St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville has
been designated a National Historic
District, action that includes placing St.
Mary Parish’s present-day church on the
National Register of Historic Places.
In 1841, Jesuit priests and lay brothers
founded a mission, the first in the
Northwest, near the present mission site.
St. Mary’s Village evolved into the town
With the Historic District designation
by the National Park Service, all of the
mission’s historic buildings are now on the
National Register. Two were registered in
1970. They are the chapel built in 1866
and Jesuit Father Anthony Ravalli’s cabin
with pharmacy. Father Ravalli, the physician,
surgeon, pharmacist, architect, carpenter,
sculptor and agronomist for whom
Ravalli County is named, died in 1884.
Additions to the National Register
include the 1862 cabin of the Salish
Tribe’s Chief Victor; a smokehouse; a survey
stone; and Father Ravalli’s crabapple
tree. The present parish church, built in
1954, is included because it is a continuation
of the original mission history.
The National Historic District designation
includes St. Mary’s Cemetery, with an
American Indian burial plot containing an
undetermined number of graves. Wooden
crosses once marked the graves.
In considering whether a historic designation
is warranted, the Park Service
uses four principal criteria: cultural and
historical significance, association with a
person of significance, architecture and
Ellen Baumler of the Montana
Historical Society led the St. Mary’s application
process. The St. Mary’s Mission
Historic District retains nearly all of its
historic integrity, Baumler said.
Published in The Montana Catholic Online, Volume 26, No. 9, September 17, 2010.