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Stevensville, in Ravalli County, is the first permanent settlement in Montana. At the request of the Bitter Root Salish Indian Tribe, a Jesuit mission was established there in 1841, more than forty years before Montana became a state. The settlement was named Saint Mary’s and, apart from the mission house itself and some log cabins, it included Montana’s first pharmacy. In 1850. Major John Owen set up a camp north of Saint Mary’s, which later grew into a trading post and military fort, known as Fort Owen. Structures from both Saint Mary’s and Fort Owen still stand today, as part of the city of Stevensville. In 1864, Saint Mary’s was renamed Stevensville in honor of Isaac Stevens, the territorial governor of Montana Territory, who made Stevensville the territorial capital in 1853, as it remained until 1858, when Stevens was called back to active duty with the Union Army to serve during the Civil War, in which he died at Chantilly in 1862. Huey Lewis, of Huey Lewis and the News, was once a resident of Stevensville, and U.S. Senator and 1972 presidential candidate, George McGovern, once owned a book store and a summer home there. Stevensville is located along Highway 93, south of Florence and north of Victor. The Welcome Creek Wilderness Area is east of the city and the Bitterroot National Forest is to the west.


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