On a cool autumn day in 1841, a small band of travelers made their way along an ancient Indian trail through a valley, now known as the Bitterroot, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. They had come by invitation from the Salish and Nez Perce people: six men in black robes, accompanied by an escort of Indians and guided by frontiersman, Thomas Fitzpatrick. At a signal from their leaders the little band stopped beside the river that traversed the valley. There, on September 24, 1841, Jesuit Father Pierre Jean DeSmet planted a rough-hewn wooden cross on the east bank of the Bitterroot River, thus, establishing the mission which he named St. Mary. Over the years a community, St. Mary Village, developed around the little mission, later the Fort Owen trading post and finally the town we now know, Stevensville. On that day Jesuit Father Nicolas Point observed, “Everyone thought we would be able to find nothing better anywhere else.”
You are invited to join the Founders Day Celebration on Saturday, September 24, on the grounds at St. Mary’s Mission, west end of 4th Street, Stevensville. The day will celebrate “170 Years of Community, the Oldest Community in Montana.”
The day will begin with a Flag Raising Ceremony at 11 a.m., followed by a reenactment of Indian tribes welcoming the Blackrobe Missionaries, announcement of Stevensville and Lone Rock Student Poster Contest winners, refreshments, coffee and conversation, and guided tours. A barbecue lunch sponsored by the Knights of Columbus will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.