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Fire destroys 110-year-old building in Mission

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ST. IGNATIUS — The Mission Valley lost a piece of history June 2. At about 2 a.m., the 110-year-old Beckwith Mercantile building burned to the ground in what local firemen are calling a total loss.

According to St. Ignatius fire chief Martin Frazzini, the cause of the fire is still under investigation. The building had no electricity at the time of the fire, and no deaths or injuries were reported.

Frazzini said since the building was a total loss, evidence will be hard to come by. Leads are being pursued by local law enforcement, and the Montana State Fire Marshal is assisting in the investigation.

The Beckwith Mercantile building was one of the original businesses built in St. Ignatius more than a century ago. It remained in business until 1956, when the tribes bought the building.

While owned by the tribes, it was used as a USDA food distribution center in one half and a community center in the other. The community center was used for weddings, wakes, funerals, powwows and teenage dances.

Owners Angela “Dottie” Cates and Wade Hendrickson bought the building from the tribe 25 years ago and used it to house a daycare, a secondhand store and a video store. Most recently, it was used as a storage facility.

The building was not insured, and neither owner plans on rebuilding.

“It’s the end of an era,” Hendrickson said. “A lot of good times and a lot of sad times. Two of my brothers and my sister were married there, and I buried a lot of friends there.”

The fire claimed thousands of dollars worth of antiques and family heirlooms. Hendrickson said rebuilding the Beckwith Mercantile building would cost over $300,000.

The owners and the St. Ignatius Fire Department ask that anyone with information on the cause of the fire contact authorities.

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