Marquette the Missionary in The New World
Marquette arrived in Quebec in the fall of 1666. It was an exciting time for the Jesuits. Seventeen years before their mission Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was destroyed by the Iroquois and the missionaries there were tortured to death. Marquette was twelve years old when Jean de Brébeuf was “baptized” with boiling water by his Mohawk captors. He had certainly heard of Brebeuf’s gruesome death before entering the Society of Jesus.
Since then the Jesuits had stayed out of the Great Lakes. But a peace treaty with the Iroquois concluded the previous summer (July 1667) now made it safe for the Jesuit missionaries to return.
Following his initial missionary training in Quebec, Marquette helped his superior, Father Claude Dablon, found the mission at Sault Saint Marie. In 1668 he replaced Father Allouez at the mission La Pointe Du Saint-Esprit on Chequamegon Bay, near the Apostle Islands. There he heard about the Mississippi River from Illinois Indians who came to the mission.
"When the Illinois come to trade at the Point they pass a great river which is almost a league in width. It flows from north to south and to so great a distance that the Illinois, who know nothing of the use of the canoe, have never as yet heard of its mouth, &c. It is hardly probable that this great river discharges itself into the Atlantic in Virginia; we are more inclined to believe that it has its mouth in the gulf of California, &c...."
-from a 1669 letter by Marquette reprinted in the Jesuit Relations
But his next journey took him east, not west, to the bay on the mainland directly west of Mackinaw Island where he founded the mission at St. Ignace in 1671.
Next page: "On The 17th Day of may, 1673"