This week turned into a tremendously more informative one than I had expected. After conducting routine background research into the location of St. Mary’s mission, I came across some information that the site was still open as a historic site. From their website I was able to get into contact with the director of the non profit, Colleen Meyer. During our conversation Ms. Meyer was able to clue me into two things that I previously was not aware of.
First, the location of the mission today is actually the fourth site of the mission. It seems that the first location of St. Mary’s mission is actually underwater. According to their sources, the first mission had to be abandoned due to flooding so they moved the mission to another location to about a half of a mile up stream. After that they moved the mission to where the historic Ft. Owen site is today. And finally, after the congregation proved to be too large, they built the church on the site of what is today the historic St. Mary.
Secondly, she was able to shine light on a mystery I was trying to solve. During the course of my research I came upon a discrepancy of information concerning the Marian apparition to the Flathead Indians. In one recently written book it was stated that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to a young Flathead girl who was on her deathbed. However, in the 1905 version of the De Smet travels, it stated that it was a little boy who saw the Blessed Virgin in a tent. She informed me there was actually TWO sightings of the Blessed Virgin, one before De Smet arrived, and one afterwards. According to her sources, the first sighting was before De Smet and the missionaries arrived. The message that was conveyed was that the “Black Robes” were coming and that the Flatheads need to follow their instructions. The second sighting was just as I had read in the 1905 book, that she was pleased that they had named the mission after her.
Ms. Meyer also told me that she was going to send me some materials that could possibly aid me in my research, and true to her word she sent me three items. The first was a book entitled, St. Mary’s in theRocky Mountains by Lucylle H. Evans. In this book is a plethora of background information on St. mary’s mission itself. It had pictures to put with some of the names I had been reading about for the past six weeks. The book even had a version of the Lord’s Prayer in the native Flathead and Pend-D’Oreille language! Second there was a copy of a rare pamphlet that was written by Father De Smet and published in 1843. In it he discusses the origins, progress and prospects of the catholic missions in the Rocky Mountains. Lastly, there was a museum pamphlet for the historic site itself. I hope that sometime during the course of all this research I am afford the time to go and actually visit this place!