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"July 4th Oregon Style"

July 5th 1841, Nisqually, Oregon Territory

Guest writer Mr. Vaughn Longanecker 


The very first Fourth of July celebrated west of the Rockies was probably the most significant but least remembered.  It was prophetic, visionary, hopeful, evangelical, patriotic, and established precedents and standards to this day, yet few take advantage of this heritage because few know, give thanks, or reap from this vast store house.


Consider the monument once established for us at great sacrifice.  Consider that each Fourth of July in the Northwest should begin with a reading and thanks giving for the bridges once built for our ease of freedoms passage:


From "The Conquerors" written by Atwoods, we read an account of the very first "4th of July":

July 5th 1841, Nisqually, Oregon Territory under 1812 joint occupancy agreement of USA and Great Britain:


"The first Fourth of July celebration held in North America, west of the Rocky Mountains, was that inaugurated by Captain Wilkes and the missionaries (sent north by Jason Lee at Salem mission) July 5th, 1841 at Nisqually.  In describing it, Captain Wilkes says:


'Wishing to give the crew a holiday, they were allowed to barbecue an ox, which the Hudson Bay Co. sold me.  The place selected was one corner of Mission Prairie.  All was bustle and activity on the morning of the 5th, as the 4th fell on Sunday.'  (They revered the Lord's Day as more important than the 4th, so moved the celebration to the 5th, quite a contrast from today, but then you will see many sad contrast in this text.)


'The men were mustered on the deck in clean white frocks and trousers.  It was very gratifying to me to see them marching, their clothes as white as snow, with their happy and contented faces.  Two brass howitzers were carried to the prairie to fire the usual salutes.  The procession stopped at Fort Nisqually and gave three cheers, which were returned with a few voices.' 


'Dr. McLoughlin was expected to join us, but, having lost his way, did not arrive until the next day.'


'There were present on this notable occasion over five hundred people, viz.: About sixty persons embracing naval officers, missionaries, and men from the Hudson Bay Co. trading post; one hundred marines, and about four hundred Indians. Captain Wilkes was the officer of the day. Prayer was offered by Dr. Richmond. The Declaration of Independence was read by the sergeant of marines. The Scriptures were read by Captain Wilkes. Two songs were sung, viz., "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee",...'


'The oration of the day was delivered by Dr. Richmond:'


"...We entertain the belief that the whole of this magnificent region of county so rich in the bounties of nature, is destined to become a part of the American Republic...


The time will come when these hills and valleys will be peopled by our enterprising countrymen, and when they will contain cities and farms and manufacturing establishments, and when the benefits of home and civil life will be enjoyed by the people...  They will assemble on the 4th of July as we have done to-day and renew their fidelity to the principles of liberty embodied in the "Declaration of Independence," that we have heard read to-day... The future years will witness wonderful things in the settlement, the growth, and development of the United States, and especially of this coast.  The growth may embrace the advance of our dominion to the frozen regions of the North, (Alaska) and south to the narrow strip of land that separates us from the lower half of the American continent (Panama, remember we possessed it for nearly 100 years and paid dearly for the Suez Canal and should still possess it, but than Israel should have conquered all of the "Promised Land").


In this new world there is sure to arise one of the greatest nations of the earth... Your names and mine may not appear in the records, (they should be known by every school child and every parent teaching their child, Joshua 4:6,21-24) but those of our descendants will... The illustrious founders of the American Republic declared against the union of the Church and State; in this they did well, yet it is undeniably true that the world's civilization of to-day is inseparably connected with the religion of Christ, and it could not survive if the Christlife and Spirit were eliminated from it... Our mission to these children of the forest (Indians) is to so teach them the truth of the gospel that they shall be fitted for the responsibilities of intelligent Christian citizenship... We are here also to assist in laying the foundation stones of a great American commonwealth on these Pacific shores."


In Atwoods' book, "The Conquerors", from which the above was taken,the author goes on to point out some of the significance of this event;

1st First of it's kind,

2nd Diversity of attendants,yet the large number of Indians present,

3rd Prophetic nature of the event.

He goes on to describe the memorial that took place and the plaques that were erected in July 5th, 1906.


May I point out that, you will not hear such a blend of patriotism and evangelism at the secularist 4th of July barbecue nor in the pulpit.


This christening upon the last frontier, the last domain (Gen 1:28) was not only significant because it was first, but because it put God first and recognized that this country came into existence because it put God first, and that this Northwest was first established for the Gospel and that as long as it continued to do so that this land would be "fitted for the responsibilities of intelligent Christian citizenship".


I dare say, we have separated our connection "with the religion of Christ, (thus, we will) not survive (because) the Christlife and Spirit (have been) eliminated".


Take heart, the renewal and revival can yet come again to a dark people "of the forest".


May this rejuvenate your vision for the Northwest and your family,


May we bless God so that He may bless America.

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