. White was accused by Lee for having spent money at Fort Vancouver on the account of the mission and rather than show his records, he left for the United States in 1841.  While David Leslie gave the superintendent a positive appraisal, it wasn't enough to counter the years of criticisms. Reports held Lee accountable for a general neglect and disinterest in converting Indigenous peoples. Additionally, Lee's inability to provide a complete financial history of the Willamette Mission and its subsidiary stations proved to be too much for the Board. They appointed Rev. George Gray as the new superintendent and instructed him to dispose of the temporal properties of the Mission, including the grist mill and missions not actively used. 
After hearing the news that he was ejected as the superintendent from Marcus Whitman, who recently returned from the United States, Lee went to meet the Board in person to defend himself. Crossing Mexico and sailing up the Mississippi River, Lee reached New York City on 27 May 1844.  He found the leadership debating over slavery, which soon led to a schism and the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In the meantime, Lee went to Washington D.C. and had conferences with both President John Tyler and Senator Thomas H. Benton to present the land claims of the Oregon Mission.  When finally meeting with the Board leadership Lee was able to rectify his position but he wasn't reappointed as superintendent. He opted to raise money for the Oregon Institute, (now Willamette University), a school he helped organize.  However while visiting his sister in Stanstead, his health failed, and he died on 12 March 1845. His remains were reinterred at the Lee Mission Cemetery in Salem, Oregon in 1906 alongside the remains of his two wives and infant daughter. 
The house Lee occupied in 1841 is preserved as part of the Willamette Heritage Center, formerly known as the Mission Mill Museum.
In 1953, the State of Oregon donated a bronze statue of Lee to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. Another copy was installed on the grounds of the Oregon State Capitol in 1953, having been finished by Gifford MacGregor Proctor after the death of his father, sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor.
Elementary schools in Richland, Washington, and Portland, Oregon and a middle school in Vancouver, Washington are named after him.
George Abernethy was an American politician, pioneer, notable entrepreneur, and first governor of Oregon under the provisional government based in the Willamette Valley, an area later a part of the American state of Oregon. He traveled to Oregon Country as a secular member of the Methodist mission, where he became involved in politics and helped found the first American newspaper west of the Rocky Mountains.
The Champoeg Meetings were the first attempts at formal governance by European-American and French Canadian pioneers in the Oregon Country on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Between 1841 and 1843, a series of public councils was held at Champoeg, a settlement on the French Prairie of the Willamette River valley in present-day Marion County, Oregon, and at surrounding settlements. The meetings were organized by newly arrived settlers as well as Protestant missionaries from the Methodist Mission and Catholic Jesuit priests from Canada.
Oregon pioneer history (1806–1890) is the period in the history of Oregon Country and Oregon Territory, in the present day state of Oregon and Northwestern United States.
Ewing Young was an American fur trapper and trader from Tennessee who traveled in what was then the northern Mexico frontier territories of Santa Fe de Nuevo México and Alta California before settling in the Oregon Country. Young traded along the Santa Fe Trail, followed parts of the Old Spanish Trail west, and established new trails. He later moved north to the Willamette Valley. As a prominent and wealthy citizen in Oregon, his death was the impetus for the assemblies that several years later established the Provisional Government of Oregon.
The Willamette Cattle Company was formed in 1837 by pioneers in the Willamette Valley of present-day Oregon, United States. The company was formed with the express purpose of purchasing cattle in Mexican California. Nearly 750 head of cattle and 40 horses were purchased in total. Ewing Young led the overland party as they drove these animals north back to the Willamette Valley.
The Star of Oregon episode of American history began in 1840 and ended in 1843. This enterprise by pioneers in the Willamette Valley of present-day Oregon consisted of building a ship they named Star of Oregon and then sailing it to California in order to bring back cattle to Oregon Country. The group was led by Joseph Gale and received assistance from Captain Wilkes of the United States Navy prior to setting sail on the open ocean. These pioneers were able to procure nearly 4,000 head of cattle, sheep, and horses combined.
The Oregon Institute was an American school located in the Willamette Valley of the Oregon Country during the 19th century. Begun in 1842, it was the first school built for European Americans west of Missouri. Founded by members of the Methodist Mission, it was located in what is now Salem, Oregon. The school began as a pre-college institution, but by 1853 was developed as Willamette University. The school's three-story building was a prominent feature in the early days of Oregon; it served as a meeting place for the Oregon Territorial Legislature when it first moved to Salem.
The Methodist Mission was the Methodist Episcopal Church's 19th-century conversion efforts in the Pacific Northwest. Local Indigenous cultures were introduced to western culture and Christianity. Superintendent Jason Lee was the principal leader for almost a decade. It was a political and religious effort. Two years after the mission began, the church's Board of Foreign Missions described its intent to reclaim "these wandering savages, who are in a very degraded state, to the blessings of Christianity and civilized life." Alongside the missions founded in the region were several secular operations opened. These were maintained to allow for material independence from the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), then the preeminent economic entity in the region among European descendants.
Joseph Gervais was a French-Canadian, later American, pioneer settler and trapper in the Pacific Northwest. He is the namesake for the town of Gervais, Oregon.
David Leslie was an American missionary and pioneer in what became the state of Oregon. A native of New Hampshire, he joined Jason Lee as a missionary at the Methodist Mission in the Oregon Country in 1836. In that region he participated in the early movement to start a government and his home was used for some of these meetings. With the closing of the mission he became a founder of the city of Salem, Oregon, and board member of the Oregon Institute, which later became Willamette University.
The Provisional Government of Oregon was a popularly elected settler government created in the Oregon Country, in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Its formation had been advanced at the Champoeg Meetings since February 17, 1841, and it existed from May 2, 1843 until March 3, 1849, and provided a legal system and a common defense amongst the mostly American pioneers settling an area then inhabited by the many Indigenous Nations. Much of the region's geography and many of the Natives were not known by people of European descent until several exploratory tours were authorized at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Organic Laws of Oregon were adopted in 1843 with its preamble stating that settlers only agreed to the laws "until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us". According to a message from the government in 1844, the rising settler population was beginning to flourish among the "savages", who were "the chief obstruction to the entrance of civilization" in a land of "ignorance and idolatry".
William A. Slacum was an American sailor and diplomat. He served as a purser in the United States Navy and received a Presidential commission to gather information on the Oregon Country. At that time the region was under the jurisdiction of both the United States and Great Britain. Previously, Slacum served as a diplomat to Mexico.
Reverend Gustavus Hines was an American missionary in Oregon Country. Working for the Methodist Mission in what became the state of Oregon, the New York native became involved in early attempts to form a government at the Champoeg Meetings in 1841. Later he served on the board of trustees for the Oregon Institute, which became Willamette University, and wrote several books on Oregon.
William Holden Willson was a pioneer of the U.S. state of Oregon and the founder of its capital city, Salem. A native of New Hampshire, he immigrated to the Oregon Country in 1837 to work at the Methodist Mission, and there would participate in the Champoeg Meetings. Willson served as the first treasurer of the Provisional Government of Oregon.
Étienne Lucier, né Lussier, was a French-Canadian fur trader active primarily in the Pacific Northwest. He was hired by John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company and sent to the region to help establish Fort Astoria. Later he became a settler in the Willamette Valley. Lucier attended the Champoeg Meetings and was one of few French-Canadians or "Canadiens" to vote for the Provisional Government of Oregon, an American and Canadian civil authority for the valley. He is credited with becoming the first European descendant farmer within the modern state of Oregon.
Alvin F. Waller (1808–1872) was an American missionary in Oregon Country and an early leader at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He was a native of Pennsylvania and helped found the first Protestant church west of the Rocky Mountains in 1843 in Oregon City.
Dr. Elijah White (1806–1879) was a missionary and agent for the United States government in Oregon Country during the mid-19th century. A trained physician from New York State, he first traveled to Oregon as part of the Methodist Mission in the Willamette Valley. He returned to the region after a falling-out with mission leader Jason Lee as the leader of one of the first large wagon trains across the Oregon Trail and as a sub-Indian agent of the federal government. In Oregon he used his authority to regulate affairs between the Natives and settlers, and even between settlers. White left the region in 1845 as a messenger for the Provisional Government of Oregon to the United States Congress, returning in 1850 before leaving again for California in the early 1860s.
Thomas McKay (1796–1849) was an Anglo-Métis Canadian Fur trader who worked mainly in the Pacific Northwest for the Pacific Fur Company (PFC), the North West Company (NWC), and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). He was a fur brigade leader and explorer of the Columbia District and later became a U.S. citizen and an early settler of Oregon.
The Nisqually Mission was a branch of the Methodist Mission, the only one established north of the Columbia River, outside Fort Nisqually in modern DuPont, Washington, United States. The station was actively used for two years, from 1840 to 1842, until its missionary John P. Richmond returned to the United States of America.
John Turner was an American fur trapper and guide who first entered Oregon Country in 1828 and became an early resident of the Willamette Valley. Later he moved to California where he was part of the second attempt to rescue the Donner Party.