J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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The route taken was by way of the difficult portage at Sturgeon Bay, where
now there is a canal cutting through the peninsula, and which saved them a circuit
of nearly one hundred and fifty miles. Accompanying his canoe was a flotilla of
nine others, containing parties of Pottawattomie and Illinois Indians ; and in due
time they embarked their little fleet on the waters of Lake Michigan. They en-
countered storms and the navigation proved difficult, but at length the party arrived
at the mouth of the Chicago river, which Marquette calls "the river of the Portage,"
early in December. Finding that the stream was frozen over, they encamped near
by at the entrance of the river and engaged in hunting, finding game very abundant.
While here the two Frenchmen of the party killed "three buffalo and four deer,"
besides wild turkeys and partridges, 5 which, considering the locality as we of this
day know it, seems difficult to imagine; and this passage in the journal composes
the first sketch on record of the site of this great city of the West.

Having followed the course of the river some "two leagues up," Marquette
"resolved to winter there, as it was impossible to go farther." His ailment had
returned and a cabin was built for his use and protection. There he remained
with his two Frenchmen while his Indian companions returned to their own people.
It must be borne in mind that Marquette's destination was the village of Illinois
Indians at Kaskaskia on the Illinois river, where he and Joliet had been enter-
tained the year before; and that the cabin here spoken of was merely a temporary
shelter where he would remain only until spring. But sometime during the in-
terval of the fifteen months since Marquette had previously passed the portage, two
Frenchmen had established themselves, about "eighteen leagues beyond, in a beau-
tiful hunting country," and these men in expectation of the holy father's return
had prepared a cabin for him, stocked with provisions. This cabin Marquette
was not able to reach, and the two hunters, hearing of the good Father's illness,
came to the portage to render such assistance as was in their power. One of
these Frenchmen was called "the Surgeon," perhaps because he possessed some
knowledge of medicine, but his true name is not given. The other was called
"La Taupine," that is, "the Tawney," whose proper name was Pierre Moreau, a
noted coureur de bois of the time. Indians passing that way also gave assistance,
and late in March Marquette found himself with strength recovered and able to
set out on his journey to the Illinois, though not before he was driven out of his

3 "Jesuit Relations," Vol. 59, p. 165.
* Parkman, p. 67.
5 Mason, p. 32.


winter cabin by a sudden rise of the river which obliged him to take refuge near
the place now called "Summit."

As in the previous year, Marquette kept a journal which has come down to
us among that valuable series of papers called the "Jesuit Relations." This
journal is the sheet anchor of all the writers treating of the history of the two
journeys of discovery and exploration which we are here narrating. Marquette
occupied a portion of the time during his stay at the cabin in writing the memoirs
of his voyages. In his journal the good Father breathes the spirit of self-sacri-
fice, the concern for the conversion and spiritual welfare of the savages; and
with it all he shows a keen curiosity and interest in the manners and customs, the
country and habitations, of the tribes he meets with.


The location of the cabin in which Marquette spent the winter of 1671-5 is
now marked with a cross made of mahogany wood, at the base of which is a bronze
tablet with an inscription. The site was fixed upon in 1905 by a committee of
the Chicago Historical Society under the guidance of the late Mr. Ossian Guthrie,
an intelligent and devoted student of our local antiquities, with a view of marking
the spot in a suitable manner. An entire day was spent by the party in driving
and walking over many miles of country in order to compare the topography with
the journal of the missionary, and a series of photographs taken. The investi-
gations resulted in confirming the opinions of Mr. Guthrie, namely, that Mar-
quette's winter cabin was situated on the north bank of the South branch of the
Chicago river at the point where now it is intersected by Robey street, and from
which at the present time can be seen, by looking westward, the entrance to the
great drainage canal. While the Society was making plans for placing a me-
morial on the spot other parties took up the project and placed the cross and
inscription there; though it is to be regretted that no mention was made in the
inscription of Mr. Guthrie's researches in identifying the site; for it was solely
due to his investigations that the site was determined. The "Marquette Cross"
stands about fifteen feet high, firmly planted on a pedestal of concrete ; and near
it stands a wrought iron cross about three feet in height, which, however, has no
historical connection with the famous missionary, as it was taken from a burying
ground in Cahokia, where it marked the grave of some old time French resident.

There is also a monument at Summit a few miles distant from the site of Mar-
quette's winter cabin, marking the spot where Marquette landed after being flooded
out of his winter quarters at Robey street. This monument is constructed of
boulders taken from the Drainage Canal while in process of building, and was
placed there in 1895 by the Chicago and Alton railroad company. The inscrip-
tion on the monument reads, "Father Marquette landed here in 1675."


Marquette reached the Illinois village which he called Kaskaskia in the journal
of his first visit, and which he refers to as the "mission of La Conception" in his

8 MS. report, by Miss C. M. Mcllvaine, of the Chicago Historical Society.


later journal. This was on the 8th of April, 1675, and on reaching the village
"he was received as an angel from heaven." There was always an atmosphere of
peace wherever the good missionary went, and, no matter how unfavorable the
circumstances were, he was the object of solicitude and kind attentions from his
followers. From the time that he crossed the portage he discontinued his journal,
probably owing to his increasing weakness. The account of the remainder of his
journey is written by Father Dablon, his superior at Quebec. He summoned the
Indians to a grand council and "displayed four large pictures of the Virgin, haran-
gued the assembly on the mysteries of the Faith, and exhorted them to adopt it." ~
His hearers were much affected and begged him to remain among them and con-
tinue his instructions.


But Marquette realized that his life was fast ebbing away, and that it was
necessary if possible to reach some of the older missions where he could either
recover his health or hand over his responsibilities to others. Soon after Easter
he started on his return, pledging the Indians on his departure that he or some
other one would return to them and carry on the mission. He set out with many
tokens of regard on the part of these good people, and as a mark of honor a
party of them escorted him for more than thirty leagues on his way, and assisted
him with his baggage. 8 Some writers have supposed that he took the route by
the Desplaines-Chicago portage, but it is more probable, according to Mason, that
he ascended the Kankakee, guided by his Indian friends, and reached the Lake
of the Illinois by way of the St. Joseph river. His destination was St. Ignace
and his course lay along the eastern shore, which, as yet, was unknown except
through reports from the Indians. Now alone with his two companions, he pushed
forward with rapidly diminishing strength, until, on the 19th day of May the
devoted priest felt that his hour had come, and being near a small river, he asked
to be placed ashore. Here a bark shed was built by his companions, and the
dying man was placed within its rude walls. "With perfect cheerfulness and
composure," relates Parkman, "he gave directions for his burial, asked their for-
.giveness for the trouble he had caused them, administered to them the sacrament
of penitence, and thanked God that he was permitted to die in the wilderness, a
missionary of the Faith and a member of the Jesuit brotherhood." Soon after he
expired, and was buried by his companions at that place, while they made their
way to St. Ignace with their sad tidings. Two years later a party of Ottawa In-
dians, who were informed of the death and burial place of Marquette, were pass-
ing that way, found the grave, opened it, washed and dried the bones, and placed
them in a box of birch bark; and bore them, while chanting funeral songs, to St.
Ignace, where they were buried beneath the floor of the chapel of the mission. A
statue now stands in a public place near the water front at the town of St. Ignace
placed there in recent years.

Thus ends the story of Marquette, who is, one may say, the patron saint of the
people of Chicago. He participated with Joliet in discovering the Chicago river

7 Parkman, p. 70.

8 Jesuit Relations, Vol. 59, p. 191.


and looked out upon its vast expanse of plain and forest. He came again and
spent a winter in a rude cabin on the river bank, and from here passed on to his
chosen field of work where his last missionary labors were performed. Memorials
of him have been placed all over the west, where he spent the last two years of
his brief but memorable career. The story has been often told but never loses its
interest. Let it be told in every Chicago home, and "every good cause in this city
will feel the beneficent results of its influence," in awakening a pride in our earliest
annals, "and quickening the spirit of service in all our people." !


The promise made by Marquette to the Illinois Indians did not long remain
unkept. Father Claude Allouez was summoned by his superior to fill the vacancy
caused by the death of Father Marquette, and promptly responded to the call.
Allouez, with two companions, embarked in a canoe at St. Francis Xavier in
October, 1676, just two years after Marquette had set out from the same place;
but owing to the ice in Green Bay they were not able to reach Lake Michigan until
the following February. At length in April, 1677, the party reached "the river
that leads to the Illinois," that is, the Chicago river, 10 where they met eighty
Indians coming towards them. The chief presented a fire brand in one hand and
a feathered calumet in the other, from which Allouez discreetly made choice of the
latter. The chief then invited the little party of whites to his village, which was
some distance from the mouth of the river, "probably," as Mason says, "near the
portage where Marquette had passed the winter" two years previously. Allouez
remained at this village a short time and then passed on to the Illinois river
mission, which he reached on the 27th of April. After erecting a cross at the mis-
sion he returned to Green Bay, as he had made the journey, it seems, "only to
acquire the necessary information for the perfect establishment of the mission."
He came again the next year, but retired to the Wisconsin Mission in 1679 "upon
hearing of the approach of La Salle, who believed that the Jesuits were unfriendly
to him, and that Allouez in particular had sought to defeat his plans." "The era
of the discoverer and missionary was now giving place to that of the explorer and
colonist," and the great figure of Robert Cavelier de La Salle appears upon the >


At the time of his coming to Canada in 1666, La Salle was a young man of
twenty-three. He was a younger son of an honorable old citizen family in Rouen,
France, where he was born. He was given a good education there, showing him-
self especially proficient in mathematics and the exact sciences. When he was
very young he became connected with the Jesuits, but a youth of his high spirit,
ambition and energy would not long endure the restraint of that Order, in which
the individual is completely effaced. He left the Jesuits, remaining all his life,
however, a good Catholic. As he was deprived by law of his inheritance, on ac-

E. J. James.

10 Mason, pp. 44-50.

11 Parkman, Chaps. I and II.

Photogrraph by A. \V. Watriss



count of his connection with the Jesuits, he determined to go to Canada, perhaps
even then fascinated by the dreams which later urged him to accomplish the ex-
ploration of the Mississippi River. With a small allowance he came to Montreal
in 1666. At that time the Seminary of St. Sulpice, a conservative body of ecclesi-
astics, was proprietor and feudal lord of Montreal, and was granting out lands on
the St. Lawrence River, above Montreal, to settlers, whose holdings would make
a continuous line of habitation which would form an outpost to give warning of a
possible attack of the Iroquois. On one of these tracts of land, about nine miles
from Montreal, La Salle settled, and began clearing ground and building on his
seigniory, which was later called La Chine by some of La Salle's men, it is said,
in derision of his dreams of finding a westward approach to China. He, in turn,
granted pieces of land to settlers, laying out a village and a common.


Here came Indians to him, Seneca Iroquois (now peaceable on account of a
treaty), and told him about "a river, called the Ohio, rising in their country, and
flowing into the sea, but at such a distance that its mouth could only be reached
after a journey of eight or nine months." This aroused him it might be a means
of getting to China. He resolved to explore this river, and went to the governor,
Courcelle, and the intendant, Talon, with his plan. They gave their approval and
authority for making the expedition, but furnished no financial aid. To raise the
money La Salle sold his land with its improvements back to the Sulpitian Seminary,
and having now the means to do so, he engaged fourteen men, and bought four
canoes and supplies for the journey. In July, 1669, he started from La Chine in
company with another party in charge of two priests from the Seminary Dollier,
who was in search of heathen converts, and Galinee, who knew how to survey and
could make a map of the route. The combined parties comprised twenty-four men
with their canoes, having with them some Indians as guides.

Coasting along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, they were met by some In-
dians who took La Salle and a few of the men to their village. Being unable to
procure guides there to go with him to the Ohio, La Salle left this village, and
the party continued their way along the shore of the lake. Farther along he
found Indian guides who assured him that the Ohio could be reached in six weeks.
At the same place he met Louis Joliet returning to Quebec after an unsuccessful
attempt to discover and explore the copper mine district of Lake Superior. Joliet
showed the priests of the party his map of those parts of the Upper Lake region
which he had visited. The priests immediately decided to go northward to carry
their religion to the Indians of whom Joliet told them, though La Salle remon-
strated against such a detour. Finding the priests determined, he invented a
pretext for amicably parting with them and continued on his own way toward the
Ohio. Of his adventures during the next two years, little is known except that he
discovered the Ohio River, and learned enough of the country farther west to
form broad plans of exploration. Returning, he found a cordial supporter of his
plans and purposes in Count Frontenac, the Governor; and soon after he went to
France to obtain official countenance and aid, in which he was successful. He
was granted a seigniory at the entrance to Lake Ontario, where he built a fort

Vol. 12


which he called Fort Frontenac, and which he used as the base of operations fi
his expeditions into the far West. He found it necessary to visit France agai
and this time he obtained authority from the King "to make discoveries and
build forts in the western parts of New France, through which it was believed
way might be found to Mexico."

Returning to Canada, in September, 1678, with a small army enlisted in h
service, he made his plans to reach and occupy the land of the Illinois. One <
his officers, whom he brought with him from France, was the celebrated Henri <
Tonty, who had been in the French military service, and became La Salle's mo
devoted friend and trusted lieutenant. Tonty was a Neapolitan who had enlisti
in the army of France and fought bravely in her wars. During one campaij
he had lost a hand, in place of which he had one of iron, which he usually wo
gloved. Much might be said in praise of his devotion to La Salle, his splend
courage and resourceful perseverance. He was an invaluable aid in his abili
to command an expedition made up of mutinous Frenchmen and grumbling priest
and it was he who was best able to placate Indians who were hostile or suspiciov
Among them the severe blows occasionally dealt by his iron hand gave him
reputation as a powerful "medicine man," for they did not know how he cou
strike so hard. In his memoir, which is so simply written that the reader won
scarcely suspect the importance of Tonty 's part in the expedition, his account of t
attempts to establish French supremacy throughout the country drained by t
Mississippi and its tributaries, is direct and matter-of-fact. 1 2


Having learned from messengers sent forward the previous year that copp
had been discovered in the far West, and that buffalo skins were to be obtained
large quantities in the Illinois country, La Salle ordered a party to "set out
canoes laden with valuable merchandise" to establish trade relations with the I
dians. The usual route to the West at this time was by way of the Ottawa riv(
thence by a portage to French river, passing into Georgian Bay and so on
Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace. A second party was dispatched a short til
later to proceed by way of the Niagara portage through Lake Erie. The Fren
knew from the Indians that there was a portage at Niagara, but had been debarr
from its use by reason of the hostility of the Five Nations. Frontenac, howev(
had temporarily subdued their enmity, and La Salle's party was the first to ma
use of the Niagara portage. Father Louis Hennepin, a Recollet priest, accoi
panied this second party and was "the historian of the expedition and a conspicuo
actor in it." La Salle, with the rest of his force, was to follow as soon as he coy
finish his preparations. On their way up the Niagara river Hennepin with his par
saw the falls and thus became the first of Europeans to behold the mighty catarn
of which he wrote the earliest description. La Salle and Tonty soon followed ai
established a fortified post on the Niagara river. The winter had now set in, ai
the time was employed to build a small sailing vessel of about forty-five tons f
use on the upper lakes, which La Salle named the Griffin. It was not until Align:
1679, that he set sail on Lake Erie and in due time reached Mackinac, where

12 "Illinois Historical Collections," Vol. I, p. 128.


was surprised to find his first party, "whom he had supposed to have long since
established themselves among the Illinois." On reaching Green Bay he met
Michael Ako, his advance messenger to the Illinois country, who was returning
with a quantity of peltries. These he loaded on the Griffin and started her back
to the Niagara river commanding that she return to Mackinac for orders, while
he himself "pushed on with fourteen men along the western shores of Lake Mich-
igan, called by him Lake Dauphin." They coasted the shore of the lake just as
Marquette had done five years before, with much the same experience from storms
and exposure to cold.

At length La Salle and his party reached the shore of the "land of the Illinois,"
but he made no pause at the Chicago river other than possibly a night encamp-
ment in its vicinity. He had formed the plan to reach the Mississippi by way of
the St. Joseph river, and therefore he passed around the southern shore of the lake
to the mouth of that river, where now is located the city of St. Joseph. Here Tonty,
with his party of twenty men, who had been left at St. Ignace with orders to pro-
ceed to this point along the eastern shore, was to have met him; but many days
elapsed before he appeared. The Griffin, which had also been ordered to meet
him at this point (as soon as she had returned from Niagara), did not appear at all.
In fact, the Griffin had been lost with all her precious cargo of furs soon after
La Salle had parted from her, though the unfortunate pathfinder did not learn of
this until long afterward.

It was now the beginning of December. The winter was at hand, the streams,
as yet open, would soon be frozen; and there was urgent need for a forward move-
ment if the Illinois river was to be reached that season. After vainly waiting nearly
three weeks for the missing vessel, La Salle, with his party, now consisting of
thirty-three men, ascended the St. Joseph river about thirty miles, where they
found the portage to the headwaters of the Kankakee, near the present city of
South Bend. In due time they arrived at the great town of the Illinois Indians,
near the present village of Utica, where Marquette's mission of La Conception
had been established several years before. They found the village entirely unoccu-
pied, the Indians being absent on their winter hunt. They pushed on, therefore,
until they reached the point where the city of Peoria now stands, and found an-
other Indian village. There La Salle lost six of his men by desertion; for, as Park-
man remarks, it was to the last degree difficult to hold men to their duty when
once they were fairly in the wilderness, freed from the usual restraints of civiliza-
tion. A spirit of lawlessness often broke out among them, and, attracted by a life
of unbridled license, they would become in manners and habits assimilated to the
savages among whom they chose to dwell. In this way, hundreds of Frenchmen dis-
appeared in the forest, where they spent the remainder of their lives. One ob-
server who knew the character of the French, said of them that "it was much easier
for a Frenchman to learn to live like an Indian than for an Indian to learn to live
like a Frenchman." ls


Near this village La Salle erected a palisaded defense which he called Fort
Crevecoeur, and set his men to construct a vessel for carrying the party down the

13 The Settlement of Illinois, p. n.


Mississippi. Needing equipment for the vessel, he determined upon making a
return journey to Lake Michigan; and set out, accompanied by four Frenchmen
and an Indian, expecting to procure the necessary articles from the Griffin, which
he fondly hoped was awaiting him at the St. Joseph. On his arrival there he be-
came assured of the fate of the vessel, and at once decided on making a journey
to Canada for the purpose of renewing his outfit. Taking with him three followers,
he pushed onward through the unknown wilds of southern Michigan, and after a
most arduous journey he at length reached Fort Frontenac, on the 6th of May,
1680, having been sixty-five days on the way. At Frontenac news reached La Salle
of what had taken place since his departure from Fort Crevecoeur. It seems that
Tonty had gone up the Illinois with a part of his force for the purpose of build-
ing a fort on the Rock of St. Louis, now called "Starved Rock," in pursuance of
La Salle's plans and instructions. A mutiny breaking out among the men left
behind, they had wantonly destroyed the tools and provisions that had been brought
there at such great labor and expense, and the mutineers had set out to return to
Canada. Some of the men, however, remained true to their duty, joined Tonty up
the river, and thus apprised him of what had happened.


Just at that time there was an Iroquois invasion of the Illinois Country, and

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 4 of 59)