Willamette Valley

Listening to the inner voice, Jason Lee entered on his mission, a long way from Flathead Lake, and consecrated the Lord’s house. It was built in the Willamette Valley, one of the great valleys of the world. When the missionaries reached French Prairie, so named because superannuated voyageurs of the Hudson’s Bay Company had settled there and made farms, they recognized a leading. They began to fell trees, hew puncheons, and split clapboards. Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin – beside hundreds of creeks thousands of movers were doing just the same, a brotherhood of axe and adze and frow who supply an American symbol. The little cabin they built beside the Willamette sixty-odd miles up from its mouth was just any cabin in any clearing – except that it was raised in Oregon and the American empire would form round it like a pool. McLoughlin approved the decision from a tangle of conflicting values, desires, company policies, and blunders. He had them out of the mountains, he had them south of the Columbia, and if the end was foreseeable, why, he had new friends to talk to. He sold them seed and cattle and all the material and supplies they needed. They drove an American furrow in Oregon soil and began to think of starting a school and preaching to the Indians. Some Indian boys and girls came in and asked to stay – dirty, lousy, and so nearly naked that clothes had to be made for them at once. A special providence of God had given some of this handful of rice-Christians pointed heads, like those which William Walker had not seen. They were Chinooks: providence had furnished the mission some broken-spirited novices who would be docile. That attended to, Lee opened the solicitation of his Mission Board that was to last for years. Send us families, send us females, send us laymen – send us farmers, mechanics, workmen – send us machinery and plows and fruit trees and seed. Send us ‘temporals’ – we have enough divines. Send us colonizers, empire-builders, a population. This is the richest land in the world.