Maria Ware and Lucy Thompson met and became friends when they both attended Newbury Seminary in Newbury, Vermont, the oldest theological seminary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1834, and one of the first to offer education to both men and women. The seminary likely fostered Maria’s dream of doing mission work. Lucy’s romantic courtship by Jason Lee and their marriage, just before a voyage half-way around the globe, may also have encouraged Maria into joining this adventure. Teaching school and living at home with her parents and four younger siblings may not have promised the future Maria was hoping for the age of 27.
Maria and Lucy, along with Jason’s other recruits (a total of about 50 persons) sailed from New York on October 9, 1839, on the ship Lausanne. The long trip took them around the tip of South America (Cape Horn). After a journey of 22,000 miles that took seven months and 23 days, they arrived at British Fort Vancouver (now in the state of Washington) on the Columbia River on June 1, 1840.
Daniel and Maria’s marriage ceremony was the first in what is now the State of Washington. They left almost immediately after the ceremony, with five other missionaries and 13 Indians, and traveled by barge 80 miles to the mission at the Dalles, which Daniel had established in March 1838. The Indians managed the barge and also had two canoes.
Nine months and 11 days following their marriage, Maria gave birth to their first child, Wilbur Fisk Lee. Eighteen months later, the Lee’s second son, Albert Blanding, was born. Before the birth of each child, the couple traveled back to Mission headquarters on the Willamette.
At the Dalles, Daniel and Maria served and toiled, doing everything possible to convert the Indians to Christianity, but their life was hard and many of their successes were short-lived. They remained at the mission for 38 months; they grieved over the death of Cyrus Shepard, the schoolteacher who had made the first trip with Jason and Daniel. A more devastating blow, however, must have been the loss of Maria’s friend, Lucy Thompson Lee, who died giving birth to a daughter. Maria’s health also suffered. On August 2, 1843, the Lees left Oregon and the difficult wilderness life. After Daniel preached and the couple shared the Lord’s supper with their fellow workers, Maria and Daniel left by canoe to make their last trip down the mighty Columbia River to settle, eventually, in the Midwest.
Maria’s friend, Lucy Thompson, a native of Vermont, was born on March 10, 1809 at Barre Lower Village. She began her religious studies at the Newbury Seminary in 1836 and was valedictorian of her graduating class in November 1838. Her professor, a classmate of Jason Lee, told his friend about Lucy and showed Lee a copy of her address. Their meeting led to a brief courtship with Lucy marrying Lee just four months later in July 1839. In autumn of that same year, they were part of the group sailing together on the “Lausanne,” bound for Oregon.
The second Mrs. Lee’s life at the pioneer mission was short. She died of pleurisy on March 20, 1842, less than two years after her arrival. She was survived by her newborn daughter, Lucy Anna, only three weeks old at the time of her mother’s death. Lucyanna was cared for by Lydia Hines, wife of Reverend Gustavus Hines, who had recently lost an infant daughter of their own.
>Our thanks to Wendell Buck at Salem Public Library for finding this engraving and introducing us to Google images.