Phone: (406) 745-2768
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Location: Immediately southwest of the St Ignatius Catholic Church (1891) at One Church Street, St Ignatius, Montana 59865
The cemetery was dedicated in 1854 at the founding of the St Ignatius Mission by Father Pierre-Jean deSmet and other Jesuit missionaries to the Mission Valley. The opening of the mission was a direct consequence of the visit of four Salish First Nations representatives to St Louis in 1831, seeking the "Black Robes" to evangelize the native peoples. By 1855 about 1,000 members of the Salish, Kootenai, Kalispell, and Pend d'Oreille Nations had settled spontaneously in the vicinity of the mission. Soon to follow were the first girls' boarding school in the territory, industrial and agricultural schools, medical facilities (until 1914), and day schools. The deceased of the community began filling the little cemetery rapidly, and it was expanded some time after 1880. Three fires in less than thirty years decimated the parish community. The mission cemetery served as interim burying ground for the Jesuit priests, the Sisters of Providence, the Ursuline Sisters, and the Catholic converts among the First Nations peoples, by that time reduced to the present-day Flathead Indian Reservation. At the opening of the larger St Ignatius parish cemetery at the southeast corner of town, the mission cemetery was closed to burials and many existing burials were relocated to the new site; however, no inventory was maintained of those so moved. Sepultre records for the cemetery are scattered among several sources, including the Museum of the Western Jesuit Missions (Missouri Province) at St Louis. Today only a few grave markers and visible signs indicate that the field of two square blocks was the burying ground for hundreds, perhaps thousands, but the site remains sacred to the native peoples and to the Catholics of the parish.