William O. Douglas Betty Bowen Carl Maxey Chief Joseph Bertha Landes Buffalo Soldier Home
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7099 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Bishop Demers holds Seattle's first Christian religious ceremony on August 22, 1852.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2024 : Printer-Friendly Format

On August 22, 1852, at the invitation of Arthur Denny (1822-1899), visiting Bishop Modeste Demers (1809-1871) celebrates Mass in Henry Yesler's sawmill cookhouse. Although the town has no Catholic settlers, the service marks the town's first Christian religious service. (Note: This date is cited and sourced on p. 194, A History of the Catholic Church in the Pacific Northwest by Fr. Wilfred Schoenberg, SJ. There is no doubt that Bishop Demers conducted Seattle's first Christian ceremony, but the date given would seem to precede Henry Yesler's October arrival in Seattle and the later construction of the cookhouse itself. Arthur Denny, in Pioneer Days on Puget Sound, p. 63, refers to the Demers service only as occurring in 1852.)

Bishop Demers was the right-hand assistant to legendary missionary and Oregon Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet (1795-1885). Demers had responsibility for everywhere north of the 49th parallel including Vancouver Island, New Caladonia (mainland British Columbia), and Russian America (the future Alaska). He was traveling through Puget Sound in the summer of 1852, on his way to Vancouver Island to assume his responsibilities.

Arthur Denny invited Demers to conduct a service in the new cookhouse of Henry Yesler's unfinished steam sawmill, while noting that there were no Catholics in the neighborhood. This was not actually true: Many local Salish, including Chief Seattle (178?-1866), had already been baptized by Catholic missionaries -- much to the annoyance of some white Protestant settlers and the Methodist missionaries who soon followed.

Bishop Demers celebrated Mass and sermonized on charity, which was at least as rare in Seattle as were white Catholics. He departed the village singularly unimpressed and six years would pass before another priest, Fr. Louis Rossi, visited the town. Finally, in 1867, the Archdiocese grudgingly assigned Fr. Francis Xavier Prefontaine as Seattle's first resident priest.

Fr. Wilfred P. Schoenberg, S J, Paths to the Northwest, A Jesuit History of the Oregon Province (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1982); Arthur A. Denny, Pioneer Days on Puget Sound (Seattle: C.B. Bagley, Printer, 1888), p. 51; Walt Crowley, Seattle University, A Century of Jesuit Education (Seattle: Seattle University, 1991).

Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Religion | Firsts | Society |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

Bishop Modeste Demers (1809-1871), 1860
Courtesy A. A. Denny, Pioneer Days on Puget Sound

Bishop A.M.A. Blanchet of Nisqually (l.), Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet of Oregon City, and Bishop Modeste Demers, ca. 1850
Courtesy Archdiocese of Seattle

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org