Smet, Pierre-Jean ˜deœ 1801-1873

Alternative names
Birth 1801-01-30
Death 1873-05-23
French, English

Biographical notes:

Pierre-Jean De Smet, missionary to Native Americans, was born in France in 1801 and educated in Belgium. He came to the United States in 1821 as a novice and took his vows in Missouri in 1823, but ran a school for Native American children in Missouri from 1823 to 1830. He returned to Europe in 1831 and came back to the United States in 1838 when he began working as a missionary to the Potawatomi. In 1840, he began working with the Flatheads and continued with them through 1841. From 1841 to 1846, De Smet was Superior of the Oregon Missions. He died in St. Louis in 1873. Joseph N. Nicollet (1786-1843) was a French scientist, who explored and mapped the Upper Mississippi River and the area between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

From the description of Letter, 1840. (Spokane Public Library). WorldCat record id: 743358210

Jesuit missionary; Superior of the Oregon mission; Procurator of Missouri Province.

From the description of Papers, 1764-1970, bulk 1821-1873. (Washington State University). WorldCat record id: 29854091

Pierre Jean De Smet was born January 30, 1801 in Termonde, France (now Dendermonde, Belgium). His parents were Josse De Smet, a wealthy ship outfitter, and his second wife, Jeanne Marie Buydens. Pierre went to college at Alost in 1818 and on to Preparatory Seminary at Mechelen, Belgium in 1820. He was enlisted as a novice in 1821 and sent to White Marsh, Maryland, United States. In 1823 De Smet took his vows for the priesthood at Florissant, Missouri. Pierre ran a school for Native American children from 1824-1830. He was then assigned to be Procorator, Prefect of Studies, and Professor of English at the newly constructed Jesuit college in St. Louis. De Smet went to Europe in 1831 to improve his health and solicit funds for the college. Due to his illness, he withdrew from the Society of Jesus in 1835 and managed the Ghent orphanage until 1837 when he reentered the Society. In 1838 De Smet was sent to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to work at the Potowatomi Mission. Then in 1840, he responded to the Flatheads' desire for a "Black Robe" and was with them until 1841 as they traveled through Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. From 1841-1846, De Smet was Superior of the Oregon Missions. During his appointment, De Smet visited and established Catholic missions among the Native American tribes of what is today the northwestern corner of the United States, and British Columbia. In 1849 De Smet was appointed Assistant Vice Provincial and Procurator of Missouri. During this appointment, De Smet assisted in securing a treaty between the United States and the Sioux tribe as well as making several trips to Europe. On May 23, 1873, De Smet died in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nicolas Point was born in Rocroy, France in 1799. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1819. Point took his first vows in 1827 and was ordained a priest in 1831. In 1840 Point was summoned to accompany Father De Smet to the Rocky Mountain region to be official diarist for the mission. In this capacity, Point kept extensive notes of their travels and graphically recorded what they saw. After these travels, Point worked among the Native American tribes of the northwestern United States and Canada establishing mission sites. In the 1860s, Point wrote Souvenirs des Montagnes Rocheuses. He died in Quebec, Canada in 1868.

From the guide to the Pierre Jean De Smet Papers, 1764-1970, (Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)


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Ark ID:


  • Montana
  • Jesuits--Missions--Northwest, Pacific
  • Missions
  • Potawatomi Indians--Missions
  • Indians of North America--Government relations
  • Indians, treatment of
  • Washington (State)
  • Jesuits--Missions--Rocky Mountains Regions
  • Overland Journeys to the Northwestern United States
  • Missionaries
  • Indians of North America--Missions
  • Indians of North America--West (U.S.)--Government relations
  • International relations
  • Idaho
  • Native Americans
  • Indians, Treatment of--North America
  • Jesuits--Missions--Great Plains
  • Indians of North America--Camps
  • Missionaries--Correspondence
  • Sihasapa Indians--Missions
  • Maps
  • Siksika Indians--Missions
  • Jesuits--United States--History--19th century
  • Salish Indians--Missions
  • Jesuits--Missions--West (U.S.)
  • Indians of North America--Missions--West (U.S.)


not available for this record


  • Yellowstone River Watershed (as recorded)
  • Bitterroot River Basin (as recorded)
  • Idaho Panhandle (Idaho) (as recorded)
  • Northwest, Pacific (as recorded)
  • Missouri River Watershed (as recorded)
  • Bighorn River (Wyo. and Mont.) (as recorded)
  • Coeur d'Alene Lake (Idaho) (as recorded)
  • Columbia River Watershed (as recorded)
  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)
  • Northwest, Pacific (as recorded)
  • Yellowstone River Watershed (as recorded)
  • Northwest, Pacific (as recorded)
  • Clark Fork River Basin (as recorded)
  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)
  • Kootenay River Basin (as recorded)
  • Big Horn River Basin (as recorded)
  • Flathead Lake (Mont.) (as recorded)
  • Pend Oreille, Lake (Idaho) (as recorded)
  • Flathead River Basin (as recorded)
  • Clark Fork River Basin (as recorded)
  • North America (as recorded)
  • Flathead River Basin (as recorded)
  • Missouri River (as recorded)