How Once Upon a Time
Father Marquette
Heard of


"Came the Black-Robe Chief, the Prophet,
He the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-Face,
With his guides and his companions,
And the noble Hiawatha,
With his hands aloft extended,
Held aloft in sign of welcome,
Waited, full of exultation,
Till the birch canoe with paddles
Grated on the shining pebbles,
Stranded on the sandy margin,
Till the Black-Robe of the Pale-Face,
With the cross upon his bosom,
Landed on the sandy margin."




HE next record we have of Nebraska came from the frozen north. Far across the water, in sunny France, a boy of seventeen, named Marquette, resolved to become a priest, and hearing tales of the savage Indians in the new land of Canada, who knew nothing of the Christian religion, decided his life should be devoted to them.
     The Jesuit order, to which he belonged, did not deem him ready for this great work until he was twenty-nine. Soon after this Marquette reached Canada and made his plans to carry the gospel to the western Indians. In company with Louis Joliet, he started from Mackinac






Island, May 17, 1673, with two bark canoes and five oarsmen. They passed along the south shore of the north peninsula of Michigan, ascended Green Bay and Fox River, passed over the short portage to the Wisconsin and down that river to the Mississippi.
     Floating far down the stream, they suddenly were drawn into whirls of yellow water filled with floating trees which threatened to wreck their frail barks. These were the waters of the Missouri emptying into the Mississippi. Marquette learned from the Indians that by traveling up the stream he would come to a fertile country where lay the Platte River, and that in the mountains there was another river, the Colorado, flowing west. So he concluded there was one long river flowing to the Pacific and his map of the Nebraska country, giving the names of the Pawnee, Oto and Omaha Indians, bears a close resemblance to more modern and scientific maps.
     They descended as far as the mouth of the Arkansas, about 700 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi. They reached this point on June 17, when, inferring that the great river fell into the Gulf of Mexico and not into the Pacific Ocean, they decided to return, starting July 17. They followed the Illinois River, and probably Chicago River to Lake Michigan, arriving at St. Xavier's Mission at the end of September, 1673. Marquette started again for the Illinois country on October 25, 1674, arriving in the spring of 1675 Attempting to return to St. Ignace, he died on the shore of Lake






Michigan, at a point now occupied by the city of Ludington, on the 18th day of May of that year. He lived in this country eight years and eight months and was deeply mourned by the Indians, who loved him for his gentle christian character.


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© 1999, 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller