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On The 17th Day of May, 1673

In The year 1673, Monsieur The Count De Frontenac, Our Governor, and Monsieur Talon, then Our Intendant, Recognizing The Importance of this discovery, either that they might seek a passage from here to the sea of China, by the river that discharges into the Vermillion, or California Sea” 

  - This, and other entries in italics below, from “Voyages Du P. Jacques Marquette, 1673-75”  Jesuit Relations Volume 59: Lower Canada Illinois Ottawas 1667 to 1669

Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet had known each other for several years before their mutual dream of exploring the Mississippi River was realized.  They first met in 1666 shortly after Marquette’s arrival from France while Joliet was still a student at the college in Quebec.  They discussed exploring the Mississippi and Joliet knew of Marquette’s wish to explore the river and minister to the tribes who lived there.  After the journey Marquette’s superior, Father Dablon reported: “father Marquette, … had long premeditated that undertaking, for they had frequently agreed upon it together.”  By the time Joliet selected him to join him on his voyage to find the Mississippi, Marquette had learned six Indian languages.

So when Joliet and five French-Indian voyageurs arrived at Marquette’s mission at St. Ignace in May of 1673, Marquette was “delighted at This good news, since I saw that my plans were about to be accomplished”.  He described the preparations for what would turn out to be a five month long, 3,000 mile journey:

“We were not long in preparing all our Equipment, although we were about to Begin a voyage, the duration of which we could not foresee. Indian Corn, with some smoked meat, constituted all our provisions; with these we Embarked — Monsieur Jollyet and myself, with 5 men — in 2 Bark Canoes, fully resolved to do and suffer everything for so glorious an Undertaking.

"Accordingly, on The 17th day of may, 1673, we started from the Mission of st. Ignace at Michilimakinac, where I Then was. The Joy that we felt at being selected for This Expedition animated our Courage, and rendered the labor of paddling from morning to night agreeable to us.”
- Voyages Du P. Jacques Marquette, 1673-75 Jesuit Relations Volume 59: Lower Canada Illinois Ottawas 1667 to 1669

Next page: The Journey Begins With A Warning!