Père Marquette and the Religious Legacy of the French in Wisconsin





[Map drawn by Père Marquette]



[Map drawn by Père Coronelli]



[Cartouche of Coronelli map]
drawing of Pere Marquette

Marquette University, founded in1881 by members of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order established in 1540 by St Ignatius Loyola, is named after the French Jesuit missionary, Father/ Père Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) .

State gives sesquicentennial salute to Society of Jesus

In conjunction with Wisconsin's sesquicentennial celebration, an assembly joint resolution was adopted to honor the Society of Jesus for its contributions to the state. The resolution was introduced by Representatives Jeffrey Plale, (D-South Milwaukee) CJPA '90; and David Cullen (D-Milwaukee) Law '84. It was co-sponsored by Senators Brian Burke, (D-Milwaukee) Arts '78; and Margaret Farrow (R-Elm Grove) Arts '56. Supporters of the Resolution included Sen. Gwendolynne Moore (D-Milwaukee) Arts '78; rep. Thomas Ourada, (R-Antigo) Arts '81; and Sen Joanne Huelsman (R-Waukesha0 Law'80.

Relating to:honoring the Society of Jesus for its substantial contributions to the quality of spiritual, intellectual and cultural life in Wisconsin.

Whereas, the Society of Jesus was founded on September 22, 1540, by the Basque priest Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556); and

Whereas, the society was founded for "the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine and the propagation of the faith"; and

Whereas, the Jesuits had an active community life that encompassed a number of forms of spiritual ministry, focusing heavily on educational institutions, especially universities and seminaries; and

Whereas,French Jesuit priests accompanied the fur trappers who penetrated the Great Lakes region and made contact with the Native American tribes of the area; and

Whereas, by 1661, the first Jesuit priest in Wisconsin, Father Rene Menard, S.J., arrived near the source of the Wisconsin River at Lac Vieux Desert; and

Whereas, Menard perished and was replaced in October 1665 by Father Claude Allouez, who resided at a trading post at Chequamegon Bay and who opened a mission post at Oconto and in 1670 opened a chapel dedicated to St. Francis Xavier at De Pere; and

Whereas, other Jesuit missionaries such as Claude Dablon and Louis Andre traveled throughout Wisconsin preaching the Christian gospel, celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and baptizing converts to the faith; and

Whereas,in 1669, Father Jacques Marquette arrived at the mission at Chequamegon Bay, and in 1673 he joined the young trader Louis Jolliet in plying the waters of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and camped near Milwaukee from November 23 to 27, 1674; and

Whereas,a vigorous American Catholic Church was growing and beginning in Baltimore in 1789, and the new nation was being carved up into dioceses in order to keep up with the spread of the American population westward; and

Whereas, in November 1843, the Diocese of Milwaukee, encompassing the entire territory of Wisconsin, was established and Father John Martin Henni, a Swiss-German priest, was appointed as bishop; and

Whereas,in 1856, Henni purchased land on "the Hill" -- at present 10th and State streets -- in Milwaukee for the purpose of establishing a school directed by the Jesuits; and

Whereas, in March 1864, the Wisconsin legislature formally incorporated Marquette College, to be erected on the 10th and State streets site; and

Whereas, on August 15, 1880, ground was broken for Marquette College, and the college was dedicated on August 28, 1881; and

Whereas,in 1907 Marquette College moved to its new buildings on Grand (Wisconsin) Avenue; and

Whereas, Marquette College was transformed from a liberal arts college to a university in 1908; and

Whereas, for the past 337 years the Society of Jesus has profoundly influenced the quality of life in the area that is now known as Wisconsin; and

Whereas, over the past 117 years, Marquette University has played an integral role in educating hundreds of thousands of men and women from around the world; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the assembly, the senate concurring, That the members of the Wisconsin legislature, during this, our Sesquicentennial year, respectfully honor the contributions made by the Jesuits in furthering Christianity and the advancement of Catholic higher education in the state of Wisconsin; and, be it further

Resolved, That the assembly chief clerk shall provide a copy of this joint resolution to the Reverend Robert Wild, S.J., president of Marquette University

Marquette Preaching Jacques Marquette

Born in Laon, France on June 1st, 1637, Père Marquette came to the New World to convert Indians to Christianity. That desire led him to explore the North American continent. After arriving in Quebec in 1666, he studied Indian language and culture. In 1673 he was accompanied by the trader Louis Jolliet on an expedition which traveled the Mississippi River to its confluence with the Missouri River. Père Marquette was one of the first Europeans to visit the area which is now known as Milwaukee, WI.


Paintings and drawing of Père Jacques Marquette

Letter believed to be in the handwriting of Père Marquette

Some Representative Illustrations from the Marquette University Archives

archive document The exploration and missionary activities of Jacques Marquette, the Society of Jesus, and the French government of New France are documented in the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents; the writings of Raphael N. Hamilton, S.J.; and microfilm holdings from Canada, Europe, and the United States.

Manuscript photo of Tout ce qui regarde les voyages du Père Marquette

Photo of chapter and section headings (chapter I, section II; Chapter I section X; Chapter II)

Notable documentation is included for over 100 Native peoples from portions of Canada, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States including Wisconsin

(From the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records [MU series 9/1/1, box 49, folder 16; box 50, folder 3])

The Marquette University Library Archives contain several letters from Father Gordon whose ancestry was part French but predominantly Native American. He attended public school at Superior, WI. The first Native American priest in Wisconsin, the upper Mid-West and one of the first in the United States, he was also a critic of the the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

(The first extract is drawn from a December 3rd, 1916 newspaper whose title unfortunately does not appear on the clipping; the second has no date nor does it bear the newspaper's name.


Marquette University Archives also hold documentation about Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) which includes records from the Siggenauk Center/Congregation of the Great Spirit, reflecting recent activities Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

See also:


[Reproductions are by courtesy of the Archives Collège Ste. Marie and Marquette University Archives. Coronelli map and cartouche courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library.]

Text courtesy of Drs. Brigitte Coste and Sarah Davies Cordova, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Marquette University, LaLumiere Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201

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Page created 5/6/98