Volume 3: Western United States
Montana: MT-34

Historic St. Mary Church and Research Center
West End of Fourth Street
P.O. Box 211
Stevensville, MT 59870

Phone: 406-777-5734


History: To 1891, St. Mary Church, Stevensville, Montana, was a predominantly Native American (Salish) parish in first the Diocese of Helena and then the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings (Archives: Great Falls, Montana).

Since ca. 1820s

The Northwest Fur Company employed lay Iroquois Catholics from Canada who intermarried and catechized among the Salish Indians

1831, 1834, 1837, and 1841

Four delegations of Salish, Iroquois, and Nez Perce Indians attempted to reach and request Jesuit missionaries the Bishop of St. Louis; only the first and fourth delegations reached St. Louis to make their requests whereas the others were killed in route by Indians from enemy tribes. Narcisse and Paul, two Salish Indians in the first delegation, died in 1831 and were buried in the St. Louis cemetery

1841-1850 (closed)

In response to the fourth request, Rev. Pierre-Jean De Smet, S.J., visited the Northwest tribes in 1840-1841 and with other Jesuits (Turin Province) (Archives: St. Louis, Missouri), he established St. Mary’s Mission and Academy (Salish)


Jesuits from St. Mary’s attended St. Francis Borgia station (Kalispel), Flathead Lake


Jesuits at St. Ignatius Mission reopened and attended to St. Mary’s 


Jesuits administered St. Mary’s Mission and Academy


Chief Charlo and the Salish Indians moved to the Flathead/ Jocko Reservation


A few Native American (e.g. Salish) parishioners remain


Annually in September, Salish Indians have visited Historic St. Mary’s Mission and cemetery to commemorate the arrival of Rev. Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J., in 1841


Holdings of Catholic records about Native Americans: 

Inclusive dates: 1825-ongoing

Volume: Ca. 3.0 cubic feet 

Description: The records in the Historic St. Mary’s Mission Library were not organized according to a classification scheme when reviewed by a Marquette University archivist, 2006. Consequently, description is by record type.


/1. Maps

Inclusive dates: 1825-1876

Volume: Ca. .5 cubic foot (20 items)

Description: Maps (copies) of Northwest Jesuit missions and travels and U.S. explorers and military expeditions.   


/2. Photography

Inclusive dates: 1841?-ongoing

Volume: Ca. 0.5 cubic foot

Description: Pilgrimage at St. Mary’s Mission with Jesuits and Salish Indians; black and white and mostly in color after 1975; most are copies before 1900.  


/3. Reference File

Inclusive dates: 1911-1980

Volume: Ca. 2.0 cubic feet

Description: Clippings and commemorative pamphlets including The Story of St. Mary’s Mission, Rev. Martin Florian, 1959  


Unless otherwise noted, the repository on this page holds (or held) the records described here and they are not held at the Marquette University Archives.