Indian and White
In the History of the Northwest
By Holice and Pam
Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this book. The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers! Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!
DEATH OF FATHER J. MENETREY. A NOTABLE INDIAN, BRO. VINCENT MAGRI. THE REV. ANTON RUHLS.
We shall now briefly refer to some of the missionaries who, at one time or another within the period embraced by our chronicle, have been engaged in advancing the spiritual and temporal welfare of the Indians at St. Ignatius.
Fathers Adrian Hoecken and Joseph Menetrey were the founders of the Mission. The former is not only still among the living but on active duty, being one of the Fathers attached to St. Gall's Church, Milwaukee, Wis. We have before us a letter from him, dated November 14, 1891, wherein the veteran Indian missionary gives us a number of references for our work. The letter is written in a legible, clear, even hand that is surprising for a man of his age. Father Hoecken was in charge of the Mission at its founding, and for some time afterward.
Father Menetrey was head of the Mission for several years, at different periods; and there his earthly remains how repose, buried among the Indians, waiting for the sound of the Last Trumpet. He was born in Freiburg, Switzerland, November 28, 1812, and entered the Society of Jesus, September 20, 1836. Some ten years later he offered himself for the Indian Missions in the Rocky Mountains, and sailing round Cape Horn for America he landed in Oregon, August 13, 1847. From St. Francis Xavier on the Willamette he passed successively to other Missions in Idaho, Washington and Montana, toiling zealously and with marked success among the Colville, the Blackfeet and the Flat Head Indians. Although in every Indian Mission where he did missionary duty can be seen proofs of his zeal, industry and patient endurance, Judgment Day along will reveal how much Father Menetrey has done, borne and suffered for the glory of God and the well-being of the red man.
As we shall see in our second part, Father Menetrey was the first pastor of Frenchtown, and for several years ministered to
the spiritual wants of our Catholic people in the Hell's Gate Valley. In the fall of 1874, he came to Helena and was for three years one of the Fathers who had the care of this missionary district. he attended the outside stations and settlements in the Missouri and Boulder Valleys, Cross Creek, the two Gallatins and other places.
The last years of his missionary life were devoted to the people of Missoula and its surroundings, where he built up a flourishing congregation. Here his health began to fail, but he kept on working until his exhausted strength compelled him to retire from all active duty. The worn-out veteran now betook himself to St. Ignatius, with the one object before him of quietly preparing himself and waiting for the summons that should bid him enter into the joy of the Master, in whose vineyard he had, in all truth, borne the burden of the day and heats for almost half a century. The summons came and the good and faithful servant went to the Lord, April 27, 1891.
It may be well to note that on April 27, the closing day of the Father's pilgrimage on earth, occurs the feast of Blessed Peter Canisius, whom the departed had chosen, cherished and venerated through his whole life a his special patron. As the Blessed never fail to require the homage tendered them by their clients, we may well read in the occurrence something more than mere coincidence. His obsequies were attended by a large concourse of Indians, nearly one thousand of them receiving Holy Communion that morning for the repose of the his soul.
He went with the Indians by the name of Pel Lemene. As previously stated, these people have no "r", which they replace by "l". Hence the Pere they make Pel and Menetrey became Lemene.
Others who at one time or another within the period covered by our narrative labored in this field, were the following: Fathers Louis Vercrysse, Gregory Gazzoli, Joseph Giorda, Jos. Caruana, Urban Grassi, James Vanzini, Anthony Ravalli, Pascal Tosi, Jos. M. Cataldo, Jos. Bandini and the writer. Also, Fathers Jos. Guidi, Alexander Diomedi, Aloysius Folchi, Leopold Van
Gorp, Aloysuis Parodi, Jerome d'Aste, Phil. Canestrelli and James Rebmann.
Of the Coadjutor Brothers who took an efficient part in founding or carrying on this and other missions in Montana, two, William Claessens and Joseph Specht, have already been mentioned. To these we must now add Brother Vincent Magri, who, as we stated elsewhere, came to St. Mary's in 1844. He was a skilled mechanic and spent a considerable part of his missionary life here at St. Ignatius, where he had charge of the saw and flour mills, and where he became quite a favorite with the Indians. An occurrence connected with the death and quite our of the ordinary is well-worth recording.
There lived at St. Ignatius an old Kalispel by name Quilquilzo'mo, which means "white bones," and who most likely had been called so because of his complexion, which was as far as a white man's. We never saw a nobler man and a more prepossessing appearance than this venerable old Indian's. he had been baptized Venantius, rendered into Pinasso. He wore a few straggling hairs on his chin, the only pretense to a beard ever seen on an Indian by the writer. He spoke his native tongue with unwonted grace and clearness, and precisely because of that he had been of much help to all our missionaries whilst learning the language.
He was a man of singular piety, for he measured the distance between places by the number of rosaries he could recite in going from one to the other, and never pitched his tepee, save close to the church, if this were possible. "The House of Prayer" was ever uppermost in his mind. The Fathers employed him in the capacity of Catechist, to lead in prayer, watch over the children at church and the like, which he dearly loved to perform.
While fishing one day at the foot of Flat Head Lake he saw an unusual sight. It burst on him all of a sudden, and as he expressed himself, it seemed to take, together with this breath, his very soul away from him. He dropped his line and hastened to the Mission. "I saw Sinze Chitas," said he
abruptly and with great emphasis on entering the rooms where the writer and Father J. Bandini happened to be sitting together. He raised his eyes and both his arms toward the sky, and all aglow with animation, "I saw him," he contented. "riding in a most beautiful thing.."
the only description he could give of the "beautiful thing" in which he had seen the Brother ride through the skies, was that it resembled a two-wheeled vehicle, the like of which he had never seen before, and that it was all resplendent and of surpassing beauty.
We may note here first the Sinze is the Indian word for Brother, while Sinze means think, spare, wanting in flesh or skinny, which is exactly the meaning of the Indian word magro; and as Brother Magri was uncommonly lean, his name and appearance were strikingly in keeping with each other. This good Brother whom the Indians, as just said, called Sinze Chitas, had been transferred tot he Coeur d'Alene Mission the year before. Hence we did not know that to think or make of our good Indian's story until several days after, that is, until we received due notice that the Brother's death, which had occurred June 18, at Lewiston, Idaho, some four hundred miles away from St. Ignatius. Upon comparing dates, we were forced to conclude that the Master of the vineyard has rewarded His faithful servant's many and wearisome journeys across these mountains by giving him a glorious chariot ride to the realm above.
We shall now bring the local history of this Mission to a close with the following, which is from the pen of the Rev. Anton Kuhls, a well known and highly esteemed ecclesiastic from Kansas, who visited St. Ignatius in company with the Rt. Rev. Bishop Brondel in 1887.
Traveling on the Northern Pacific Railroad, about 150 miles west of Helena, the capital of Montana, you reach a small station named after one of the great missionaries of this region, Father Ravalli. You travel through one of the most picturesque sections of the Rocky Mountains, crossing the famous iron trestle 226 feet high and several hundred feet in length. Being in the company of Bishop Brondel, of Helena, I was favored with a novel sight. Arriving at the station as early as 6 A. M., crowds of Indians on horseback were found awaiting the arrival of the bishop, and immediately escorted him, in their peculiar fashion, to the Mission. The inexpressible
happiness which beamed from their faces told more plainly than words their devotion to the church and their love for her representative. The country around the Mission is one of the most beautiful to be found in America. Had we a Dante or a Virgil, there he would live, to gather inspiration for his epic. It must be seen to be appreciated, and I will not attempt a description, through, fear of marring the picture's sublime beauty.
When the bishop arrived at the church, though, it was still early in the morning, nearly the whole tribe had gathered there to great him. They had erected an arbor of evergreens extending some distance from the entrance of the church. In this arbor they knelt in files on each side of the pathway, and received the Bishop's blessing as he passed on to celebrate mass for his dear and simple children of the forest. The mass being ended, the Fathers prepared to hear confessions. All day the church was crowded to overflowing with brown forms, wrapped in blankets, patiently waiting their turns at the confessionals, and three Fathers were kept constantly busy until eleven o'clock at night. The next day being Sunday and the feast of St. Ignatius, from five o'clock A. M. until seven at night the church was almost constantly crowded with Indians. The whole tribe partook of the Bread of Angels. Never and on no occasion during the twenty-five years of my priesthood have I witnessed devotion so pure and simple as I did on this Feast of St. Ignatius.
During the afternoon the Indian children, nearly 200 in number, gave an exhibition in the open air in the presence of the whole tribe and a great number of white visitors. Their exhibition would have been a credit to any white school in the States. Besides mere book learning these boys and girls learn useful trades and all domestic duties. The girls' school is conducted by the Sisters of Providence, and never have I seen a school where the heart and the spirit of the teachers is so visibly and tangibly imprinted upon the whole being of their pupils as in this one.
We were given a most touching proof of Indian generosity. During the celebration of High mass, Bishop Brondel sated that the Holy Father would celebrate this year his Golden Jubilee and that all his children would offer him presents as tokens of their love. He made use of three sentences which were made known to the Indians through an interpreter, the Rev. father Cataldo, and a scene followed that my pen can never describe. As soon as the mass was over and during the greater part of the afternoon the poor Indians wrapped their blankets, as poor as the poorest of God's creatures, came one after another into the Bishop's presence, placing at his feet offerings so various, so numerous so unique, and with such child-like
simplicity, love and hearty affection, as to move us to tears. One poor old woman brought a string of wild carrots and bitter roots, gathered for her own support, volunteering to fast herself, that the Holy Father might enjoy a meal. Another pulled off her earrings; still another her beast-pin. A young girl of eighteen sacrificed her only ornament, a beautiful belt. Pipes, knives, fancy cases, and a hundred other things continued to swell the pile before the Bishop. Besides all this they brought $800 in cash as a final offering. Considering all the articles, and the value the Indians placed on them, I doubt whether a single congregation of Americans will ever bring such a sacrifice as these children of the woods. May god bless St. Ignatius.
Thus the Rev. Anton Kuhls, and we may add in parentheses, that, with the exception of the Jubilee offering, all the rest described by the Rev. visitor takes place each year on the feast of the Mission patron saint.
By way of complement, as well as in compliance with the express wish of our Superiors, we here subjoin in chronological order the names of those who have been in charge of the Mission from the closing years of our narrative, namely, 1891. They were Fathers John B. Rene; Paul Muset; George de la Motte; Francis X. Dillon; Jerome D'aste; Leopold Van Gorp; Ludovic Taelman; again, George de la Motte; Joseph Bruckert, and they resent incumbent, Ambrose Sullivan.
We may add further, that two white settlements have since sprang up in the Mission valley, Polson at the foot of Flat head Lake, where a church costing some $3,000 has been erected by Fr. Tealmann; and Roman, which lies about halfway between the former place and St. Ignatius, and where also a neat church has been built by Father E. Griva, as indefatigable worker in the field. It is all some progress, beyond doubt, but it also spells the rapid passing of the red man.
There churches are not taken care of by resident secular priests of the Helena Diocese.
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