Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet



Jacques Marquette & Louis Jolliet


Numerous people from all around the world have achieved much. But they don’t take credit for their accomplishments, nor do we value their accomplishments. Even so, the people in our society are not conscious of noteworthy events in the American timeline that have affected our lives still over 100 years successive to the occurrence. These people go through so much to fulfill their dreams, they have dramatic lives but they take many risks to reach their goals. Most of these explorers existed in the 1400’s, 1500’s, or 1600’s. Of course, many have received the gratitude and the respect that they yearn for, however, those that existed in the olden days don’t take on a huge role in the making of our world today.  At first, when I had begun to research about Marquette and Jolliet, I asked ridiculous questions, questions but no answers. “How can 2 people go on a expedition and both find the Mississippi River?” or “Why did they even want to find a new settlement? Did they want fame as an result?” At first, I didn’t get the theme of doing this project, however, I then began to understand that these are the people that should claim themselves as the heroes of our world today. Of course, people like Shakespeare and Michelangelo should also take credit, but I believe that nevertheless, so should Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet. The story of Marquette and Jolliet is exceptionally magnificent and it illustrates their perseverance to reach their goal in the year of 1672.


Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France in 1637 and Louis Jolliet was born in Quebec City, New France in 1645. Both were from wealthy families and both men actually wanted to become priests. Influences that allowed Marquette to become an explorer are because Marquette wanted to find Indians who would accept his teachings about Jesus Christ since he was a Jesuit missionary. Marquette spent his first two years in North America and he performed missionary work among the Ottawa Native Americans near the St. Mary’s river, however, when he heard the AMAZING descriptions of a great river to the south, called the Mississippi, he wanted to go explore. Louis Jolliet is a Canadian-born fur trader. Although he originally wanted to become a priest, he gave up at the age of 22 and became a fur trader. Five years later, Jolliet was chosen by the leaders of New France to head an expedition to find the Mississippi river and discover its mouth. Many were not certain about where the river emptied, was it the Gulf of California? At that time, they had thought it was, but if certain, then the Mississippi would be the passage to the Pacific Ocean that the French had long been seeking. Also, along the way, he wanted to expand his fur trading.


Jacques Marquette only went on 1 voyage, however, as for Jolliet when he came back from the search of the Mississippi river, he actually made many more voyages. One was to the Hudson Bay to expand his fur trading and another one was to explore the coast of Labrador. They traveled to the Mississippi river for many reasons. Father Marquette was actually chosen to be the chaplain and missionary of the expedition. Their voyage at sea had been very hard; they starved at times, and faced rough conditions. First, they crossed Lake Michigan to Green Bay, canoed up the Fox River, crossed over to the Wisconsin River and followed that river downstream to the Mississippi. As they went further on along the river, they grew more and more convinced that it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, and not the Pacific. Yet they pushed on until almost the mouth of the Arkansas. Indians told them that the voyage was only going to take ten more days, but hostile Indians would be found along the way. They also noticed the presence of Spanish trade goods among the Indians. Not wanting to be captured by Indians or Spanish, they decided to turn back and went their own separate ways.


Marquette and Jolliet never really got to land. Their main aspiration was to sea. They also didn’t really interact much with others besides the occasional few stops along their way. It was said that their voyage didn’t take very long. Only 4 months. When they each went their own separate ways, Marquette went back to Illinois, intending to live among the Kaskaskians. However, he did not manage to reach the village that year, and had to stay in Chicago for a while. Even so, his health was deteriorating. He decided to return north, but died of dysentery. Marquette didn’t really receive fame and glory because he never got the chance to return home. However, even if his body wasn’t there to retrieve this award, many respected him and thought of him as a hero. The story of Louis Jolliet was not as quite as depressing. By the fall of 1674, Jolliet had become a prosperous Quebec fur trader. He got the respect he earned and obtained fame and glory. As an award, he received Anticosti Island. Louis Jolliet died in the 1700’s, getting lost on a trip to one of his land holdings.

Now, you might be thinking about what happened to the Mississippi river… Marquette and Jolliet never really discovered the river. Indians had been using it for thousands of years, and Spanish explorer Hernan De Soto had crossed it more than a century before them. They came extremely close to finding it, but Marquette and Jolliet were convinced that it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and not the Pacific, so they only pushed on until the mouth of Arkansas and then returned home. Both Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet had been able to life out their life and help not only France but also the making of the United States. Because of Marquette and Jolliet’s voyage, Robert La Salle was able to continue on with their course and took on where they left off. Without them, he would never have taken possession of the Mississippi and its surrounding lands of France. Also, if their voyage had not been successful, then France would not play such a big role in the development of the United States. So, as you can see, their voyage had been an extremely essential part in France and the U.S.



                                                                                1645-1700                                                  1637-1675

                                       Louis Jolliet                Jacques Marquette

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