History

When the Jason Lee school was completed in January 7, 1952, it's capacity was 300 students. It further eased the overcrowding in Richland schools. More classes that had been taught in hutments were now in a regular school. At first only three classrooms were ready for occupancy. The hutments near Carmichael school were vacated first and moved to those classes. Three more rooms were opened a month later and classes were moved there from hutments near Sacajawea. Lillie Peterson joined the new school as its first principal. One problem marred the opening of the school: Richie Construction Company of Walla Walla had asked for more time, complaining of a labor problem. There was a delay before the entire building was finally complete. Classrooms in other schools that had been set aside for specialized classes, such as art and music, could once again be used for regular classes.

Jason Lee was a Methodist missionary who started his mission in the Willamette Valley. The Lees built their mission on the Willamette River, about 60 miles from its confluence with the Columbia River. The mission eventually had a mission house, log barn, and 30 acres of prairie land. In 1835, the mission school was added. The Flathead orphans were the first to come to the mission where they were fed and clothed. The Lees provided moral and religious instruction, as well as spelling and reading. In 1837 reinforcements arrived. One of them was Anna Maria Pittman, who became Lee's wife on July 16, 1837. She died a year later in childbirth, the first white woman to die in Oregon country.

In 1838, Lee returned east to urge leaders of the importance of establishing a white settlement in the west and get more funds for the mission. When he returned to the mission in June 1840, Lee began his plans to expand the mission. Daniel Lee, his nephew, had introduced the first herd of cattle in The Dalles area. The Nisqually mission was established in the Puget Sound area, neat Fort Nisqually, but it did not last long. Another branch was established at Fort Clatsop at the mouth of the Columbia. In 1842, Mrs. Lee died, leaving an infant daughter, one month old.

In 1847, he returned to the east with his daughter Lucy to talk to the mission board. He had been accused of misappropriation of mission funds. He successfully pleaded his case with the board's commissioners, but his replacement had already been sent west. By then, his health was failing. He died on March 12, 1845 from blockages in the intestines and diseased lungs. He was buried at Stanstead graveyard in Canada. In 1904, his ashes were moved to Salem to be reinterred at the Lee Mission Cemetery in Salem. The ceremony took place on June 15, 1906, on the 62nd anniversary of the Willamette University.