Territorial Timeline

Catholics establish mission on Whidbey Island

In 1840 Father Blanchet, founder of the Cowlitz Mission, journeyed to Whidbey Island to establish a Catholic Mission at the request of the Indians. During the previous year, Chief Tslalakum visited Father Blanchet and asked for instruction in this new religion of the "black gowns" (Catholic priests).

Unable to return with Chief Tslalakum at that time, Father Blanchet prepared a "Catholic Ladder" for him, drawings of a series of scenes depicting Biblical history beginning with the creation, and taught him several hymns and Catholic rituals.

When Blanchet reached Whidbey Island, the Indians informed him that they just rebuffed an attempted invasion by the Clallam Indians and attributed their military success to knowledge of God and the hymns and rituals that Chief Tslalakum learned. In thanks for Father Blanchet's blessings, the Indians presented him with a huge wooden cross.

In 1841 Lieutenant Charles Wilkes sailed the brig Porpoise into Penn's Cove on Whidbey Island and was surprised to discover the Indians building a log church next to this large cross, the start of Blanchet's mission to the Indians on Whidbey Island.