Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France, on June 1, 1637. He founded missions in present day Michigan and afterwards joined explorer Louis Joliet on an expedition to find and map the Mississippi River. Frenchman Jacques Marquette became an explorer in the mid-1600s, not only due to his fascination with journey and discovery of new lands, but also due to his faith. Marquette studied and educated in the Jesuit schools of France for about 12 years before his superiors assigned him in 1666 to be a missionary to the native folks of the Americas.
In 1668, Marquette sent to create more missions further up the St. Lawrence River in the western Great Lakes area. He helped create missions at Sault Ste. Marie in what’s now Michigan—the state’s first European settlement—in 1668 and at St. Ignace, also in Michigan, in 1671. On May 17, 1673, Marquette and his buddy Louis Joliet (also spelled “Jolliet”), a French Canadian fur trader and explorer, were selected to lead an expedition that included five guys and two canoes to get the way and mouth of the Mississippi River, which natives had called Messipi, “the Great Water.”
Despite sharing a target to get the river, both leaders’ dreams were distinct: Joliet, a skilled mapmaker and geographer, was focused on the finding itself, while Marquette wished to propagate the word of God on the list of people he encountered on the way there. Dreading an meeting with Spanish colonists and explorers, they made a decision to return homeward by means of the Illinois River in mid-July.
While Joliet continued on to Canada to relay news of the expedition and its own discoveries, Marquette stayed behind in Green Bay. In 1674, he set out to found a mission among the Illinois Indians. As an effect of the chilly winter weather, he and two companies camped close to the site of what’s now Chicago, becoming the very first Europeans to reside there. In the springtime, Marquette reached the Indians he sought, but sickness—dysentery he got while on his assignment—compelled him to return home. He died on May 18, 1675, en route to St. Ignace at the mouth of a river after named Pre Marquette in his honour.
Marquette continues to be recognized and memorialized for his achievements, especially in the names of several towns, parks and geographic places. Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was named for him. Several statues are also erected in his honour, including one in the Prairie du Chien post office, at Quebec’s parliament building as well as in his birthplace of Laon, France.