By: Russell M. Magnaghi
Jacques Marquette, S.J. (1637-1675) was a French Jesuit priest who is known for his missionary work in the Great Lakes country and as co-discoverer of the Mississippi River with Louis Jolliet in 1673. His life and work have been commemorated by the naming of communities, counties, townships, parks and locations in the United States along with a number of state markers and statues.
The state of Michigan has the largest number of places named after Marquette. The village was begun in 1849 and named after the community of Worcester, Massachusetts. The name was changed on August 21, 1859 to Marquette. Within the city of Marquette a street, a large statue, a state historic marker, and the central Catholic school honor the community's namesake. The name of the county, a civil township and the designation of one of three iron ranges in the Upper Peninsula also commemorate the explorer. The Catholic diocese is also named after the Jesuit.
In 1924 Marquette State Park, occupying 139 densely wooded acres approximately three miles west of the city was established by the State of Michigan. The site which was devoted to camping and picnicking was located on a ridge between the Dead River and the Carp River valleys and was one of the few state parks in Michigan without water frontage. It continued as a state park until 1942 when the state was forced to sell it to a local family.
In the eastern Upper Peninsula there are other sites commemorating Father Marquette. In Lake Huron, south of Hessel-Cedarville is the resort island of Marquette. In the 1930s the Les Cheneaux Club had a spacious summer clubhouse on the northern tip of the island. The Federal government established Marquette National Forest along with the Hiawatha and Ottawa in 1931. It eventually covered over 500,000 acres and stretched from Lakes Superior to Michigan. This tract of land was eventually incorporated into the eastern section of the enlarged Hiawatha National Forest. In the city of St. Ignace, the site of the mission of the same name which was established by Marquette and from which Marquette and Jolliet left on their voyage of discovery, there are a number of sites commemorating this intrepid missionary. Marquette's alleged grave site is marked with a city park, state marker, statue and museum. In the 1970s Congress established the Father Marquette National Memorial which is located just west of St. Ignace overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. At the site there is a marker and elaborate museum where the story of Marquette is presented to the public. Across the Straits of Mackinac on the island of the same name is a statue of Marquette, like the one in Marquette, a copy of the statue representing Wisconsin in Statuary Hall in the national Capitol. In he early 20th century a truck carried the "Marquette" was produced in Menominee.
In southern Michigan he was commemorated as well. There is the Pere Marquette River which empties into Lake Michigan at Ludington, one of a number of cities which claim to be his original burial site. At one time there was the Pere Marquette Railroad which served the Lower Peninsula.
At one time there was a Michigan railroad - the Pere Marquette - named after him along with a truck produced in the early 20th century in Menominee.
Outside of Michigan there name of Marquette appears at a variety of locations. Marquette, Nebraska is a rural village located in Hamilton County, some twenty miles northeast of Grand Island or thirteen miles north of Intertstate 80 on Nebraska 14. The post office was originally called Avon, but on December 2, 1881 its name was changed to Marquette. However in this case it was not named after Jacques Marquette, S.J., but after Thomas M. Marquette of Lincoln, Nebraska. He was general attorney for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. The town was platted by the Lincoln Land Company in 1882. It reached its peak population of 308.
Two communities named Marquette were founded by former residents of Marquette and named for their home town. In the state of Kansas there is another community named Marquette. This Marquette is a little hamlet in the northwestern part of McPherson County on the Smoky River. It was surveyed in March 1874. H.S. Bacon, a director of the Town Company at the time and one of the town founders named it after his home town of Marquette, Michigan. By 1883 the settlement consisted of a post office, seven stores, a blacksmith shop, mill and a hotel. In the late 20th century its population remained static at 621. In southern California during the railroad boom days of the 1880s the planned community of Marquette was established northeast of Ontario by a Mr. Ferguson. The Hotel Marquette was constructed, vineyards and orange groves were planted and people began to settle the site. Unfortunately a number of years drought destroyed the small orange trees and the vineyards were eaten by jackrabbits. Ferguson moved to Los Angeles in 1890 and the other settlers migrated to nearby Ontario which subsequently incorporated the site.
In Iowa there is a Marquette in Clayton County, opposite the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers (Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin) where the French Jesuit first entered the Father of Waters. Originally it was called North McGregor when the post office was established in February 1866 and it was incorporated as a town in May 1874. This Iowa railroad town was renamed Marquette on June 5, 1920.
In Illinois there is the community of Marquette Heights located in the Peoria area. Near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, in Jersey County five miles west of Grafton is the Pere Marquette State Park. A large white cross, east of the park entrance alongside Route 100 commemorates the site where the explorers landed. The park was first established in 1932 and in 1967 when an adjacent conservation area was added it grew to 6,064 acres, making it the largest park in Illinois. The State of Wisconsin has honored Marquette in a variety of ways. In the national Capitol a statue of Marquette memorialized his work in the state. In southern Wisconsin, west of Fond du Lac, there is Marquette County. The village of Marquette and the civil township of Marquette are located in Green Lake County, immediately to the east of Marquette County. It is said that Marquette and Jolliet spent several days in a village of the Mascouten Indians where Marquette now stands. Luther Gleason, a settler from Vermont, established a trading post there in 1829. In the city of Milwaukee there are a number of parks and streets named after him as well. Marquette University, which was chartered by the Jesuits in 1864, opened in 1881 and became a university in 1907, is located in downtown Milwaukee.
This study has tried to summarize how Father Marquette has been memorialized in the United States. There are many other sites, streets and buildings named after the French Jesuit. If you can identify them, please write to the author through the Society so that we can compile a complete list of these citations.