Daniel & Maria Taylor Ware Lee (part 1)

Ware Family Origins
Daniel & Maria Taylor Ware Lee:
A Story of Family & Religious Calling
Part 1
by Bill D. Oakley

[Bill Oakley is a retired Church of Christ minister currently residing in Wichita, Kansas. He is writing a history of the Lee family, focusing on the life and work of Daniel Lee. Bill’s Ware lineage to Robert Ware: Bill D. Oakley/AnnaBelle Lee/Daniel Logan Lee/Albert Blanding Lee/Maria Taylor Ware/Capt. Benjamin Ware/Moses Ware/ Moses Ware/John Ware/John Ware/ Robert Ware. © 2007 BILL D. OAKLEY.]

Daniel Lee, my great-great grandfather, pictured above, was born in Stanstead, Quebec, Lower Canada, on July 1, 1806. It was a day of mixed emotions for his parents, Elias and Rhoda Morrill Lee. The joy they felt over the baby’s birth was overshadowed by the death, on the same day, of Elias’ father, also named Daniel Lee. Perhaps as a consolation, and certainly in honor of the baby’s grandfather, they named their first son, Daniel.

Elias Lee’s father, the pioneer after whom my great-great grandfather Daniel was named, and his wife, Sarah Whittaker Lee, had come from Connecticut to Stanstead in 1796, bringing with them their twelve children. The pioneer couple carved out a homestead on 400 acres of virgin forest. Three more children were born to Daniel and Sarah in the log cabin on their new homestead, including Jason Lee, the youngest, who was only three at the time of his father’s death. Elias, who was the oldest son, and Rhoda, took Jason to live with them so that Jason and their own son Daniel grew up as brothers.

Life on the frontier was difficult and demanding. The two boys cleared land, chopped wood, helped to build houses, hunted, and grew crops. The skills, wisdom, physical strength, and courage they developed served them well when they chose to follow the same path as adults, as missionaries and pioneers in the remote and uncivilized western territory of Old Oregon. Jason eventually was instrumental in bringing Daniel Lee together with Maria Taylor Ware of Gilsum, New Hampshire.

The Call to Serve

Daniel Lee was 25 years old when he received his first appointment as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Two years later, in 1833, Jason Lee responded to the appeal of Wilbur Fisk, president of Wesleyan Wilbraham College in Massachusetts. Fisk was about to publish the story of four unusual Native Americans in the March 1833 issue of the Christian Advocate and Journal, official publication of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The article told how these Indians, three of them from the Nez Perces tribe in the Oregon territory, had followed the Lewis and Clark trail southeast to St. Louis. The Indians made the journey to find out more about the “Book the white man has from heaven.” By the time of the publication of the article, Fisk had already spoken to Jason Lee about becoming a missionary to these Indian tribes, sponsored by the Methodist Mission Board. As Fisk described the plan: “Let two suitable men, unencumbered with families, and possessing the Spirit of the Martyrs, throw themselves into the nation – live with them, learn their language, teach Christ to them and as the way opens, introduce schools, agriculture and the arts of civilized life.” Fisk added, “ I know one young man who, I think will go….”

Jason Lee was the young man, and he subsequently selected Daniel Lee to be his associate and companion. From March through November 1833, the young men wrote letters, raised funds, and made detailed plans for the trip. In November 1833, they learned that Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth, an entrepreneur, explorer and fur trader from Cambridge, Mass., had just returned from a journey to the Rocky Mountains. Wyeth was planning to make a second expedition to the Oregon territory in the spring of 1834. Dr. Fisk and Jason Lee traveled to Boston and made arrangements for the missionaries to join in the Wyeth expedition. Cyrus Shepard, a school teacher, became the third member of the mission team.

In the spring of 1834, the three young men traveled by stagecoach to Pittsburgh, by steamboat down the Ohio River, and then north on the Mississippi River to St. Louis. Shepard then traveled with their baggage by steamboat up the Missouri River to Independence, Missouri, while Jason and Daniel covered the 300 miles to Independence on horseback. In Missouri they added two lay members to their small mission party.

On April 28, 1834, the expedition set off from Independence on the long journey to the northwest. Wyeth’s caravan consisted of 70 men – an interesting mix of hunters, trappers, and explorers, two scientists, and the 5-man missionary party. The devout and pious missionaries were vexed by the cursing, drinking, and undisciplined character of many of their fellow travelers. Daniel himself noted the common use of profanity in his diary. The young Lee men, however, being strong and tall, took their turns at camp work, guard duty and hunting. They came to be accepted by the hunters and trappers, who were even willing to listen to Jason preach. The expedition also included 250 horses and mules, about two-thirds of which were used to carry packs with provisions, tents, personal belongings and trade items.

Wyeth’s destination was the same as the Lewis and Clark Expedition thirty years before, but the route was different. The caravan traveled over 2,000 miles from Independence to the Columbia River, traveling through the present states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. They crossed the Kansas, Platte and Snake Rivers and many tributaries. They averaged 20 miles per day. It took them 127 days to arrive at what is now the town of Walla Walla, Washington; 39 of those days were stops for hunting, rest, repairs or sickness. There were no defined maps or well-worn trails. They suffered from heat, high winds, rain, hail, snow, ice, scarcity of food, and bouts of food poisoning. They feared the threat of hostile Indians, especially the Crow and Blackfoot tribes. Several excellent journals record their perilous ventures, including “Narrative of a Journey,” by John Kirk Townsend, one of the two scientists, and the diaries of Daniel Lee and Jason Lee.

The Early Mission

On September 3, 1834, when they arrived at the British Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River, the missionaries set about quickly to select a location for the Mission headquarters. They chose a site up-stream on the Willamette River. They built a cabin, planted gardens and began their work with the Indians. Daniel described the activities in his diary: “The rainy season was fast approaching, and a house was wanted to shelter us when it arrived. But first we had to prepare our tools, and gear our oxen. We handled axes and augurs [cut and shaped handles from wood], hung a grind stone, split rails, made yokes and bows for the oxen, and made a yard to catch them in, for some of them were not half tamed, and then to yoke them — “aye, there’s the rub”—our wits, and ropes, physical might, all took hold — no flinching, no backing out. When we had succeeded in this, then came the all-day business of driving them. Men never worked harder and performed less. . . . . To provide for our support in future, a farm was soon begun, rails made, and a field of thirty-acres enclosed and ploughed, and the next spring planted and sowed. Potatoes, corn, wheat, oats, and garden seeds were put in. . .A barn being needed to cover the returns of the farm, we set to work to erect one of logs, thirty by forty feet. The trees fell before us, and soon the timber appeared together on the spot. . . .”

The missionaries had preached regularly on the sabbath ever since their arrival at the house of Mr. Gervais, a near neighbour, and those meetings were also continued until after 1837, when they were removed to the mission house. Besides this meeting, another was occasionally held at ‘Campment du Sable’ (Sandy Encampment). A sabbath school was early begun where the meeting was held, and Mr. G.’s own children and some others attended. The teaching, converting and training of Indian children was believed by the missionaries to be the best hope they had for success among the native population of Oregon. Daniel Lee’s contributions to these activities, however, were interrupted when he contracted tuberculosis in the winter of 1835/36. Dr. John McLoughlin of the British Hudson Bay Company, at his own expense, sent Daniel to the Sandwich Islands to recuperate.

Shortly before Daniel left, Jason Lee solicited reinforcements from New York. In a special meeting, with the Mission Board, November 14, 1838, Jason presented his needs. On December 5, the approved plans calling for an appropriation of $40,000 for the Oregon Mission. This included a provision for a large recruitment of ministers, teachers, carpenters, a cabinetmaker, a blacksmith, mission steward, farmers, etc. The Board also voted a generous amount for farm machinery, equipment for the construction of mills [a saw mill and grist mill], garden seeds, and an appropriation of $5,000 for merchandise. The Board requested that all persons engaging in the mission pledge themselves to 10 years of service.

The first mission reinforcement, three men and eight women, came by ship, arriving in May of 1837. Among them was Anna Maria Pittman, who soon married Jason Lee. Tragically she died in the first year giving birth to their first child (who also died). In March of 1838 Jason left the Willamette Mission and traveled back to the Eastern United States to recruit additional missionaries and workers. He was gone for 26 months, 14 of which were spent in travel.

In Massachusetts, Jason obtained the approval of the Methodist Mission Board for an appropriation of $40,000 for the Oregon Mission. He also found time to court and marry Lucy Thompson. Perhaps it was not difficult for Jason and Lucy to then convince Lucy’s best friend, 27-year-old Maria Ware, to come to Oregon with them. Maria was a school teacher in Gilsum, New Hampshire. Born in 1812 in Gilsum, Maria was the first child of Captain Benjamin Ware and his second wife, Martha Chapin Ware. Her father was a respected farmer who had commanded the town’s militia during the War of 1812. At the time of her birth she had seven older surviving half-siblings, including teenagers Obadiah, Benjamin, and Huldah, who would eventually move to the unsettled prairies of Illinois.

Maria Ware and Lucy Thompson met and became friends when they both attended Newbury Seminary in Newbury, Vermont, the oldest theological seminary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1834, and one of the first to offer education to both men and women. The school was located across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, a substantial trip north from Gilsum. The seminary likely fostered Maria’s dream of doing mission work. She may also have been ready for adventure because teaching school and living at home with her parents and four younger siblings may not have been all she had hoped for at the age of 27.

Maria Taylor Ware Sails to Fort Vancouver

Maria, pictured above, Lucy and Jason, along with Jason’s other recruits, a total of about 50 persons, sailed from New York on October 9, 1839, on the ship Lausanne. The long trip took them around the tip of South America (Cape Horn). After a journey of 22,000 miles that took seven months and 23 days, they arrived at British Fort Vancouver (now in the state of Washington) on the Columbia River on June 1, 1840.

On June 11, only 10 days after her arrival, Maria Ware exchanged wedding vows with Daniel Lee at Fort Vancouver. Before we rush to judgment about the brevity of this courtship, we must consider the circumstances – their commitment to mission and the fact that he was 33 years old and she was 27 years old. Jason and Lucy also may have told Maria a great deal about Daniel before she arrived in Oregon. An unpublished biography of Daniel Lee written by Florence Smith Lee describes the wedding and the wedding dress, which leads us to surmise that Maria probably brought her wedding dress with her from New Hampshire.

“They married in the parlor of Dr. McLoughlin’s spacious home, with Rev. Jason Lee performing the ceremony. The bride’s gown was the color of ashes of roses, a frosty pink with a tint of tan and self colored overshot flowers about an inch and half in diameter. It had a close-fitting bodice and a plain neck. There were two collars of white lawn, the larger plain and extending to the tip of the shoulders, the smaller one four or five inches wide. Both were edged with lace, as was the edge of the full sleeves. The skirt was very wide. Her hair was parted and held back softly. A comb of the prevailing fashion, a curved piece of amber about five by three inches, was worn in the knot at the neck. She must have looked luxurious indeed beside the humble dress of her groom. Rev. Daniel Lee had been in Oregon six years, and anything he wore must have looked worn and faded.”

Daniel and Maria’s marriage ceremony, performed by Rev. Jason Lee, was the first in what is now the State of Washington. They left almost immediately after the ceremony, with five other missionaries and 13 Indians, and traveled by barge to the mission at the Dalles, which Daniel had established in March 1838. The Indians managed the barge and also had two canoes. The 80-mile trip against the current and waves of the Columbia River, including several portages at rapids, was dangerous, but it would be one of several trips up and down the river by Daniel and Maria.

Nine months and 11 days following their marriage, Maria gave birth to their first child, Wilbur Fisk Lee, named for the Methodist clergyman who had initiated and supported the Mission. Eighteen months later, the Lee’s second son, Albert Blanding, was born. Before the birth of each child, the couple traveled back to Mission headquarters on the Willamette. Daniel recorded in his diary that he, Maria and young Wilbur all suffered from “the fever and ague” during the weeks before Albert was born.

At the Dalles, Daniel and Maria served and toiled, doing everything possible to convert the Indians to Christianity, but their life was hard and many of their successes were short-lived. They remained at the mission for 38 months; they grieved over the death of Cyrus Shepard, the school teacher who had made the first trip with Jason and Daniel. A more devastating blow, however, must have been the loss of Lucy Thompson Lee, who died giving birth to a daughter. Maria’s health also suffered. On August 2, 1843, the Lees left Oregon and the difficult wilderness life. After Daniel preached and the couple shared the Lord’s supper with their fellow workers, Maria and Daniel left by canoe to make their last trip down the mighty Columbia River.

Preaching and Homesteading in the U.S.

Within a few months of their return to the United States, Daniel Lee and Joseph H. Frost published a book about their missionary adventures, titled Ten years In Oregon. Daniel then preached in churches in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, near Gilsum, where Maria had spent her childhood and where many Ware family members still resided. Their son Daniel Harvey Lee was born in Claremont, New Hampshire. Apparently the Lees also later lived in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where their son William was born in 1855. After both of Maria’s parents died, the Lees eventually followed in the footsteps of four of Maria’s older half-siblings and her younger sister, Harriet. In 1856 they moved to Montgomery County, Illinois, near the small town of Butler. They purchased a small homestead northeast of the town from Maria’s oldest half-brother, Obadiah Ware, one of the first settlers in the county in 1823. Maria must have enjoyed those years of being near her relatives, but during their years in Illinois they suffered the loss of four children: Mary Amanda (1861); Sarah Maria (1862); Wilbur Fisk (1863) and Morrill Chapin (1864). These children were buried in the Ware’s Grove Cemetery in Montgomery County. Wilbur and Morrill died during their service in the Civil War.

Adventure In The Golden Years

In 1876, Maria and Daniel, then 70 years old, moved with their three grown sons to Sumner County, Kansas. They purchased land near Caldwell, a wild town called “The Border Queen,” located just north of Oklahoma on the Chisholm Trail. Here they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and Maria wore her well-traveled wedding dress. Daniel was well known in town. They lived on a farm near Caldwell until Maria’s death in 1892. After bringing Maria’s body back to Ware’s Grove for burial, Daniel moved to Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, to be near his sons. He died in 1895 and his body was also brought back to Ware’s Grove to be buried beside his beloved companion and the children who had died before them.

Their second-born and oldest living son, Albert, became a Methodist preacher and was a carpenter and poet, living most of his life in Oklahoma, but with periods of years in Illinois, Kansas, and Arkansas. Family lore says that baby Albert learned to walk on the ship during the trip from Oregon to New Hampshire. He married Mary Lucretia Stout, the daughter of William Stout, a prominent official and Methodist preacher in Dover, Arkansas. Albert and Mary had 12 children, some born in Arkansas and some in Hillsboro, Illinois. Their youngest was born in Kansas. They both lived to a ripe old age and are buried in a small cemetery near the town of Hollister in Tillman County, Oklahoma.

Daniel and Maria’s sixth child, Daniel Harvey Lee, married Rachel Patton of Butler, Illinois, and became a highly respected farmer in Montgomery County. Daniel and Rachel’s daughter, Mattie Taylor married Hahnemann Pease and raised a large family in Butler. Their second daughter, Alice Maude Lee, married Charles Wiley of Butler.

Daniel and Maria’s seventh child, Jason Douglas Lee, married Viola Della Smith, a native of New York. They had nine children, some born in Kansas and some in Oklahoma.

Daniel and Maria’s youngest son, William, became a fearless lawman in Caldwell and later an evangelist of renown in Colorado. He married Florence Genevieve Smith, born in Castile, New York, and they had three children. Florence Smith Lee wrote a biography of Daniel Lee, which has never been published.

return to top