Stevensville, Montana, has been officially recognized as the first non-Indian permanent settlement in the state. It began as a Christian mission established by the Catholic Jesuits in 1841. The area was the homeland of the Bitterroot Salish Indians who were removed from the area by the United States Army in 1891.
In 1850, the Jesuits closed St. Mary’s Mission and sold the property a local trader, Major John Owens, who turned it into Fort Owen which served as a trading post for the Bitterroot Valley. In 1866, the Jesuits returned to restore the St. Mary’s Mission. In 1855, Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens imposed a treaty on the tribes in the area in which the United States intended to establish a single reservation for many different tribes. In honor of Isaac Stevens, the community of St. Mary changed its name to Stevensville in 1864.
Today Stevensville has a population of about 2,000 and a small, volunteer-run historical museum. Like many small historical museums, it contains a collection of artifacts relating to the local history and provides little explanation of the artifacts themselves. Shown below are some of the displays in the Stevensville Historical Museum.
More Montana Museums
Museums 101: The Historic St. Mary's Mission Museum (photo diary)
Museums 101: Missoula Art Museum (photo diary)
Museums 101: The Swan Valley Museum (Photo Diary)
Museums 101: The Mineral Museum (Photo Diary)
Museums 101: World Museum of Mining (Photo Diary)
Museums 101: The Powell County Museum (Photo Diary)
Museums 101: The Frontier Montana Museum (Photo diary)
Museums 101: Rocky Mountain Military Museum (Photo Diary)