The route Father Marquette and his companions followed is marked by places named for him and by him all along the way. Dense forests made travel by canoe the fastest, most efficient mode of transportation in 1673.
Marquette, Jolliet and five French-Indian explorers, left St. Ignace on May 17, in two canoes and followed a southwesterly route to Green Bay and up the Fox River. A two-mile portage through marshes, forests and plains was required before they reached the Wisconsin River. They rested and founded the town of Portage.
They followed the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River. On June 17, 1673, they reached the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien (do Shane). They traveled the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River about 435 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, they met Native Americans who had European and Spanish baubles. Fearing an encounter with Spanish explorers or colonists, they turned back.
The Native Americans told them of a shorter route to Lake Michigan via the Illinois River to Portage Checagou (Chicago). Following the directions of the Native Americans, they reached Lake Michigan at Chicago. In September, Marquette and Jolliet departed for different locations. Marquette went to the mission of St. Francis Xavier in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Jolliet returned to Quebec to relate their discoveries to Governor Frontenac.
The following year in 1674, Fr. Marquette made a second voyage to Illinois, but he became ill with dysentery along the way. His illness caused him to winter in Chicago as a welcome guest of the Illinois Confederation of Native Americans. In the spring of 1675, he celebrated Mass at Grand Village, Illinois, near Starved Rock.
The death and legacy of Father Marquette will be covered in the next segment.
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