Rev. Lemuel H. Wells and His Horse (Episcopal)

A few years after the Rev. St. Michael Fackler gave that first service in Eastern Oregon, the Rev. Lemuel H. Wells was the first person to regularly give services in Umatilla County.

In 1871, he came to Pendleton from Walla Walla, Washington, riding a horse.  In his own words:

“I knew that in the Pendleton country a man was judged nearly altogether by the sort of horse he rode, so when I arrived on a Saturday night, I did not try to hide the horse, in fact I displayed him, and rode down one side of Main street and then up the other side.”  [1]

He further went on to say that he wanted everyone to attend church.  He rapped on saloon doors with the butt of his whip or called through those that were open.  According to Wells, people came out of the saloons to pat his horse and note its fine qualities.  They judged he was a person worth listening to. [2]

He wrote his own biography called A Pioneer Missionary, online at Project Canterbury. It’s fun to read.  Click here for access.

Wells retired as Bishop of Spokane in 1915, recommending that a younger man would be better suited for the rigors of horseback.  He died in 1936.  [3]


[1] Searcey, Mildred, “The Little Brown Jug,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church (MARCH 1974), Vol. 43, No. 1, p. 58; digital images, JSTOR ( : accessed 21 July 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Lemuel H. Wells,” ( : accessed 4 August 2018).


Ann (Wilbur) Fackler

It was 1864.   The Rev. St. Michael Fackler (an Episcopal missionary) made his way from the west side of Oregon to the east side of the state, over the Cascade Mountains.

He was to give the first Episcopalian service in Eastern Oregon – in La Grande (Union County), just south east of Umatilla County.  The distance between Hermiston and La Grande is about an hour and 20 minutes.

Fackler was in fact the first Episcopal missionary to give services in Eastern Oregon – on 17 July 1864 – the third Sunday of the month.  [1]  Regular services wouldn’t come to Umatilla County until a few years later.

But it isn’t the Reverend St. Fackler who is occupying my mind right now.  It’s actually his wife, Ann (Wilbur) Fackler who died about 1851, thirteen years before he crossed the Cascade Mountains to give that first Episcopal service.

You see, I was in the middle of writing a post on Episcopal records in Umatilla County when I stumbled across a fascinating article about Ann– which is actually an adaptation of a manuscript that appears on the website of Keuka College in New York.  The article describes how some exciting technology was used to scan Ann’s grave.

Well…I should just let you read it for yourself.  Click here to read “Finding Ann Wilbur.”


[1] Searcey, Mildred, “The Little Brown Jug,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church (MARCH 1974), Vol. 43, No. 1, p. 57; digital images, JSTOR ( : accessed 21 July 2018).

A Tangent…

While I’m working on a post about Episcopal records in Umatilla County, I couldn’t resist sharing a little tangent I found, which has nothing whatsoever to do with Umatilla County except for the fact that it might be the view point of anyone living in town at the time.

Every once in a while I will stumble across something in an older newspaper that makes me burst out laughing.  This struck my funny bone the first time I read it, I think, because it’s been a while since I’ve seen a wagon hogging a crosswalk:

wagons should remember that street
crossings are for pedestrians.  Some
folks stop with their wagons on the
crossings, and indulge in a chat with
somebody, and the footman can take
his choice between awaiting the pleas-
ure of the occupant, crawling under
the wagon, climbing over or walking

Source:  State Rights Democrat (Albany, Oregon), 4 April 1873, image 3 [unpaginated], col. 2; digital images, Historic Oregon Newspapers ( : accessed 18 July 2018).

Catholic History: Eastern Oregon

First, the FamilySearch Wiki has a list of resources for Oregon church records. Click here for more information.

Secondly, since writing my post on St. Ann’s mission (a Catholic mission), I’ve been reading A Cross in the Middle of Nowhere: The History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oregon (1993) by Monsignor William S. Stone. [1]

It is a history leading to the development of the Diocese of Baker, the only diocese in Eastern Oregon.  It is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Portland, in Portland, on the west side (I am told that the original records of St. Ann’s are held here, at the Archdiocese in Portland).

Stone’s introduction explains that up to the writing of his book, missionary activities of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oregon were “virtually cloaked in silence.” He also explains that although histories of the Catholic Church in Oregon exist, these books focus more on the church’s growth in Western Oregon. [2]

I did a variety of searches in to see if this is still the case, and to my surprise, largely it is, although I did find a few other titles.  I did not search using names of specific individuals, however.

One problem I noticed is that using “eastern” as a keyword returns too many non-related items.

Although there is a subject heading for “Oregon, eastern,” combining it with “Catholic” and “history” as keywords or titles or even subjects doesn’t do much.

There are, however, broader subject terms like “Catholic church – history – Oregon.” Of course, one would need to scroll through titles to find those related specifically to “Eastern” Oregon.

In other words, it appears that not much has been written specifically about the history of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oregon (meaning devoted entirely to Eastern Oregon) since the publication of Stone’s book in 1993.

This doesn’t mean that “nothing” has been written about the church’s history in Eastern Oregon. It simply means that 1) more has been written about Western Oregon, and 2) writings about Catholic history in Eastern Oregon appear in writings that devote more space to Western Oregon, but not in all of these writings, and 3) writings about specific individuals in the history of the church in Eastern Oregon do exist. [3]


[1] Msgr. William S. Stone, The Cross in the Middle of Nowhere: The History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oregon (Bend, Oregon: Maverick Publications, Inc., 1993).

[2] Ibid., Introduction, ix.

[3] For example, see Roberta Stringham Brown, Patricia O’Connell Killen, eds., Selected Letters of A. M. A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla and Nesqualy, 1846-1879 (Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 2013).  A. M. A. Blanchet and others founded St. Ann’s mission in 1847.

St. Ann’s Mission

Six years before Major Rains sent his letter to Major Townsend, the seeds of war had already germinated:  the Whitmans were killed at the Waiilatpu mission in what is known as the Whitman Massacre.

Two days before the killings, on 27 November 1847, the Catholic mission called St. Ann’s (or St. Anne’s) was opened by Bishop A. M. A. Blanchet, Father J. B. A. Brouillet and others — about 25 to 30 miles south of Waiilatpu (above Pendleton) on the Umatilla River. [1]

Although Indian tribes inhabited the land prior to non-Indians, St. Ann’s has been called “the first settlement of any kind” in Umatilla County. [2]

English sources related to St. Ann’s Mission include the following:

A) Kowrach, Edward J. , Journal of a Catholic Bishop on the Oregon Trail: The Overland Crossing of the Rt. Rev. A. M. A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla, from Montreal to Oregon Territory, March 23, 1847 to January 23, 1851.  Fairfield:  Ye Galleon Press, 1978. 

(This book is still for sale in various places, but can also be found in libraries via a search at

B) Munnick, Harriet D. and Adrien R. Munnick, eds. “Missions of St. Ann and St. Rose of the Cayouse (1847-1888).” In Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest. Vol. 7.  Portland, Ore.:  Binford and Mort Publishing, co., 1989.

(Out of print, contains rare historic photographs, illustrations and sketches, 328 pages.  Available at various libraries via search).

An exciting article, recently published in Northwest Catholic, describes a current translation project of the Archdiocese of Seattle Archives involving 13 church registers dating from 1848 to 1938 that include records created by Bishop A. M. A. Blanchet.  [3]

Yet it is unknown how early those Blanchet records extend.


[1] Michael J. Paulus Jr., “St. Anne’s Mission is established on Umatilla River on November 27, 1847,” 2010; ( : accessed 11 July 2018).  Also see Msgr. William S. Stone, The Cross in the Middle of Nowhere:  The History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oregon (Bend, Oregon:  Maverick Publications, Inc., 1999).

[2] “Early History of Umatilla County, Oregon,” Umatilla County Oregon Genealogy and History ( : accessed 12 July 2018).  Note:  Author unknown.

[3] Broberg, Brad, “Parishioner Traces Ministry of the Archdiocese’s Early Missionary Priests,” 16 May 2018, Northwest Catholic ( : accessed 12 July 2018.

Rains to Townsend, 29 January 1854

Here is the full text of Major Rains’ letter to Major Townsend, in regards to the newly formed Wasco County, originally sent 29 January 1854, and reprinted in 1855 among the correspondences of General Wool with the U. S. government.:   


Source:  G. J. Rains to Major E. D. Townsend, Fort Dalles, 29 January 1854, in Correspondence of General Wool With the Government, 1855, 33rd Congress, 2nd session, Senate Executive Document, No. 16., pp. 16-17.  Transcribed by Deborah Dale on 7 July 2018.

[Page] 16                             CORRESPONDENCE OF GENERAL WOOL

Fort Dalles, Dalles of Columbia, Oregon

January 29, 1854

SIR:  The time has arrived when it becomes necessary to determine the question of peace or war between the citizens of the United States and Indian tribes on this frontier, east of the ‘Cascades’ and west of the Rocky Mountains, as will be seen in the sequel.

Indian complaints have been often brought from time to time that white men are locating on their land, against their will, and that without respect to their individual possessions, or property, or priority of title of Indian claimants.

Such statements have been met by informing them that by an act of Congress of the United States, establishing the territorial government of Oregon, (approved, March 14, 1848), “no rights of persons or property now pertaining to the Indians in this country shall be impaired, so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between them and the United States.”

They also complain of lawless violence, injury, and murder by white men who come among them, some for secret purposes of illegal traffic in spirituous liquors, irresponsible to their laws, and who are uncontrol[l]able by the civil law of the Territory of Oregon , which intends “good faith,” with inability to carry it out, by barring Indian testimony against them “in any court or in any case whatever.” –(See section 3, art. 1, of organic laws of Oregon, and section 37, legislative act or Oregon to regulate the “practice” in district and supreme courts, passed February 3 and 4, 1851.)  Under the laws of Oregon these people ordinarily have no legal prosecutor, nor grand jury legally to represent their cause, and must forever be deprived of justice as long as the disparity in numbers is so great , or a white accomplice chooses to cloak crime.—(See sections 74, 76, and 77, legislative acts on crimes and misdemeanors, passed February 6, 1851.)

The Indian tribes immediately concerned are the “Des Chutes” and the “Waseves,” some 700 or 800 souls; “Nez Perces,” numbering about 2,500; the “Cayuses” and adjuncts ,about 300; the “Snakes,” composed of the Bannacks, the Shoshones, and Root Diggers, say 3,000; the Shastas, the Umatillas, the Tic, and some others, number unknown, say in all about 1,300 warriors.

If any country in the world has ever merited the title of “Indian country,” this is it; and yet by legislative enactment this has been erected in Wasco County of Oregon Territory, the largest county ever known, and civil officers appointed where there are but few white citizens, some thirty-five perhaps in all, who claim their right to locate their “donations” where they please (and often irrespective of Indian rights) by an act of Congress making donations to settlers in the Territory of Oregon.—(See sections 4 and 5 of the act creating the office of surveyor general and for other purposes, approved September 27, 1850).  This, with a decision of the Supreme Court, sets aside the intercourse law, and bars our right to purge the land of incendiaries who set themselves down among the Indians to commit all crimes with impunity, even murder, with only Indian testimony against them to bring them to justice, which is not available in law.

[Page] 17


Many of the squatters are good citizens, but this is not the case with all, far from it, and my predecessor (Major Alvord) having made representations, (referred), also the superintendent of Indian Affairs, whose business mainly it is, having previously done the same, I have been slow to move in the matter until “forbearance ceases to be a virtue,” and prompt action is required, doing justice to all, to prevent an Indian war with the  Indian tribes combined, between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains.

Though these Indians are very uneasy, yet there is no immediate cause of alarm; still the necessity for prompt action exists, as may be seen by the following facts, similar to those which gave rise to the Rogue River war.  Life for life is the Indian rule, and soon some innocent persons among the whites may suffer for the acts of the guilty.

Within a short period of time there have been five men killed, viz., two by the Indians of their own people—cause:  spirituous liquor introduced clandestinely, (though Judge Olney, of Oregon, is said to have stated in open court that there is no law to restrain such sales, and the legislature is now making one.)  One, a Frenchman , name unknown, in about thirty miles distance, murdered by an Indian.  One, an Indian, murdered by a white man, whom I had in confinement to be turned out to civil power, to be released at the Cascades on account of some informality in the action of the magistrate committing, as informed.  And still a recent case of another Indian killed by a white man, whom we have now in prison in the guard-house, and who surrendered himself probably for protection from the infuriated tribe which followed him to this post.

The Indians have been pacified by being promised justice in every case, which I regret to say has not been accomplished; which state of things under legislative enactments we cannot alter, and which the citizens themselves, as soon as their civil officers are properly qualified, with an eye to their own safety, will find it equally impossible under the law, or without further legislation.

The object of this communication is to awaken attention to the state of things on this frontier; to find its way (with the approbation of my superiors) before the Committee on Indian Affairs in Congress, for them, in their wisdom, to devise some means for retributive justice in this country of  Indians, and among other tribes concerned, securing to each the land on which his lodge stands, and the soil, which his squaw cultivates, and defining the rights of the white settler for his better security.

Never a cent has been known to be appropriated for the benefit or improvement of these tribes, yet they are peaceably disposed, if undisturbed.

We are deficient at this post in our proper number of soldiers to fill up the two companies, 106 men, and a company of mounted men is much required.

All of which is most respectfully submitted by your obedient servant


Major 4th Infantry, commanding post and troops on this frontier.

Major E. D. Townsend,
Asst. Adj. Gen. Depart. of the Pacific, San Francisco, Cal.
Ex. Doc. 16—2

[End of transcript]


Before Umatilla County…

Before the formation of Umatilla County in 1862, its area (which I now live in) was once part of the largest county ever formed in United States history:  Wasco County.

It consisted of 130,000 square miles in 1854, and extended from the Cascade mountain range to the Rockies — in the Oregon Territory, bounded on the north by the Columbia River and to the south by California. [1]

In 1854, the majority of people in Wasco County were Indians – with only 35 white settlers, according to Major Rains (Gabriel J. Rains — 1803-1881), then commander of Fort Dalles.  [2]

“In all this vast area known as Wasco County, there were not at the time of its organization to exceed three hundred white citizens, most of whom were trappers in the employment of the Hudson’s Bay and American Fur companies.  Less than half a hundred were actual settlers…”  [3]
Gabriel J. Rains

But Major Rains wasn’t all that happy about the formation of Wasco County.

He objected not only because of its “mammoth and unwieldy proportions,” but because of the fact there were only 35 white inhabitants (by his own estimation). [4]

But the county was formed on 11 January 1854, and 18 days later, on 29 January, Rains stated the following in a letter to Edward D. Townsend:

“The time has arrived when it becomes necessary to determine the question of peace or war between the citizens of the United States and Indian tribes on this frontier, east of the ‘Cascades’ and west of the Rocky Mountains…”  [5]

His description of “this frontier” pertained, of course, to Wasco County — a sobering thought this morning.  To read the full text of Major Rains’ letter, see Rains to Townsend.


Image: “Gabriel J. Rains, C. S. A.”, Civil war photographs, 1861-1865, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

[1] F. A. Shaver, et al., An Illustrated History of Central Oregon Embracing Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler, Crook, Lake and Klamath Counties,” 1905, p. 109; digital image, Google Books ( : accessed 6 July 2018).

[2] Ibid., p. 110.

[3] Ibid., p. 110.

[4] Ibid, p. 110.

[5] Rains to Townsend, Fort Dalles, 29 January 1854, in Correspondence of General Wool With the Government, 1855, 33rd Congress, 2nd session, Senate Executive Document, No. 16., pp. 16-17.

First There Were Stories

I am passionate about genealogy, and have been interested in researching since 1989.  But well before that, before my first real foray into genealogical records, there were stories.

And I remember with affection their telling, sometimes for hours, after meals, inside my paternal grandparents’ farmhouse in Graham, Pierce County, Washington.

My grandparents’ house in Graham, Washington, circa 1970s.

I grew up in the 1970s as a member of a family of rodeo participants whose older members told stories as a way of remembering the past. The stories, often about bronc riding in New Mexico, cattle drives, camping under a blanket of stars and sometimes Billy the Kid, seemed to make the adults who sat around the kitchen table speak forever about a way of life that has been etched for years in my memory.


My paternal grandparents, circa 1935, New Mexico

There were stories, too, about my paternal grandmother’s family who migrated to Texas from Virginia, about my great-grandmother, a DAR member, who descended, it was said, from more than one American Revolution patriot.

Maternally, my mother told stories about her family back in Boston, on the opposite side of the country – stories about a place I had yet to see, about people, most of whom I never had the opportunity to meet.

It was only a matter of time until I wanted to know more, much more.

Fourth of July, Pendleton, 1893 and Clams

Just a little “dry” 4th of July humor 🙂

I found this story amusing, having grown up in the seafood rich, Puget Sound area of Washington State, and later having moved to Eastern Oregon to be surrounded by sagebrush:

It was the year 1893, and one widely advertised feature of Pendleton’s 4th of July celebration, in Eastern Oregon, some distance from the ocean, was a free “clam bake.”

One newspaper (from Polk County, Oregon, on the west side of the state) thought that was a bit strange:

“The people of Pendleton are going to
have a clam bake on July 4th.  It
seems out of place to bake clams so
far away from the sea coast, but no
doubt the clams will taste as well and
be more of a rarity.” [1]

But alas:

“The ‘Clam bake’ was a fizzle;
but not owing to the lack of clams.
A box car in the lower end of town
was full of clams, seasoned with
a nameless odor, and people who
came to get clams got it in the
nose.  The fact of the matter is the
clams were out of water too long
and spoiled on the hands of the
committee, and many who went
to Pendleton were severely disap-
pointed for the clam bake was to
be the feature of the program.”  [2]


[1] “Local and General News,” The Independence West Side, 30 June 1893, p. 3, col. 2; digital images, Historic Oregon Newspapers ( : accessed 4 July 2018).

[2] “The Glorious Fourth,” The Athena Press, 7 July 1893, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, Historic Oregon Newspapers ( : accessed 4 July 2018).



This is a personal blog, related to genealogy.

It will, in part, highlight genealogical records (and some of the history) of my local area.

Sagebrush, Detail

I was born and raised in Washington State, but now live in Eastern Oregon, surrounded by sagebrush, in a small town called Hermiston, in Umatilla County — a town whose records are mostly held outside of town: in the county seat, Pendleton (famous for its annual Round Up Rodeo), about a half hour away and at the Oregon State Archives in Salem, on the west side of the state, about 4 hours away.

It has been hard letting go of my evergreens, but truth be told, I like the summers in Hermiston and I’d rather have dust than mold and rain any day.