Fire destroys the Mission and School of St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church at Tulalip on March 29, 1902.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 11/01/2008
  • Essay 8826
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On March 29, 1902, the night before Easter, St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church, established by Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse (1821-1892) at Tulalip in 1857, burns beyond repair. Cause of the fire is undetermined but it is reported that a shipment of kerosene had been delivered to the Tulalip Reservation shortly before the fire and empty fuel cans are found among the ruins. The Tulalip Reservation is located in Snohomish County along the coast of Posession Sound.

The Tulalip Mission and School

Government support of a school for Puget Sound Indians had been part of the 1855 Pt. Elliott Treaty promise but when money was not given, missionaries began schools on many reservations. Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse, Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), built a log church at the mouth of Ebey Slough near Tulalip in 1857 and adorned it with a bell and statue of Our Lady which he brought with him from France.  Chirouse learned the native dialect and with Father Paul Durieu, OMI, traveled the region that is now Snohomish, Island, Skagit, Whatcom, and San Juan counties preaching and instructing.

Chirouse began a boys school at Tulalip, with approximately 15 students attending.  The mission and school were moved twice -- first to Priest Point and then near Tulalip Bay.  In 1868 the Sisters of Charity of Providence (Montreal) were invited to establish a girls’ school at St. Anne’s.  Father Chirouse finally obtained federal support for the school the following year, making St. Anne’s Mission at Tulalip the first contract Indian school in the nation. 

Despite protests from the tribes, Chirouse was reassigned in 1878, leaving operation of the school in the hands of Sisters of Providence (Sisters of Charity) and transferring male students to their care. In 1891 the school had 135 students.  In 1900 the government assumed control of the school and buildings and appointed a school superintendent in place of the position of Indian agent.  Dr. Charles M. Buchanan was the first assigned to this post at Tulalip. 

Fire Aftermath

The church was destroyed by fire on March 20, 1902.  A young student, Emil Williams, rescued the Madonna statue brought from France by Father Chirouse. The French Madonna took her place in the new church when it opened in 1904. St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Mission was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and still stands on the reservation overlooking Tulalip Bay. 

A new and larger school was built in 1902 which was called the Tulalip Indian Boarding School.  It continued to be operated military style by the government until 1932 when students were transferred to the Marysville School District.  Tulalip Elementary School, located on the reservation, was dedicated on Sunday May 21, 1960.

Sources: “Providence of Our Lady of Seven Dolars School, Tulalip, Washington, Collection Inventory 1867-1974,” Providence Health and Services website accessed October 29, 2008 (; “History of the Mission of St. Anne’s,” Mary Koch Collection of Information on Tulalip, Mission of St. Anne website accessed October 29, 2008 (; Annual Reports, Deparment of the Interior, (Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1906), 361-365; Jan Halliday and Gail Chehak, Peoples of the Northwest: A Traveler’s Guide to Land, Art and Culture (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2002); “Tulalip School Dedicated Sunday,” Marysville Globe, May 22, 1960; Harriette Dover Shelton, “Tribe Not Recognized,” letter to the Editor, Ibid., May 26, 1960, p. 10.

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