Biography of Rev. St. Michael Fackler
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THE REV. ST. MICHAEL FACKLER. – The Reverend Mr. Fackler was the first clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal church in Oregon. He was a native of Staunton, Virginia, first moved to Missouri, and then crossed the plains for his health in the year 1847. This was greatly improved by the trip; and he soon undertook such work as he could do, teaching and preaching as opportunity offered. For a short time he taught in the Methodist school at Salem, the progenitor of the present Willamette University.
At an early day he secured a farm not far from Butteville, where he resided for a number of years. While thus occupied in secular affairs he was not idle as a clergyman; for he spent his Sundays in holding services at Champoeg, Butteville, Stringtown, Oregon City, Portland and on the Tualatin Plains. In the course of time he fitted up a schoolhouse at Champoeg for services and built a neat little church at Butteville, doing most of the work with his own hands. It was the day of small things then, and those who knew anything of the Episcopal church were very few indeed.
In 1853 the Reverend Mr. Fackler was one of a small number of Episcopalians who met at Oregon City to consult in regard to the interests of the church in the then territories of Oregon and Washington. He was appointed chairman of a committee to draft a report to be sent to the board of missions in New York, asking for the appointment of a missionary bishop for these territories. The report concluded with the recommendation that the Reverend John McCarty, D.D., of Vancouver, be appointed said bishop. For a year the Reverend Mr. Fackler was principal of Trinity school, Oswego, a boarding school for boys under the supervision of the church. At the same time he was in charge of St. Paul’s church, Oregon City, and for more than a year afterwards.
In 1849 Mr. Fackler was united in marriage to the young and lovely daughter of the Reverend J.H. Wilbur, a pioneer Methodist minister of Oregon. She lived but a brief time after her marriage, and left a little daughter, who lived to be eleven years of age. About the year 1860 he married a second wife, Miss Rachel Wand, of New Scotland, New York, who survived him but a few months. By her he had two children, a son and a daughter. The son sleeps beside the first wife and child in the Butteville cemetery; and the daughter, now a young lady, resides with friends near Albany, New York.
In the year 1864, at the request of the bishop, Mr. Fackler took a trip to the mining country east of the Cascade Mountains, visiting The Dalles, Umatilla, La Grande and Auburn on the way. “He likewise visited,” says the bishop, “the several towns in Boise basin, but has spent most of the time at Boise City, where I am glad to learn his labors have been well received and were useful. The prospect seems favorable for erecting a church and establishing a permanent congregation, should Mr. Fackler remain, or some other be found to occupy the place.”
Mr. Fackler remained there until the fall of 1866, endeared himself to all the people of the place, and especially to the suffering immigrants who came in during the winter of 1865 and 1866, by his untiring efforts for their relief and comfort, organized a congregation, built a church, and in the fall of 1868 left for a journey to the East, followed by the love and the prayers of a grateful people. In his honor the church has been called St. Michaels, now one of the most prosperous parishes in the Pacific Northwest.
He went East by the way of San Francisco and the Isthmus. After leaving Graytown, the cholera broke out. In the midst of the sickness and distress, Mr. Fackler gave his assistance unreservedly, ministering to the sick, praying with the dying and burying the dead. He took no thought of his own safety, and, being weakened by his exertions, when the disease fastened upon him was unable to rally; and he died at his heroic task, distinguished as few men are by the providence which completed his self-denying life by the sacrifice of perfect devotion. He was followed to his grave with prayers and many tears, and was buried by the church at Key West. Thus closed the life of a good man, – one whom all those who knew him well knew but to esteem very highly in love for his work’s sake.