POCATELLO — The Bannock County Historical Museum is inviting the public to attend a special presentation on the history and exploits of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet on Tuesday.
The free event will take place at the museum’s gallery, located at 3000 Avenue of the Chiefs in Pocatello, at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served, officials said.
De Smet, a “frontier missionary, peacemaker, world traveler and author,” came to America in 1821 to join the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order commonly called Jesuits, according to a news release. And he went on to establish Native American missions in the Missouri River Valley, the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest.
“Father De Smet’s story is fascinating, having a positive, far-reaching impact on the peoples of America and Europe in the 1800s,” according to the news release, which adds that he crossed paths with some of the most famous people of his day and was often sought out for advice. “Of significance to the Idaho portion of the Oregon/California Trail, Father De Smet traveled through Soda Springs and Fort Hall in 1841 and played a significant role in the success of the first emigrant wagon train to pass through Idaho on the Oregon/California Trail.”
The latter journey will be the focus of Tuesday’s event. Rigby resident Don Wind will give the presentation “Oregon/California Trail Beginnings: The Father De Smet Connection.”
Wind, a former Soda Springs resident, has become fascinated by the history and exploits of De Smet, which he’s studied over the years.
In fact, he was behind the construction of a monument recognizing the man.
The monument located on the corner of First West and Center streets in Soda Springs, includes a bronze bust of De Smet and signs describing his arrival in Soda Springs with the wagon train, his missionary work among Native Americans in the West and his peacemaking efforts on their behalf, and his extensive travels in America and Europe as chronicled in his books, maps and letters, Wind said.
He noted that De Smet traveled more than 180,000 miles in his lifetime.
“He was a pretty amazing man in many ways,” Wind said.
Lynn Murdoch, director/curator of the Bannock County Historical Museum, encourages people to attend Tuesday’s event to learn more about De Smet.
“Part of the Society’s mission is to educate people about the history of Bannock County, including its role in the settling of the west,” Murdoch said. “Father De Smet and company played an important part in the early history here.”