Indian and White
In the History of the Northwest
Part 2, Chapter 9
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!
MISSION OF DEER LODGE. ORIGIN OF THE NAME.
THE REV. REMIGIUS DE RYCKERE.
The name "Deer Lodge," by which town, river and valley, as well as the county, are known at present, has come down to us from the Indians. The Warm Springs mound, a picturesque freak of nature in the center of the upper part of the valley, looked at from a distance before any buildings obstructed its view, had all the appearance of an Indian teepee, and the hot springs vapor ascending from it, easily seen during cold weather for miles around, made the resemblance still greater. The genial temperature, produced by the hear of the springs clothes the environs, even in the coldest months of winter, with almost perennial verdure. The spot, in consequence, was the favorite feeding ground of the white-tailed deer, drawn thither from the mountains and valley. Hence the name, "the dwelling, the home of the deer of Deer Lodge," given to the locality by the Indians, who in naming places, things and persons, never fail to express the poetry of nature, of which they seem to possess the keenest sense-perception.
Several other names were given to the locality by the whites, who called it at one time, "Spanish Fork," from the fact that some of the first settlers in that vicinity were Mexicans. It likewise became known for a while as "Cottonwood," owing to its being situated ina grove of cottonwood trees. It went also for a time as "La Barge City," after Captain Ho. La Barge, a popular steamboat man of St. Louis. All this is made evident by the earlier maps of Idaho and Montana in which the place appears, now under one, now under another of these different names. However, according to "the survival of the fittest theory," it must be admitted that the original Indian name, "Deer Lodge," was the fittest, since it survived all the others.
The traveler going west, on reaching the top of what bears the uncanny name of Dog Creek Divide, is treated to one of the
most glorious views, which fills him with wonder and delight by its surpassing beauty and impressiveness. The valley lies there smiling before him, the little town nestling in its cottonwood groves by the bank of the river. The Deer Lodge River cuts the valley in a northwesterly direction and its meandering course is made the more conspicuous by the fringe of vegetation along its bank. Yonder, to the left, are the Hot Springs, while directly in front rise the bench lands which stretch back and up to pine forests on the mountain side. And now, above the broad Powell, some 13,000 feet high, towering among then, as a giant among pigmies while a little to the right the eye is charmed by the snow-covered crests of the Gold Creek Range. "The general appearance of these crests," says Bishop O'Connor, "is that of a sea after a violent storm; but no waves of ocean could more than miniature these mighty upheavals of the earth's crust." The whole area is truly one of enchantments, and the spot whence it is had, might, far more properly, be called "Grand View Summit," than the trivial, insignificant name it has been given.
The Rt. Rev. prelate just mentioned stood on that summit in the summer of 1877m, and appeared deeply impressed with the grandeur of the landscape and the whole panorama before him. We now journey by rail, in all ease and comfort whilst palace car whisk us rapidly across the country, but our modern convenience, is, beyond doubt, at the expense of many a sight of inspiring mountain scenery that lightened the discomforts of the horseback rider or stage traveler of early days.
The first missionary work in Deer Lodge and vicinity was done by one of the Jesuit Fathers, namely, by Father Giorda, who, on his travels to and from the Indian Missions eat and west of the Range, visited these settlement previous to 1866.
He was at Cottonwood, as the whites then called the place, in March 1863, and some baptisms performed by him on this occasion, are recorded at St. Ignatius Mission. He returned shortly before the 19th of March of the following year, 1864, and said Mass in the house of Mr. John Grant, or plain Johnnie Grant, as he was familiarly known. In the baptismal records kept at Peter's Mission we find eighteen baptisms admin-
istered by Father Giorda at Deer Lodge March 19, 1864, and in the number are seven children of Mr. Grant's own family. The place was visited by Father Giorda in December of the same year, and also in May of the year following, and on both occasions he baptized several children in in viciniis of Deer Lodge, in oppido Deer Lodge, at Hot Springs and Silver Bow, as appears from the same record.
A number of rich placer diggings were discovered at this time in Deer Lodge County, and these discoveries brought thither a crowd of miners, many of whom were Catholics. The presence of a resident priest in this part of Montana became, therefore indispensable. Father Giorda laid the matter before the Ordinary, the Rt. Rev. A. M. Blanchet. Heeding his representations the Rt. Rev. Bishop assigned to this new field, Rev. Remigius De Ryckere, who reached Deer Lodge in July, 1866. From this Father's arrival dates the Beginning of the Deer Lodge Mission.
The Rev. R. De Rycjere is still at his post, and has the honor of being the Dean of the secular clergy in Montana. He is a native of Emelghen, a little town in West Flanders, Belgium, where he was born August 6, 1837. He made his theological studies at the American College in Louvain--that famed nursery of Levites which as given so many zealous and efficient missionary priests and such a galaxy of eminent prelates to the Church in the United States--and was raised to the priesthood by His eminence Cardinal Sterx, at Mechlin, May 21, 1864. He left Europe in 1865, to join the Diocese of Nesqually, for which he had been ordained, and toward the end of September landed at Vancouver, Washington, whence in the summer of the following year he was assigned to start the Deer Lodge Mission in Western Montana.
Father De Ryckere arrived at Deer Lodge early in July and held his first Sunday service in the house of John Grant, the present resident of Conrad Kohrs. In October he commenced the erection of a chapel on Main Street, between Fourth and Fifth, and the hewn log structure was ready for use by the 8th of December, the Feat of the Immaculate conception. Father De Ryckere dedicated it under this title on the same day, and it was the first church building erected in Deer Lodge County.
From Deer Lodge, where he made his residence, this zealous
Missionary priest now began to visit at stated times all the mining camps within his Mission district. Gold Creek, Pioneer, Pike's Peak, Blackfoot, Bear Gulch, Bear Mouth, McClellan Gulch, German Gulch, Cable, Anderson, Butte, Silver Bow and Philipsburg were regularly visited by the pastor of Deer Lodge. To these mining camps were subsequently added farming communities, New Chicago, Flint Creek and Nevada Creek, and other places sprung up with his Mission's limits since the beginning of the railroad period, namely Elliston, Garrison Avon, Drummond, etc.
The difficulties and hardships of Father De Ryckere's early missionary life, far from being easy to recount, can hardly be imagined, except by the few knowing ones whose own personal experience enables them to visualize them. Horseback rides of 40, 60, 90 and more miles over dangerous and at times almost impassable trails, in the dead of winter and through deep snows, or under the scorching rays of the sun in summer, were weekly occurrences in the discharge of his missionary duties. Accidents to life in the mining camps were frequent, and no less frequent were broils and shooting scrapes, and the good Samaritan had to be in the saddle whole days, and even nights, to reach the patents in time for the last comforts of religion.
Though these sick-calls were usually very urgent, it also occurred once in a while that the person reporter in need of the fama crescit eundo, and that the person reported in need of the priest's assistance and dying, was but slightly indisposed and just a little under the weather. Father De Ryckere himself in the winter of 1866 happened to be the innocent occasion of a stick-call of this very kind. Somebody reported him to be seriously ill, to Father Kuppens at Helena, who at once jumped on his horse and through a blinding snowstorm rode on to Deer Lodge. Perhaps no one ever felt at one and the same time stronger emotions of both chagrin and delight than did Father Kuppens of this occasion. His reverend patient was not so ill after all, he was merely suffering from a sore finger, which had slightly hurt while splitting kindling.
Father De Ryckere's persevering activity, enabled him to replace before lone the log church by a neat stone structure, erected in a central spot some 400 years northeast of the first
location. The new church was opened and blessed on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1875, Father F. J. Kelleher, of Virginia City, being present and conducting the service.
The edifice cost over $7,000, the funds being realized, partly from the sale of the old site, and partly from contributions. Owing, however, tot he falling off of the placer diggings in the district, it took Father De Ryckere nearly fourteen years to clear the church of all indebtedness. The pastor's quarters for a long while were ack of the church and consisted of a comfortable study room and two small closet-like places, one a bedroom and the other destined as a guest room sacristy. But, recently, a neat and commodious brick residence has been erected for their pastor by the Catholics of the Mission.
Father De Ryckere will ever be entitled to the gratitude of the Deer Lodge people for the establishment in their midst of two flourishing institutions, St. Joseph's Hospital and St. Mary's Academy, both conducted by the Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas.
The beginning of St. Joseph's Hospital dates from October 9, 1873, and was first opened ina log house, which stood on the corner of Third and D. Streets, and which had been the first Court House of Deer Lodge. There the Sisters exercised their duties of their calling for several months, while suitable buildings were being constructed. The ground for these had been secured by Father De Ryckere on the little plateau in the northeast part of the town, a most desirable location. In February, 1874, the Sisters left their temporary quarters,, the log house on Third and D Streets, and moved into their new Hospital, a roomy and comfortable frame structure. The premises had to be enlarged and improved by a substantial brick building, the work of good Sister Ann Joseph, who has ably conducted the institution for several years.
The foundation of what became some years after St. Mary's Academy were laid by Father De Ryckere in 1878, and work on the building continued at intervals for a bout three years. After completion, the building remained unoccupied for more than a year for want of teachers. It was not until September 4, 1882, that the doors of St. Mary's Academy were opened to receive
pupils, and from that date its progress has kept pace with that of the surrounding country. The well deserved patronage the Academy met from the start soon rendered more commodious accommodations indispensable, and the original premises have been expended to more then twice their former capacity.
Attractive and quiet environs, together with superior appointments for the health, comfort and progress of the pupils render St. Mary's Academy a very desirable institution for the education of young ladies. The writer has had occasional opportunities of seeing the good work done by the Sisters in charge, and can confidently say that their efforts deserve the highest commendation.
In January, 1876, Father De Ryckere had been given an assistant in the person of Rev. A. Z. Poulin, who came to Deer Lodge from Idaho where he had been on missionary duty for a number of years. Poor health, however, did not allow Father Poulin to remain long on this field. Some eighteen months after his arrival he fell a victim of inflammatory rheumatism and returned to his native Diocese of Montreal, Canada.
Our attention thus far has been mostly engaged by what Father De Ryckere has done for the town of Deer Lodge. By the condition of things, the Deer Lodge Mission had the honor and privilege of becoming the mother-Mission, wherefore, as from a parent stock, sprang several offshoots or dependencies. To complete this part of the out subject, we shall devote to them the next two chapters.
But we cannot forbear mentioned first a little incident which will illustrate the practical foresight, as well as the quiet yet effective zeal of Father De Ryckere to keep his flock from falling prey to ravenous wolves.
In the summer of 1884, or thereabouts, John Merger, who had been providing Montana people for several years with shows and theatrical troupes, made arrangements to have Robert Ingersoll speak in several places in the state. It was simply a money-making affair on the part of both the blasphemous lecturer and the impresario, the latter giving no thought whatsoever--which was beyond doubt very blameworthy on his part--to his abetting thus the ranting infidel in spreading error and heresy among the people. Father De Ryckere heard that Deer Lodge was one of
the places where the agnostic would deliver a lecture, and quietly set to work to thwart the plan. Ordering a number of Father Lambert's Notes on Ingersoll, he distributed them among Catholics as well as non-Catholics, placing a copy in every family.
Some two months after, when the man appeared with the tickets for the lecture, and to make the final arrangements for 4h appearance of Ingersoll, he could sell no tickets, and notified his master to give a wide berth to Deer Lodge, as no one there cared to hear him. Father De Ryckere had not as much as whispered a word to any one about his aim and object in the matter; and for that very reason probably his little stratagem proved all the more successful. There was no lecture by Robert Ingersoll in Deer Lodge.
But let us pass on to the dependencies.
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