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Image of the statue of Jacques Marquette, 1898, Detroit Publishing Co. Courtesy Library of Congress.
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ABH Travel Tip
You can visit much of the Pre-Revolution history of the United States throughout the many trails and historic sites of the nation. And don't miss out on the Native American history throughout Florida or other regions. The history of the nation and North America comes from the culture of the many tribes that made up the mosaic of human culture in each state. They were here before the majority of us, after all, and their history is an amazing collection of wonder, beauty, and dedication to the land that sits beneath us.
Picture above: Pocahontas, Source: World Noted Women, D. Appleton and Company, 1883, Wikipedia Commons. Right: Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith, New England Chromo. Lithograph Company, 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1600s
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May 17, 1673 - Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explore midwest states along the Mississippi River from Wisconsin to the Arkansas River.
Jacques Marquette was a French priest who emigrated to the American colonies of New France in 1666 and established the towns of Sault St. Marie and St. Ignace several years later. He befriended and lived with the Great Lakes Indians, before befriending another explorer, Louis Jolliet. Jolliet was a native to North America, born to a French father near Quebec in the Canadian province of New France. He befriended the First Nations indians of the Quebec region, the center of the French fur trade, but initially studied for the priesthood, eventually abandoning that pursuit in 1667 to focus on trading.
By the end of 1672, Jolliet had been given orders by the Monsieur the Court de Frontenac, the Governor, for an exploration party of the upper Mississippi south, to determine where that great river emptied. Was it back into the Atlantic? Or into the Gulf of Mexico? Would perhaps this river empty into the Pacific Ocean in California and provide a direct route to the Orient? That was not thought probable, but it was not yet known. Jolliet would head the exploration, returning to the St. Ignace region on December 6, 1672; Marquette was the priest who by tradition accompanied any exploration to navigate and perhaps convert the natives along the journey. He had always wanted to visit the tribes along the Mississippi River. Their party included two canoes and five other explorers, all of Metis French-Indian descent. Their journey began on May 17, 1673, traveling across Lake Michigan to the terminus of Green Bay.
From Green Bay, the explorers padded south on the Fox River to today's Portage, Michigan.
After carrying their canoes and supplies two miles through the forest, they embarked onto the Wisconsin River several days after their arrival at the village of Maskoutens on June 7, traveling south. Marquette remarked in his journal, "The river on which we embarked is called Meskousing. It is very wide; it has a sandy bottom, which forms various shoals that render its navigation very difficult." In later years maps read by further explorers began to morph the name until it became today's Wisconsin.
On June 17, the party entered the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien (Joliett thought this occurred on the 15th). They continued down the Mississippi River for four hundred and thirty-five miles.
Upon reaching the Arkansas River and the village of the Akensea on July 16 near today's Rosedale, Mississippi, they turned back north. Why did they turn north there? Marquette and Jolliet were beginning to encounter natives who had European supplies and feared conflict with Spanish explorers. Had they determined the terminus of the Mississippi River? Yes, at least they surmised. The Mississipi would flow into the Gulf of Mexico, it was determined, even though they had not reached it.
Heading north, they detoured for a shorter route to Lake Michigan, then often referred to as the Lake of the Illinois, taking the Illinois River to the Des Plaines River. They portaged their canoes and supplies to the Chicago River, then reached the Great Lakes near today's Chicago.
On September 30, 1874, the party had reached the St. Francis Mission in DePere, Wisconsin, with Marquette remaining there while Jolliet returned to Quebec in the spring.
Marquette and Jolliet After the Exploration
In 1674, Jacques Marquette returned to the Chicago area, becoming one of the first Europeans to winter there at the bequest of the Illinois Confederacy. Today, Marquette University and various towns and counties are named after the priest and explorer. The Father Marquette National Memorial is located within Michigan's Straits State Park near St. Ignace. The fifty-two acre tribute, dedicated in 1975, includes interpretive trails and markers and is associated with the National Park Service. Marquette had kept copious records of the journey, although his original journal would not be read for two hundred years, located in a Jesuit archive in Montreal until rediscovered.
Jolliet returned to Quebec after spending the winter in Green Bay, married, and was granted the Isle of Anticosti, south of Quebec, for his favors, building a fort there. In 1694, the exploration bug bit again, sailing from the Gulf of St. Lawrence up the Labrador Coast, detailing the country and peoples for over five months. Today, several cities honor him with their names; Joliet in Illinois and Montana, Joliette in Quebec. Jolliet also recorded his journey, but lost the papers in an overturned canoe accident in 1874 outside Montreal. He stated that the expedition had passed eighty village of Indians with an estimated population of ten thousand in interviews and subsequent letters.
Source: Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet in a drawing of their canoe voyage of exploration in 1673, 1911, Edgar S. Cameron. Courtesy Library of Congress. Image below: Stereograph photo of statues of Marquette and Jolliet at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 showing the wireless telegraph, 1904, C.L. Wasson. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: The Mississippi Voyage of Jolliet and Marquette, 1673, Marquette's Original Journal; Jolliet Interview 1874, subsequent letters to Bishop Laval; Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Wisconsin State Historical Society; Library of Congress; National Park Service; Wikipedia.
History Photo Bomb
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com & its licensors.