My Forty Years Scribblin's
Historical Accounts
Christianity Beneath the Clear Blue Sky

Originally written in the 1960 or '61 and published in The Missoulian, this version appeared in the September-October 1994 The Montana Journal. The little shrine has been the topic of much speculation.

Nailed on a pine tree near the town of Seeley Lake is a little shrine of mystery. Its religious significance is born out by a cross fastened to a rough, knotty board that was once painted. Small rough slabs form a sloping roof to protect the recessed face board and its cross and a shelf attached with upright nails that once held a statue of the Virgin Mary and several candles.

I accompanied Mrs. Lyle Slade and James Sullivan, both now deceased, to the site in the 1960s and was told that the Slade families and their neighbors had held Sunday school services there in the early 1930s when there were still figurines and candles and kneeling benches and hand rails in a half circle below the shrine. Faint etchings from the candle smoke were still visible in the 1960s, but the candles and figurines had long since disappeared.

In search for information, I was told that horse and wagon travelers had passed by the little shrine on their way to their homesteads at the Swan summit. Jessie Perro Dombey said the object was there when the older Perros came to the area in 1903 and that they were told that it had been put there by a priest as a place of worship for the lumberjacks in the logging camps. An aged Indian women, Lucy Finley Pellew, said that the Indians once held services at Seeley Lake before it was a town. Logic would seem to say that the little shrine with its crude kneeling benches and rough handrails would have been the setting for their worship services. Logging had long since destroyed the handrails and benches.

In answer to my inquiry, the Helena Diocese said they had no record of such a structure, but it was the custom of the priests to erect such shrines as they walked about the country in the early days. It is unlikely that we will ever know the full history of the little place of worship in the shelter of pines.