Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Upper Peninsula Upventure: Father Marquette

Sault Ste. Marie has been mentioned more than any other city in Upper Peninsula Upventure. But I've neglected to mention who founded it, Father Jacques Marquette, who came to the New World as a missionary in the late 1600s.

Of course Père Marquette is best known as the man, along with Louis Jolliet, who led a small group who became the first Europeans to travel the northern Mississippi River.

They left St. Ignace, which is on the northern side of the Straits of Mackinac, in 1673, traveled by canoe across Wisconsin--they portaged near the present town of Portage (I wonder where they came up with that name?) and entered the Mississippi at Praire du Chien.

They journeyed south until reaching the mouth of the Arkansas River, 400 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. Marquette and Jolliet noticed that some of the Indians were wearing European trinkets--fearing an encounter with the Spanish, they turned around. But on their way back, they learned of a shortcut to Lake Michigan through the Illinois River and a portage near present-day Chicago. And it was in Chicago where the expedition spent the winter of 1674.

Marquette, but not Jolliet, returned to the Illinois River area in 1875. On his was back north, the great priest became ill with dysentery, and died near Ludington, Michigan. Two years later, Marquette's remains were exhumed and reburied in St. Ignace--his gravestone is pictured above.

Related post:

Bishop Baraga and St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral

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