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Jacques Marquette

Marquette's Last Voyage, and Death.

Father Marquette spent the winter and the whole summer of 1674 at Green Bay, actively engaged in the services of the mission, though in a very feeble state of health. It is said that he was remarkably genial and companionable, fond of pleasantry, ever greeting others with pleasant words and benignant smiles. He had promised the Illinois Indians that he would return to them, to teach them the religion of peace and good-will brought to the world by the Son of God.

His health being somewhat recruited, he set out, by direction of his superiors, with two boatmen, Pierre and Jacques, to establish a mission among these Indians, who were anxiously awaiting his arrival. The mission at Green Bay was at the southern extremity of that inland sea. Taking their canoe and all their effects upon their shoulders, they crossed the peninsula, which separated the bay from the lake, through an Indian trail about thirty miles in length. They then launched their canoe upon the broad surface of Lake Michigan. The cold gales of November had now begun to plough the surface of this inland sea. Their progress was very slow. Often the billows were such that the canoe could not ride safely over them. Then they landed, and, in the chill November breezes, trudged along the shore, bearing all their effects upon their shoulders!

Ice formed upon the margin of the water, and several snow-storms impeded their march, adding greatly to their discomfort. But not a repining word escaped the lips of Father Marquette. It was but a dismal shelter they could rear, for the night, on the bleak shore. Through this exposure his health began rapidly to fail. It took them nearly four weeks to reach the mouth of the Chicago River. They ascended the river several leagues, until they came to a small cluster of Indian wigwams. The savages were poor, but few in number, and their abodes comfortless. But Père Marquette was so sick that they could go no farther. These Indians were of the Miami tribe.

Here the voyagers built a small log-cabin, and, destitute of what many would deem the absolute necessaries of life, passed the remaining weeks of the dreary winter. One would suppose that the lone missionary must at times have contrasted painfully his then situation, with the luxuries he had enjoyed in the ancestral castle in which he was cradled. A few wretched wigwams were scattered over the snow-whitened plains, where poverty, destitution, and repulsive social habits reigned, such as is perhaps never witnessed in civilized life.

His home was but a cabin of logs, with the interstices stuffed with moss. The roof was covered with bark. The window was merely a hole cut through the logs. In storms a piece of cloth hung over it, which partially kept out wind and rain. The fireplace was one corner of the room, with a hole in the roof through which the smoke ascended. Often the state of the atmosphere was such that the cabin was filled with smothering smoke. A few mats, woven coarsely from bulrushes, covered a portion of the earth floor. A mat was his bed. A log, covered with a mat, was his chair; his food was pounded corn, and fishes and flesh of animals, broiled on the coals; his companions, savages. Such was the home which this noble man had cheerfully accepted in exchange for the baronial splendors of his ancestors. It was two hundred years ago. Father Marquette has received his rewards. His earthly labors and sacrifices were for but about twenty years. For two hundred years he has occupied a mansion, which God reared for him in heaven. There he is now, with his crown, his robe, and his harp, with angel companionship. And there he is to dwell forever.

There is something exceedingly beautiful in the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ. God, in the person of his Son, came to earth and suffered and died to make atonement for human sin. All who will abandon sin, and try to live doing nothing wrong, and endeavoring to do everything that is right, He will forgive, and make forever happy in heaven.

This is the Gospel; the Good News. God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The loitering Indians, ignorant, degraded, wicked, gathered in constant groups around the fire, in the cabin of the sick Christian teacher. And when he told them of that happy world where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, and where God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, the truth came home to their hearts, and became its own witness.

And yet here, as elsewhere, the Gospel of Jesus found its bitter antagonists. With the Indians, as in every city and town in Christendom, there were those who did not wish to be holy. They hated a Gospel which demanded the abandonment of sin. These men, with bloody tomahawks and gory scalping knives, and who, from infancy, had been practising the hideous war-whoop; who consider the glory of their manhood to depend upon the number of enemies they had slain, and whose greatest delight consisted in listening to the shrieks, and witnessing the convulsions of their agonized victims at the stake, denounced the Christian teacher, as the Jews denounced the Son of God, crying out "Crucify him."

Every day Father Marquette was sinking in languor, which both he and his companions supposed to be a monition of speedily approaching death. And yet he was a cheerful and happy man. All incomers at his cabin were greeted with smiles. Death had no terror. Brighter and brighter grew the path, as he drew nearer to the celestial city. His log-cabin was continually crowded with those who sought instruction. The two humble companions who attended him were devout men, though uneducated, and in life's lowly station. They joined heartily in the devotions of the cabin. The voices of the three were joined in matins and vespers, and floated sweetly over those dreary wastes, where such heavenly strains had never been heard before.

Louis XIV. was then upon the throne of France. He was one of the greatest, most powerful, most opulent of all earthly monarchs. The wealth and the genius of earth could construct nothing more grand than his palaces at Marly and Versailles. His banqueting-hall was unsurpassed by any other hall ever reared upon this globe. His chambers, his saloons, his galleries, are still visited by astonished and admiring thousands. And yet no one, familiar with his life, will deny that Father Marquette, in his log-cabin, surrounded by Indian wigwams, probably passed a happier winter than did Louis XIV., amidst the most dazzling splendors which ever surrounded a mortal.

Christmas came. It was made by the three a season of special devotion, that God would so reinvigorate Father Marquette, as to enable him to fulfil his promise, and visit the Illinois Indians, and teach them the Gospel. These devotions were called a Novena, which was a nine days' prayer-meeting. Their prayers were heard. Contrary to all reasonable expectation, he so far regained his strength as to be able, on the 29th of March, to resume his journey. The chill winds of departing winter still swept the plains. Storms of sleet often beat upon them. The ground, alternately thawing and freezing, was frequently whitened with snow. And still these heroic men, with chivalry never surpassed in the annals of knighthood, pressed on. Their journey was slow. Sometimes they floated upon the stream. Again they followed the Indian trail through forest and prairie. After traversing a route about a hundred and fifty miles in length, they reached, on the 8th of April, the Kankakee River, an important tributary of the Illinois. At this point, which is now in the present county of Kankakee, and near where the village of Rockport stands, the Illinois Indians had their large and populous village.

The missionary was received, we are told, as an angel from heaven. He assembled all the chiefs of the tribe, with the renowned warriors, that with imposing ceremonies he might announce to them the object of his coming, and impress them with the momentous importance of his message. There was no wigwam sufficiently capacious to accommodate such a multitude as the occasion would assemble.

Near the village there was a smooth, verdant, beautiful prairie, richly carpeted with the velvet green of early spring. On a mild and sunny morning a wonderful crowd of savages—men, women, and children—were seen crowding to the appointed station. The chiefs were dressed in truly gorgeous habiliments, of plumes, skins richly embroidered and fringed, and brilliantly colored. Their robes were more showy than any court-dress ever witnessed at Windsor Castle or the Tuileries. The warriors, with proud demeanor and stately tread, marched along, with quivers of arrows at their backs, and bows in their hands. Tomahawks and scalping knives were ostentatiously displayed, and the scalps of enemies dangled at their javelin points, as badges of their nobility. Of these they were more proud than were ever English, French, or Spanish grandees of the decoration of stars or garters. The women and the dogs came next. They were alike regarded as necessary drudges to bear burdens, and to be fed with the refuse which their masters left. Then came the boys and girls, many of them half naked, shouting, laughing, racing, engaging in all the uncouth merriment of a savage gala day.

The spot selected for the council was decorated according to the most approved fashion of the people and their times. The ground was covered with mats, made of the skins of bears and other animals. Posts were planted, draped and festooned with green boughs. Upon each of the four sides of the square, the good father, who had ever been taught to regard with the utmost veneration the Mother of Jesus, hung a picture of the Blessed Virgin, that all might gaze upon her sad yet beautiful features.

Father Marquette took his seat upon a mat, in the centre of the enclosure. Then the chiefs, and the veteran warriors, who in many a bloody foray had won renown, took their seats around him. Silently and with the dignity becoming great men, they assumed their positions. The young men, who had not yet signalized themselves, and who were ever eager to go upon the war-path, that they might return with their trophies of gory scalps, to receive the applause of the nation as braves, came next.

In respect to the war spirit, which is one of the most direful traits of our fallen race, there is but little difference between the civilized and uncivilized man. I was once breakfasting with one of the most distinguished officers of a European army. To my question whether the officers generally wished for peace or war, he replied:

"War, of course. In times of peace promotion comes slowly. But upon the battle field promotions are very rapidly made."

The young warriors counted about fifteen hundred. Outside of their circle, the women and the children were clustered. It was estimated that the whole population of the village amounted to about three thousand.

The Illinois Indians were at war with the Miamis, among whom Father Marquette had passed the winter. The Illinois chiefs had obtained of the traders a few guns. Immediately upon Marquette reaching their village, they hastened to entreat of him powder and ball, that they might fit out an expedition against their foes. Father Marquette rose at the council, and after presenting the chiefs with some valuable gifts, in token of the sincerity of his desire to be their friend and do them good, addressed them in substance as follows:

"I have not brought you any powder or balls. I do not wish you to fight your brethren the Miamis. You are all the children of the same Father. You should love one another. I have come to tell you of God, and to teach you to pray. God, the Great Spirit, came to the world, and became a man, whose name was Jesus. He died upon the cross to atone for the sins of all men. And now, if you will cease to sin; if you will love your Father, the Great Spirit, pray to Him and do everything in your power to please Him, He will bless you, and when you die will take you to dwell with Him and will make you happy forever."

Such was, in general, the address of Father Marquette. Such was ever, in substance, his teaching. Jesus the Christ, and Him crucified, was his constant theme. Two or three days were spent in similar exercises. The Indians crowded around the father constantly. They listened to his teachings with respectful and apparently with even joyful attention. He was pale and emaciate. Even the Indian could perceive, from his feeble voice and emaciate steps, that he was not far from the grave. On Easter Sunday, the faithful missionary, with solemn and imposing ceremonies, took, if we may so speak, spiritual possession of the land, in the name of Jesus Christ.

The rapidly failing health of the missionary, rendered it expedient for him to endeavor to return to his friends at Green Bay. The poor Indians really mourned at the idea of his departure. Time hung heavily upon their hands. They had but little to think of, and but little to do. Loitering indolently around, from morning till night, it was a great source of enjoyment to them, to crowd the large wigwam they had built for the father, to listen to his words, to question him, and to witness the ceremonies with which he was accustomed to conduct his devotions. They were therefore much troubled at the thought of his departure, and were but partially comforted by his repeated assurances that he would either soon return again, or send some one else to continue the mission which he had thus commenced.

Slowly and feebly he set out on his long journey back to Green Bay. It was ninety miles from Kankakee to the southern extremity of Lake Michigan. They could paddle in canoes over a portion of the route. But there were also weary miles of portage which they had to pass over, through Indian trails, carrying their canoe, and all their effects, upon their backs. It was a severe undertaking for a sick man, who was so feeble that even if a horse could have been provided for him to ride, he could scarcely have held himself upon the saddle.

A large party of the Indians accompanied the father, on this weary journey to the lake. They administered to his wants with the tenderest care, relieving him of every burden, and aiding him over the rough ways. At the night encampments, they provided for him a shelter, kindled his fire, cooked his food, and spread for him a couch of leaves and twigs. When they reached a small stream, which ran into the lake, they placed him as comfortably as possible in his canoe, and intrusting him to the care of his two faithful boatmen, Jacques and Pierre, bade him an affectionate farewell.

The savages, after these deeds of almost Christian kindness, returned to their wigwams, to sharpen the edges of their tomahawks, the points of their javelins, the barbs of their arrows; and were soon, with hideous yells, rushing upon their foes the Miamis, burning, killing, scalping—performing deeds of cruelty which ought to cause even demons to blush.

Father Marquette was too weak to wield the paddle. He reclined in the bottom of the canoe, with his head slightly elevated, so that he could see all the beauties of the scenery through which they were passing. His prayer-book was in his hand; his talk was of heaven; he was cheerful and happy. His companions have testified to the wonderful amiability, gentleness, and joy he maintained. He told them plainly that he should die upon the voyage, but encouraged them to bear courageously all the hardships they were to encounter on the way, assuring that the Lord would not forsake them.

As his attendants plied their paddles he read prayers to them, sang sweet hymns of devotion, and in many fervent utterances commended them and himself to God. He was in no pain. His eye sparkled with animation. His soul was triumphant. It may be doubted whether, on the broad continent of North America, there were, in these hours, an individual to be found more happy than he.

It was one of the mornings of lovely May, when this frail birch canoe, with its three inmates, emerging from a small stream, entered upon the ocean-like expanse of Lake Michigan. On the north and the east the majestic inland sea spread out to the horizon, with no bounds but the sky. For some unexplained reason they decided to take the eastern shore of the lake, on their return voyage, though their outward voyage had been by the western shore. They had still a journey of three hundred miles before them.

Father Marquette was so weak that he could no longer help himself. He could neither move nor stand, and had to be carried from the canoe to the shore like an infant. At each encampment the attendants would draw the canoe, with Father Marquette in it, gently upon the beach. They would then hastily rear a shelter, spread for him a couch of the long and withered herbage, and lay him tenderly upon it. The only food they could prepare for the fainting invalid, was corn pounded into coarse meal, mixed with water, and baked in the ashes, with perhaps a slice of game broiled upon the coals.

Thus they moved along, day after day, expecting almost every hour that the death summons would come. On Friday evening, the 27th of May, 1675, he told them, with a countenance radiant with joy, that on the morrow he should take his departure for his heavenly home.

He gave them minute instructions respecting the place he wished to be selected for his burial; directed how to arrange his hands and feet, and how to wrap him in his robes, for he could have no coffin. While one was to read the burial service the other was gently to toll the small chapel bell which he bore with him on his mission. The canoe was gliding along near the shore, as the father gave these instructions, reclining upon his mat. The setting sun was sinking apparently into the shoreless waters of the lake, in the west. They were all examining the land, the boatmen searching for a suitable spot for their night's encampment, and the father looking for a good place for his dying bed and his burial.

They came to the mouth of a small, pleasant river, which presented a sheltered cove for their canoe. There was an eminence near by, crowned by a beautiful grove, and commanding a wide prospect of the lake and of the land. It had a sunny exposure, drained of moisture, and composed of just such soil as seems suitable for a grave. Father Marquette pointed to the eminence in the lone, silent, solitary wilderness, and said, "There is the spot for my last repose."

The boatmen ran their canoe up the mouth of the river, a few rods, and landed. Hastily they threw up a frail camp, kindled a fire, spread down a mat for a couch, and placed their revered spiritual father upon it. He was then left entirely alone, with his God, while his companions were engaged in unloading the canoe. They were silent and sad, for they could not but perceive that the dying hour was at hand.

When they returned, Father Marquette gave them his last instructions. "I thank you, my dear companions," he said, "for all the love and tenderness you have shown me during this voyage. I beg you to pardon me for the trouble I have given you. Will you also say to all my fathers and brethren in the Ottowa mission that I implore their forgiveness for my imperfections. I am now very near my home. But I shall not forget you in heaven. You are very weary with the toils of the day. I shall still live probably for several hours. I wish you would retire and take that rest which you so greatly need. I will call you as soon as the last moments arrive."

They left the cabin with stricken hearts and weeping eyes. The dying Christian was left alone with his God. Who can imagine the peace and joy which must then have filled his heart and suffused his eyes. The victory was won. Death was conquered. The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof were waiting at the door of the humble cabin, to transport the victor, through the pathways of the stars, to his throne and his crown. Glorious death! Blissful journey!

Three hours passed away, and his feeble voice was heard calling his companions to his side. He threw his arms around the neck of each one, and drawing him gently down imprinted a kiss upon each cheek. Then, taking the crucifix, which he ever wore around his neck, he placed it in the hands of one of them, requesting him to hold that emblem of the atoning sacrifice of his Saviour before his eyes until the last moment. Then, inspired with the faith of Stephen the Martyr, clasping his hands and fixing his eyes upon this memorial of God manifest in the flesh, in fervent prayer he said:

"O Lord God, I thank Thee for the boundless grace Thou hast conferred upon me in permitting me to die in the service of Jesus Christ Thy Son. O God, I thank Thee, that I have been His missionary; and that I am permitted to die, in a cabin, in the depths of the forest, and far removed from all human aid."

There were a few moments of perfect silence. No sound fell upon the ear but the gentle breathing of the dying man. He was then heard feebly to say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Again he said, in accordance with the faith which he had received from childhood, "Mary! Mother of Jesus my Lord, remember me."

Suddenly he raised his eyes from the crucifix and looked upward, as if a vision of wonderful glory was bursting upon his entranced view. His countenance shone radiant with joy. A sweet smile was upon his lips. Without a struggle, without a sigh, his soul took its flight to its home in heaven. He had fallen asleep.

"Asleep in Jesus! Far from thee,

Thy kindred and their graves may be.

But thine is still a blessed sleep,

From which none ever wake to weep."

His two bereaved companions wept bitterly. They laid out the body as directed; wrapped it in the threadbare garments it so long had worn, and having dug the grave, placed the revered remains within it. While one devotedly covered the body with its mother earth, the other tolled the little bell which had so often summoned them to prayer. They remained upon the spot until the next day. A large cross was made, and planted firmly in the ground, in a position which would attract the attention of all passing along the shore of the lake. The two faithful boatmen, Jacques and Pierre, then, after kneeling upon the grave in fervent prayer, returned to their canoe and continued the long journey to Green Bay. They reached the mission in safety, with their sad tidings.

Father Marquette died at the early age of thirty-eight.

He had spent twenty-one years an earnest, self-denying minister of Jesus Christ. Twelve of these were in France. Nine were devoted to the savages of the New World. At the early age of nine years, he became an earnest Christian. Every Saturday was, with this wonderful child, a day of fasting and prayer.

There were quite a number of Christian Indians at the Mackinaw mission. They had long known Father Marquette, and revered and loved him. A band of these Indians were, some months after this, on the shores of Lake Michigan, upon a hunting excursion. They sought out the grave of Father Marquette. They took up the remains, carefully enclosed them in a box of birch bark, placed them in one of their canoes, and paddled them, three hundred miles, to the mission of St. Ignatius.

A convoy of canoes, thirty in number, in single file, formed this wonderful funeral procession. It is doubtful whether such a scene was ever before witnessed on this globe. For more than ten days this band of Indian hunters, in their picturesque costume, silently and solemnly paddled along the shores of the lonely lake, that the remains of their beloved pastor might repose where they could visit the spot, and honor them with their testimonials of gratitude.

As they approached the shore, where the mission was established, with its cross-surmounted chapel, surrounded with Indian wigwams, a courier was sent forward rapidly, in a canoe, to announce the arrival of the cortége. The whole community promptly gathered upon the beach. A funeral procession was formed, led by Fathers Nouvel and Pierson, who were Superiors of the two missions, one to the Ottawas, and one to the Hurons, which were located side by side. Interrogations were first made to verify the fact, that the body they bore was really that of Father Marquette.

The two ecclesiastics then chanted the sublime anthem,

"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice; let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications."

The canoes were still on the water, while quite a throng of the Indians crowded the shore. With the customary religious ceremonies, the body was conveyed to the chapel. It remained there for a day, covered with a pall. On the morning of the next day, which was the ninth of June, the remains were deposited in a grave, in the middle of the log chapel, which we infer had no floor but the earth; there to repose until the trump of the archangel shall sound, when all who are in their graves shall come forth.

The Enterprise of James Marquette.

Nearly three hundred and forty years ago, in April 1541, De Soto, in his adventurous march, discovered the majestic Mississippi, not far from the border of the State of Tennessee. No white man's eye had ever before beheld that flood whose banks are now inhabited by busy millions. The Indians informed him that all the region below consisted of dismal, endless, uninhabitable swamps. De Soto, world-weary and woe-stricken, died upon the banks of the river. In its fathomless depths his body found burial.

These cruel adventurers, insanely impelled in search of mines of gold, founded no settlements, and left behind them no traces of their passage, save that by their cruelties they had excited the implacable ire of the Indian against the white man. A hundred years of earth's many griefs lingered slowly away, while these vast solitudes were peopled only by wandering savage tribes whose record must forever remain unknown.

In the year 1641, some French envoys, from Canada, seeking to open friendly trade with the Indians for the purchase of furs, penetrated the northwest of our country as far as the Falls of St. Mary, near the outlet of Lake Superior. The most friendly relations existed between these Frenchmen and the Indians, wherever the tribes were encountered. This visit led to no settlement. The adventurous traders purchased many furs, with which they loaded their birch canoes: established friendly relations with these distant Indians, and greatly extended the region from which furs were brought to their trading posts in Canada.

Eighteen more years passed away, over the silent and gloomy wilderness, when in 1659, a little band of these bold and hardy explorers, in their frail canoes, with Indian guides, paddled along the lonely, forest-fringed shores of Lake Ontario, ascended the Niagara River to the Falls, carried their canoes on their shoulders around the rapids, launched them again on Lake Erie, traversed that inland sea over two hundred and fifty miles, entered the magnificent Strait, passed through it to Lake St. Clair, crossed that lake, ascended the St. Clair River to Lake Huron, and traversing its whole length, a distance of three hundred miles, reached the Falls of St. Mary.

Here, at the distance of more than a thousand miles from the least vestiges of civilization, and surrounded by numerous and powerful bands of savages, these hardy men passed an inclement winter. Amidst rocks and gloomy pines they reared their hut. Game was abundant, fuel was at their door, the Indians were hospitable, and they wanted for nothing. One event only darkened these wintry months. The leader of the band became lost in the woods and perished.

In the spring the men returned rejoicingly to Canada, with their canoes laden with the richest furs. They also brought such reports of the docility and amiability of the Indians, as to inspire the Christians in Canada with the intense desire to establish missionary stations among them. Five years passed away, when Father Claude Allouez, with a small band of Christian heroes, penetrated these wilds to proclaim the glad tidings of the Gospel. Two years after, he was followed by Father James Marquette, a noble man, whose name will never die.

As the explorations of Marquette opened the way for the still more wonderful excursions of La Salle, I must here introduce a brief account of his adventures. There is something in blood. The Marquette family had been illustrious in France from time immemorial. Generation after generation, many of its members had obtained renown, not only for chivalric courage, but for every virtue which can adorn humanity. Their ancestral home was a massive feudal castle on an eminence near the stately city of Leon. The armorial bearing of the family commemorates deeds of heroic enterprise five hundred years ago. They were generally earnest Christians.

James Marquette was born at the ancient seat of the family in the year 1637. His mother was a woman of fervent piety and of unusual strength and culture of mind. Her brother, John Baptiste de la Salle, was the founder of a system of Christian schools for the gratuitous education of the poor. Thousands were thus instructed long before the present system of public schools was introduced. It was to the instructions of his noble mother that James Marquette was indebted for his elevated Christian character, and for his self-sacrificing devotion to the interests of humanity, which have given his name celebrity through a large portion of the Christian world.

At the age of seventeen this noble young man, resisting all the brilliant allurements the world opened to one of his wealth and rank, consecrated himself to the service of religion by entering the ministry in the Catholic Church, in which he was born and educated, and by whose influences he was exclusively surrounded.

Two years were devoted to intense study. Then, for twelve years, he was employed in teaching and in many laborious and self-denying duties. As was natural, with a young man of his ardent nature and glowing spirit of enterprise, he was very desirous of conveying the glad tidings of the Gospel to those distant nations who had never even heard of the name of Jesus.

Canada and its savage tribes were then attracting much attention in France. Wonderful stories were told of the St. Lawrence River, and of the series of majestic lakes, spreading far away into the unknown interior, and whose shores were crowded with Indian tribes of strange aspect, language, and customs.

In the year 1666, Marquette set sail from France, On the 20th of September, he landed, on the banks of the St. Lawrence, at a little hamlet of French log-cabins and Indian wigwams, called Quebec. He was then but twenty-nine years of age. There was, at that time, another missionary, M. Allouez, on an exploring tour far away upon the majestic lakes of the interior. With adventurous footsteps he was traversing prairie solitudes and forest glooms, upon which no eye of civilized man had ever yet looked. His birch canoe, paddled by Indian guides, glided over solitary waters hundreds of leagues beyond the remotest frontier stations.

There was quite an important trading-post at the mouth of Saguenay River. This was a remarkable stream, which entered the St. Lawrence about one hundred and twenty miles below Quebec. It came rushing down, from unknown regions of the north, with very rapid flood, entering the St. Lawrence at a point where that majestic river was eleven miles in width.

Here the French government had established one of the most important commercial and religious stations of that day. At certain seasons of the year it presented an extraordinary wild and picturesque aspect of busy life. There were countless Indian tribes, clustered in villages along the banks of the St. Lawrence, the Saguenay, and their tributary streams. In the early summer, the Indians came by hundreds, in fleets of canoes—men, women and children—to this great mart of traffic. They came in their gayest attire, reared their wigwams on the plain, kindled their fires, and engaged in all the barbaric sports of Indian gala days. The scene presented was so full of life and beauty, that the most skilful artist might despair of his ability to transfer it to the canvas.

Father Marquette took his station at this point. Here for twelve years he patiently labored, trying to teach the Indians the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Full of enthusiasm, and naturally endowed with a very enterprising spirit, his heart glowed with zeal as he listened to the narrative of Father Allouez, of populous tribes, far away on the majestic shores of Huron, Michigan, Superior. These tribes had never heard of the mission of the Son of God, to save a lost world. They had but very faint conceptions of the Heavenly Father. Marquette could not resist the impulse to carry the Gospel to these realms of darkness.

It is difficult for us now to form any adequate conception of the little hamlet, at the mouth of the Saguenay, where Marquette commenced his missionary labors. The log-cabins of the French, their store-house, and, most prominent of all, the cross-surmounted log chapel, were clustered together. At a little distance, on the plain, were hundreds of Indian wigwams. Bark canoes, light as bubbles, were seen gliding over the still waters, which were there expanded into a beautiful bay. The glooms of the gigantic forest, spreading back to unexplored and unimagined depth, added to the sublimity of the scene.

There seemed to be no apprehension of hostility on either side. The intercourse between the two parties of civilized and uncivilized men was truly fraternal. The French conformed, as far as possible, to the modes of life of the Indians. They shared in their games, married the daughters of their chiefs, and in all points endeavored to identify the interests of the natives with their own.

M. Marquette had a remarkable facility in the acquisition of languages. There was a general resemblance in the language of all the tribes on the St. Lawrence. He could very soon speak fluently with all. Taking Indian guides with him, he commenced tours in various directions, paddled by Indians in the birch bark canoe. He visited tribe after tribe, met the chiefs at their council fires, slept in the wigwams, administered medicines to the sick, and, with zeal which no discouragement could chill, endeavored to point the living and the dying to that Saviour who taketh away the sins of the world.

After spending two years in these labors, he obtained an appointment to connect himself with a mission established nearly a thousand miles west, far away upon the shores of Lake Superior. On the 21st of April, 1668, he left Quebec for Montreal. The distance was one hundred and eighty miles up the river. The voyage was made in a birch canoe, with three boatmen to aid him in paddling it against the stream. They could proceed about thirty miles a day. The voyage occupied about a week. There were Indian villages on the banks where they occasionally slept. At other times they encamped in the forest, the night wind lulling them to sleep, as it sighed through the leafless branches, which the returning sun of spring had scarcely yet caused to bud.

At Montreal there was a little cluster of cabins and wigwams, presenting a very different aspect from the stately city which now adorns that site. After a short tarry there, waiting for a suitable guide, to traverse more than a thousand miles of almost pathless wilderness, a party of Nez-Percé Indians, from Lake Superior, came down the river in their canoes. With them Marquette embarked. It was a wonderful voyage which this gentleman, from the refinement and culture of France, made alone with these savages.

They paddled up the Ottawa River a distance of nearly four hundred miles. Thence through a series of narrow streams and minor lakes, they entered Lake Nipissing. Descending the rapid flood of French River, through cheerless solitudes eighty miles in extent, they entered Georgian Bay. Crossing this vast sheet of water over an expanse of fifty miles, they saw the apparently boundless waves of Lake Huron opening before them. The northern shores of this inland sea they skirted, until they reached the river St. Mary, which connects Lake Superior with Lake Huron. Here two missionary stations were established.

One was near the entrance of the river into Lake Huron, about forty miles below the celebrated Falls of St. Mary. The other was at Green Bay, an immense lake in itself, jutting out from the northwestern extremity of Lake Michigan. Father Marquette reared his log-cabin in the vicinity of a small Indian village, on the main land, just south of the island of Mackinaw. He named the station St. Ignatius. In this vast solitude this heroic man commenced his labors of love. There were about two thousand souls in the tribes immediately around him. With great docility they listened to his teachings, and were eager to be baptized as Christians. But the judicious father was in no haste thus to secure merely their nominal conversion. The dying, upon professions of penitence, he was ever ready to baptize, and to administer to them the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. With the rest he labored to root out all the remnants of their degrading superstitions, and to give them correct ideas of salvation through repentance, amendment, and trust in an atoning Saviour.

Gradually Marquette gathered around him a little band of loving disciples. For three years he labored with them cheerfully, joyously. His gentle and devoted spirit won, not merely the friendship of the Indians, but their ardent affections. He was just as safe among them as the most beloved father surrounded by his children. Three years this good man remained in these lonely wilds, peacefully and successfully teaching these benighted children of the forest. During all this time his mind had been much exercised with the thought of exploring the limitless and unknown regions south and west.

He had heard rumors of the Mississippi, the Father of Waters; and his devout mind peopled the vast realms through which it flowed with the lost children of God, whom he perhaps might reclaim, through the Gospel of Jesus, who had come from heaven for their redemption. The Governor of Canada was desirous, for more worldly reasons, of exploring these regions, where future empires might be reared.

Even the Indians knew but little respecting this great and distant river. There was much uncertainty whether it ran south, into the Gulf of Mexico, or west, emptying into the Gulf of California, which Spanish explorers had called the Red Sea, in consequence of its resemblance to that Asiatic sheet of water, or whether it turned easterly, entering the Atlantic Ocean somewhere near the Virginia coast.

In the spring of the year 1673, Governor Frontenac sent a French gentleman, M. Joliet, from Quebec, with five boatmen, to Point St. Ignatius, to take Father Marquette on board and set out to find and explore the downward course of this much talked of river. M. Joliet was admirably qualified for this responsible enterprise. He was a man of deep religious convictions, had spent several years among the Indians, was a very courteous man in all his intercourse with them, was thoroughly acquainted with their customs, and spoke several of their languages. As to courage, it was said that he absolutely feared nothing. The good father writes, in reference to his own appointment to this expedition:

"I was the more enraptured at this good news, as I saw my designs on the point of being accomplished, and myself in the happy necessity of exposing my life for the salvation of all these nations. Our joy at being chosen for this enterprise, sweetened the labor of paddling from morning till night. As we were going to seek unknown countries, we took all possible precautions, that if our enterprise were hazardous, it should not be foolhardy. For this reason we gathered all possible information from the Indians, who had frequented those parts. We even traced a map of all the new country, marking down the rivers on which we were to sail, the names of the nations through which we were to pass, and the course of the great river."

On the 13th of May, 1673, this little band, consisting of M. Joliet, Father Marquette, and five boatmen, in two birch canoes, commenced their adventurous voyage. They took with them some Indian corn and jerked meat; but they were to live mainly upon such food as they could obtain by the way. The immense sheet of water, at the northwestern extremity of Lake Michigan, called Green Bay, is one hundred miles long by twenty or thirty broad. The boatmen paddled their frail canoes along the western border of this lake until they reached its southern extremity, where they found a shallow river, flowing into it from the south, which they called Fox River. They could propel their canoes about thirty miles a day. Each night they selected some propitious spot for their encampment. Upon some dry and grassy mound they could speedily, with their axes, construct a hut which would protect them from the weather. Carefully smoothing down the floor, they spread over it their ample couch of furs. Fish could be taken in abundance. The forest was filled with game. An immense fire, blazing before the open side of the hut, gave warmth, and illumined the sublime scene with almost the brilliance of noon-day. There they joyously cooked their suppers, with appetites which rendered the feast more luxurious to them probably than any gourmand at Delmonico's ever enjoyed.

Each night Father Marquette held a religious service, which all reverently attended. Prayers were offered, and their hymns of Christian devotion floated sweetly through those sublime solitudes. The boatmen were men of a gentle race, who had been taught from infancy to revere the exercises of the church.

They came upon several Indian villages. But the natives were as friendly as brothers. Many of them had visited the station at St. Ignatius, and all of them had heard of Father Marquette and his labors of love. These children of the forest begged their revered friend to desist from his enterprise.

"There are," they said, "on the great river, bad Indians who will cut off your heads without any cause. There are fierce warriors who will try to seize you and make you slaves. There are enormous birds there, whose wings darken the air, and who can swallow you all, with your canoes, at a mouthful. And worst of all, there is a malignant demon there who, if you escape all other dangers, will cause the waters to boil and whirl around you and devour you."

To all this, the good Marquette replied, "I thank you, dear friends, for your kind advice, but I cannot follow it. There are souls there, to save whom, the Son of God came to earth and died. Their salvation is at stake. I would joyfully lay down my life if I could guide them to the Saviour."

They found the navigation of Fox River impeded with many rapids. To surmount these it was necessary often to alight from their canoes, and, wading over the rough and sharp stones, to drag them up against the swift current. They were within the limits of the present State of Wisconsin, and found themselves in a region of lakes, sluggish streams, and marshes. But there were Indian trails, which had been trodden for uncounted generations, leading west. These they followed, often painfully carrying their canoes and their burdens on their shoulders, for many miles, from water to water, over what the Indians called the Carrying Places.

At length they entered a region of remarkable luxuriance, fertility, and beauty. There were crystal streams and charming lakes. Magnificent forests were interspersed with broad and green prairies. God seemed to have formed, in these remote realms, an Eden of surpassing loveliness for the abode of his children. Three tribes, in perfect harmony, occupied the region—the Miamis, Mascoutins, and Kickapoos. There was a large village with abundant corn-fields around. River and lake, forest and prairie were alike alive with game.

To their surprise they found that the French missionary, Father Allouez, had reached this distant spot, preaching the Gospel, eight years before. The Indians had received him with fraternal kindness. He had left in the centre of the village a cross, the emblem of the crucified Son of God.

"I found," Marquette writes, "that these good people had hung skins and belts and bows and arrows on the cross, an offering to the Great Spirit, to thank him because he had taken pity on them during the winter and had given them an abundant chase."

No white man had ever penetrated beyond this region. These simple, inoffensive people seemed greatly surprised that seven unarmed men should venture to press on to meet the unknown dangers of the wilderness beyond—wilds which their imaginations had peopled with all conceivable terrors.

On the 10th of June these heroic men resumed their journey. The kind Indians furnished them with two guides to lead them through the intricacies of the forest to a river, about ten miles distant, which they called Wisconsin, and which they said flowed westward into the Father of Waters. They soon reached this stream. The Indians helped them to carry their canoes and effects across the portage. "We were then left," writes Marquette, "alone in that unknown country, in the hand of God."

Our voyagers found the stream hard to navigate. It was full of sand-bars and shallows. There were many islands covered with the richest verdure. At times they came upon landscapes of enchanting beauty, with lawns and parks and lakes, as if arranged by the most careful hands of art.

After descending this stream about one hundred and twenty miles, they reached the mouth of the Wisconsin River, and saw the flood of the Mississippi rolling majestically before them. It was the 17th of June 1673, Father Marquette writes that, upon beholding the river, he experienced a joy which he could not express.

Easily they could be swept down by the rapid current into the sublime unexplored solitudes below. But to paddle back against the swift-rolling tide would try the muscles of the hardiest men. Still the voyagers pressed on. It was indeed a fairy scene which now opened before them. Here bold bluffs hundreds of feet high, jutted into the river. Here were crags of stupendous size and of every variety of form, often reminding one of Europe's most picturesque stream, where

"The castled crags of Drachenfels,

Frown o'er the wide and winding Rhine."

Again the prairie would spread out its ocean-like expanse, embellished with groves, garlanded with flowers of gorgeous colors waving in the summer breeze, checkered with sunshine and the shade of passing clouds, with roving herds of the stately buffalo and the graceful antelope. And again the gloomy forest would appear, extending over countless leagues, where bears, wolves, and panthers found a congenial home.

Having descended the river nearly two hundred miles they came to an Indian trail, leading back into the country. It was so well trodden as to give evidence that a powerful tribe was near. It speaks well for the Indians—for the reputation which they then enjoyed—that Marquette, with his French companion, M. Joliet, far away in the wilderness, seven hundred miles from any spot which a white man's foot had ever before trod, should not have hesitated alone to enter this trail in search of the habitations of this unknown tribe. They left all their companions, with the canoes, on the bank of the river.

"We cautioned them," writes Father Marquette, "strictly to beware of a surprise. Then M. Joliet and I undertook this rather hazardous discovery, for two single men, who thus put themselves at the discretion of an unknown and barbarous people."

These two bold adventurers followed the trail in silence for about six miles. They then saw, not far from them, upon a meadow on the banks of a small stream, a very picturesque group of wigwams, with all the accompaniments of loafing warriors, busy women, sporting children, and wolfish dogs, usually to be found in an Indian village. At the distance of about a mile and a half, upon a gentle eminence, there was another village of about equal size.

As the Indians had not yet caught sight of them, they fell upon their knees, and Father Marquette, in fervent prayer, commended themselves to God. They then gave a loud shout, to attract the attention of the Indians, and stepped out into open view. The whole community was instantly thrown into commotion, rushing from the wigwams, and gathering in apparently an anxious group.

After a brief conference they seemed to come to the conclusion that two unarmed men could not thus approach them, announcing their coming, with any hostile intent. Four of their aged men were deputed to go forward and greet the strangers. They advanced with much dignity, not uttering a word, but waving, in their hands, the pipes of peace. As it afterwards appeared, they had often heard of the arrival of the French in Canada, of the wonderful articles which they brought for traffic, and of the missionaries, with their long black gowns. The name of Blackgowns was the one with which, in all the tribes, they designated these preachers of the Gospel. When they had come within a few paces of the strangers, they regarded them attentively and waited to be addressed. Both M. Joliet and Father Marquette understood that these ceremonies indicated friendship. Father Marquette broke the silence by inquiring

"To what nation do you belong?"

"We are Illinois," one of them replied, "and in token of peace we have brought you our pipes to smoke. We invite you to our village, where all are awaiting you with impatience."

The Frenchman and the four Indians walked together to the village. At the door of one of the largest wigwams, one of the ancients stood to receive them. According to their custom, on such occasions, he was entirely unclothed. This probably was the savage mode of indicating that there were no concealed weapons about the person. This man, with his hands raised toward the sun, which was shining brightly, said:

"How beautiful is the sun, O Frenchmen! when you come to visit us. All our people welcome you, and you shall enter all our cabins in peace."

He then led them into the wigwam. A large concourse remained outside in respectful silence. Only the principal men entered the wigwam. Mats were provided, for the guests, in the centre. The rest took seats around. The calumet of peace was passed. All in turn partook of the smoke of the weed which both the civilized and uncivilized man have prized so highly.

While thus employed, a messenger came in from the head chief, who resided in the village on the eminence to which we have alluded. He brought a message from the chief, inviting the strangers to his residence.

"We went with a good will," writes M. Marquette. "The people, who had never before seen a white man, could never tire looking at us. They threw themselves upon the grass, by the way-side, to watch as we passed. They ran ahead, and then turned and walked slowly back to examine us. All this was done without noise and in the most respectful manner."

The chief was standing, with two venerable men, at the door of his residence. The three were entirely destitute of clothing. Each one held the calumet of peace in his hand. The guests were received with smiles and a few cordial words of welcome. Together they all entered the spacious wigwam. It was very comfortable and even cheerful in its aspect, being carpeted, and its sides were lined with mats ingeniously woven from rushes. The Frenchmen, as before, were placed upon central mats, while all the dignitaries of the village silently entered and took their seats around.

The chief rose, and in a few very appropriate words bade the strangers welcome to his country. Again the pipe of peace was presented to them and passed the rounds. M. Marquette, who, as we have said, was quite at home in all matters of Indian etiquette, then arose, and addressing the chief, said:

"We have come as friends to visit the nations on this side of the great river." In token of the truth of these words, he made the chief a handsome present. He then added, "God, the Father of us all, has had pity on you, though you have long been ignorant of Him. He wishes to become known to all nations, and has sent me to communicate His will to you, and wishes you to acknowledge and obey Him." Another present was handed the chief. He then continued, "My king, the great chief of the French, wishes that peace should reign everywhere; that there should be no more wars. The Iroquois, who have been the enemies of the Illinois, he has subdued." Another present was given, in confirmation of the truth of these words. In conclusion of this brief yet comprehensive speech, he remarked, "And now I have only to say that we entreat you to give us all the information, in your power, of the sea into which the great river runs, and of the nations through whom we must pass on our way to reach it."

The chief rose, and addressing Father Marquette, said, "I thank thee, Blackgown, and thee also," bowing to M. Joliet, "for taking so much pains to come and visit us. Never has the earth been so beautiful to us, and never has the sun shone so brightly upon us as to-day. Never has our river been so calm or so free from rocks. Your canoes have swept them away. Never has our tobacco had so fine a flavor, or our corn been so luxuriant as we behold it to-day, now that you are with us."

Then, turning to a little Indian captive boy, at his side, whom they had taken from some hostile tribe, and had adopted into the family of the chief, he added:

"Here is my son. I give him to you that you may know my heart. I implore you to take pity upon me, and upon all my nation. Thou knowest the Great Spirit who has made us all. Thou speakest to Him and hearest His word. Ask Him to give me life and health, and to come and dwell with us, that we may know Him."

He then led the little captive to the side of M. Marquette. This was in return for the first present. Holding in his hand a calumet very highly carved and ornamented with feathers, he presented it to the father, saying:

"This is the sacred calumet. It signifies that, wherever you bear it, you are the messengers of peace. All our tribes will respect it, and will protect you from every harm."

The bowl of the pipe was of some highly polished red stone. The stem, elaborately decorated, was of a reed about two feet long. "By this present," said he, "we wish to show our esteem for your chief, whom we must all revere after the account you have given us of him." The third and fourth presents consisted, so far as we can judge from the rather obscure narrative, of two thick mats, one for each of the guests, to serve them for beds on their voyage. At the same time the chief said:

"I beg of you, in behalf of the whole nation, not to go any farther down the river. Your lives will be in the greatest peril.

"I replied," Father Marquette writes, "that I did not fear death, and that I esteemed no happiness greater than that of losing my life for the glory of God, who made us all. But this, these poor people could not understand."

The council now broke up, and a great feast was given. It consisted of four courses. The first much resembled what is called in New England hasty pudding. It consisted of Indian meal, and corn pounded fine, and boiled in an earthen pot, and was eaten with melted fat. The master of ceremonies took some on a wooden plate, and with a horn spoon, quite neatly made, fed the two Frenchmen as a mother feeds a child.

The second course consisted of three boiled fishes. Carefully the bones were removed, and the Indian who served them placed the food in the mouths of their guests as before. He blew upon it, to be sure that it was sufficiently cool. For the third course there was brought forward a large baked dog. This was considered a great delicacy, and was deemed the highest compliment which could be shown to a guest. But the prejudices of the Frenchmen were such that they could not eat dog, and this dish was removed. The fourth course consisted of fat and tender cuts of buffalo meat. This also was placed in their mouths as parents feed a child.

There were three hundred wigwams in the village. After the feast the guests were led into each one of them, and introduced to the inmates. As they walked through the streets a large crowd accompanied them. Some men, officiating as a kind of police, were continually haranguing the throng, urging the people not to press too close, and not to be troublesome. Many presents were made them of belts and scarfs woven from hair and fur, and other small articles of Indian manufacture, brilliantly colored and richly embroidered with shells. They had also knee-bands and wrist-bands which were quite ornamental.

That night the guests slept in the wigwam of the chief. The next morning they took leave of their generous entertainers. The chief himself accompanied them to their canoes, followed by a retinue of nearly six hundred persons.

We cannot record this friendly reception without emotion. How beautiful is peace! How different would the history of this world have been but for man's inhumanity to man!