Open main menu

Page:Quarterlyoforego10oreg 1.djvu/270

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Edwin V. O'Hara

again penetrated the Oregon Country as far as Fort Hall, on the Snake River. Fort Hall occupied a large place in early Oregon history. It was built by Nathaniel Wyeth, in 1834. Wyeth sold it to the Hudson's Bay Company two years later, and consequently at the time of DeSmet's visit, it was under the direction of Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company in Oregon. The local agent, Ermatinger, was prominent in the service of the Company, and his courtesy and generosity to DeSmet were only typical of the treatment accorded to the Catholic missionaries by the gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company, at all of their forts during the McLoughlin regime. DeSmet speaks of Ermatinger in the following terms: '^Although a Protestant by birth, this noble Englishman gave us a most friendly reception. Not only did he repeatedly invite us to his table, and sell us at first cost, or at one-third of its value, in a country so remote, whatever we required; but he also added as pure gifts, many articles which he believed would be particularly acceptable — he assured us that he would second our ministry among the populous nation of the Snakes, with whom he had frequent intercourse."

When Father DeSmet met the Flatheads at Fort Hall on this occasion, he was better prepared to minister to their needs than on his former journey. He was accompanied by two priests and three brothers. The priests are well known in the early annals of Oregon. They were Fathers Nicholas Point and Gregory Mengarini. We shall meet them again in the course of our narrative. DeSmet had been successful, too, in securing financial aid for his missions. The Bishops and clergy of the dioceses of Philadelphia and New Orleans had responded very generously to his appeal. On reaching the Bitter Root Valley, the home of the Flathead tribe, DeSmet was thus enabled to lay the foundations of a permanent mission. He chose a location on the banks of the Bitter Root River, about twenty-eight miles above its mouth, between the site of old Fort Owen and the present town of Stevens-