History of Saint Paul, Oregon

St. Paul Parish Historical Outline

Thank you to Fr. Scott Baier, pastor of Saint Paul’s Parish, for passing along this historical information!

The history of St. Paul Parish, St. Paul, Oregon, is so closely interwoven with the early history of Oregon and the great Pacific Northwest. One can scarcely do justice in writing the history of the Oregon Country without reviewing the origin of the parish. This outline summarizes some significant and outstanding historical facts pertaining directly to St. Paul Parish as gathered from parish records and the gleanings of historians.


In the year 1834, at the suggestion of Dr. John McLoughlin, chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, Washington, a small handful of people living in St. Paul community in the French Prairie area of the Willamette Valley sent petitions to Monsignor Provencher, vicar general and auxiliary bishop, in Red River, Winnipeg, Canada requesting missionaries. After a second petition, they finally received word the following year, in 1835, of a promise of missionaries.


On February 28, 1836, at Bishop Provencher’s request, the Holy See granted an indult annexing the Oregon Country to the Vicariate Apostolic of Red River. When the Catholic settlers of French Prairie learned that they might get a priest, they built a small log church (30×70 feet), with a small room in back of the altar for the priest’s residence. This log church was located at Fairfield, Oregon at the time. Fairfield, Oregon was one of the largest towns along the Willamette River. Dr. John McLoughlin had the log church dismantled, log by log, and brought up the Willamette River to St. Paul. This move kept it safe from the Willamette River floods. It was then reassembled.


On January 5, 1839, Father F. N. Blanchet arrived at the new St. Paul Mission. The next day, January 6, 1839, the Feast of the Epiphany, the church, the first in the Pacific Northwest, was blessed under the patronage of St. Paul, and Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in the present State of Oregon. For several days, Father Blanchet conducted a mission among the people, instructing all, baptizing the women and children, and blessing marriages. Before taking his leave, he obtained a section of land around the church, as he and the settlers had every confidence that Dr. John McLoughlin would secure permission for the establishment of a permanent mission on the Willamette.


On April 17, 1838, Bishop Signay of Quebec, appointed Father Francis Norbert Blanchet, vicar general of Quebec, with jurisdiction of the Oregon Country.


On January 6, 1839, Father Francis Blanchet offered Mass for the first time in what is now the State of Oregon, at the Saint Paul church in Sant Paul. He blessed the log church under the patronage of the Apostle, Saint Paul. During a 30-day mission in May, 1839, Father Blanchet blessed the ground for the first Catholic cemetery in the Pacific Northwest at Saint Paul (next to the Knights of Columbus Hall on Highway 219). On October 12, 1839, with the Hudson Bay restrictions for permanent residence removed, Father Blanchet took up permanent residence at Saint Paul, making Saint Paul the first Catholic parish in the State of Oregon.


In May of 1842, at the request of the Bishop of St. Louis, Father P. J. De Smet, the zealous missionary of the Flathead Indians, journeyed to the Willamette Valley to confer with the Vicar General and Father Demers concerning the need for more priests and a congregation of sisters from Europe. It was not until September 17 of the same year that Fathers Langlois and Bolduc arrived at St. Paul from Canada. The following day (Sunday), High Mass with a deacon and subdeacon was celebrated for the first time in Oregon Country.


Later in 1843, while Father De Smet was in Europe procuring volunteers for the Great West, Father Blanchet opened St. Joseph College for Boys in St. Paul. Father Langlois, assisted by two secular teachers, directed the school. On October 17, 1843, the college was blessed and thirty boys entered as boarders. The school was later closed in June of 1849 migration of Oregon families to California as a result of the Gold Rush and it never reopened its doors.


In 1844, a frame structure 30×60 feet, intended for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was constructed west of the college. These Sisters were brought to Oregon by the Jesuit Missionary, Father Pierre De Smet, SJ. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were also forced by Gold Rush circumstances to close their academy in St. Paul in 1852.


On December 1, 1843, Pope Gregory XVI established the Oregon Country as a vicariate, naming Father Blanchet as the vicar apostolic. On July 25, 1845, Father Francis Blanchet was consecrated bishop of the Oregon Vicariate at Saint James Cathedral in Montreal by Bishop Ignatius Bourget. The following year, on July 24, 1846, Pope Pius IX issued a papal brief establishing the Province of Oregon City, making Oregon City the second oldest archdioceses in the United States and Bishop Blanchet as it first archbishop. The name of the Oregon City archdiocese was changed to “Portland in Oregon” by papal decree by Pope Pius XI on September 26, 1928.


During the absence of Archbishop Blanchet in Europe in 1846, the cornerstone of a new brick church to take the place of the log church built earlier, was laid and blessed by Father Demers on May 24, 1846. This church, dedicated on November 1 of the same year, was the first brick church in Oregon and is the present St. Paul Church. This new brick church was built using 60 thousand bricks fired on the church site. The brick structure is 100 feet long, 45 feet wide and cruciform in shape. Two lateral chapels 15×15 feet extend out from the main walls. The belfry is 84 feet high. The church cost $20,000 to build. It was completed in 1886 with additional expense of $2,000. On May 25, 1898, the church was consecrated by Archbishop Gross.


On September 19, 1847, Father J. F. Jayol, was ordained the first priest in the archdiocese at the Saint Paul Church by Archbishop Blanchet. On November 30 of the same year, Archbishop ordained Father Modest Demers, Bishop of Vancouver Island, Canada, in the Saint Paul church.


Twelve sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary arrived in Oregon on October 21, 1859. These sisters reopened the Saint Paul Catholic School on February 1, 1861. The “New” Catholic Cemetery (East of Saint Paul Highway 219) was established in 1874. Archbishop Blanchet was buried there in 1883. Archbishop William Gross of Oregon City consecrated the Saint Paul Church on May 25, 1898, the first church in Oregon to be consecrated.


Under the pastorate of Rev. James Rauw (1900-1908), many improvements were made. The church thoroughly renovated. New altars, pews, and stained-glass windows were put in. A handsome and spacious sacristy was added. The belfry tower was completely remodeled. The new High Altar was consecrated by Archbishop Christi on December 13, 1903.


One of the more outstanding events to take place in St. Paul in recent years was the outdoor Solemn Pontifical High Mass celebrated on July 28, 1946, at Champoeg (within the parish) commemorating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Archdiocese in Oregon.


On March 25, 1993, the “Mount Angel Earthquake” seriously damaged the Saint Paul church, although the altars and statues were not harmed nor did the church collapse considering the five-brick thick walls had no cement or mortar holding them together. When the church was declared unsafe following this earthquake, the parish and the Archdioceses agreed that it would be restored the same as before, due to its historic significance in the Pacific Northwest.


The walls were completely taken down in sections; only the roof and floor remained. The walls were replaced with concrete blocks reinforced with steel and were faced with the original bricks; the remainder of the bricks were sold and the money used in the reconstruction. Restrooms were added in the northwest corner of the church. The steeple was highly reinforced and the rooster atop re-gilded. A reconciliation room was added and the pews and floor were refinished. The stained-glass windows were repaired and re-leaded. A new sound system was installed, along with a new altar of sacrifice and lecterns. The area was landscaped and new blacktop and sidewalks were added.


Sunday Mass was celebrated from 1993-1995 in the Saint Paul Fire Department Hall and weekday Masses were celebrated in the former Key Bank in Saint Paul. This bank was owned by parishioner Don Davidson. The church was re-dedicated on November 5, 1995 after the completion of its restoration.


Chronological Order of Pastors

By way of interest, a chronological order of pastors of St. Paul Parish has been arranged from old announcement books and parish registers, dating back to 1839 and up to and including present time:

1839 to 1844 – Most Rev. F. N. Blanchet (First Archbishop)
1844 to 1850 – Rev. J. B. Bolduc
1844 to 1847 – Rev. Modeste Demers (Bishop of Victoria)
1850 to 1853 – Rev. F. N. Cenas
1853 to 1855 – Rev. B. DeLorme V.G.
1855 to 1859 – Rev C. H. O’Reilly
1855 to 1859 Rev. M. O’Reilly
1859 to 1869 – Re. I. F. Malo
1869 to 1871 – Rev. A. J. Glorieux
1871 to 1887 – Rt. Rev. B. DeLorme V.G.
1886 to 1887 – Rev. J. S. White
1887 to 1895 – Rt. Rev. F. X. Blanchet V.G.
1895 to 1900 – Rev. D. Faber
1900 to 1908 – Rt. Rev. James Rauw V.G.
1908 to 1911 – Rev. P. A. Clivetti
1911 to 1912 – Rev. Francis VanClarenback
1912 to 1934 – Rev. George C. Chabot
1934 to 1936 – Rev. Louis Derouin
1934 to 1936 – Rev. F. Feinler
1936 to 1944 – Rev. Henry A. Orth
1944 to 1972 – Rev. James L. Maxwell
1972 to 1974 – Rev. Theodore R. Weber
1974 to 1984 – Rev. Joseph Chao
1984 to 1988 – Rev. Joseph Gebhardt
1988 to 1988 – Rev. Gerry McCray
1988 to 1989 – Rev. Francis Baltramas
1988 to 1989 – Very Rev. Gregory Moys
1989 to 2009 – Rev. Charles Borho
2009 to 2021 – Monsignor Gregory Moys
2021 to present  – Rev. Scott Baier


Summary of important dates:

First Agricultural settlement in the State of Oregon. 1834
First house of religious worship in Oregon – the log church erected by the early settlers in 1836.
First Mass offered in the State of Oregon – January 6, 1839.
First mission conducted for the laity – January 1839.
First bell to peal forth the Angelus in State of Oregon – December 23, 1839.
First Archiepiscopal residence in the Northwest.
First Mass celebrated with Deacon and Subdeacon – September 1842.
First Catholic School, St. Joseph’s College for Boys – October 17, 1843.
First Religious retreat for Sisters – conducted by Father De Vos November 7, 1844.
First Forty Hours Devotion – January 6, 1845.
First brick Church, cornerstone blessed by Father Demers – May 2, 1846.
First ordination in Oregon, Father Jayol – September 19, 1846.
The future Vicar General, Father De Lorme was ordained to the Priesthood – October 31, 1846.
First Provincial Council in Oregon was held in the Archiepiscopal residence in St. Paul – February 28, 1848.
First Bishop Consecrated in Oregon, Bishop elect Demers was consecrated in St. Paul Church – November 30, 1847.


Excerpts from Parish Records of First Baptism, Marriage, and Burial

… as they appeared in the old Parish Register at St. Paul (as translated from French by Rev. Louis Derouin in 1935).


“The 13th of October 1839, we priests undersigned na.ve baptized Pierre, born four months ago, of lawful marriage of Pierre Depot, farmer in the Willamette and of Marguerite Klamak, Godparents****who with the father have not been able to sign”.

  1. N. Blanchet, Priest, V. G.


“The 28th of October 1839, with the dispensation of three banns of marriage granted on this day by US, Vicar General, between Pierre Desrivieres of the Assiniboibe tribe, instructed and baptized in Montreal, and now in the service of the Honorable Company, on the first part, and Marie Hanon of infidel parents, having been probably baptized, on the second part having not discovered any other impediment to the said marriage, We priest under signed, Missionary of the Columbia, have received the mutual consent of Marriage and have given them the Nuptial blessing in the presence of Anable Arcouet and Andre (Andrew) Picard, Witnesses, before whom the said spouses have made in favor of their lawful Child, Marie Louise, aged five, Angelique, aged two; neither the witnesses or the spouses have been able to sign”.

  1. N. Blanchet, Priest, V. G.


“The 2nd of December 1839, we priest undersigned, have buried in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Mission of the Willamette, the body of Catherine of the tribe Kalupoya, who died day before yesterday, aged nine, at the home of Joseph Delard. Present Pierre Delard, who was unable to sign and of Jean Bte Jeaudoin undersigned.”

Jean Baptiste Jeaudoin                       F. N. Blanchet, Priest, V. G.


Blessing of the Bell

“The 22nd of December, day of Sunday, 1839. We priest undersigned, missionary of the Columbia, have blessed , about one hour after noon, a Bell under the incocation of Mary, to serve in the use of the Chapel of the Mission of St Paul of the Willamette, having mounted and erected on a platform prepared for its purpose, and resting on the doorway of the said chapel”.

  1. N. Blanchet, Priest, V. G.


Blessing of the Church

This first of November, 1846, we priest undersigned, Vicar General of the Apostolic Vacariate of Oregon, have publicly blessed according to the formula of the Processional, a church built of brick, under the patronage of the Apostle Saint Paul, to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to preach the Gospel, and to administer the Sacraments***assisted by the Revs Fathers Jean Baptiste Sephyrin Plduc, and Michael Accolti S. J. who have signed with us***and in the presence of a great gathering of the people.

Mod. Demers V.G.O.


The Stations of the Cross were officially in the church on June 25, 1871.


Burials under St. Paul’s Church

At least five persons have been buried under the church, The names are as follows:

Luce Chalifou, Age 11, buried Dec. 31, 1849;
Louise Boisvert  buried May 2, 1850 on the Epistle side near the middle;
Marguerite Wagner, Age 8 years, buried April 13, 1851 under the right wing of
the chapel;
The body of Sister Renilde was buried in the Sisters section of the cemetery and later transferred and buried under the corner of the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in the year of Sept. 20, 1855; The body was again transferred after a Requiem High Mass to the new cemetery in the lot with Archbishop Blanchet, November 2, 1887;
The Rev. Father Julian DeCraene, pastor of Salem, was buried in the right wing of the church near the west side of the wall on September 15, 1873.

Rev. J. F. Fierens, Priest


New Saint Paul Cemetery

The new cemetery at St. Paul was Solemnly blessed by the Most Rev. F. N. Blanchet on June 24, 1877, in the presence of B. DeLorme, V. G. and Father James S. White.

  1. N. Blanchet, Archbishop

Archbishop Blanchet Burial Place


On June 21, 1883, the Most Rev. Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet, first Archbishop of Oregon was buried in the cemetery of his Mission in St. Paul; Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend Aegidus Junger, Bishop of Nesqually; Archbishop Seghers pronounced the funeral eulogy. On June 23, 1884, his body was transferred from the small chapel to a crypt provided near the central cross of the Cemetery of St. Paul.

  1. DeLorme, Rector