Montana’s Oldest Church is One of the Most Unique in America
Across the great state of Montana, you'll find several beautiful churches that hold a special place in the state's history, but have you ever been to Montana's oldest church?
When was St. Mary's Mission Founded?
St. Mary's Mission in Stevensville, Montana is the oldest church in the state. The mission was founded by Belgian-born Father Pierre DeSmet, S.J.on September 24, 1841, 48 years before Montana officially became a state.
According to saintmarysmission.org, the Missionaries introduced farming and animal husbandry along with Christian teachings to native populations in Montana.
Italian Father Anthony Ravalli, S.J. arrived in 1845. He was eager to embrace his assignment to serve among the Indian Tribes of the Rocky Mountain region. The beloved priest was Montana’s first physician, surgeon, and pharmacist with additional skills of an architect, artist, sculptor, and engineer.
St. Mary's was the first permanent settlement made by non-indigenous peoples in what eventually became the state of Montana. The original structure was renovated and rebuilt in 1866 and has been carefully preserved ever since.
Can You Take a Tour of St. Mary's Mission?
If you want to learn more about St. Mary's Mission and see it in person, you can book a tour. Tours are available from mid-April through mid-October. An experienced guide will take you through St. Mary’s Chapel with its attached residence. You'll also be able to explore the dining area, kitchen, Father Ravalli’s cabin, and much more.
You can also view artifacts, historic documents, and photos of days gone by. An apple tree planted in 1869 by Fr. Ravalli is still standing on the property today. If you're interested in taking a tour, you can find more information here.