St. Mary’s Mission and Fort Owen
Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, the missionary dispatched to found St. Mary’s, was also Montana’s first agriculturalist. He planted oats, wheat, and potatoes at the mission. This was probably also an initial attempt to make the Indians into farmers. Troubles arose between the missionaries and the Flathead, and in 1850 St. Mary’s was sold to John Owen, who made it into a trading post.
St. Mary’s Mission (4th St., Stevensville, 406/777-5734, www.saintmarysmission.org, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily mid-Apr.–mid-Oct., tours $5 adults, $2 students) at Stevensville was rebuilt in 1866 by Father Anthony Ravalli out of the original hewn logs of the 1841 structure. The interior of the one-room chapel, with its wood-burning stove and wainscoting, is pretty much as Father Ravalli left it. Also on the grounds are the mission pharmacy, Father Ravalli’s cabin, and a graveyard.
While Father Ravalli’s grave is meant to be the draw here, more curious is the sign indicating indian graves before an open field. St. Mary’s Mission is on 4th Street two blocks west of Main.
What’s left of Fort Owen (Hwy. 269, Stevensville, 406/542-5500, http://fwp.mt.gov) is just east of Highway 93 between the highway and the town of Stevensville cutoff (follow signs for Fort Owen State Park). The original 1850 structure evolved from the log palisade of a frontier trader into an adobe-brick fortress with turrets and walkways after Owen became the federal Indian agent to the Flathead. Of the original buildings, one barracks remains and serves as a museum with interpretive exhibits.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition