Sunday, September 18, 2011

1841 The Jason Lee House

The first house built in Salem was constructed in the summer of 1841 by Jason Lee, the leader of the Methodist Mission, and other missionaries. The new settlement was on a waterway named Mill Creek where a small saw mill fashioned lumber from the surrounding forest.
The house was designed for several missionary families. Jason Lee lived there with his second wife Lucy, who died in 1842 a few weeks after giving birth to their daughter, Lucy Anna Maria. He left Oregon shortly afterward, to defend his leadership after being replaced by another minister. He died in his native Canada in 1845 and the mission establishment was closed four years later. However, the church-owned properties were distributed among the missionary settlers and the village grew. The Lee House is said to have housed planning for the 1850s Provisional Government and the actions of the first judiciary, first post office, and second store in the Salem area.
Among the families who lived there in the late 1800s was that of Judge Reuben Boise (1819-1907) who arrived in Oregon in 1850. He was appointed to the Territorial Supreme Court in 1857 and served on the State Supreme Court intermittently until 1880.
The picture above was taken in the 1930s when the house was still occupied and by that time designated as 960 Broadway, just north of the creek. Over the years, the house had many alterations and was hardly recognizable.
The house was in danger of demolition when local historical preservationists, led by Oregon State Archivist, David Duniway, made arrangements to have the house moved. It was temporarily placed on Front Street and then permanently settled on the Mission Mill Museum property (now Willamette Heritage Center) where it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Restored to its original configuration, it appears today as seen in the photograph below.

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