montana photograph Bird Tail

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“This is an indigenous continental compass rose,” says historian and folklorist Nicholas Vrooman of Bird Tail Rock near St. Peter’s Mission in northern Montana. Vrooman says the rock marks the intersection of routes that lead to what we now call the Oregon coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay and the northern Rockies.

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In 1878, colonial settlers built St. Peter’s Mission, very near the Bird Tail. Neighboring rancher Frank Crabtree says the church had fallen into disrepair when he began slowly restoring it 10 years ago.

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Crabtree stands inside the church, where services are now held regularly.

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Crabtree says the church organ was full of mice when he found it. It is now in working order.
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The dove-tail joints on the corners of the mission were hand-hewn by an axe in 1878, says historian Nicholas Vrooman.

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Other historical buildings at the site haven’t fared as well as the church. Two large stone school buildings were constructed in 1887 and 1892. By 1920, both had been abandoned and fallen victim to fire.

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A cemetery remains, testament to the hard life many at the Mission endured. The cemetery contains the unmarked graves of many school children who died in the early 1900s.

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“This is one of Montana’s absolute important structures, period,” says historian and folklorist Nicholas Vrooman in the shadow of St. Peter’s Mission north of Cascade.

See these on my website.

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