Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Father Marquette's Journal of Discovery in the Saint Louis Region

The first Europeans to explore the Saint Louis area were members of an expedition (1673-1675), which included explorer Louis Joliet and Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette. Father Marquette's journal can be found in the vast online historical collection, The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610 to 1791 which is in 71 volumes and includes much early colonial history of the eastern United States and Canada.

In Volume 59 of the Jesuit Relations:
"...Father [Marquette] had long premeditated This Undertaking, influenced by a most ardent desire to extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to make him Known and adored by all the peoples of that country....

"The feast of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin — whom I have always Invoked since I have been in this country of the outaouacs, to obtain from God the grace of being able to visit the Nations who dwell along the Missisipi River — was precisely the Day on which Monsieur Jollyet arrived with orders from Monsieur the Count de frontenac, Our Governor, and Monsieur Talon, Our Intendant, to accomplish This discovery with me. I was all the more delighted at This good news, since I saw that my plans were about to be accomplished; and since I found myself in the blessed necessity of exposing my life for the salvation of all these peoples, and especially of the Ilinois, who had very urgently entreated me, when I was at the point of st. Esprit, to carry the word of God to Their country... Above all, I placed our voyage under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, promising her that, if she granted us the favor of discovering the great River, I would give it The Name of the Conception, and that I would also make the first Mission that I should establish among Those New peoples, bear the same name. This I have actually done, among the Ilinois."
By right of discovery, the proper name of the Mississippi River should be the Immaculate Conception River.

Fr. Marquette describes his journey to the Mississippi River, and eventually arrives
"at 42 and a half degrees Of latitude, We safely entered Missisipi on The 17th of June, with a Joy that I cannot Express."
Father describes geography and fauna of our River:
"Here we are, then, on this so renowned River, all of whose peculiar features I have endeavored to note carefully. The Missisipi River takes its rise in various lakes in the country of the Northern nations. It is narrow at the place where Miskous empties; its Current, which flows southward, is slow and gentle. To the right is a large Chain of very high Mountains, and to the left are beautiful lands; in various Places, the stream is Divided by Islands. On sounding, we found ten brasses of Water. Its Width is very unequal; sometimes it is three-quarters of a league, and sometimes it narrows to three arpents. We gently followed its Course, which runs toward the south and southeast, as far as the 42nd degree of Latitude. Here we plainly saw that its aspect was completely changed. There are hardly any woods or mountains; The Islands are more beautiful, and are Covered with finer trees. We saw only deer and cattle, bustards, and Swans without wings, because they drop Their plumage in This country. From time to time, we came upon monstrous fish, one of which struck our Canoe with such violence that I Thought that it was a great tree, about to break the Canoe to pieces. On another occasion, we saw on The water a monster with the head of a tiger, a sharp nose Like That of a wildcat, with whiskers and straight, Erect ears; The head ‘was gray and The Neck quite black; but We saw no more creatures of this sort. When we cast our nets into the water we caught Sturgeon, and a very extraordinary Kind of fish. It resembles the trout, with This difference, that its mouth is larger. Near its. nose — which is smaller, as are also the eyes — is a large Bone shaped Like a woman’s busk, three fingers wide and a Cubit Long, at the end of which is a disk as Wide As one’s hand. This frequently causes it to fall backward when it leaps out of the water. When we reached the parallel of 41 degrees 28 minutes, following The same direction, we found that Turkeys had taken the place of game; and the pisikious, or wild cattle, That of the other animals.

"We call them “wild cattle,” because they are very similar to our domestic cattle. They are not longer, but are nearly as large again, and more Corpulent. When Our people killed one, three persons had much difficulty in moving it. The head is very large; The forehead is flat, and a foot and a half Wide between the Horns, which are exactly like Those of our oxen, but black and much larger. Under the Neck They have a Sort of large dewlap, which hangs down; and on The back is a rather high hump. The whole of the head, The Neck, and a portion of the Shoulders, are Covered with a thick Mane Like That of horses; It forms a crest a foot long, which makes them hideous, and, falling over their eyes, Prevents them from seeing what is before Them. The remainder of the Body is covered with a heavy coat of curly hair, almost Like That of our sheep, but much stronger and Thicker. It falls off in Summer, and The skin becomes as soft As Velvet. At that season, the savages Use the hides for making fine Robes, which they paint in various Colors. The flesh and the fat of the pisikious are Excellent, and constitute the best dish at feasts. Moreover, they are very fierce; and not a year passes without their killing some savages. When attacked, they catch a man on their Horns, if they can, toss Him in the air, and then throw him on the ground, after which they trample him under foot, and kill him. If a person fire at Them from a distance, with either a bow or a gun, he must, immediately after the Shot, throw himself down and hide in the grass; For if they perceive Him who has fired, they Run at him, and attack him. As their legs are thick and rather Short, they do not run very fast, As a rule, except when angry. They are scattered about the prairie in herds; I have seen one of 400."
The expedition went as far as roughly the current Missouri northern border without seeing any villiages; at that point they found a town of the Illinois Nation which was made up of about 300 cabins. They were met with the utmost civility:
"How beautiful the sun is, O frenchman, when thou comest to visit us! All our village awaits thee, and thou shalt enter all our Cabins in peace," and were offered the calumet, or peace-pipe. After Joliet and Marquette described their mission, the Captain of the Illinois said "I thank thee, Black Gown, and thee, O frenchman,addressing himself to Monsieur Jollyet,"for having taken so much trouble to come to visit us. Never has the earth been so beautiful, or the sun so Bright, as to-day; Never has our river been so Calm, or so clear of rocks, which your canoes have Removed in passing: never has our tobacco tasted so good, or our corn appeared so fine, as We now see Them. Here is my son, whom I give thee to Show thee my Heart. I beg thee to have pity on me, and on all my Nation. It is thou who Knowest the great Spirit who has made us all. It is thou who speakest To Him, and who hearest his word. Beg Him to give me life and health, and to come and dwell with us in order to make us Know him."
The Illinois were gracious hosts, and provided a great feast, which included corn meal, fish, dog, and bison. Marquette noted that the Illinois were polygamous, and treated their wives very jealously. The women were modestly dressed, while the men were naked. The name "Illinois" just meant "the men", with other tribes being seen as little more than animals. They were involved in a slave trade. They lived off of hunting, which was very good (and is still very good), and they did not know famine. "They also sow beans and melons, which are Excellent, especially those that have red seeds," although Marquette did not like their squash, which was used for winter eating.

Marquette now comes close to what will be Saint Louis:
"We take leave of our Ilinois at the end of June, about three o’clock in the afternoon....

"We descend, following the current of the river called Pekitanoui, which discharges into the Mississipy, flowing from the Northwest. I shall have something important to say about it, when I shall have related all that I observed along this river."
Marquette's Pekitanouï is our Missouri River -- named after the Missouri tribe living along its banks.
"While passing near the rather high rocks that line the river, I noticed a simple which seemed to me very Extraordinary. The root is like small turnips fastened together by little filaments, which taste like carrots. From this root springs a leaf as wide As one’s hand, and half a finger thick, with spots. From the middle of this leaf spring other leaves, resembling the sconces used for candles in our halls; and each leaf bears Five or six yellow flowers shaped like little Bells.

"We found quantities of mulberries, as large as Those of france; and a small fruit which we at first took for olives, but which tasted like oranges; and another fruit as large As a hen’s egg. We cut it in halves, and two divisions appeared, in each of which 8 to 10 fruits were encased; these are shaped like almonds, and are very good when ripe. Nevertheless, The tree that bears them has a very bad odor, and its leaves resemble Those of the walnut-tree. In These prairies there is also a fruit similar to Hazelnuts, but more delicate; The leaves are very large, and grow from a stalk at the end of which is a head similar to That of a sunflower, in which all its Nuts are regularly arranged. These are very good, both Cooked and Raw."
I have a wild mulberry tree in my back yard. What are the other plants that Marquette describes? Perhaps the egg-size fruit is the Paw Paw.
"While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and Length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish’s tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in france would find it difficult to paint so well, — and, besides, they are so high up on the rock that it is difficult to reach that place Conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately The shape of these monsters, As we have faithfully Copied It."
This is the origin of the famous "Piasa Bird" of Alton, Illinois. The originals were destroyed sometime between 1812 and 1867. The painting had been redone a number of times, in various locations, in a style unlike Marquette's drawings. Also, the legend of the Piasa Bird was made up sometime in the 1830s. However, it is an interesting symbol of the Alton area.
"While conversing about these monsters, sailing quietly in clear and calm Water, we heard the noise of a rapid, into which we were about to run. I have seen nothing more dreadful. An accumulation of large and entire trees, branches, and floating islands, was issuing from The mouth of The river pekistanouï, with such impetuosity that we could not without great danger risk passing through it. So great was the agitation that the water was very muddy, and could not become clear."
The confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers is still violent and muddy. Marquette's rafts of floating logs were a constant source of danger to navigation on the Missouri River until the late 19th century, when the federal government started stabilizing the river banks and removing logs. The Mississippi River was calm and easily boatable north of the Missouri, even before the creation of the lock and dam system, while the stretch of river from the Missouri to the Ohio is the narrowest, fastest, and most dangerous stretch of the river.
"Pekitanouï is a river of Considerable size, coming from the Northwest, from a great Distance; and it discharges into the Missisipi. There are many Villages of savages along this river, and I hope by its means to discover the vermillion or California sea.

"Judging from The Direction of the course of the Missisipi’, if it Continue the same way, we think that it discharges into the mexican gulf. It would be a great advantage to find the river Leading to the southern sea, toward California; and, As I have said, this is what I hope to do by means of the Pekitanouï, according to the reports made to me by the savages. From them I have learned that, by ascending this river for 5 or 6 Days, one reaches a fine prairie, 20 or 30 Leagues Long. This must be crossed in a Northwesterly direction, and it terminates at another small river, — on which one may embark, for it is not very difficult to transport Canoes through so fine a country as that prairie. This 2nd River Flows toward The southwest for 10 or 15 Leagues, after which it enters a Lake, small and deep [the source of another deep river — substituted by Dablon], which flows toward the West, where it falls into The sea. I have hardly any doubt that it is The vermillion sea, and I do not despair of discovering It some day, if God grant me the grace and The health to do so, in order that I may preach The Gospel to all The peoples of this new world who have so Long Groveled in the darkness of infidelity."

"Let us resume our Route, after Escaping As best We could from the dangerous rapid Caused by The obstruction which I have mentioned."

"After proceeding about 20 Leagues", or 60 nautical miles, "straight to the south, and a little less to the southeast, we found ourselves at a river called ouaboukigou, The mouth of which is at the 36th degree of latitude. Before reaching it, we passed by a Place that is dreaded by the Savages, because they believe that a manitou is there, — that is to say, a demon, — that devours travelers; and The savages, who wished to divert us from our undertaking, warned us against it. This is the demon: there is a small cove, surrounded by rocks 20 feet high, into which The whole Current of the river rushes; and, being pushed back against the waters following It, and checked by an Island near by, the Current is Compelled to pass through a narrow Channel. This is not done without a violent Struggle between all these waters, which force one another back, or without a great din, which inspires terror in the savages, who fear everything."
This demonic area is most likely Tower Rock, located in the River in Perry County, the southernmost county in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. A ridge immediately across the river from Tower Rock is called "Devil's Backbone"; this is adjacent to the town of Grand Tower, Illinois. This area has some early Missouri Lutheran history also; the town of Wittenberg is a bit more than a mile north of the Rock.
"But this did not prevent us from passing, and arriving at Waboukigou. This river flows from the lands of the East, where dwell the people called Chaouanons in so great numbers that in one district there are as many as 23 villages, and 15 in another, quite near one another. They are not at all warlike, and are the nations whom the Iroquois go so far to seek, and war against without any reason: and, because these poor people cannot defend themselves, they allow themselves to be captured and taken Like flocks of sheep; and, innocent though they are, they nevertheless sometimes experience The barbarity of the Iroquois, who cruelly burn Them."
From the volume notes:
"Ouaboukigou (Ouabouskigou, on the maps of both Joliet and Marquette): corrupted by the French into Ouabache, and Anglicized as Wabash. By early writers and map-makers the name was applied to both the present Wabash river and the Ohio below their junction; it was also called by the French Rivière de St. Jéröme. By 1746, we see on D’Anville’s map of that date “Ohohio, ou la Belle Riv.,” applied to the entire course of the Ohio, and “Ouabache” to the Wabash, as now known; and Winsor cites (Mississippi Basin, p. 17) James Logan, of Pennsylvania, as making that discrimination as early as 1718."
The journal continues:
"A short distance above the river of which I have just spoken are cliffs, on which our frenchmen noticed an iron mine, which they consider very rich. There are several veins of ore, and a bed a foot thick, and one sees large masses of it united with Pebbles, A sticky earth is found there, of three different colors — purple, violet, and Red. The water in which the latter is washed assumes a bloody tinge. There is also very heavy, red sand. I placed some on a paddle, which was dyed with its color — so deeply that The water could not wash it away during the 15 days while I used it for paddling.

"Here we Began to see Canes, or large reeds, which grow on the bank of the river; their color is a very pleasing green; all the nodes are marked by a Crown of Long, narrow, and pointed leaves. They are very high, and grow so thickly that The wild cattle have some difficulty in forcing their way through them."
Bamboo is native to Missouri, although it is not quite as suitable for construction as are Asian varieties. Marquette offers us some good advice against a well-known flying creature:
"Hitherto, we had not suffered any inconvenience from mosquitoes; but we were entering into their home, as it were. This is what the savages of this quarter do to protect themselves against them. They erect a scaffolding, the floor of which consists only of poles, so that it is open to the air in order that the smoke of the fire made underneath may pass through, and drive away those little creatures, which cannot endure it; the savages lie down upon the poles, over which bark is spread to keep off rain. These scaffoldings also serve them as protection against The excessive and Unbearable heat of this country; for they lie in the shade, on the floor below, and thus protect themselves against the sun’s rays, enjoying the cool breeze that circulates freely through the scaffolding."
Marquette and Joliet went as far as southern Arkansas, and turned back to avoid being captured by the Spanish.
"After a month’s Navigation, while descending Missisipi from the 4znd to the 34th degree, and beyond, and after preaching the Gospel as well as I could to the Nations that I met, we start on the 17th of July from the village of the akensea, to retrace our steps. We therefore reascend the Missisipi which gives us much trouble in breasting its Currents. It is true that we leave it, at about the 38th degree, to enter another river, which greatly shortens our road, and takes us with but little effort to the lake of the Ilinois."
This is the Illinois River, which joins the Mississippi north of Saint Louis, above the Missouri River. At the confluence of these Rivers is Pere Marquette State Park, in Illinois. Note that père is French for father.
"We have seen nothing like this river that we enter, as regards its fertility of soil, its prairies and woods; its cattle, elk, deer, wildcats, bustards, swans, ducks, parroquets, and even beaver. There are many small lakes and rivers. That on which we sailed is wide, deep, and still, for 65 leagues. In the spring and during part of The summer there is only one portage of half a league. We found on it a village of Ilinois called Kaskasia, consisting of 74 Cabins. They received us very well, and obliged me to promise that I would return to instruct them. One of the chiefs of this nation, with his young men, escorted us to the Lake of the Ilinois, whence, at last, at The end of September, we reached the bay des puants, from which we had started at the beginning of June.

"Had this voyage resulted in the salvation of even one soul, I would consider all my troubles well rewarded, and I have reason to presume that such is the case. For, when I was returning, we passed through the Ilinois of Peouarea, and during three days I preached the faith in all their Cabins; after which, while we were embarking, a dying child was brought to me at The water’s edge, and I baptized it shortly before it died, through an admirable act of providence for the salvation of that Innocent soul."
Father Marquette died on his second missionary journey. He was much beloved by his converts, had a holy death, and ten years after he died, his body was found to be incorrupt.

NOTE: There are some claims that the de Soto expedition in 1540 went as far as Kaskaskia, Illinois, before crossing into modern-day Missouri. This is contested.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post. Great historical account. Bird's eye view of newcomers to the geography and native peoples. Our current school age students might glean something from it.