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Father Jacques Marquette

Father Jacques Marquette S.J. (June 1, 1637 – May 18, 1675)[1], sometimes known as Pere Marquette, was a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan's first European settlement, Sault Ste. Marie, and later founded St. Ignace, Michigan. In 1673 Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first non-Native Americans to see and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River.



Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France, on June 10,1637 and joined the Society of Jesus at age seventeen. After working and teaching in France for several years, he was dispatched to Quebec in 1666 to preach to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, where he showed great proficiency in the local languages, especially Huron. In 1668 Father Marquette (French: Père Marquette) was redeployed by his superiors to missions farther up the St. Lawrence River in the western Great Lakes. He helped found a mission at Sault Ste. Marie and at the Mission of the Holy Spirit in La Pointe, on Lake Superior, near the present-day city of Ashland, Wisconsin. Here, he came into contact with members of the Illinois tribes, who told him about the Mississippi River and invited him to teach their people who mostly lived further south. Because of wars between the Hurons at La Pointe and the neighboring Dakota people, however, Father Marquette had to relocate to the Straits of Mackinac; he informed his superiors about the rumored river and requested permission to explore it.

Father Jacques Marquette exploring

Leave was granted, and in 1673, Marquette was joined by Louis Jolliet, a French-Canadian explorer. They departed from St. Ignace on May 17, with two canoes and five voyageurs of French-Indian ancestry. They followed Lake Micsadsadhigan to the Bay of Green Bay and up the Fox River, nearly to its headwaters. From there, they were told to portage their canoes a distance of slightly less than two miles through marsh and oak plains to the Wisconsin River. At that point the French later built the trading town of Portage, named for its location. From the Portage, they ventured forth, and on June 17, they entered the Mississippi near Prairie du Chien.

A statue of Father Marquette at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

The Joliet-Marquette expedition traveled to within 435 miles (700 km) of the Gulf of Mexico but turned back at the mouth of the Arkansas River. By this point they had encountered several natives carrying European trinkets, and they feared an encounter with explorers or colonists from Spain.[2] They followed the Mississippi back to the mouth of the Illinois River, which they learned from local natives was a shorter route back to the Great Lakes. They returned to Lake Michigan near the location of modern-day Chicago. Marquette stopped at the mission of St. Francis Xavier in Green Bay in September, while Joliet returned to Quebec to relate the news of their discoveries.

Jacques Marquette memorial Ludington, Michigan

Marquette and his party returned to the Illinois Territory in late 1674, becoming the first Europeans to winter in what would become the city of Chicago. As welcomed guests of the Illinois Confederation, the explorers were feasted en route and fed ceremonial foods such as sagamite.[3][4]

In the spring of 1675, the missionary again paddled westward and celebrated a public Mass at the Grand Village of the Illinois near Starved Rock. A bout of dysentery picked up during the Mississippi expedition, however, had sapped his health. On the return trip to St. Ignace, he died near the modern town of Ludington, Michigan.

There is a Michigan Historical Marker at this location that reads

Father Jacques Marquette, the great Jesuit missionary and explorer, died and was buried by two French companions somewhere along the Lake Michigan shore on May 18, 1675. He had been returning to his mission at St. Ignace which he had left in 1673 to go exploring in the Mississippi country. The exact location of his death has long been a subject of controversy. A spot close to the southeast slope of this hill, near the ancient outlet of the Pere Marquette River, corresponds with the death site as located by early French accounts and maps and a constant tradition of the past. Marquette's remains were reburied at St. Ignace in 1677. [5]
The grave of Father Marquette, St. Ignace, Michigan.

His grave is now located at what is currently the Ojibway Museum on State Street in downtown St. Ignace. Father Marquette is memorialized in several towns and rivers that bear his name, such as Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marquette, Michigan, and the Father Marquette National Memorial near St. Ignace.[6] Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton, Illinois, is located at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and is the site where Indians of the Illini Confederation showed Marquette a faster return route to the Great Lakes.

Photo gallery


  1. ^ Jacques Marquette - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Catton, Bruce (1984). Michigan: A History, p. 14. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393301753.
  3. ^ Wisconsin Historical Society
  4. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (Sept. 23, 2009). "Eat this! Sagamité: A native-Illinoisan vegetable medley". Dining Chicago. Chicago’s Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc.. Retrieved Sept. 23, 2009. 
  5. ^ Marquette's Death - Michigan Historical Marker Registered Site S0278
  6. ^ Marquette, Jacques 1637 – 1675

See also

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JACQUES MARQUETTE (1637-1675), French Jesuit missionary and explorer, re-discoverer (with Louis Joliet) of the Mississippi. He was born at Laon, went to Canada in 1666, and was sent in 1668 to the upper lakes of the St Lawrence. Here he worked at Sault Ste Marie, St Esprit (near the western extremity of Lake Superior) and St Ignace (near Michilimackinac or Mackinaw, on the strait between Huron and Michigan). In 1673 he was chosen with Joliet for the exploration of the Mississippi, of which the French had begun to gain knowledge from Indians of the central prairies. The route taken lay up the north-west side of Lake Michigan, up Green Bay and Fox river, across Lake Winnebago, over the portage to the Wisconsin river, and down the latter into the Mississippi, which was descended to within 700 m. of the sea, at the confluence of the Arkansas river. Entering the Mississippi on the 17th of May, Joliet and his companion turned back on the 17th of July, and returned to Green Bay and Michigan (by way of the Illinois river) at the end of September 1673. On the journey Marquette fell ill of dysentery; and a fresh excursion which he undertook to plant a mission among the Indians of the Illinois river in the winter of1674-1675proved fatal. He died on his way home to St Ignace on the banks of a small stream (the lesser and older Marquette River) which enters the east side of Lake Michigan in Marquette Bay (May 18, 1675). His name is now borne by a larger watercourse which flows some distance from the scene of his death.

See Marquette's Journal, first published in Melchissedech Thevenot's Recueil de Voyages (Paris, 1681), and fully given in Martin's Relations inedites, and in Shea's Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley (New York, 1852); cf. also Pierre Margry's Decouvertes. des Frangais dans l'ouest et dans le sud de l'Amerique septentrionale (1614-1754); Memoires et documents originaux (Paris, 1875), containing Joliet's Details and Relations; Francis Parkman, La. Salle and the Discovery of the Great West (Boston 1869-1878), esp. pp. x., 20, 3 2 -33, 49-72.

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