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De Smet, Peter John, 1801-1872

Missionary; born in Termonde, Belgium, Dec. 31, 1801 studied in the Episcopal seminary of Mechlin. With five other students he sailed from Amsterdam in 1821 for the United States, and entered the Jesuit school at Whitemarsh, Md. In 1828 he went to St. Louis and aided in founding the University of St. Louis, where he later became a professor. In 1838 lie founded a mission among the Pottawattomie Indians on Sugar Creek. In July, 1840, he went to the Peter Valley in the Rocky Mountains, where he met about 1,600 Flathead Indians, whom he found easy to convert, as they had retained much of the influence of the teaching given them two centuries before by the French missionaries. By the help of an interpreter he translated the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed into their language, and these within two weeks time the Flatheads learned. During his journey back to St. Louis he was several times surrounded by the Blackfeet Indians, who, when they saw his crucifix and black gown, showed him the greatest respect. On Sept. 24, 1841, with a party of other missionaries he reached Bitter Root River, where the mission of St. Mary's was begun. After spending about a year in learning the Blackfeet language and in endeavoring to make St. Mary's a permanent mission, he went to Europe to solicit aid. After arousing great enthusiasm in Belgium and France he sailed from Antwerp in December, 1843, with five Jesuits and six sisters, [105] and in August, 1844, arrived at Fort Van couver, and planted a central mission o the Willamette River. In 1845 he undertook a series of missions among the Sinpoils, Zingomenes, Okenaganes, Kootenays, and Flatbows. He made severe trips to Europe for aid. Father De Smet wrote The Oregon missions and travel over the Rocky Mountains; Western missions and missionaries; New India sketches, etc. He died in St. Louis, Mo in May, 1872.

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