St. Stephens Indian Mission serves as a place of worship in 2019, and a reminder of Fremont County’s rich western history.
The Jesuits and Plains Indians founded a number of missions in the late 1800s, including St. Stephens.
According to StStephensMission.com, Northern Arapaho Chief Black Coal spoke about changes to the reservation system in 1878,
“This (land in southern Wyoming) was the country of my fathers, now dead and dying. We love our children. We very much want a good school house, and a good man to teach our children to read your language, that they may grow up to be intelligent men and women, like the children of the White man. And then, when Sunday comes, we would be glad of some good man to teach our children about the Great Spirit.”
Photos from the same website show the mission in the late 1800s and in 1912.
The 1912 photo shows the original three major structures of the mission. The building on the left served as a church, boy’s dormitory, gymnasium, and the Jesuit Priest’s house. The structure was destroyed in a fire in 1928. The present church at St. Stephens stands in the same spot. The building on the right was the Franciscan sister’s convent and girl’s dormitory which was demolished in 2003 due to safety concerns. The structure in the center is the only one that remains in use today. It’s referred to as Sister Incarnata Hall and has hosted numerous projects and events.
The mission is roughly 4 miles southwest of Riverton and adjacent to St. Stephens Indian High School.
For more information about the St. Stephens Indian Mission, click here.