The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter I
Jacques Marquette

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton

 

 JACQUES MARQUETTE.

The first permanent Michigan settlement on waters tributary to the lower lakes was made by Father Jacques Marquette in 1671 at St. Ignace. He had spent the winter before on Mackinac Island, with a band of Hurons, but in the summer they moved to the mainland. Here he built a chapel, where he ministered to the Indians until his great voyage of discovery with Louis Joliet in 1673. It was from this point in Michigan that this great soul set forth on a quest which was to give tot he world its first real knowledge of the "Father of Waters." It was at this point, a few years later, that his bones were interred by the red natives whom he loved and who had learned to love him. It was in Michigan that he made the last great sacrifice. The story of Marquette's death is thus told by the historian Bancroft: In sailing from Chicago to Mackinac during the following spring (1675), he entered a little river in Michigan. Erecting an alter, he said mass after the rites of the Catholic church; then begging the men who conducted his canoe to leave him along for half an hour--

'In the darkling wood,
Amid the cook and silence, he knelt down,
And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks
And supplication.'

"At the end of half an hour they went to seek him, and he was no more. The good missionary, discoverer of a world, had fallen asleep on the margin of a stream that bears his name."

On September 1, 1909, the memory of Father Jacques Marquette was signally honored, by loving hands, in the unveiling of the Marquette statute on Mackinac island. On that occasion, Mr. Justice William R. Day, of the supreme court of the United States, paid this fitting eulogy: "Upon the statue which marks Wisconsin's tribute, in the old Hall of the House of Washington, are these words: 'Jacques Marquette, who with Louis Joliet discovered the Mississippi river at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, July 17, 1673.' Were we to write his epitaph today, we might take the simple words, which at his own request mark the last resting place of a great American and write upon this enduring granite the summary of Marquette's life and character--'He was faithful.'"

In the words of Rev. T. J. Campbell: "The name of Marquette will ever be venerated in America. You meet it everywhere. There is a city named after him, and a county, and a township, and a river, and several villages, in Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas and Nebraska. His jesuit brethren of the twentieth century have built a Marquette University in Milwaukee, which rejoices in the possession of some of the relics that were given to it when the grave was opened at Pointe St. Ignace." It would be well for the youth of today to ponder well the fact that with all his great achievements, Marquette, at the time of his death, was only thirty-eight years old.

 

History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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