On May 17, 1673, Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, fur trader Louis Jolliet and five voyageurs leave the recently established Indian mission at St. Ignace to explore a great river known by the Indians as the “Messissipi.”
The French had been exploring the Great Lakes since Etienne Brulé reached the St. Marys River around 1620.
In two canoes, Marquette’s party traveled along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, entered Green Bay and then crossed present-day Wisconsin. The explorers paddled down the Mississippi but, by mid-July, they realized that the river was not the long-sought passageway across North America to China.
Marquette died in 1675, but the French continued to explore the Great Lakes, ship furs to Europe and Christianize the Indians. In 1679, Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle directed the construction of the Griffin—the first sailing vessel on the upper Great Lakes. That same year, la Salle built Fort Miami at present-day St. Joseph—the first non-Indian community in the Lower peninsula.
May 17, 1673 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Bill Federer, “What ‘horrible monsters’ did this missionary face?, WND, December 3, 2015.
Ericka Janik, “Remembering The Mississippi Voyage Of Marquette And Joliet“, Wisconsin Public Radio, May 16, 2016.