Seventy-five years later on July 3 and 4, 1909, they were celebrating a Diamond Jubilee in Blackfoot. It wasn’t about either of the trading posts, exactly. It was in commemoration of the first Protestant service west of the Rocky Mountains being conducted in a grove near Fort Hall, and the first raising of the United State flag in the Pacific Northwest.
Jason Lee was a Canadian Methodist Episcopalian missionary who had travelled west with Nathaniel Wyeth, the man who founded Fort Hall. Wyeth was in the fur business. Lee wanted to save souls. He was on his way to establish a mission in the Willamette Valley.
On July 27, 1834, Rev. Lee preached his sermon in the grove, at the request of Wyeth. Gathered among the cottonwoods with the sound of the Snake River murmuring nearby, were an assortment of white and Indian trappers. Lee preached on the text: “whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, do all for the glory of god.”
Having been on their best behavior, those who attended the sermon decided to have a little fun afterwards by ginning up some horse races. A French-Canadian trapper named Kanseau fell from his horse during the race and was killed. Not long after Jason Lee had preached that first sermon, he found himself officiating at a funeral. The man was buried beneath a buffalo robe.
It was the sermon the citizens of Blackfoot were celebrating in 1909, and they did it up right, spending a little over $1,000 on the celebration. Idaho Governor James H. Brady gave the keynote speech, a rousing history of the sermon, adding, “to Idaho belongs the honor and distinction of the first flag of our country ever raised in this western land.”
The Village Improvement Society of Blackfoot presented the governor a US flag in honor of the event.
Byrd Trego, the colorful editor of the Idaho Republican in Blackfoot, wrote, “Blackfoot was the most-talked-of town in Idaho for a couple of weeks before the celebration, because of what Blackfoot was preparing to celebrate. It was the most-talked-of place for a couple of weeks afterwards because there was a grand discussion going on to see if what we claimed about early history was correct, and it was found to be substantially as advertised by the publicity men at Blackfoot.”
Jason Lee went on to Oregon after his sermon, and probably never came back to Idaho. His name lives on in Blackfoot, though, where the Jason Lee Memorial United Methodist Church is located.