A brief biography of life and explorations of Jacques Marquette.

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Jacques Marquette


Traveling with his fellow adventurer Louis Jolliet, Father Jacques Marquette explored the upper Mississippi River and reported the first accurate data on its course. The story of the long and dangerous journey of Marquette and Jolliet is one of the most interesting chapters in the history of the exploration of the New World.

Jacques Marquette was born on June 1, 1637, in Laon, France. He was the sixth and youngest child of Nicolas and Rose Marquette a prominent in Laon from the 14th century.

By nature Marquette was a thoughtful, gentle person, and decided at the age of 17 to become a Jesuit priest. He went to Nancy as a novice. By 1656 he had passed his novitiate and was studying philosophy. For several years he taught at Jesuit schools in northern France. All this time he hoped that he would become a missionary overseas.

In 1666 Marquette's wish was finally granted.

His superiors sent him to Quebec in New France (now Canada). There he studied Indian languages, and in 1668 he was appointed to a mission among the Ottawa Indians at Sault Ste. Marie. The first winter, 1668-1669, was reasonably comfortable. During this time he first met the young Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet.

Marquette left the mission in September 1669 in order to go to La Pointe mission in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. During the 18 months he spent there, he was visited by a group of Illinois Indians and wanted to establish a mission among them. His Indian friends told him of the great river they had crossed to reach him. A quarrel with the Sioux Indians forced Marquette's converts to flee to Lake Michigan in 1671 Marquette accompanied them there. That summer he founded the mission of St. Ignace on...