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Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet

September 13, 1673: Chicago

Editor's Note:

Marquette and Joliet reached the site of downtown Chicago about Sept. 13, 1673, but left no description of it. Joliet summarized the entire area in his interview with Fr. Dablon, who made the notes at left, the earliest description of the vicinity that would later become Chicago and its suburbs.


Marquette and Joliet had been guided to Lake Michigan by "one of the chiefs of this nation, with his young men." Fr. Allouez gives a vivid description how welcoming the Illinois tribes were to the Jesuits.


Over the next two or three weeks Marquette and Joliet would have to paddle the western shore of the lake from Chicago to Green Bay, no small feat in the early autumn winds. In subsequent journal entries they exchange calm prairies and shaded forests for rolling whitecaps and towering bluffs.


The manuscript of Dablon's interview with Joliet is given here, in our Turning Points in Wisconsin History collection; click "Page & Text" to see a typed English translation. Allouez's description is from the Jesuit Relations, vol. 60, pp. 155-157; an English translation of the entire series has been put online by Creighton University.


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Dablon's Interview with Joliet: �The place at which we entered the lake is a harbor, very convenient for receiving vessels and sheltering them from the wind. The river is wide and deep, abounding in catfish and sturgeon. Game is abundant there; oxen, cows, stags, does, and Turkeys are found there in greater numbers than elsewhere."


Less than three years after this interview, in April of 1677, Fr. Claude Allouez travelled toward the Illinois village in modern LaSalle County and described Chicago and its surroundings this way:

Allouez's Account: "After voyaging 76 leagues over the lake of Saint Joseph [Lake Michigan], we at length entered the river which leads to the Illinois. I met there 80 savages of the country, by whom I was welcomed in a very hospitable manner. The Captain came about 30 steps to meet me, carrying in one hand a firebrand and in the other a Calumet adorned with feathers. Approaching me, he placed it in my mouth and himself lighted the tobacco, which obliged me to make pretense of smoking it. Then he made me come into his Cabin, and having given me the place of honor, he spoke to me as follows: �My Father, have pity on me; suffer me to return with thee, to bear thee company and take thee into my village. The meeting I have had to-day with thee will prove fatal to me if I do not use it to my advantage. Thou bearest to us the gospel and the prayer. If I lose the opportunity of listening to thee, I shall be punished by the loss of my nephews, whom thou seest in so great number; without doubt, they will be defeated by our enemies. Let us embark, then, in Company, that I may profit by thy coming into our land.� That said, he set out at the same time as ourselves, and shortly after we arrived at his abode."

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