The oldest mission in the Pacific Northwest and the first Catholic mission in Washington Territory, St. Francis Xavier Mission north of Toledo is still active today. The mission was established in December 1838 on the Cowlitz Prairie near Toledo by Father Blancot. The earlier church buildings all caught fire, so the present building was built of brick. Father Blancot claimed 640 acres of land which he laid out for the mission including the cemetery. The Native Americans of the 1800’s called the priests “blackrobes.” The church adjoins a cemetery that is the final resting place for several of our area’s pioneers. Near the cemetery, a visual depiction of several events in Biblical history are contained in a totem pole-like structure known as the Catholic Ladder. A historic marker can be found at the northeast corner of the intersection of Spencer Road and Jackson Highway just outside Toledo. From there, the mission and cemetery are a very short drive up Spencer and found on the left.