Jacques Marquette

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Jacques Marquette
BirthplaceLaon, Imperial France

Marquette, Jacques

Marquette, Jacques (zhäk märkĕtˈ), 1637–75, French missionary and explorer in North America, a Jesuit priest. He was sent to New France in 1666 and 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. When fear of the Sioux drove the Ottawa and Huron away from La Pointe, Marquette accompanied them to Mackinac, where he founded a new mission on Point St. Ignace. Contact with the Native Americans of Illinois led Marquette to plan a mission among them, and he became interested in the reports of a great south-running river. Marquette welcomed his appointment by Frontenac, governor of New France, to accompany Louis Jolliet on an expedition to find the river. They were the first to establish the existence of a water highway from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. On his return from the Mississippi voyage, Marquette stayed at Mackinac for a time, recovering his health and writing a journal of the voyage, which was first published (1681) in Thévenot's Recueil de voyages. In 1674, Marquette set out to establish a mission in the Illinois (state) area, but his health failed him, and he died on the route back to Mackinac, near present-day Ludington, Mich. In 1677, Marquette's body was removed to St. Ignace.


See edition (1900) of his journal in the Jesuit Relations; C. R. Stein, The Story of Marquette and Jolliet (1981).

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Marquette, Jacques

(1637–75) Catholic missionary, explorer; born in Laon, France. As a young man and as a Jesuit priest, his hero was St. Francis Xavier. He came to Quebec, Canada (1666), learned Indian languages, and proceeded to do missionary work among the Ottawa and Huron Indians in the Great Lakes region. In 1673, he and Louis Jolliet (French explorer, 1645–1700), searched for and found (June 17, 1673) the waters of the Mississippi River; they were the first white men to follow the course of the river. They went as far as the mouth of the Arkansas River and then returned. Marquette preached among the Illinois Indians (1674–75) until he died prematurely from ailments aggravated by his exertions. His journals remain an invaluable record of the region in these years. Wisconsin placed his statue in the U.S. Capitol.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.