Father Francois (or Francis) N. Blanchet and Rev. Modeste Demers arrive at Fort Vancouver on November 24, 1838.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 11/20/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7553
On November 24, 1838, Father Francois (or Francis) N. Blanchet (1795-1883) and the Rev. Modeste Demers (1809-1871) arrive at Fort Vancouver. They have traveled from eastern Canada with the annual Hudson's Bay Co. "express," leaving in May and arriving at Walla Walla on November 18, 1838. They are the first Catholic priests to arrive in the future Washington state.

According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, "For four years they laboured alone, going from settlement to settlement, facing every peril of a wild country, recalling the scattered faithful to the practice of religion and instructing the aborigines." Then two other priests, the Revs. A. Langlois and Z. Bolduc (d. 1889), arrived from Canada to assist them.

Both Father Blanchet and Rev. Demers were the sons of French Canadian farmers. Many employees of the Hudson's Bay Co. were also French Canadian. Among the several newly arriving priests over the next decade was Father Augustin Magloire Blanchet (1797-1887), the younger brother of Father Francois N. Blanchet.

Father Francois Blanchet would become (1846) Archbishop of Oregon City (later Portland). Father Agustin Magloire Blanchet would become Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Walla Walla and then Bishop of Nesqually. Father Demers would become the first Bishop of Vancouver Island in Canada.

Sources: New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, "Augustun Magloire Blanchet" and "Francious Norbert Blanchet," http://www.newadvent.org/ (accessed November 20, 2005); “Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet” Archdiocesan Pastoral Center (Portland, Oregon) website (http://www.archdpdx.org/previous-archbishops/ab_blanchet.htm).
Father Bolduc's name was corrected on November 24, 2009.

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