Jason Lee (missionary)

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For other people named Jason Lee, see Jason Lee (disambiguation).
Jason Lee
Jason Lee missionary.png
Jason Lee
Born June 28, 1803
Stanstead, Quebec
Died March 12, 1845(1845-03-12) (aged 41)
Stanstead, Quebec
Spouse(s) Anna Maria Pittman (d. 1838)
Lucy Thompson
Church Methodist

Jason Lee (June 28, 1803 – March 12, 1845), a Canadian missionary and pioneer to United States, was born on a farm near Stanstead, Quebec. He was the first of the Oregon missionaries and helped establish the early foundation of a provisional government in the Oregon Country.

Early life[edit]

Lee attended the village school and by the age of 13 was self-supporting. After a conversion experience, he attended Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy, graduating in 1830. Between 1830 and 1832 he was minister in the Stanstead area and taught school.


In 1833 he was chosen to head a mission for the Flathead Indians. He and his party, including his nephew Daniel, traveled overland with the Wyeth party,[1] arriving in Fort Vancouver in 1834. It was in response to a visit by four Flatheads to St. Louis and an entreaty to General Clark for someone to bring the "Book of Heaven", prophesied in a vision, to the Flathead people.[2] After the site of their first mission was abandoned as unhealthy, the missionaries settled on the Willamette River, northwest of the present site of Salem, Oregon. He found about a dozen Canadian settlers with native wives, who had previously been employed by the Hudson's Bay Company.[1]

Jason Lee's mission in 1834

In early 1837 Lee participated in the Willamette Cattle Company along with Ewing Young in order to procure cattle for the mission. Lee invested in the venture that was designed to break the cattle monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company in the region. Though Lee was on the ship Loriot that took the company to California, Lee did not sail with them. Also in 1836 and then in 1837 he helped to draft a petition for the establishment of a territorial government, and in 1838 he journeyed east to present the petition in Washington, D.C., stopping at the Whitman Mission near Fort Walla Walla to visit Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.

Jason Lee NSHC statue

Lee continued to found missions during the 1830s and became increasingly active in the territorial organization of the Oregon settlement, encouraging its ties with the United States. He presided over the preliminary meeting for territorial organization held at Champoeg in 1841, and in 1843 he was instrumental in the formation of a provisional government. He also worked to promote education and formed the plan that resulted in the founding of Oregon Institute (now Willamette University). Problems with the mission including neglect to the education of Native Americans led to his return to headquarters in New York in 1844.

Death and legacy[edit]

While he was visiting his sister in Stanstead, his health failed, and he died on March 12, 1845. His remains were reinterred at the Lee Mission Cemetery in Salem, Oregon in 1906.

The house Lee occupied in 1841 is preserved as part of 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.

Elementary schools in Richland, Washington, and Portland, Oregon and middle schools in Vancouver, Washington, and Tacoma, Washington are named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Horner, John B. (1921). Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. The J.K. Gill Co.: Portland.
  2. ^ Among the An-Ko-me-nums ; or, Flathead tribes of Indians of the Pacific Coast, pp.13-18, Thomas Crosby, W. Briggs, Toronto, 1907

External links[edit]