Indian and White
In the History of the Northwest
Part 2, Chapter 13
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!
FRENCHTOWN MISSION. FIRST MISSION PREACHED TO THE WHITES IN MONTANA.
Frenchtown, a Catholic settlement from its beginnings, has grown into a distinctively Catholic community, composed mostly, as its name indicates, of French-speaking people, that is, French Canadians.
A church or chapel, as we stated before, was erected in this farming settlement by Father Grassi in 1864. It remained a dependency of the Indian Mission of St. Ignatius, whence it has sprung, for a number of years and froits erection till the summer of 1884, was attended by Jesuit Fathers who visited the settlement, first from St. Ignatius, then from Hell's Gate, later from St. Mary's, lastly from Missoula.
The Fathers who from one or the other of these different places made occasionally missionary excursions to Frenchtown were the following: U. Grassi, J. Menetery, A. Ravalli, James Vanzina, J. M. Cataldo, L. Van grope, A. Parodi, Jerome D'Aste, J. Guidi and A. Folchi. Father Menetrey, however, labored there longest and resided in the place for some time. Hence he may be called, with good reason, the first Pastor of Frenchtown.
The discovery of gold in Cedar Creek and adjacent gulches below Frenchtown in 1869 brought quite an influx of population in this section of Montana. The gold excitement, however, did not last long, but during the while it did, several mining camps sprang up in the Cedar Creek, which Father Menetrey attended at stated times from Frenchtown, where he was residing. With the giving out of the diggings, most of the people left, not only the miners, but likewise those who mad moved to Frenchtown or had settled here and there in the vicinity because of the mines. Notwithstanding, some straggling few remained, adding thus to the scant population of the district
In the mid seventies, Father Giorda, assisted by Father L. Van
Gorp, gave a few days mission in the village church, the first mission ever preached to whites in Montana. God blessed the work ina perceptible manner and what, particularly, seemed to dispose the people to the action of grace on the occasion, was a gruesome incident. The Fathers had gone through the town the day before to invite everybody to attend the exercises, which would begin the next day. A;; seemed to be willing with the exception of two notorious individuals who not only spurned the invitation, but took occasion from it to mock the missions and missionaries with open contempt in the presence of several others, one of the two scoffers, whilst at work in the grist mill, hardly a stone's throw from where the Fathers were preaching, came to his death, being instantly killed by an accident. The sad occurrence, in all its details, made a profound impression on the whole community, and not a few looked upon it as a visitation from on high and a warning to all. Though somewhat later on an equally sad and mournful ending befell the other also; he s found burned beyond recognition, literally to s crisp, in his own shop.
We have mentioned above that the Superior of these Missions had the faculty from the Holy See to administer Confirmation to both Indians and whites within the limits of his jurisdiction. Availing himself of the privilege, Father Giorda confirmed forty-two people here in Frenchtown, February 21, 1875, and eight in Missoula, July 4, of the same year. But it was his personal observation that, whilst it made little or no difference with the Indians by whom they might be confirmed, whether a Bishop or priest, as a matter fact white people did not care to receive Confirmation at the hands of simple priest. Hence he was rather loath to use the privilege among the whites.
Four years later, August 19, 1879, Confirmation was again administered in the little log church of Frenchtown; not, however, by Father Giorda, but His Grace, Charles H. Seghers, who had come in his first visitation of Western Montana. On his second visitation, four years later, the saintly prelate administered the same sacrament in the little log church of the village, whose site, however, about this, or very shortly after, that
is, in 1879-80, was changed for another more desirable, closer to the center of the town and more convenient for the people.
In 1881-2 two Sisters from Missoula taught the public school of the Frenchtown district, where most of the settlers were Catholics. The opening of a private school in the same locality seems also to have been contemplated by the Missoula Community at this time. But if at all conceived, the scheme never took the shape or form of a practical move.
The agreement pursuant to which the spiritual care of Frenchtown and vicinity was to be taken out of the hands of the Jesuit Fathers went into effect in the summer of 1884, with the arrival of the Rev. L. S. Tremblay, the first secular priest assigned to that charge. Hailed with great joy by the whole community, the first steps of the new Pastor were directed toward the building of a better and larger church, the old one being not only shabby and rickety, but inadequate for the congregation. The new edifice is a frame structure, yet solid and substantial above the common. It measures forty by eighty feet, and cost, in round figures, some eight thousand dollars. It was blessed and dedicated under the title of St. John the Baptist, whilst the original church has been names after St. Louis.
In December, 1885, Father Tremblay went to Butte, where he remained a little over a year, Frenchtown during the while being visited three or four times by Father Dols. In the fall of 1886 a Canadian priest was put in charge of the Frenchtown Mission, who held it only for a few months. Father Tremblay returned in 1887, a little before the opening of spring, and stayed until the fore part of the nest January, when poor health caused him to leave this part of the country for the milder and more congenial climate of Utah. The left Frenchtown again without a priest for several months, that is, till the following September, when the Rev. Honore B. Allayes became the Pastor of that community.
Father Allayes is a native of Woesten, West Flanders, Belgium, where he was born July 4, 1857. He began his studies at St. Louis College, Dixmuide, and continued them in the Little
Seminary of Rousselare. In October, 1878, he entered the theological Seminary of Brouge, where he was raised to the priesthood by the Rt. Rev. J. J. Faict, August 2, 1882. After filling the duties of a Professor in the College of Mouscron, West Flanders, he was promoted to the Rectorship of the Catholic schools at Blackenberghe. Longing, however, to devote himself to missionary work in the United States of America, he resigned his potion in 1888, and after a short stay at the American College, Louvain, he left his native home for the field of his choice, namely, Montana, whither he arrived in the month of July, and where he soon prove himself a devoted and excellent worker. His being assigned to the Rectorship of the church and Mission of Frenchtown was, indeed, no small blessing for our Catholic people of that district.
The field first confided to Father Allayes, shortly after his arrival in Montana, consisted of the Frenchtown Valley proper only. Recently, however, it has been vastly extended owing to the very rapid settling of that portion of the County which lies north and west of Flat Head Lake. This section of Montana just opened to settlement by the Great Northern, which traverses it on its course to the Coast, has attracted quite an immigration. Kalispel and Columbia Falls have come into existence the last two years and rank already among the promising communities of our new state. In each of these two towns a church is being built by Father Allayes, as the places belong to his jurisdiction and are attended by him from Frenchtown.
To reach those places the missionary must travel a distance of at least 120 miles, partly by coach, partly by rail, and partly also by boat. First, by coach from Frenchtown to De Smet or to Missoula; then by rail to Ravalli; now again by coach to the foot of Flat Head Lake; lastly by boat to the head of the same lake. The journey or route is, indeed, varied, nay, charming, as it runs through a scenery and landscape of wood and prairie, bill and dale, land and lake, brook and river, white and Indian, the equal of which is hard to find.
Several new settlements have also risen along the Northern pacific Railway between the western boundary of the Jocko Reservation and the Idaho line. With the exception of Plains, of which we shall say a word directly, they likewise have been
attached to the Frenchtown Mission, and are under the pastoral care of Father Allayes. Thus far, however, no church in any of them has been erected.
Horse Plains, now simply Plains, is a little village west of and adjacent to the Jocko Reservation. The lay and shape of the locality has all the appearances of a large amphitheater and is a charming spot. The settlement contains several Catholic families, and has also a neat little church built in 1889, by the Jesuit Fathers, who for several years have been attending the colony from the Mission of St. Ignatius. The church was blessed and named after St. James, the Greater, by the Ordinary, the Rt. Rev. J. B. Brondel, October 6, 1889.
Apart from Plains, the Catholic population of the district spoke of, and which numbered only five hundred at the close of 1888, had risen to more then tree times as many by the beginning of 1891, with a corresponding increase in the number of Baptisms. These counted sixty-two in 1891, whereas there were no more then twenty-three in 1888.
It is well to put on record here that Father Allayes is entitled to the credit of having recently discovered a new method by which mosaic work is greatly facilitated. The process recommends itself by its simplicity, and is substantially as follows: Upon a glass plate, placed over the object to be reproduced in mosaic, it traced a transparent copy of the object. This tracing is then followed out with mosaic blocks corresponding in shade and color to the shades and colors of the original, the various blocks being worked in from the opposite side of the transparency and, lastly, cemented together. When the cement has set and by its hardening the different parts are bound and firmly held together, the place plate is removed from over the object and now the work is polished and Finnish up. By such simple and easy process portraits, paintings, and colored pictures of any kind can be reproduced in mosaic with far greater facility and perfection than could be by the old methods. The invention is protected by letter patents in the United States and several foreign countries.
As will be told ina separate chapter devoted to the memory of Montana pioneer missionaries who have ended their course, Father Allayes has passed away, and the northern part of the
field cultivated by him has been divided into several Missions, with a resident priest in each, which goes to show how this whole section has been advancing during the last few years.
A to the portion of the field directly west of Frenchtown, it, too was been opened to settlement and civilization, although not to a very large extent owing to the nature of the country, which is mostly mountains. Nevertheless, several towns and settlement have come into existence here and there along the tortuous course of the branch line of the Northern Pacific, which zigzags its way into Wallace, Idaho, from Montana. And, no doubt, similar results will also follow on the wake of the Milwaukee, now building over part of the same territory. But the new places, so far, have been attended from Frenchtown. For all young communities are like minors, they must outgrow their dependency.
With this we close our chronicle of the Frenchtown church, and pass on to local history of Catholicity in several places in Eastern Montana.
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