Selected Letters of A. M. A. Blanchet

Bishop of Walla Walla and Nesqualy (1846-1879)

Edited by Roberta Stringham Brown and Patricia O'Connell Killen
Translated by Roberta Stringham Brown

  • Published: 2013. Paperback August 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
  • Bibliographic information: 288 pp., 61 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In 1846, French Canadian-born A. M. A. Blanchet was named the first Catholic bishop of Walla Walla in the area soon to become Washington Territory. He arrived at Fort Walla Walla in late September 1847, part of the largest movement over the Oregon Trail to date. During the thirty-two years of Blanchet's tenure in the Northwest, the region underwent profound social and political change as the Hudson's Bay Company moved headquarters and many operations north following the Oregon Treaty, U.S. government and institutions were established, and Native American inhabitants dealt with displacement and discrimination. Blanchet chronicled both his own pastoral and administrative life and his observations on the world around him in a voluminous correspondence-almost nine hundred letters-to religious superiors and colleagues in Montreal, Paris, and Rome; funding organizations; other missionaries; and U.S. officials. This selection of Blanchet's letters provides a fascinating view of Washington Territory as seen through the eyes of an intelligent, devout, energetic, perceptive, and occasionally irascible cleric and administrator.

Almost all of Blanchet's correspondence was in French. Roberta Stringham Brown and Patricia O'Connell Killen have chosen forty-five of those letters to translate and annotate, creating a history of early Washington that provides new insights into relationships, events, and personalities. A number of the letters provide first-hand glimpses of familiar events, such as the Whitman tragedy, the California gold rush, Indian wars and land displacement, transportation advances, and the domestic material culture of a frontier borderland. Others voice the hardships of historically underrepresented groups, including Native Americans, Metis, and French Canadians, and the experiences of ordinary people in growing population centers such as Seattle, Walla Walla, and Vancouver, Wash-ington. Still others describe the struggle to bring social, medical, and educational institutions to the region, a struggle in which women religious workers played a key role. The letters-and the editors' fascinating annotations-provide an engaging and insightful look at an important period in the history of the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada.
Roberta Stringham Brown is professor of French emertia at Pacific Lutheran University. Patricia O'Connell Killen is professor of religious studies and academic vice president at Gonzaga University.
Letter 1. To Charles Dufriche-Desgenettes, Pastor of Notre-Dame des Victoires, Paris, February 25, 1847
Letter 2. To Francois Norbert Blanchet, Archbishop of Oregon City, December 12, 1847
Letter 3. To Cre, [January] 1848
Letter 4. To Members of the Councils of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Lyons and Paris, [March] 1848
Letter 5. List of Items the Bishop of Walla Walla Requested of Bishop Demers, [March 1848]
Letter 6. To James Buchanan, Secretary of State, March 31, 1848
Letter 7. To James Buchanan, Secretary of State, April 1, 1848
Letter 8. To George Abernethy, Governor, Provisional Government of Oregon, April 29, 1848
Letter 9. To Jean-Charles Prince, Bishop of Martyropolis, Coadjutor of the Diocese of Montreal, January 27, 1849
Letter 10. To Members of the Councils of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Lyons and Paris, July 14, 1849
Letter 11. To Pope Pius IX, November 1, 1849
Letter 12. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, February 6, 1850
Letter 13. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, March 9, 1850
Letter 14. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, November 22, 1850

Illustration Gallery 1

Letter 15. To Isaac Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory, October 20, 1854
Letter 16. To Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, Washington City, D. C., December 28, 1854
Letter 17. To William Leclaire, Missionary, Cowlitz Mission, May 15, 1855
Letter 18. To Marcel Bernier, Cowlitz Mission, May 15, 1855
Letter 19. To Nicholas Congiato, Society of Jesus, April 26, 1856
Letter 20. To the Directors of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Paris, May 15, 1857
Letter 21. To Emilie Caron, Superior, Sisters of Providence, Montreal, June 16, 1857
Letter 22. To William Archbold, U.S. Army Sergeant, Fort Steilacoom, W.T., July 28, 1857
Letter 23. To Eugène-Casimir Chirouse, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, March 12, 1860
Letter 24. To Edward R. Geary, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon and Washington Territories, October 7, 1860
Letter 25. To Allen McLeod, March 6, 1862
Letter 26. To the Central Council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, April 15, 1862
Letter 27. To Major Pinkney Lugenbeel, Commanding Officer, Fort Vancouver, May 22, 1862
Letter 28. To Caleb Blood Smith, Secretary of the Interior, Washington, D.C., June 16, 1862
Letter 29. To Aegidius Junger, Missionary of Walla Walla, November 6, 1862
Letter 30. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, March 20, 1863

Illustration Gallery 2

Letter 31. To the Directors of the Leopoldine Society, January 25, 1864
Letter 32. To Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Superior, February 11, 1864
Letter 33. To Charles Vary, Missionary, July 23, 1864
Letter 34. To Francis Xavier Prefontaine, Missionary, July 24, 1864
Letter 35. To the Secular and Regular Clergy of the Diocese, July 8, 1867
Letter 36. To Jean-Baptiste Auguste Brondel, Missionary, August 31, 1867
Letter 37. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, October 10, 1867
Letter 38. To Francis Xavier Prefontaine, Missionary, October 14, 1867
Letter 39. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, January 20, 1868
Letter 40. To Peter De Smet, Society of Jesus, February 15, 1871
Letter 41. To James Roosevelt Bayley, Archbishop of Baltimore, June 15, 1873
Letter 42. To Charles Seghers, Bishop of Vancouver Island, December 30, 1873
Letter 43. To J. B. A. Brouillet, Vicar-General, November 24, 1874
Letter 44. To Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, June 17, 1875
Letter 45. To His Eminence Cardinal Alessandro Franchi, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, July 9, 1876
General Chronology
Selected Bibliography

"This selection of 45 letters by the first Catholic Bishop of Walla Walla provides a view of early Washington history through the eyes of an intelligent and perceptive cleric and administrator."
-Seattle Times, 2013

"This is an expertly translated and edited collection...[that]will appeal to scholars, students, and general interest readers in the Pacific Northwest history. Brown and Killen have made accessible a set of primary sources that give voice to lesser known historical actors, including French Canadian and French-Indian settlers and Catholic female missionaries."
-Melinda Marie Jette, Oregon Historical Quarterly

"Through careful selection and judicious interpretation, the editors have teased out the complicated life and personality of Blanchet as he confronted a tangled mission world...Brown and Killen are to be applauded for bringing attention to this bishop of the Northwest and doing so with the highest standards of scholarship."
-Anne M. Butler, American Catholic Studies

"These letters illuminate the cultural, ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity of the Pacific Northwest and collectively challenge several traditional historiographical narratives. This book will be useful to historians of American religion in general and American Catholicism in particular, as well as those who study the Pacific Northwest."
-Nicholas Pellegrino, Pacific Northwest Quarterly