History of Montana - First Settlements

First Settlements

St. Mary's Mission was the first permanent white settlement in Montana. Through interactions with Iroquois Indians between 1812 and 1820, the Salish Indians learned about Christianity and Jesuit missionaries (blackrobes) that worked with Indian tribes teaching about agriculture, medicine, and religion. Interest in these "blackrobes" grew among the Salish and, in 1831, four young Salish men were dispatched to St. Louis, Missouri to request a "blackrobe" to return with them to their homeland in the Bitterroot valley. The four Salish men were directed to the home and office of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) to make their request. At that time Clark was in charge of administering the territory they called home. Through the perils of their trip, two of the Indians died at the home of General Clark. The remaining two secured a visit with St. Louis Bishop Joseph Rosati, who assured them that missionaries would be sent to the Bitterroot Valley when funds and missionaries were available in the future.

Again in 1835 and 1837 the Salish dispatched men to St. Louis to request missionaries but to no avail. Finally in 1839 a group of Iroquois and Salish met Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The meeting resulted in Father DeSmet promising to fulfill their request for a missionary the following year.

DeSmet arrived in present-day Stevensville on September 24, 1841, and called the settlement St. Mary's. Construction of a chapel immediately began, followed by other permanent structures including log cabins and Montana's first pharmacy.

In 1850 Major John Owen arrived in the valley and set up camp north of St. Mary's. In time, Major Owen established a trading post and military strong point named Fort Owen, which served the settlers, Indians, and missionaries in the valley.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Montana

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Famous quotes containing the word settlements:

    That those tribes [the Sac and Fox Indians] cannot exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition.
    Andrew Jackson (1767–1845)