Jacques Marquette

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The Reverend

Jacques Marquette

1869 portrait of Marquette
Born(1637-06-01)June 1, 1637
DiedMay 18, 1675(1675-05-18) (aged 37)
Other namesPere Marquette

Jacques Marquette, S.J. (June 1, 1637 – May 18, 1675),[1] sometimes known as Père Marquette or James Marquette,[2] was a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan's first European settlement, Sault Sainte Marie, and later founded Saint Ignace. In 1673, Marquette, with Louis Jolliet, an explorer born near Quebec City, was the first European to explore and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River Valley.

Early life[edit]

Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France, on June 1, 1637. He came of an ancient family distinguished for its civic and military services. Marquette joined the Society of Jesus at age 17.[3] He studied and taught in France for several years, then the Jesuits assigned him to New France in 1666 as a missionary to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. When he arrived in Quebec, he was assigned to Trois-Rivières on the Saint Lawrence River, where he assisted Gabriel Druillettes and, as preliminary to further work, devoted himself to the study of the local languages and became fluent in six different dialects.[4]


In 1668, Marquette was moved by his superiors to missions farther up the Saint Lawrence River in the western Great Lakes region. That year he helped Druillettes found the mission at Sault Ste. Marie in present-day Michigan.[5] Other missions were founded at Saint Ignace in 1671 (Mission Saint-Ignace)[3] and at La Pointe on Lake Superior in present-day Wisconsin. At La Pointe, he encountered members of the Illinois tribes, who told him about the important trading route of the Mississippi River. They invited him to teach their people, whose settlements were mostly farther south. Because of wars between the Hurons at La Pointe and the neighboring Lakota people, Marquette left the mission and went to the Straits of Mackinac; he informed his superiors about the rumored river and requested permission to explore it.

Pere Marquette and the Indians [at the Mississippi River], oil painting (1869) by Wilhelm Lamprecht (1838–1906), at Marquette University[6]

Leave was granted, and in 1673 Marquette joined the expedition of Louis Jolliet, a French-Canadian explorer. They departed from Saint Ignace on May 17, with two canoes and five voyageurs of French-Indian ancestry.[3] They sailed to 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. Many years later, at that point, the town of Portage, Wisconsin was built, named for the ancient path between the two rivers. They ventured forth from the portage, and on June 17, they entered the Mississippi near present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

Map of the discovery made in the year 1673 in North America

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.[7] They followed the Mississippi back to the mouth of the Illinois River, which they learned from local natives provided a shorter route back to the Great Lakes. They reached Lake Michigan near the site of modern-day Chicago, by way of the Chicago Portage. In September, Marquette stopped at Saint Francis Xavier mission in present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin, while Jolliet returned to Quebec to relate the news of their discoveries.[8]

Grave of Jacques Marquette in Saint Ignace, 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.[9]


In the spring of 1675, Marquette traveled westward and celebrated a public Mass at the Grand Village of the Illinois near Starved Rock. A bout of dysentery he had contracted during the Mississippi expedition sapped his health. On the return trip to Saint Ignace, he died at 37 years of age near the modern town of Ludington, Michigan. After his death, natives from the Illinois Confederation returned his bones to the chapel at Mission Saint-Ignace.[10][11]

A Michigan Historical Marker at this location 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.[12]

Adjacent to gravesite of Marquette on State Street in downtown Saint Ignace, a building was constructed that now houses the Museum of Ojibwa Culture.

However, a Michigan Historical Marker in Frankfort, MI reads:

Marquette's Death: On May 18, 1675, Father Jacques Marquette, the great Jesuit missionary and explorer, died and was buried by two French companions somewhere along the Lake Michigan shore of the Lower Peninsula. Marquette had been returning to his mission at St. Ignace, which he had left in 1673 to go on an exploring trip to the Mississippi and the Illinois country. The exact location of Marquette's death has long been a subject of controversy. Evidence presented in the 1960s indicates that this site, near the natural outlet of the Betsie River, at the northeast corner of a hill which was here until 1900, is the Marquette death site and that the Betsie is the Rivière du Père Marquette of early French accounts and maps. Marquette's bones were reburied at St. Ignace in 1677.[13]


In the early 20th century Marquette was widely celebrated as a Roman Catholic founding father of the region.[14]



Marquette is memorialized by various statues, monuments, and historical markers:

Marquette has been honored twice on postage stamps issued by the United States:

  • A one-cent stamp in 1898, part of Trans-Mississippi Issue, which shows him on the Mississippi River;[20] This is the first time a Catholic priest is honored by the U.S. Postal Department.
  • A 6-cent stamp issued September 20, 1968, marking the 300th anniversary of his establishment of the Jesuit mission at Sault Ste. Marie.[21]


  • Donnelly, Joseph P. (1985). Jacques Marquette, S.J. (1637–1675). Chicago: Loyola University Press.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jacques Marquette". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Melody, John. "Archdiocese of Chicago" The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. February 23, 2012
  3. ^ a b c ""Jacques Marquette", Biography". biography.com.
  4. ^ Spalding, Henry. "Jacques Marquette, S.J." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. February 15, 2019
  5. ^ Monet, J., "Marquette, Jacques", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003
  6. ^ The painting was rendered as an engraving on a US commemorative postage stamp, 1898 (Illustration)
  7. ^ Catton, Bruce (1984). Michigan: A History, p. 14. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-30175-3
  8. ^ Campbell, T.J., "James Marquette", Pioneer priests of North America, 1642–1710, Vol. 3, Fordham University Press, 1910
  9. ^ "Odd Wisconsin Archive: Beer and Sweet Corn". wisconsinhistory.org. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013.
  10. ^ "Marquette, Jacques 1637 - 1675". November 3, 2013. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  11. ^ Holzknecht, J. (1895). "The Relics of Pere Marouette". The American Catholic Historical Researches. 12 (1): 30–34. ISSN 2155-5273.
  12. ^ "Michigan Historical Markers". michmarkers.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
  13. ^ "Marquette's Death".
  14. ^ Katherine D. Moran, The Imperial Church: Catholic Founding Fathers and United States Empire (Cornell University Press, 2020).
  15. ^ "Bibliography on Marquette County". Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  16. ^ "Focus on our history: How county was named". Ludington Daily News. October 3, 1987. p. 2. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  17. ^ "Home | Marquette Transportation Company". marquettetrans.com. Marquette Transportation Company LLC. 2015. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  18. ^ "Term: Marquette, Jacques 1637 – 1675". wisconsinhistory.org. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013.
  19. ^ Chicago Public Library. About Legler Branch.
  20. ^ Haimann, Alexander T., "Arago: people, postage & the post. 1-cent Marquette on the Mississippi". National Postal Museum. Accessed May 2, 2017.
  21. ^ Tessa Sabol. "Trans-Mississippi Exposition Commemorative Stamp Issue and National Identity at the Turn of the Twentieth Century." National Postal Museum. Accessed May 2, 2017.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Jacques Marquette, S.J.". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]

Media related to Jacques Marquette at Wikimedia Commons