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MARQUETTE, Jacques, French missionary, born in Laon, France, in 1637; died near Marquette river, Mich., 18 May, 1675. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of seventeen, and was ordained priest in 1666. He sailed for Canada the same year, landed at Quebec on 20 September, and on 10 Oct. went to Three Rivers, where he spent eighteen months studying the Algonquin and Huron languages under Gabriel Druilletes (q. v.). 

In 1668 he was ordered to return to Quebec and prepare for the Ottawa mission, and while awaiting the Ottawa flotilla at Montreal met a party of Nez-Percds, with whom he went to Lake Superior and founded the mission of Sault Sainte Marie. After building a church and converting a large number of Indians, he was directed to proceed to La Pointe du Saint Esprit, where he arrived on 13 Sept., 1669. He was stationed at the head of Ashland bay till 1671, when he was obliged to fly with the Huron part of his flock, on account of the hostility of the Sioux, to Mackinaw, where he founded the mission of St. Ignatius and built a church. 

Here Louis Joliet came in 1673 with orders from Frontenae, governor of Canada, to take Marquette as companion and guide on his expedition of discovery. Marquette had already heard of Mississippi river from the Illinois Indians that came to La Pointe. He now spent the winter in making the necessary preparations, drew up a rude map of the river from information that he received from the Indians, and carefully entered facts of any value in his note­book. “We took all possible precautions,” he says, “that, if our enterprise was hazardous, it should not be rash.” 

Marquette and Joliet set out on 17 May in two canoes that soon reached Green Bay. The story of the voyage and discovery is related by Marquette in his “Voyage et deeouverte de quelques pays et nations de l’AmSrique Septentrion Me,” a translation of which is given in Shea’s “Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi” (New York, 1852). The narrative is remarkable for charm of style as well as close observation and fine descriptive ability. He had a keen and scientific eye for all the natural features of the river. He returned to Green Bay in September and remained there until October, 1674. The hardships that he endured had broken his constitution, but he sent to his superior the journal of his voyage down the Mississippi, and awaited orders. Being commanded to establish a mission in Illinois, he set out for Kaskaskia on 25 October, and, overtaking a party of Pottawattamie and Illinois Indians, journeyed with them southward along the western shore of Lake Michigan. 

Marquette reached Chicago river in December, and found himself too exhausted to proceed farther. The Illinois left him to go to their village, but two Frenchmen remained with him and built a log hut, the first human dwelling-place on the site of what is now the city of Chicago. On 26 Jan., 1675, three Illinois Indians brought him presents from the chiefs of the tribe, and he promised to make every effort to reach their village. Notwithstanding his sufferings, he spent the long winter in prayer, meditation, and retreat, and said mass every day. Some time afterward he recovered sufficiently to resume his journey. 

On 29 March he set out, and, after great suffering, reached Kaskaskia on 8 April. He went from cabin to cabin explaining the principles of his religion, and then convened the whole people on a prairie near the village. He preached to more than 2,000 men and a still larger number of women, most of whom he converted. After addressing another great meet­ing, he told the Indians that he was obliged to leave on account of his Mhnent, and then set out for Mackinaw, escorted for thirty leagues by the Indians. But his strength gradually failed and he became so weak that he had to be lifted in and out of his canoe. On the eve of his death he told his companions that he would die the next day, and, perceiving the mouth of a river with an eminence on the bank, he directed that he should be buried there. He was carried ashore and a poor bark cabin raised to shelter him. “The river where he died,” writes Parkman, “is a small stream in the west of Michigan, some distance south of the promontory called the Sleeping Bear. It long bore his name, which has now been given to a larger neighboring stream.” His remains were transferred to Point St. Ignaee, Michigan, and their resting-place was afterward forgotten, but was discovered by a clergyman of Eagle Harbor, Michigan, in 1877. Father Marquette was the first to give an explanation of the lake tides, and his theory has not been improved by modern scientists. -- Edited Appleton's Cyclopedia American Biography Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM


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Jacques Marquette--NSH Statue
Art in the US Capitol Jacques Marquette. 1637-1675. Given by Wisconsin
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