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.

On June 11, only 10 days after her arrival, Maria Ware exchanged wedding vows with Daniel Lee, Jason’s nephew, at Fort Vancouver. Before we rush to judgment about the brevity of this courtship, we must consider the circumstances – their commitment to mission and the fact that he was 33 years old and she was 27 years old. Jason and Lucy also may have told Maria a great deal about Daniel before she arrived in Oregon. An unpublished biography of Daniel Lee written by Florence Smith Lee describes the wedding and the wedding dress, which leads us to surmise that Maria probably brought her wedding dress with her from New Hampshire.
“They married in the parlor of Dr. McLoughlin’s spacious home, with Rev. Jason Lee performing the ceremony. The bride’s gown was the color of ashes of roses, a frosty pink with a tint of tan and self colored overshot flowers about an inch and half in diameter. It had a close-fitting bodice and a plain neck. There were two collars of white lawn, the larger plain and extending to the tip of the shoulders, the smaller one four or five inches wide. Both were edged with lace, as was the edge of the full sleeves. The skirt was very wide. Her hair was parted and held back softly. A comb of the prevailing fashion, a curved piece of amber about five by three inches, was worn in the knot at the neck. She must have looked luxurious indeed beside the humble dress of her groom. Rev. Daniel Lee had been in Oregon six years, and anything he wore must have looked worn and faded.” (Fifty years later she wore the same gown at their Golden Anniversary)

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 ladies of the mission community who had come to Oregon two years before had expected to conduct a memorial for Anna Maria, but were surprised by the new wife that they had not heard about. After a months, the missionaries left the settlement now known as the Willamette Mission site (near the present Wheatland Ferry) to found what became Salem. Lucy and Jason lived, with the Parrish, Raymond and Judson families, in the first house built in the new community on Mill Creek. Now relocated, it is known as the Jason Lee House at Willamette heritage Center.

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.