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Selected Letters of A. M. A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla and Nesqualy

edited by Roberta Stringham Brown and Patricia O'Connell Killen

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

...More than a decade ago, while doing research in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle, we first encountered a set of five leather-bound letterbooks that had laid largely untouched for a century and a half. Penned in ornate nineteenth-century scrawl, mostly in French with occasional Latin or English, their 1,164 pages contain copies of outbound letters...

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pp. xvi-xx

...the destinations of the letters themselves. Historical documentarian Georges Aubin of L’Assomption, Quebec, spent much of 1985–86 transcribing the A. M. A. Blanchet letterbooks in their original French language, to which he added additional letters, some references, and a collection of related and incoming letters, including large numbers...

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pp. 1-12

...On May 8, 1847, the Right Reverend Augustin Magloire Alexandre Blanchet, bishop of Walla Walla, gave the signal to pull out from Westport, Missouri. And so the bishop, his eight fellow missionaries, and eight others, along with their three wagons, two teams of oxen, one team of cows, and all their supplies, commenced their journey on the Oregon Trail. Five days later they joined a group of twelve wagons under the leadership of...

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Letter 1. To Charles Dufriche-Desgenettes, Pastor of Notre-Dame des Victoires, Paris, February 25, 1847

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pp. 13-15

...An engraved metal locket in the shape of a heart contained a folded piece of paper with the names of Bishop A. M. A. Blanchet and his missionaries. Shortly before his departure from Montreal for his journey west, Blanchet wrote to Paris to arrange for this devotional object to be placed at an altar dedicated to the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The ritual act, simple in itself, was laden with meaning. Recalling a vassal’s oath...

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Letter 2. To François Norbert Blanchet, Archbishop of Oregon City, December 12, 1847

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pp. 16-24

...Ten months, a voyage of over three thousand miles across the continent, and the killing of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and twelve other Americans by young Cayuses stand between this letter and the first. Indian resistance to a religious conversion that required them to become farmers, the Whitmans’ hospitality to swelling numbers of American emigrants, and Cayuse traditions of avenging themselves on healers...

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Letter 3. To Célestin Gauvreau, Vicar-General, Superior, College of Ste.-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, [January] 1848

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pp. 25-30

...On January 2, three weeks after writing his brother and in the company of the HBC personnel who had come to rescue the Waiilatpu hostages, Bishop Blanchet with Deacon Rousseau and Father Ricard, O.M.I., accompanied the survivors, mostly widows and children, to Fort Vancouver and Oregon City. In an attempt to avert war, Blanchet delivered...

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Letter 4. To Members of the Councils of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Lyons and Paris, [March] 1848

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pp. 31-33

...Blanchet was not idle during his time at St. Paul on the Willamette. In addition to assisting with pastoral duties and writing letters, he continued to discharge his responsibilities as bishop by seeking resources and planning for a return to his diocese of Walla Walla, after the conflict between settlers and Cayuses slackened. This communication...

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Letter 5. List of Items the Bishop of Walla Walla Requested of Bishop Demers, [March 1848]

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pp. 34-36

...St. Paul, the temporary home of Blanchet and other missionary personnel during unrest east of the Cascades, was located amid well-established French Canadian and métis farmlands along the banks of the Willamette River. It was these earliest settlers, mostly retirees from the HBC, who initially had requested priests in 1834. The Catholic church in St. Paul was one of only three brick buildings in the entire region. Close...

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Letter 6. To James Buchanan, Secretary of State, March 31, 1848

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pp. 37-42

...The list of liturgical items that Blanchet requested in letter 5 evoked visions of a settled diocese that belied local political reality. Rumors circulated in the Willamette Valley of a federal law that prohibited settlement among Indians by whites without executive authorization. Given the anti-Catholic bias of some leaders in the provisional government and their attempts to implicate Blanchet and his clerics in the Waiilatpu killings...

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Letter 7. To James Buchanan, Secretary of State, April 1, 1848

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pp. 43-44

...It appears that for several years the Cayuses had threatened Dr. Whitman & told him to leave their lands. Americans staying at Waiilatpu in March found letters written to the doctor in 1844, which note that even then the Indians were talking about getting the doctor to leave.1 One of the bourgeois of the Company, who had been stationed in Walla Walla for five years & who left three...

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Letter 8. To George Abernethy, Governor, Provisional Government of Oregon, April 29, 1848

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pp. 45-47

...The adoption of a federal law against whites settling among Indians was not the only threat to Catholic missions in the Diocese of Walla Walla. Hostilities between volunteer troops and Plateau Indians presented an immediate obstacle. Father Brouillet and Deacon Leclaire had evacuated Mission St. Anne on February 19. Before they left, Tawatoé and other Cayuses were received into the Church. The Oblates had evacuated..

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Letter 9. To Jean-Charles Prince, Bishop of Martyropolis, Coadjutor of the Diocese of Montreal, January 27, 1849

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pp. 48-59

...The immigration of 1847, the Cayuse War, the transition of Oregon into a U.S. federal territory, and the California gold rush signaled the end of “Old Oregon”—a region comprised of Indian villages with complex social ties, fur trappers, and sparse Euro-American settlements coexisting in an economy dominated by the fur trade. Blanchet and his fellow missionaries had envisioned continuation of that older Oregon before their...

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Letter 10. To Members of the Councils of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Lyons and Paris, July 14, 1849

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pp. 60-66

...and the last prompted Bishop Blanchet to make a number of trips from his see at The Dalles to Oregon City. From there, he wrote this letter. Addressed to the same major funding source as letter 4, this letter is again intentional in structure: positive missionary news accompanied by evidence for why, without additional funding, he would be unable to build on that success and proceed with his mission. The positive news of this letter’s...

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Letter 11. To Pope Pius IX, November 1, 1849

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pp. 67-71

...Blanchet heard further reports on the revolutionary political upheavals in Rome, including the pope’s flight to exile in Gaeta in November 1848 and of the abolition of the temporal powers of the pope by the Italian revolutionaries in February 1849. The pope’s sufferings during this crisis are one subject of the letter; Blanchet writes about them in sympathetic and quite personal...

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Letter 12. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, February 6, 1850

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pp. 72-79

...Bishop Blanchet had spent four uninterrupted months at the mission of St. Peter at Waskopam when he wrote this letter. Residing at The Dalles, an important way station on the Columbia, allowed Blanchet to maintain contact with the outside world, despite the settlement’s sparse Euro-American population. In October, officers of the newly arrived...

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Letter 13. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, March 9, 1850

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pp. 80-82

...From his exile in Gaeta, Pope Pius IX saw to the pastoral care of Catholic populations as well as to church dogma. Of particular concern to him was California. After three years of empire following independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico adopted a republican constitution in 1824. The federalists, who were in power when California became a territory of...

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Letter 14. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, November 22, 1850

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pp. 83-87

...By the time Blanchet again wrote Bishop Ignace Bourget, the fortunes of his episcopal project had improved. In mid-October, he received official notification from Rome that he had been appointed to the newly established see of Nesqualy. On October 20, he departed from his quarters at Mission St. Peter at The Dalles, leaving Father Rousseau in full charge. Seven days later he arrived at his new see. Here, on lands...

Illustration Gallery 1

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pp. 88-103

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Letter 15. To Isaac Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory, October 20, 1854

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pp. 104-107

...Rapid demographic, political, economic, and ecclesial change characterized the years immediately following Blanchet’s translation to Nesqualy. By 1854, the bishop and his clergy had become increasingly entangled in defending Indian rights and maintaining peace. By papal decree, on July 29, 1853, the Diocese of Walla Walla was suppressed and the Diocese of Nesqualy extended to include U.S. lands from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains...

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Letter 16. To Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, Washington City, D.C., December 28, 1854

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pp. 108-109

...It took Governor Stevens, who was traveling in the east until early December, three months to reply to Blanchet’s request to remove Agent Bolon. In his reply, dated December 21, the governor asked the bishop to send specifications with proofs substantiating his charges that “Mr. Bolon was unworthy to act as an officer of the Government.” Without such...

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Letter 17. To William Leclaire, Missionary, Cowlitz Mission, May 15, 1855

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pp. 110-113

...When Bishop Blanchet wrote this next pair of letters, Isaac Stevens was heading east of the Cascades for the treaty council with the Plateau Indians that Andrew Bolon, aided by James Doty, the governor’s secretary, had been helping to prepare. The Oblate Fathers Pandosy and Chirouse, Jesuit Fathers Ravalli and Joseph Menetrey, and some métis settlers...

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Letter 18. To Marcel Bernier, Cowlitz Mission, May 15, 1855

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pp. 114-116

...At the heart of this letter is Cowlitz settler Marcel Bernier’s failure to follow through on his commitment to Bishop Blanchet to help support Father Leclaire. While Father Leclaire’s troubled relationship with his mission likely contributed to the situation, so too may have generational and cultural differences in conceptions of Catholic faith and practice...

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Letter 19. To Nicholas Congiato, Society of Jesus, April 26, 1856

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pp. 117-119

...The muddy wagon roads of the Cowlitz mission and the log-hewn cabin of the Marcel Bernier family were a world apart from the avenues of Paris, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Brussels, and Montreal that Bishop A. M. A. Blanchet traveled from September 1855 to the end of the following year. In 1843 and again in 1853, Father Peter De Smet, S.J., founder of the Jesuit’s...

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Letter 20. To the Directors of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Paris, May 15, 1857

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pp. 120-123

...Having received substantial gifts and monetary collections for the diocese, Blanchet arrived in Montreal on August 9, 1856, physically exhausted.1 While he was recuperating there, arguments flared over the bishop’s request for a second party of Sisters of Providence for Oregon. Opponents pointed to the order’s loss of sisters, first while caring for victims during the 1847 typhus epidemic, then during the 1852 cholera outbreak that...

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Letter 21. To Emilie Caron, Superior, Sisters of Providence, Montreal, June 16, 1857

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pp. 124-129

...In 1857, Fort Vancouver and its environs was an ethnically diverse, multinational settlement. According to the possessory rights guaranteed by the British-American Treaty of 1846, the HBC technically owned the lands. It was through special arrangements with the company that the terrain and buildings of the Catholic Church and the U.S. Army garrison were legally occupied. American settlers had begun poaching on the HBC lands as early as 1846 and making claims in 1850. Though the army prevented...

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Letter 22. To William Archbold, U.S. Army Sergeant, Fort Steilacoom, W.T., July 28, 1857

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pp. 130-132

...Continuous Catholic clerical presence on the Sound had begun with visits from the earliest missionaries, Fathers Modeste Demers and F. N. Blanchet, in 1839, during which they evangelized Indians and held a mission at the HBC’s Fort Nisqually. Clergy visited and provided services at the Cowlitz mission regularly from 1839 forward. In 1848, F. N. Blanchet, by this time the archbishop of Oregon City who was responsible for this area...

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Letter 23. To Eugène-Casimir Chirouse, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, March 12, 1860

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pp. 133-137

...Much had changed on Puget Sound in the three years since the completion of the Catholic church at Fort Steilacoom. Indian-settler clashes on the Sound had largely subsided. News of allegedly rich deposits of gold on the Fraser River had remade Whatcom on Bellingham Bay into a nascent San Francisco. In March 1859, the Senate approved the treaties Governor Stevens had negotiated in 1854–55, including the one that designated Tulalip...

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Letter 24. To Edward R. Geary, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon and Washington Territories, October 7, 1860

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pp. 138-142

...As the previous letter to Father Chirouse indicates, Indian agent Simmons on Puget Sound had requested that the Catholic missionaries already located on the Snohomish near Tulalip assume the responsibility of teaching at the newly established Tulalip Reservation. Bishop Blanchet expected that Catholics would staff the school at the newly established Yakama Reservation as well, priests having maintained missions among the Yakamas since...

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Letter 25. To Allen McLeod, March 6, 1862

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pp. 143-145

...For Bishop Blanchet, educational institutions served multiple functions. They provided continued contact with Indians who, for various reasons, sought Catholic presence. In recent settlements such as Vancouver they generated income for other ministries of the Sisters of Providence, and they were ideal nurseries not only for future Catholics but also for the formation of future priests and sisters. And, often, especially in the fluid situation of the frontier, they became refuges for orphans...

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Letter 26. To the Central Council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, April 15, 1862

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pp. 146-148

...Need for the care of children like the McLeod daughter, combined with the lack of hospitals, of homes for the destitute elderly, and of schools, all led to the rapid growth of Providence institutions in Vancouver and to the call for additional sisters. Clerics were wanting as well, as a result of the gradual departure of most Oblates of Mary Immaculate by 1860, the death of some diocesan priests, and the growing Catholic population. The construction...

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Letter 27. To Major Pinkney Lugenbeel, Commanding Officer, Fort Vancouver, May 22, 1862

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pp. 149-150

...Blanchet had given the sisters several acres of land on the Catholic claim for their use, purchased fruit trees, and had an orchard planted. In 1860, Mother Joseph purchased a four-acre farm a few miles from the Catholic establishment for $1,200, to provide additional food, work for pupils, and income from the sale of extra produce. The winter of 1861–62 was unusually harsh...

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Letter 28. To Caleb Blood Smith, Secretary of the Interior, Washington, D.C., June 16, 1862

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pp. 151-156

...new personnel were just two among many concerns that preoccupied Bishop Blanchet. Equally troublesome was the state of affairs at Simcoe, the Yakama Reservation. The Catholic missions among the Yakamas, the longest continuous and most successful venture in Indian work of those begun when Blanchet first arrived in Walla Walla, was blocked. Superintendent Geary had approved the appointment of a Methodist minister, James...

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Letter 29. To Aegidius Junger, Missionary of Walla Walla, November 6, 1862

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pp. 157-160

...On All Souls’ Eve, 1862, Aegidius Junger and Paul Mans, the first in a series of graduates from the American College of Louvain to serve in Washington Territory, stepped onto the shores at Vancouver City (see letter 26). Within a week, a relieved bishop had assigned each: Father Mans to teach at Holy Angels Academy in Vancouver, Father Junger to see to the building of a church in the booming town of Walla Walla and to serve Canadiens at Mission St...

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Letter 30. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, March 20, 1863

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pp. 161-165

...With Father Junger now serving the challenging mission of Walla Walla and Father Paul Antoine Mans at Vancouver’s Academy of Holy Angels, Blanchet again was able to spare his vicar-general for a short while. In mid-February 1862, Brouillet departed on a second voyage east, in order to attend to diocesan matters in Washington, D.C., and recruit additional sisters and clergy...

Illustration Gallery 2

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pp. 166-184

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Letter 31. To the Directors of the Leopoldine Society, January 25, 1864

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pp. 185-189

...The arrival of able young clergy and new settlers only increased Blanchet’s need for resources, and he turned again to Europe, this time to Austria’s Leopoldine Society, which had aided him during his 1856 tour. Established in Vienna in 1829 at the instigation of Vicar-General Frederick Rese of the heavily German-populated Diocese of Cincinnati...

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Letter 32. To Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Superior, February 11, 1864

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pp. 190-193

...No sooner had Blanchet assigned newly arrived sisters and clerics than he faced calls for still more in his growing diocese. In terms of sisters, not only was the Providence establishment in Vancouver shorthanded, but settlers were requesting them in Steilacoom and Walla Walla, and priests were seeking “women black robes” for their Indian missions. As letters 30 and 31 attest, Blanchet persistently grasped at funding sources to meet the...

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Letter 33. To Charles Vary, Missionary, July 23, 1864

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pp. 194-197

...Steilacoom, the base for activity along the north-to-south corridor of Blanchet’s missionary diocese, offered more promise as a Catholic center than it would realize. The gap between promise and realization frustrated the bishop, perhaps never more so than now. Settlers had promised, but failed, to adequately support sisters, a convent, and a school. This was particularly...

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Letter 34. To Francis Xavier Prefontaine, Missionary, July 24, 1864

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pp. 198-200

...I received your letter of the 17th instant. It is much to be regretted that you are having differences with Father Vary. Wherever the wrong may lie, there is simply no doubt that harm will come of it, scandal, should this continue. After the scandals of last year, you need be on your guard, & rather than give rise to new scandal, try to erase the damage their notoriety has already caused. Questions of money, of personal interests...

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Letter 35. To the Secular and Regular Clergy of the Diocese, July 8, 1867

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pp. 201-202

...In contrast to so many letters presenting shortages and needs in the diocese, the formal tone and content of this circular suggest a more stable situation. In Blanchet’s view, institutional presence was the foundation for sustained, consistent piety and practice among clergy, religious, and the laity. Its very existence extended supernatural life to all. The memorandum is an artifact of ecclesiastical bureaucratic routine and much more than that. Through...

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Letter 36. To Jean-Baptiste Auguste Brondel, Missionary, August 31, 1867

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pp. 203-205

...The list of Steilacoom-based missions on Puget Sound served by Fathers Vary and Prefontaine, ranging from the Cowlitz to Whatcom Rivers, speaks to the arduous nature of their far-flung circuits. Their ability to carry out the requests in the bishop’s circular of July 8 likely varied with the circumstances of each station. Having spent seven years in the Oregon Province, on loan from the Diocese of Montreal, Father Vary asked to return to...

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Letter 37. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, October 10, 1867

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pp. 206-211

...When Blanchet wrote this letter, Bishop Bourget was nearly sixty-eight years old and had served as bishop of Montreal for thirty years. Effective leader of the Canadian Catholic Church, he had launched the institutional revolution that made Quebec unique in North America for its church control of health, education, and social welfare. His priests were among the first bishops in several North American dioceses, and he had sent religious communities...

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Letter 38. To Francis Xavier Prefontaine, Missionary, October 14, 1867

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pp. 212-213

...Just four days prior to writing this letter to Father Prefontaine, Blanchet, who had recently visited Seattle, wrote to Bourget of the town’s promise to become important and of the proposal for a church and an establishment of sisters, the last of which he considered premature (see letter 37). Now he turned his attention to the young priest’s request to relocate to Seattle. At the time...

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Letter 39. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, January 20, 1868

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pp. 214-215

...the Mission of St. Rose during the absence of the missionary there. Brouillet cared for this vast mission until the end of November 1872, when he returned for a fourth time to Washington, D.C. Sacramental records of Walla Walla and St. Rose during these almost six years reveal multiple ethnicities among Catholics. Within the space of a typical three-week period, from July 14 to August 4, 1867, Father Brouillet baptized Louise, the...

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Letter 40. To Peter De Smet, Society of Jesus, February 15, 1871

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pp. 216-219

...Blanchet penned this hopeful letter to the Jesuit, Father Peter De Smet, eleven years after his first formal complaint to Superintendent of Indian Affairs Edward Geary about a Methodist’s appointment as superintendent of instruction on the Yakama Reservation (see letter 24). The situation at Simcoe had only worsened, since Reverend Wilbur’s appointment as...

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Letter 41. To James Roosevelt Bayley, Archbishop of Baltimore, June 15, 1873

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pp. 220-222

...The hope with which Blanchet wrote De Smet in 1871 had been dashed. Of the thirty-eight reservations to which the Catholic Church considered itself entitled under Grant’s Peace Policy because of its claims to early and ongoing missionary effort, it had been assigned only seven of the initial assignments of seventy-one. Those were the Flathead, Tulalip, Colville, Grand Ronde, Umatilla, Grand River, and Devil’s Lake reservations...

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Letter 42. To Charles Seghers, Bishop of Vancouver Island, December 30, 1873

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pp. 223-225

...A. M. A. Blanchet had been a missionary bishop for twenty-seven years when he responded to Charles Seghers, the newly appointed bishop of Vancouver Island. Bishop Seghers’s appointment marked a turning in the history of the Ecclesiastical Province of Oregon, for he succeeded Modeste Demers, one of the original two missionaries from Quebec who arrived in the Oregon Country in 1838. With the Province straddling an international border...

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Letter 43. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, November 24, 1874

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pp. 226-229

...By mid-October 1874, at the urging of his bishop, Vicar-General Brouillet had returned to his mission, which included the Walla Walla establishments of St. Patrick Church, St. Vincent Academy for girls under the care of the Sisters of Providence, St. Joseph Academy for boys, and St. Rose of Lima Chapel in Frenchtown. Father Brouillet’s stay in Walla Walla was short, just long enough to put the mission’s finances and personnel in order. On February 8, with the blessing of his bishop, he again returned to Washington...

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Letter 44. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, June 17, 1875

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pp. 230-232

...With a sense of accomplishment, thanks in no small part to French Canadian collaboration, Blanchet wrote again to his mentor and friend to report on the completion of the new Providence convent. Recognizing the need for more space and the advantage of gathering the Providence services of Vancouver into a single house, Mother Caron, then superior general of the Institute, with the support of Bishop Blanchet, had authorized construction...

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Letter 45. To His Eminence Cardinal Alessandro Franchi, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith,July 9, 1876

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pp. 233-239

...With the assistance of his secretary, Father Aegidius Junger, Blanchet composed this report to the Vatican on the Diocese of Nesqualy just three years before his retirement. In the previous letter, he had shared a sense of accomplishment with his friend Ignace Bourget, who understood intimately the difficulties of building the Church in a frontier diocese. In this response to a questionnaire premised on the ideal of a fully mature diocese, he conveys...

General Chronology

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pp. 240-246

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 247-256


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p. 257-257


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pp. 258-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780295804583
E-ISBN-10: 0295804580
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295992631
Print-ISBN-10: 0295992638

Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: First edition

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Subject Headings

  • Blanchet, Augustine Magloire Alexander, 1797-1887 -- Correspondence.
  • Catholic Church -- Bishops -- Correspondence.
  • Catholic Church -- Washington Territory -- History.
  • Washington Territory -- Church history.
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