SOUTHERN OREGON.Those who have heard the accounts of travelers returning from Oregon and California can imagine the ideas I had of the personal character of the people with whom I would have to deal. They had been painted as rough, unrestrained and nomadic, generous while at the same time on the lookout for monetary gain. It was with these impressions that I went from Portland (a distance of 100 miles) to southern Oregon, the vast field of my future endeavors. I owe it to the truth, however, to point out that the facts far from corroborated my expectations. For ten years in Oregon and on the border of California, I have always found the people as civilized and sociable as the people of Canada; they equal or surpass them in activity and are at least as liberal. For example: the clergy and nuns travel on boats, railways and stages at half price, often for free. Everywhere they are the object of the courtesy and politeness of Americans, many of whom are not prejudiced. I am not speaking of religious bigots; they are always rude and intolerant. There are twice as many of them in Oregon as there are in California.
It was November 23, 1863 that I took possession of the Jacksonville mission. The chapel was small, as was the assembly that came together for services. The
southern Oregon mission is 200 miles in length by 150 wide. As you see, it would make a vast diocese. You can see that the missionary must be a traveler, ordinarily covering one thousand miles in the space of a year, if he wants to visit his scattered sheep twice.
Within a week, the missionary once traveled two hundred seventy-four miles
to minister to two dying patients.
Here are some details on the Jacksonville mission: The main city of southern Oregon is incorporated; it is also the principal town of Jackson County; it is located on the edge of a beautiful valley and is the center of a district rich in mines, cattle and agricultural products. Its population is more than 1,000 souls; the rest
the county has 6 or 7,000. There are two churches in Jacksonville, the Catholic church and the Protestant church, and in addition several schools, among them St. Mary's Academy for girls, under the direction of four Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Rich merchants, lawyers and even workers have beautiful residences and shops. Two newspapers are published in Jacksonville, each following the colors of its political party.
Sixteen years ago there was very little mention of the Catholic religion in these parts: no priest, no church, and only a small group of Catholics. Some priests from
Oregon and California visited while passing through the young village of Jacksonville and administered the sacraments to those who were there. In 1858 and 1860 Archbishop Blanchet also evangelized this colony as a simple missionary. In 1858, under the direction of His Grace, the Most Reverend Mr. Croke, now Vicar-General of San Francisco, built a small church under the patronage of St. Joseph. Although modest, it is well maintained. When decorated on holidays it is the glory of Catholics, and Protestants call it a pretty theater.
Rev. Fierens, now Grand Vicar and Curé of Portland, administered St. Joseph parish for nearly two years, and all the old parishioners remember his zeal and piety.
François Xavier Blanchet, Dix Ans sur la Coté du Pacifique (Ten Years on the Pacific Coast), 1873, page 38
Last revised August 19, 2014