Preserving Montana's Catholic Heritage : Helena Diocesan Structures and Historic Preservation
Object ID:
St. Joseph's Catholic Mission Church, Canton, Montana
The mining boom in Confederate Gulch east of Helena began in 1864, but few miners remained in 1870. In the meantime farmers and ranchers moved into the Missouri Valley, some settling in Canton. By the mid—1870's the Catholics decided to build a church. Mike Driscoll and Ahart Hash each donated two acres from their farms south of Canton, the parishioners subscribed to the building and led by Pat Gurnett hauled materials from Helena. Thomas Howell, a carpenter, oversaw both Catholic and non—Catholic volunteers in the construction. Father Palladino at the old Sacred Hearts Church in Helena, donated an altar and communion rail to the church.

It is the oldest extant example of secular Roman Catholic church architecture in Montana. Other churches that preceded it [Hellgate, 1863, Frenchtown, 1864, Silver Creek 1865, Virginia City, 1865, Helena, 1866, Deer Lodge, 1873] were too small, destroyed, occupied a building constructed for another purpose, or were replaced.

When Canyon Ferry Reservoir filled in 1953—54, it displaced forty—four families from their homes and farms. The Bureau of Reclamation agreed to relocate the church 2.5 miles east on diocesan—owned property near St. Joseph's Cemetery. In the fall, 1952, W. H. Sigety of Helena contracted and moved the church at a cost of $1,943. Attendance dwindled until the last religious services conducted there in July 1993. As the diocese moved toward abandoning St. Joseph's, a group of local persons aimed to restore and maintain the church. Known locally as the Canton Church Project, the group organized itself, with the help of the Catholic Diocese of Helena into a trusteeship that is charged with restoration and maintenance of St. Joseph's.
Click to Enlarge
St. Joseph's Church, Canton, MTSt. Joseph's Church, Canton, MT
St. Joseph's Church interiorSt. Joseph's Church interior