Fort Owen Monument State Park
- Cultural Attractions, City and State Parks
- General info
Fort Owen State Park in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana is the site of many “firsts” in the state. Its history intertwines with that of Montana’s first Catholic church and is the site of the first permanent white settlement in Montana. The first sawmill, the first grist mill, the first agricultural development, the first water right, and the first school are all credited to the Fort Owen site.
Lewis and Clark passed the future site of Fort Owen on their way to the Pacific in 1805. Soon the entire Northwest was the new fur bonanza for Great Britain and the United States.
Christian Indians from the East brought Catholicism to the Bitterroot Valley. In 1841, Father Pierre Jean DeSmet came here to establish the first Christian Mission in what is now Montana.
The early years at St. Mary’s Mission were encouraging and productive. However, by the late 1840s, the missionaries were beleaguered by lack of funds, apostasy among the converts, and continual harassment from the Blackfeet Indians. In 1850, the Jesuits decided to close St. Mary’s temporarily. At this point, John Owen stepped into Montana history.
John Owen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania