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St. Francis Mission

The oldest active mission in the Northwest and the site of the first Roman Catholic church in Washington. In 1838 missionaries from Canada, under Father Francois Norbert Blanchet, founded the mission here, converted the neighboring Native American bands to the Christian faith, and ministered to the spiritual needs of Hudson’s Bay Company traders and settlers. For many years, St. Francis Mission, also known as the Cowlitz Mission, was the only Catholic establishment in the wilds north of Vancouver. The original structure was destroyed by fire in the late nineties. The mission church fell victim to fire two more times, once in 1916 and again in 1932, and was rebuilt each time. The Franciscan Friars left St. Francis in 1996; since then, the Archdiocese of Seattle has ministered to the historic parish on the Cowlitz Prairie.