Settlers on French Prairie, Oregon Territory, in 1836-1838

Transcribed by Connie Lenzen, CG

1836—Petition for a priest

1837—Petition for a priest

1837—William Slacum's spy visit


Petitions for a Priest

The French Canadians on French Prairie sent petitions to the Bishop of Juliopolis [at Red River, now Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada]. They requested priests to be sent to minister to their religious needs. The second and third of their petitions are presented below. The spelling and punctuation is not changed from the original letters.

Source: Letters to the Bishop of Juliopolis, Red River from the Willamette Settlement, March 22, 1836 and March 8, 1837. Mss 83, Catholic Church in Oregon, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon, Portland, Oregon.


1836 Petition

Willammeth March 22 1836

To the Bishop of Juliopoles

Reverend sir

We received youre kind Letter last fall wich gave us Much pleasure and ease to our minds for it has been a Long time since we have heard the Likes of it it has Gave us a new heart since we recived youre kinde instructions to us we will do oure Best indeavours to instruct oure fammilies to youre wishes still Living in hopes of some Speady releafe wich we are Looking for with eager hearts for the day to Come since we Recived youre kinde Letter we have beGun to Build and to make some preperations to Recive oure kinde father wich we hope that oure Laboure will not be in vaine for you know oure sittewations better than oure selves for Some of us stand in greate Neade of youre Assistance as quick as posible

We have nothing to Right to you about the Country but that the farms are All in a very thriving state and produces fine Crops We have sent theis few Lines to you hoping that that it will not trouble you to much for Righting so quick to you but the Country is setteling slowley and oure Children are Learning very fast wich make us very eager for youre assistance wich we hope by Gods helpe will be very sone oure prayers will be for his safe Arivele We have sent you a List of the families that Are at preasent in the settelment so no more preasant from youre humble servants

Joseph Jarvay, 7 children

Xaviar Laderout, 1 child

Eken Luceay, 6 children

Peare Belleck, 3 children

Charles Rondo, 3 children

Charles Plant, 4 children

Pear Depo, 1 child

Andrey Pecor, 4 children

Joseph Delar, 5 children

Luey Fourcy, 3 children

Lamab Erquet, 3 children

Jean Bt Perrault, 2 children

Joseph Desport, 3 children

Andrey Longten, 4 children

John Bt Desportes, 8 children

William Johnson, 2 children

Charlo Chata

William McCarty

Etienne Laferte

Louis Labonte


1837 Petition

Willammeth March the 8 1837

Revernd sir we have taken this Oppertunity to Rite to you hoping this Will meate you on youre way to oure Settlement for we are waiting with Greate Angsitty for youre Arivall wich we have beane Looking for this some time since we have had the Pleasure of Reciving youre kinde Letter Wich Gave us Greate encouragement But we finde the time very Long Reverend sir you will think us very troublesom But we hope you will excuese us for We have musch of Neede of some assistance from you for we have allmost Every Relgion butoure own Wich you know Revernd sir with oute youre Assistance wen we are surounded by every one it will be very hard for us to bring oure familyes up to oure owne Religeon Wen theire is so maney others around them We are girnging oure familyes us as well As we posible Can But not so well as We would wish We have built a bedend to receve the Gentlemean that should please to Come wich will be a hapy Day for us we still remaine youre humbe Servants

Willammeth Settlers

Pear Belleck [Pierre Beleque]

Joseph Desportes

Charlow Chayta

Andrey Long[tain]

John Bt Desportes McK[ay]

Atoain Lafourty [Etienne Laferte]

Jonva Ladroute [Xavier Laderoute]

Joseph Jarvay [Joseph Gervais]

Charls Plant

Charls Rondo

Joseph Delor

John Bt Pearone [Perrault]

Louey Labounty [Louis Labonte]

Louey Foursey [Louis Fourcier]

Peare Depo [Pierre depot]

Lamab Erquert [Amable Arcouet]

Etien Luceay [EtienneLucier]


The following table was prepared by Gerald S. Lenzen for his lecture, "The French-Canadians, Oregon's First Settlers."

Name

of

Settler

1838

priest

petition

Children

in

1837

Slacum's

list in

1838

When

farm

begun

Number

of

Houses

Fenced

Acres

Tilled

Acres

Wheat

Crop

(bu.)

Horses Hogs
Amable Arcouet * 3 * 1833 2 80 50 600 5 31
Pierre Beleque * 3 * 1833 2 50 45 700 9 28
Charlo Chata * ? ? ? ? ? ?
Joseph Delard * 5 * 1832 2 28 28 280 11 28
Pierre Depot * 1 * 1833 2 40 35 500 8 39
Joseph Desport * ? ? ? ? ? ?
John Bt Desportes * 3 ? ? ? ? ? ?
Louis Fourcier * 3 * 1835 1 34 34 540 9 10
Joseph Gervais * 7 * 1832 3 125 65 1000 19 55
William Johnson * 2 * 1834 2 45 25 300 2 14
Louis Labonte * ? ? ? ? ? ?
Xavier Laderoute * 1 * 1834 2 36 36 350 11 35
Etienne Laferte * ? ? ? ? ? ?
Andre Longtain * 4 * 1835 2 45 24 400 3 33
Etienne Lucier * 6 * 1832 4 70 45 740 21 45
William McCarty * ? ? ? ? ? ?
Jean Baptiste McRoy * 1831 3 69 35 556 33 22
Jean Bt Perrault * 2 * 1832 3 80 60 500 4 20
Andre Picard * ? ? ? ? ? ?
Charles Plante * 4 * 1835 2 60 60 800 12 14
Charles Rondo * 3 * 1836 1 24 24 200 9 10

The Priests Came

The priests did come. The church registers that they kept have been translated and abstracted and completely indexed.They provide much information on the French Canadians, the Native Americans, and Oregon Trail pioneers. The books are available from the St. Paul Mission Historical Society.


Visit from a Spy

On December 18, 1837, Lt. William A. Slacum of the US Navy, presented the US government with a claim for his services in obtaining information about the Oregon settlements. He based his claim on the four days in January 1837 that he spent touring French Prairie.

French Prairie is the area north of Salem, centering around St. Paul, Oregon. In 1837, the area was under joint occupancy which meant both the US and the British governments had an interest in it. Slacum could be considered a "spy" for the US.

Slacum described the land that he saw.

"For a distance of 250 miles in extent by 40 in breadth, including both sides the river, (6,500,000 acres) the land is of the most superior quality, rich alluvial deposite, yielding in several instances the first year 50 bushels of fine wheat to the acre. The general aspect of the plains is prairie, but well interspersed with woodlands, presenting the most beautiful scenery imaginable."

He concluded that the "Willhamette" was the finest grazing country in the world. In 1818, the Hudson Bay Company had one bull and two cows. In 1836, they had upwards of 1,000 head of neat cattle.

Slacum felt that a large cargo of wheat could be obtained from the Willhamette [sic] settlers and sold in the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], the Russian settlements at Norfolk sound [Alaksa] or in Peru. However, the farmers, all retired employees of the Hudson's Bay Company, were loyal to Canada.

Slacum's report provided encouragement for settlers from the United States to migrate to Oregon.

Slacum found Ewing Young, who was not a French-Canadian, was building a distillery. Rev. Jason Lee of the Methodist Mission had established a temperance society to work on preventing Young from completing it. Young explained that he had to make and sell whisky in order to buy supplies from Fort Vancouver.

Source: Memorial of William A. Slacum Praying Compensation for his services in obtaining information in relation to the settlements on the Oregon river. December 18, 1837. (Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1972).