Father James Marquette, having promised the Illinois, called Kaskaskia, to return among them to teach them our mysteries, had great difficulty in keeping his word. The great hardships of his first voyage had brought on a dysentery, and had so enfeebled him that he lost all hope of undertaking a second voyage. Yet, his malady having given way and almost ceased toward the close of summer in the following year, he obtained permission of his superiors to return to the Illinois to found that noble mission. . . .

After the Illinois had taken leave of the father, filled with a great idea of the gospel, he continued his voyage, and soon after reached the Illinois Lake, on which he had nearly a hundred leagues to make by an unknown route, because he was obliged to take the southern [eastern] side of the lake, having gone thither by the northern [western]. His strength, however, failed so much that his men despaired of being able to carry him alive to their journey's end; for, in fact, he became so weak and exhausted that he could no longer help himself, nor even stir, and had to be handled and carried like a child. . . .

The eve of his death, which was a Friday, he told them, all radiant with joy, that it would take place on the morrow. During the whole day he conversed with them about the manner of his burial, the way in which he should be laid out, the place to be selected for his interment; he told them how to arrange his hands, feet, and face, and directed them to raise a cross over his grave. He even went so far as to enjoin them, only three hours before he expired, to take his chapel-bell, as soon as he was dead, and ring it while they carried him to the grave. Of all this he spoke so calmly and collectedly that you would have thought that he spoke of the death and burial of another, and not of his own.

Thus did he speak with them as they sailed along the lake, till, perceiving the mouth of a river with an eminence on the bank which be thought suited for his burial, he told them that it was the place of his last repose. They wished, however, to pass on, as the weather permitted it and the day was not far advanced; but God raised a contrary wind which obliged them to return and enter the river pointed out by Father Marquette.

They then carried him ashore, kindled a little fire, and raised for him a wretched bark cabin, where they laid him as little uncomfortably as they could; but they were so overcome by sadness that, as they afterward said, they did not know what they were doing.

The father being thus stretched on the shore, like Saint Francis Xavier, as he had always so ardently desired, and left alone amid those forests, —for his companions were engaged in unloading, —he had leisure to repeat all the acts in which he had been employed during the preceding days. . . .

He had prayed his companions to remind him, when they saw him about to expire, to pronounce frequently the names of Jesus and Mary. When he could not do it himself, they did it for him; and, when they thought him about to pass, one cried aloud, Jesus Maria, which he several times repeated distinctly, and then, as if at those sacred names something had appeared to him, he suddenly raised his eyes above his crucifix, fixing them apparently on some object which he seemed to regard with pleasure, and thus with a countenance all radiant with smiles, he expired without a struggle, as gently as if he had sunk into a quiet sleep.

His two poor companions, after shedding many tears over his body, and having laid it out as he had directed, carried it devoutly to the grave, ringing the bell according to his injunction, and raised a large cross near it to serve as a mark for passers-by.

1From Dablons "Relation." Dablon was the Superior General of the Jesuit Missions in America.
Return to text.

Table of Contents
Return to Main Page
© 2002 by Lynn Waterman