Stevensville (population 39,376) is located in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, the ancestral home of the Salish-Kootenai. In 1841, Jesuit missionaries established a mission at what would become Stevensville. The mission was the site of many firsts for the state: first cattle, crops, irrigation system, flour mill, pharmacy, and school. When the Jesuits left in 1850, Major John Own bought the property and established a trading post that served the region until 1866, when the mission was reestablished.
Agriculture was the economic base of the valley until the 1980s, when the area’s natural beauty and relative affordability prompted an influx of people from out of state who bought up land and subdivided to build more homes. Today’s economy is based on a mix of agriculture, small retailers, and service businesses. The town serves as a bedroom community for nearby Missoula and is home to many retirees and government workers.
In 1991, Stevensville had 37 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1866 St. Mary’s Mission church still stands as one of the community’s important historic properties.
The mission complex includes the chapel/residence, a log house/pharmacy, a Native American museum, a park with picnic facilities, a cemetery, and the Native American burial plot. The mission was one of the focal points for Western Heritage Days 2006, a celebration of Stevensville’s history and historic properties that drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2007.