|Bishop of Nesqually|
|Appointed||May 31, 1850|
|Installed||July 28, 1850|
|Term ended||July 14, 1879|
|Other post(s)||Bishop of Walla Walla, Oregon Country (1846–1850)|
|Ordination||June 3, 1821|
by Joseph-Octave Plessis
|Consecration||September 27, 1846|
by Ignace Bourget
|Died||25 February 1887 (aged 89)|
Vancouver, Washington Territory
|Buried||Holyrood Catholic Cemetery, Shoreline, Washington|
Augustin Magloire Alexandre Blanchet (22 August 1797 – 25 February 1887) was a French Canadian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church in the Pacific Northwest who served as the first bishop of the now-defunct Diocese of Walla Walla and of the Diocese of Nesqually (now known as the Archdiocese of Seattle). Along with his elder brother and several other fellow French Canadian missionaries, Blanchet was instrumental in establishing the Catholic Church presence in the present-day U.S. state of Washington.
Early life and priesthood
Augustin Magloire Blanchet was born in the village of Saint-Pierre-de-La-Rivière-du-Sud, in present-day Quebec. The younger brother of François Norbert Blanchet, Augustin Blanchet studied at Le Petit Séminaire de Québec and then at the Grand Seminary of Quebec. He was ordained to the priesthood on 3 June 1821 in the Archdiocese of Quebec and held several church positions in Quebec and Nova Scotia, mainly around the Montreal area.
Bishop of Walla Walla
On 28 July 1846, while a canon in Montreal, A.M.A. Blanchet was appointed bishop of the new Diocese of Walla Walla in the Oregon Country (now in the U.S. state of Washington). Blanchet was to follow his brother, who had gone to the Oregon Country in 1838 to set up a Catholic church presence there, and was the bishop of the Diocese of Oregon City (now the Archdiocese of Portland).
Blanchet was ordained bishop on 27 September 1846 by Archbishop Ignace Bourget at Saint-Jacques Cathedral in Montreal. He left for Oregon on 4 March 1847 and arrived in Walla Walla on 5 September. The killing of Protestant missionaries in the Whitman massacre on 29 November 1847 led to an uneasy relationship among Blanchet, the native Cayuse people, and the United States government, and as a result Blanchet retreated to St. Paul in the Willamette Valley.
On 31 May 1850, the Holy See under Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Nesqually (later spelled "Nisqually"), with its episcopal see in Vancouver in what was by then known as the Oregon Territory, and named Blanchet bishop of the new diocese. Three years later the Walla Walla diocese was completely eliminated and much of its territory transferred to the new Nesqually diocese.
Bishop of Nesqually
On 23 January 1851, Blanchet established the existing St. James Church built by his brother François and Modeste Demers at Fort Vancouver as his cathedral, renaming it St. James Cathedral. In 1853, the diocese's territory became part of the Washington Territory.
In 1868, Francis X. Prefontaine, a young priest and fellow Quebec native, requested Blanchet's permission to build a church building near Pioneer Square in bustling Seattle to support the city's first Catholic parish, Our Lady of Good Help, which he had recently established. Blanchet believed that Seattle was a lost cause, but nevertheless he gave the priest permission to build a church as long as Prefontaine would raise the money for it himself and it would cost the diocese nothing. Prefontaine eventually raised enough money to build a church, and in 1869 he opened Seattle's Catholic church. The Church of Our Lady of Good Help no longer stands but its namesake statue of the Virgin Mary was saved and now stands in the cathedral chapel under the title of "Our Lady of Seattle."
Retirement and death
Blanchet retired as bishop on 23 December 1879, at age 82, and was named titular bishop of Ibora. He continued to live in the Diocese of Nesqually in his retirement, and died in Vancouver on 25 February 1887.
Legacy and veneration
Blanchet's first cathedral at Fort Vancouver was succeeded by a new St. James Cathedral in Vancouver in 1885; the original cathedral burned down in 1889. In the early 20th century, Francis X. Prefontaine, who years earlier had requested Blanchet's permission to build a church in Seattle, convinced Bishop Edward O'Dea to move the episcopal see of the Diocese of Nisqually to Seattle, and in 1903 the diocese was renamed the Diocese of Seattle. The cathedral O'Dea built in Seattle retained the St. James Cathedral name of Blanchet's original cathedral.
- Voisine, Nive. "Augustin-Magloire Blanchet". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
- Caldbick, John J. "Bishop Augustine Blanchet dedicates Washington's original St. James Cathedral at Fort Vancouver on January 23, 1851". HistoryLink.org.
- "Prefontaine, Father Francis Xavier (1838-1909)". The Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. HistoryLink. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "Father Francis X. Prefontaine". St. James Cathedral, Seattle. Archived from the original on 2010-08-29. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- William Farrand Prosser (1903). A History of the Puget Sound Country. Lewis Publishing Company. p. 475. Retrieved 2010-02-15 – via Internet Archive.
- "Virtual Tour - Chapel". St. James Cathedral. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- Beattie, Trent. "Missionary Bishop Uncovered and Shelved; Report on Him Shelved and Uncovered". Catholic Lane. Retrieved 23 December 2018.