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Jacques Marquette
1637-1675

Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France. He became a Jesuit priest, and, at his own request, was sent to New France in 1666 where he studied Native American languages under a missionary at Trois Rivières. In 1668 he was sent as a missionary to the Ottawa, spent a winter at Sault Ste Marie, and in 1669 reached La Pointe mission on Chequamegon Bay near the western end of Lake Superior. Marquette accompanied the Ottawa and Huron as they fled from Sioux attacks to the Straits of Mackinac (between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron) and founded a new mission on Point St. Ignace. 

Rumors had been heard about a large river in the south (the Mississippi), and the French hoped that this river would lead them to the Pacific Ocean. Marquette was appointed by Frontenac, governor of New France, to accompany Louis Joliet as chaplain and missionary on an expedition to find this river. In 1673 Joliet, Marquette and five other men began their expedition by following Lake Michigan to Green Bay. Here they canoed up the Fox River, crossed over to the Wisconsin and followed that river downstream to the Mississippi. The first Native Americans they encountered were the Illini, who were very friendly to the expedition and presented them with a peace pipe to use for the remainder of the journey.

The further the expedition went, the more convinced they became that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and not the Pacific as they had hoped. As they approached the Arkansas River they were told by friendly local tribes that the sea was only ten days away and that the French would encounter hostile tribes. They also noticed the presence of Spanish trade goods among the friendly Native Americans and not wanting to be captured by either tribes hostile to the French or by the Spanish, the expedition decided to return north. The Illini tribe showed them an easier route to Lake Michigan which was to travel up the Illinois River and cross over to the Chicago River .

After his return from the Mississippi expedition, Marquette stayed at Mackinac, recovering his health and writing a journal of the voyage, which was first published in Théévenot's Recueil de voyages in 1681. In late 1674, Marquette decided to return to the Illini tribes to preach and found a mission. He arrived around  Easter in 1675, but because his health was deteriorating, he decided to return north to Mackinac. He died of dysentery on the trip back. In 1677, Marquette's body was moved to St. Ignace.

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