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The tribes that lived near the Columbia River were enthusiastic about the blackrobes teachings. So much so that in 1840, Father DeSmet, a Jesuit priest from Belgian, wrote his superiors that he needed more priests to minister to the local Indian tribes. The Jesuits were known as blackrobes because of the black clothes robes they wore. Father DeSmet made the long journey back to Europe to find the blackrobe Jesuit priests he needed. He returned five years later with two men; Father Anthony Ravalli and Father Hoecken.
In 1845 the newly arrived Father Rivalli, with the help of local Indians, built a small mission from “rough logs and brush.” In these early years St. Paul’s was a seasonal church. Father Ravalli would make the two-day journey from St. Ignatius Mission in Cusick to St. Paul’s during the fishing season to minister to the large gatherings of tribes.
In 1847 a permanent church was built near the temporary building. There were glass clerestory windows installed, and the walls covered in white mud, not unlike the walls at nearby Fort Colville. The building doubled as a place of worship and living quarters. Which, with its two wood burning stoves, made it possible for Father DeVos to live comfortably at St. Paul’s year-round. During his tenure, lasting until 1851, Father DeVos baptized 491 people, held 123 marriage masses, and shepherded 99 souls to the hereafter.
The 1860s were a time of growth and change in and around St. Paul’s. The mission had new stained glass windows installed and the new priest, Father Joset, saw an increase in the Euro-American population and demand for Catholic churches. Within the decade two more churches were built in the nearby town to serve the growing community. In the 1870s the opening of an Indian boarding school in Kettle Falls, and the closing of the trading post further reduced the need for St. Paul’s. The night of August 14, 1875, the lamps were put out for the last time. The Church was allowed to fall into disrepair.
The mission was forgotten until the 20th century. By 1938 the mission’s walls could no longer stand on their own and the roof and floor were gone. Restoration efforts began that year under the leadership of Father George. Working with the local Knights of Columbus, he set out to restore the mission to its former glory. The organization used correct period tools and techniques to make the new building look as original as possible. They hand-hewn logs and used reproduction nails and hardware. The Mission stands on its original quartzite foundation.
In 1951 St. Paul’s was gifted to the state of Washington. Washington then transferred ownership to the National Parks Service in 1974. In that same year St. Paul’s was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Chance, David H. “Archaeological Test at St. Paul’s Mission.”1987. Fort Spokane Collection, National Park Service, Fort Spokane Washington.
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Washington, St.Paul’s Mission. “St. Paul’s Mission.”Accessed November 3, 2016. https://www.nps.gov/laro/learn/historyculture/mission-point.htm.
National Park Service. Interpretive sign “St. Paul’s Mission.” On location.
Ruby, Robert H., and John A. Brown. “The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun.” Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.
Waymarking. “St. Paul’s Mission – Kettle Falls, WA.” St. Paul’s Mission – Kettle Falls, WA – This Old Church on Waymarking.com. Published October 20, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2016.http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMJAQQ_St_Pauls_Mission_Kettle_Falls_WA.
Photos from Lake ROssevelt National Recreation Area Flickr.