Jacques Marquette



Occupation 1

French Jesuit


The World


Anglo-American Atlantic World (1641-1750)








Jesuit Nicolas missionary and explorer� Immediately after his ordination to the priesthood at Toul in March 1666, his religious superiors assigned him to New France (Canada); he arrived at Quebec on 20 September.

One month later he was assigned to Trois Rivi�res to study the Algonquian language and the customs of Native Americans with the Jesuit Gabriel Druilletes� After a brief return to Quebec, he set out from Montreal for the mission station at Sault Ste. Marie, where for a year and a half he worked as a missionary, mainly with the Chippewas. In August 1669 he was then assigned to a newer mission on the southwestern end of Lake Superior� He met members of the Illinois tribe, who told him about a great river that flowed southward. Fearing attacks by the Sioux against his mission at La Pointe, Marquette persuaded many of his converts to move to a new mission at Michilimackinac, Michigan, which he named Saint-Ignace.

In 1673 Marquette joined Louis Jolliet to search for and explore the great river now called the Mississippi. Leaving Michilimackinac, they shadowed the coast of Lake Michigan to modern-day Green Bay, Wisconsin, and then paddled up the Fox River to Portage, where they crossed over to the Wisconsin River, which took them down to the Mississippi near Prairie du Chien on 17 June. Marquette gave the river the name Rivi�re de la Conception. He, Jolliet, and five French and several Indian companions continued down the Mississippi until it joined with the Arkansas River. By then they were sure that it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and not, as had been suspected, the Gulf of California. The expedition turned back, partly out of fear of meeting Spaniards, who might take them prisoner. During his voyage Marquette drew a map and kept careful notes in his diary about geography and Indian tribes they were seeing, believing that this information might be invaluable for later missionaries.

Returning, the explorers took a shorter route, up the Illinois River; they reached Lake Michigan at modern-day Chicago, then returned to the mission at the top of Green Bay, where Marquette continued his missionary work. While Jolliet was returning to report on the expedition at Quebec, his canoe overturned and his papers and records were lost. The accident gave greater importance to Marquette's diary.

Marquette tried to found a new mission of the Immaculate Conception, his third, at today's Utica, Illinois, in response to a promise to the Illinois Indians he had made when he stayed briefly at their large village there during his return with Jolliet, but his health was already failing. He and two other Frenchmen were the first white men to dwell at modern Chicago when they were forced to winter there (Dec.-Mar. 1674-1675) before returning to St. Ignace. The three then traveled up the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, but Marquette's health broke completely, and he died at modern Ludington, Michigan�

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