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Father Peter John de Smet

This is within the Jesuit residence at the Cataldo Mission in Idaho!

Father Peter John De Smet, "Apostle to the Indians"

Around 1821, Father Peter John de Smet left his homeland of Belgium to minister to the Indians of North America. During his many missionary journies, he established four missions in the Pacific Northwest -- St. Paul Mission in Kettle Falls, Washington, St. Mary's Mission in Stevensville, Montana, St. Ignatius Mission in St. Ignatius, Montana, and the Old Sacred Heart Mission here in Cataldo, Idaho.

Father de Smet chose this site for the Old Mission because of the clear river water and the fertile farm lands on which the Indians were taught farming and industry.

After his first visit to the Coeur d'Alene Indians he wrote: "Never has a visit to the Indians given me such consolation...," which illustrates the mutual admiration that existed between him and the Indians. Father de Smet was admired as well by new settlers, as we see in this quote by Donnelly, a local historian: "He is the noblest and the greatest single character in the long history of Indians and Whites in the great American West."

Father de Smet worked with Presidents Abraham Lincoln and James Buchanan in his goal as peacemaker in the American West, and served continually until dying peacefully in his sleep on May 23, 1873.

Researched by
Merideth Burch, Spokane Washington
for National History Day, 1989

Submitted by Cam Rodriguez

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