DE SMET, PIERRE-JEAN ("Blackrobe") Jesuit Missionary to the Indians. Autograph letter signed ("P.J. De Smet S.J.") to Dr. Carl Knortz in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri, 2 February 1870. 2 3/4 pages, 4to, closely written, partial separation at a central fold.
FATHER DE SMET'S ACCOUNT OF HIS MISSIONARY WORK WITH THE TRIBES OF THE WESTERN FRONTIER
A very good letter in which the Belgian-born priest who came to America in 1821 describes his 33 years as a missionary in some of the most remote areas of the West and Pacific Northwest. De Smet, 69 years old at the time of this letter, was teaching at Catholic University of St. Louis. In response to a request "for a short biography of my humble self," Father De Smet protests that "it would not be worthwhile to give it, should even my present occupations allow of it, suffice it to say: I commenced my missionary career in 1837, among the Pottowatomies, at Council Bluffs, opposite Omaha City. The Indians were, hence, removed to Kansas, & form the St. Mary's Pottowatomie Mission. In 1840, I accompanied a deputation of Indians to the Rocky Mountains, calling at St. Louis...In 1841, accompanied by several companions, I established a mission among the Flat-heads, & Kalispels in the Bitter root Valley, West of the Mountains, another, among the Stietshoi or Pointed-heart Indians, near the Spokane Lake. I erected a third mission, on the Columbia river, among the Schuyelpie or Kettlefall Indians, near Colville. I visited, at different Stations, the Nez-perces, the Spokanes, the Okinyanes, the Koetenays & the various tribes of the Upper Columbia river. These missions & stations continue to be attended to by several of my Brethren of the Society of Jesus. East of the Rocky Mountains, I have, on various occasions, paid missionary visits to the Blackfeet Indians, the Crows, the Assinoboins, the Mandans, Biccarees & Minatarees, together with the numerous Sioux or Dacotah Tribes. I have always been treated by them with the greatest kindness & respect....I intend to establish a mission among the Dacotahs in the course of the present year.
"I have written a number of letters to my Friends, during my missionary excursions, which have found their way into Newspapers & Reviews & have been collected and published by others...as follows..." De Smet gives a list of his published correspondence, commencing with the Letters & Sketches with a Narrative of a Year's Residence among the Indian Tribes of the Rocky Mountains, Philadelphia, 1843. He explains that "a Belgian periodical...has given a series of my letters, which have not, as yet, been published in book form, & would constitute a volume...of near 500 pages..." and notes that he wrote "for the album of a Physician a Skeleton of my Travels, comprising over 200,000 miles..." The published accounts, he regrets, "are all out of print, & I have tried in vain, at the request of Friends, to obtain some of them...." If a certain gentleman in Cincinnati carries out his plan to publish all his letters in German, Father De Smet will send a copy.