Sacred Heart Catholic Church

When we were driving across the Montana Plains on our way to Waterton National Park (Canada), we came across this abandoned church and stopped to investigate. The church is abandoned, but the cemetery is still in use. We found a monument in the cemetery with the inscription

Marker for St. Mary's Cemetery
St. Mary's Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery Est. 1924 by Jesuit Priests Dedicated to all members of this parish to the veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Persian Gulf Wars. Rest in Peace. 1991

Most of the graves are marked with wooden crosses. But a fair number are marked with granite or stone markers. Many of the graves had plastic flowers indicating that they were still visited. In many cases the flowers had not yet faded from the hot Montana sun.

Based on the names in the cemetery, it was clear that the church was at one time associated with the Fort Belknap Indian community. When we got back home, I decided to search the internet to see if I could find out more about the church and it's history. I was able to piece together a fair amount of information.

The church is the Sacred Heart Catholic Church as shown by the cemetery marker. Some sites on the internet identified the church as The Pink Church. Although the cemetery was established in 1924, the church was founded in 1931 as an Indian mission church. There was a previous mission in the area since the late 1890's, but the location of this older log mission structure was frequently flooded by the Milk river. The church was moved to higher ground.

The church was built with the help of many Catholic families living in the area. A Farther Griva was the first priest to serve here. He lived at the Fort Belknap agency and rode his bicycle to work. In 1964 the church closed. The cemetery is still used today.