Religion

THE harbingers of organized religion in Oregon were four Flathead
Indians who in 1832, according to a contemporary chronicle, "per-
formed a wearisome journey on foot to St. Louis, in Missouri, for the
purpose of inquiring for the Christian's Book and the white man's
God." When, in due course, news of this "wonderful event" appeared
in eastern religious journals, "a general feeling of Christian sympathy
was produced in all the churches of the land for these interesting
heathen, and a proposition was made that the Missionary Board of
the Methodist Episcopal Church proceed forthwith to establish a
mission among the Flathead Indians."

Jason Lee, a Methodist clergyman engaged in spreading the Word
among Indians in Canada, was chosen to set up the proposed mission.
With his nephew Daniel (also a clergyman) and two lay workers,
Cyrus Shepard and P. L. Edwards, Lee accompanied the second Wyeth
expedition to the Oregon country, arriving at Fort Vancouver on
September 15, 1834. Here, a fortnight later, he preached two sermons
"to a congregation of English, Irish, French, half-caste, &c., which were
the first sermons ever preached in the place, and doubtless the first
that many of the people had ever heard." Upon the advice of Dr. John
McLoughlin, chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and "after
much prayer for direction as to the place," it was decided to locate the
mission in the lower Willamette Valley rather than in the Flathead
country. Before the end of the year the little party had erected a rude
log shelter some 75 miles up the Willamette River, at a place known as
French Prairie, and had begun its labors "for the spiritual benefit of all
the Indians, and the few French people who had settled in the country."

In the following year a Presbyterian clergyman, Samuel Parker, was
sent out by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions,
to explore the Oregon country with a view to selecting the most de-
sirable site for a Presbyterian mission. With him came Dr. Marcus
Whitman, appointed by the same body to work as a medical missionary
among the Indians. But upon their arrival at the Snake River, Whit-