Jacques Marquette, a French explorer, born in Laon, France, in 1637, died May 18, 1675. At the age of 17 he entered the society of Jesus, and in 1666 sailed for Canada as a missionary. He spent about 18 months in the vicinity of Three Rivers, where he acquired the Montagnais and other dialects of the Algonquin spoken in Canada and New York, as well as the Huron and Iroquois. He was first selected for the Mohawk mission, but in April, 1668, went to Lake Superior and there founded the mission of Sault Ste. Marie. In the following year he was sent to take the place of Allouez among the Ottawas and Hu-rons at Lapointe; but his stay here was short, these tribes being soon dispersed by the Sioux. Marquette then followed the Ilurons to Mackinaw, and there in 1671 built a chapel at the mission of St. Ignatius. In the following year he wrote of his success at Mackinaw to Father Dablon, the superior of the Jesuit missions in Canada. " I am ready, however," he continued, "to leave it in the hands of another missionary, to go on your order to seek new nations toward the South sea who are still unknown to us, and to teach them of our great God whom they have hitherto not known." As early as 1069 he had resolved upon exploring the Mississippi, of which he had heard from the Indians, and had made preparations at Lapointe, his topographical skill being an important aid.
His desire was not gratified till 1673, when Frontenac and Talon, the governor and intendant of Canada, having resolved to send Louis Joliet to explore the whole course of the Mississippi, Marquette was instructed to accompany him. With five other Frenchmen they left Mackinaw in two canoes on May 17, and reaching Wisconsin river by way of Green bay, Fox river, and a portage, floated down to the Mississippi, on whose waters they found themselves by the 17th of June. Somewhere near the mouth of the Ohio (which they called the Ouaboukigou, from which was formed the subsequent name of the Wabash) they met savages who assured them that it was not more than ten days' journey to the sea, and that they bought stuffs and other articles of Europeans on the E. side. Continuing their voyage, they arrived at a village called Akamsea, probably about the mouth of the Arkansas. Having satisfied themselves that they were not more than two or three days' journey from the mouth of the river, which undoubtedly emptied into the gulf of Mexico or off the Florida coast, and not, as had been conjectured, in California or Virginia, they resolved to return, especially as their further progress would expose them to the danger of a captivity among the Spaniards. They began their homeward voyage on July 17, and, passing up the Illinois instead of the Wisconsin, arrived in September at Green bay.
They had accomplished the object of their mission, and travelled in their open canoes a distance of over 2,500 miles. On the banks of the Illinois Marquette had promised the Kaskaskia Indians to return and preach to them. He was detained by sickness at the mission of St. Francis Xa-vier on Green bay a full year; but in October, 1674, having previously sent to his superiors an account of his journey down the Mississippi, he set out with two white men and a number of savages for the village of Kaskaskia. On Dec. 14 he was stopped at the portage on the Chicago by infirmities and severe cold, and dismissing the Indians resolved to winter there with his two companions. Resuming his journey, March 30, 1675, he reached Kaskaskia April 8, and at once began a mission by erecting an altar and celebrating the festival of Easter; but conscious that his end was approaching, he soon attempted to return to Mackinaw. He reached no further than a small river whose mouth is on the E. shore of Lake Michigan, and which still bears his name, and there he died in the presence of the two Frenchmen who had attended him from Green bay.
He was buried on the spot, but in 1677 his remains were carried to Mackinaw. The narrative of his vovage on the Mississippi was not published till 1681, when it appeared in an incorrect form at Paris in Thevenot's Recueil de voyages, accompanied by a map. This narrative, as well as a journal of the missionary's last expedition, and his autograph map, may be found in Shea's " Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley" (New York, 1852). His narrative, for some years after its first publication, was regarded as a fable; but, although Margry and others haw set up theories as to an earlier exploration of the Mississippi by Lasalle, they rest on insufficient data and conjectures, and the claim of Marquette: and Joliet as the first explorers of the great river of the west, and the first Europeans who saw it after De Soto, remains unshaken.