Alvan F. Waller Papers, 1838-1908

Overview of the Collection

Waller, Alvan F., b. 1808
Alvan F. Waller Papers
1838-1908 (inclusive)
1839-1870 (bulk)
.5 cubic feet (1 document case, 1 oversize folder)
Collection Number
Mss 1210
Papers of a pioneer Methodist missionary in Oregon who was active in Oregon City and later at The Dalles and Salem. Includes correspondence with missionaries Jason and Daniel Lee, materials relating to a land dispute with John McLoughlin and other land claims, organization of the Oregon Provisional Government, teaching activities, and the establishment of Willamette University. Also includes Waller's diary of his journey to Oregon on the ship Lausanne, 1839-1840, and 2 additional diaries covering the years 1841-1845.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Alvan F. Waller, pioneer Methodist missionary, was born in Abington, Pennsylvania on May 8, 1808. In 1833 he married Elpha White, with whom he had three children. In 1840 he came to Oregon on the ship Lausanne and established a mission at Oregon City with the assistance of Hudson's Bay Company factor Dr. John McLoughlin and missionary Jason Lee. In 1844, Waller was appointed leader of the Wascopam Mission at The Dalles, succeeding H.K.W. Perkins and Daniel Lee. He was transferred to Salem in 1847 where he remained until 1857 and helped to found the Oregon Institute, which became Willamette University. In the course of his career he assisted in the building of several Methodist churches in Oregon and the founding of The Pacific Christian Advocate. He died at his home in Salem on December 26, 1872.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Papers include: Correspondence (1838-1873); diaries (1839-1845); documents, including public note on land dispute with Dr. John McLoughlin; and essay "General Instructions to Missionaries." Correspondents include George Abernethy, Henry Bridgman Brewer, Jason Lee, Daniel Lee, John McLoughlin, Ira Leonard Babcock, George Gary, Marcus Whitman, and Henry Harmon Spalding. Topics of the letters include criticism of Catholic missionaries, religion and the government, teaching school, organization of Provisional government, Waller's land claims, and Willamette University. One diary describes Waller's voyage to Oregon on the ship Lausanne in 1839 and 1840; and two other diaries describe life and travels in Oregon between 1841 and 1845. Included in one diary are brief notes on meetings of the trustees of the Oregon Institute (later Willamette University). Typed transcripts of some of the diaries are included. A brief manuscript details Waller's travels in the Willamette Valley, circa 1852.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

Selected items from the collection are available on Mss1200-1225 Microfilm, reel 1, at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any publication use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Alvan F. Waller Papers, Mss 1210, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series A: Correspondence, 1838-1873
  • Series B: Diaries, 1839-1845
  • Series C: Documents and general materials, 1839-1908

Acquisition Information

Portions of the collection were gifts of Verne Bright, 1947 May 26, and 1950 Aug. 23.


Sarah Hunt Steeves, Book of remembrance of Marion County, Oregon, pioneers, 1840-1860 (Portland, Or. : The Berncliff Press, 1927), p. 1-5.

Related Materials

See also additional papers relating to Protestant missionaries in Oregon contained in Mss1200 through Mss1225, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Location of Originals

Originals of land claim documents are housed at the Library of Congress.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series A:  Correspondence, 1838-1873Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Letters from Alvan F. Waller (4 items)
Letters to Waller
Letters to Waller from Daniel Lee (4 items)
1841; 1860; undated
Letters to Waller from unidentified correspondents (2 items)
1847; 1858

Series B:  Diaries, 1839-1845Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Diary transcripts, including voyage of the Lausanne
Diary transcripts
1841; 1844
Diary transcripts
1842; 1845
Original diary
Includes voyage on the Lausanne and notes of trustees' meetings of the Oregon Institute, as well as fragments of other diaries.
Original diaries (2 vols.)
1841; 1844

Series C:  Documents and general materials, 1839-1908Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Petition of Alvan Waller to Roger P. Taney
Petition to Chief Justice Roger P. Taney relating to Waller's controversy with Dr. John McLoughlin over the Oregon City claim, 1843 Dec. 7. Attested by John Ricord and Jason Lee at the Sandwich Islands. Photostat of original in Library of Congress, "Senator Allen Papers," and typed transcript.
1844 February 8
General materials
  • General Instructions to Missionaries" from the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1839 and 1846
  • Account payable, from A. E. Wilson, agent for E. & O. E., 1843 June 2 to 1844 June 7
  • Account of Francis Pettygrove, 1843 June 2 to 1844 July 13, and receipt, 1844 July 22
  • Other accounts and receipts
  • Power of attorney to Waller on behalf of Willamette University, 1860 Feb. 1
  • Letter of recommendation entitling Waller to represent Willamette University, 1860, June 1
  • June 1; protest against charges by E. White, undated
  • Obituary for Waller's daughter, Julia Elinore Waller Stratton, 1908
"Notes on travel in the Willamette Valley"
Manuscript, probably by Waller. Includes typed transcript.
circa 1852
Oversize Folder
Oversize documents
  • Certificates (2) for life membership in the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Alvan F. Waller and Julia E. Waller, 1856 Sept. 20 and undated.
  • Public notice "To the people of Oregon" concerning land dispute in Oregon City with Dr. John McLoughlin, signed by John Ricord, attorney for Alvan Waller, 1843 Dec. 20.
1843; 1856; undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Frontier and pioneer life--Oregon
  • Indians of North America--Missions--Northwest, Pacific
  • Missionaries--Northwest, Pacific--Correspondence
  • Missionaries--Northwest, Pacific--Diaries
  • Voyages to the Pacific coast

Personal Names

  • Abernethy, George, 1807-1877--Correspondence
  • Babcock, Ira Leonard, 1806-1888--Correspondence
  • Brewer, Henry Bridgman, 1813-1886--Correspondence
  • Gary, George, 1793-1844--Correspondence
  • Lee, Daniel, 1806-1895--Correspondence
  • Lee, Jason, 1803-1845--Correspondence
  • McLoughlin, John, 1784-1857--Correspondence
  • Spalding, Henry Harmon, 1803-1874--Correspondence
  • Waller, Alvan F., b. 1808--Correspondence (creator)
  • Waller, Alvan F., b. 1808--Diaries
  • Whitman, Marcus, 1802-1847--Correspondence

Corporate Names

  • Methodist Episcopal Church--Missions--Northwest, Pacific
  • Willamette University

Form or Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Letters