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Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet

Early June, 1673: Up the Fox River

Editor's Note:

Marquette's trip across or around rapids at the modern towns of DePere, Kaukauna, Little Chute, Kimberly, and Appleton, would have taken several days. The two canoes had to travel against the current while at the same time the Fox rose more than 150 feet in elevation up the various rapids. Other early accounts reveal that this required much hard labor and frequent disembarking to hike around the obstacles.

Beyond Appleton Marquette, Joliet, and their 5 voyageurs would have entered Lake Winnebago at modern Neenah-Menasha, presumably with a sense of relief, and skirted its quiet western shore to present-day Oshkosh. After turning briefly into Lake Butte des Morts, they would have finally entered the quieter stretches of the upper Fox, passing through the site of modern Omro before reaching the large Indian town near present-day Berlin, Wis. We will have more to say about this community - - probably the largest settlement anywhere in Wisconsin in the later 17th century -- in next week's entries.

The spring to which Marquette refers was near the modern town of Berlin, in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. It is described in Wisconsin Historical Society Proceedings, 1906, p. 168. The plant whose use Marquette depicts so vividly has not been identified.

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Marquette's Journal: "We left this bay to enter the river that discharges into it; it is very beautiful at its mouth, and flows gently; it is full of bustards [Canada geese], ducks, teal, and other birds, attracted thither by the wild oats, of which they are very fond. But, after ascending the river a short distance, it becomes very difficult of passage, on account of both the currents and the sharp rocks, which cut the canoes and the feet of those who are obliged to drag them, especially when the waters are low. Nevertheless, we successfully passed those rapids; and on approaching Machkoutens, the Fire Nation, I had the curiosity to drink the mineral waters of the river that is not far from that village.

"I also took time to look for a medicinal plant which a savage, who knows its secret, showed to Father Allouez with many ceremonies. Its root is employed to counteract snake-bites, God having been pleased to give this antidote against a poison which is very common in these countries. It is very pungent, and tastes like powder when crushed with the teeth; it must be masticated and placed upon the bite inflicted by the snake. The reptile has so great a horror of it that it even flees from a person who has rubbed himself with it. The plant bears several stalks, a foot high, with rather long leaves; and a white flower, which greatly resembles the wallflower. I put some in my canoe, in order to examine it at leisure while we continued to advance toward Maskoutens, where we arrived on the 7th of June."

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