The Willamette Mission archeological project
consists of a broad program of cultural research in the
fields of archeology, history, and architecture. The
study focuses on the first Methodist mission in the
Pacific Northwest. Archeological excavations were
conducted in 1980 to locate the site of the mission, to
assess the site's internal integrity, and to analyze the
material content remaining from the 1830s occupation.
Historical documentation provided the archeologists
with necessary information on the general location,
spatial living pattern, time frame and material culture
of the mission occupants. Archeological data provided
additional information on the location and spatial
arrangement of the mission complex; the date range and
the form and function of recovered artifacts; a
behavioral concept of mission lifestyle; and the
processes of abandonment of the mission complex in the
historic period. The role of the mission enterprise
within the general context of Oregon development is
The founders of the mission colony were not intent
on accomplishing their task of "civilizing" the local
Native American population in a brief visit. The
missionaries brought to the Oregon country their
families, personal possessions, furnishings, goods,
equipment, and construction materials. They built
shelters, farmed, operated a mercantile business, taught
school, held services, and performed essential mechanical
The geographic isolation of the mission, and the
missionaries response to the new environment, are
reflected in the archeological record. The architectural
plan and featuring of the mission house points to a use
of traditional log shelter construction techniques.
These techniques involved the incorporation of native
construction fabric with cottage made or imported joining
materials. An inadequate response to the environment is
evidenced by the erection of the mission house on a
Willamette River floodplain. This error in reasoning as
well as visions of expansion triggered a move from the
complex to present Salem after a seven-year occupation.
The materials items recovered from the site reflect
a material culture brought to the new country from the
United States. An independency from the British Hudson
Bay Company is inferred. A contradiction between the
hardships of remote log cabin living and stringent
missionary duties, and the retainment of New England
social attitudes and customs is evident.
Important to areal archeological research and
settlement studies are the implications behind the
presence of the American missionaries and their goods in
the Willamette Valley. Enlightened information on goods
available during the Northwest frontier period can be
useful in deciphering early trade networks, and avenues
of cultural exchange and influence. The missionaries'
inducement toward the promotion of American jurisdiction
and settlement in the Oregon country was significant.
The success of the missionaries as colonizers cannot be
overstated considering the impact of the colony on the
course of political, spiritual, social and economic
development of the region.
Figures in original document are black and white photocopies. Best scan available.This work was written together with Judith A. Sanders Chapman and each author presented it as her thesis.
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