Biography of Rev. Josiah Lamberson Parrish

REV. JOSIAH LAMBERSON PARRISH. – This well-known pioneer, one of the few survivors of the early missionary force of Oregon, was born in Onondaga county, New York, on the 14th of October, 1806. From his father he learned the trades of blacksmithing and farming; and to them he devoted most of his time till he reached the age of twenty-four. At that time failure of his health from overwork caused him to turn his attention to the harness and saddlery trade. At about the same time he began preaching as a local preacher in the Methodist church. His field of labor was at Pike, Alleghany county, New York.

In 1833 he was married to Elizabeth Winn. Two years later he closed out his business as a saddle and harness dealer, and devoted his time mainly to preaching until 1839. He was then appointed blacksmith to the Methodist Mission of Oregon by the New York board. In company with Jason Lee he came to Oregon in the ship Lausanne. The course was via Cape Horn. After reaching Oregon, MR. Parrish spent two years in blacksmithing for various missionary stations and settlers in the Willamette valley.

In 1843 he was appointed missionary to the Indians at the mouth of the Columbia river. He remained there until the Mission was closed in 1846. After a short stay at Oregon City, he was appointed to the circuit on the west side of the Willamette, his field extending from Portland to Corvallis. To the arduous duties of that field he devoted himself with characteristic energy and faithfulness for nearly four years. In 1848 an east-side circuit was added, extending from near Spoor’s place in Lane county to Molalla Prairie near Oregon City.

In 1849 he was appointed Indian agent for Oregon by President Taylor. He entered upon his duties a year later, having in his jurisdiction the vast region between the summit of the Rockies and the Pacific, and bounded on the north by the Straight of Fuca, and on the south by the California line. Through a curious blunder he was appointed as Joseph L. Parrish, instead of Josiah, and was obliged to do all business through the latter personage as deputy. At his reappointment by President Pierce, the mistake was rectified. Many persons, however, supposed that the two names belonged to two distinct men. Owing to ill health, he resigned after the Rogue river war, at the end of which the Indians were put on reservations. His last work in that line was the organization of the reservation of which Port Orford was the headquarters. These important official duties having been well ended, he was again appointed by the Oregon conference as a missionary to the Indians.

In 1856 he was put on the retired list. Since that time, though he has had no regular charge, he has maintained his connection with the conference, and has by no means been idle. For sixteen years he was acting chaplain of the Oregon Penitentiary, holding services every two weeks, for which arduous attention he received neither pay nor reward. On the alternate Sundays he preached to various congregations, often Indians. At the present time he preaches with more or less regularity to the Indian youth at the government training school at Chemawa. The name of this school was given by Mr. Parrish from a band of Calapooias who occupied the site of the old Methodist Mission near Wheatland, on the west side of the Willamette.

Father Parrish’s family by his first wife consisted of four sons, Lamberson, Norman, Samuel and Charles. All but the last were born in the old home in the East. The eldest died in 1840. Samuel is now well known as the chief of police in Portland. Charles is an attorney in Cañon City, Oregon. The first wife died in 1859, and Mr. Parrish was married again in the following year to Jennie L. Lichtenthaler. She died in 1887. A year later Mr. Parrish was married to Mrs. Mattie A. Pierce, with whom he is now living.

Though now an octogenarian, this noble old pioneer is strong and well-preserved, and has few or no equals in the country in extent or accuracy of information concerning all the details of our early history. He is spending the well-merited rest of a laborious lifetime in a beautiful home at Salem, Oregon. Scrupulous integrity has always been a distinguishing feature of his private as well as his official life. At the expiration of his five years of service over an immense and difficult field as Indian agent, eh found that he was just ninety-two cents in arrears to the government. He accordingly paid over that balance, the receipt being duly forwarded to him with his discharge.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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