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Term: Jolliet, Louis 1645 - 1700

Definition:

(Note: birth date given in original as "ca. Sept. 21, 1645"; death date given as "Summer, 1700".) trader, explorer, cartographer, b. Beauport, near Quebec, Canada. He was educated at the Jesuit college, Quebec, received minor orders in 1662, but later decided not to enter the priesthood. In 1669, in partnership with his brother Adrian and others, he left Montreal for a trading expedition to Sault Ste. Marie where he remained until 1671.

Returning to Quebec, in 1672 Jolliet was appointed by the Intendant of New France to seek a route to the Pacific by way of the Mississippi River. The trip was sanctioned by Governor Frontenac, who granted the privilege of fur trade rights to defray the expenses of the exploration. In Dec., 1672, Jolliet arrived at St. Ignatius mission (St. Ignace, Mich.) with an appointment for Father Marquette to accompany him.

On May 17, 1673, with the Jesuit priest and five Frenchmen, he left the mission and by way of Green Bay and the Fox and Wisconsin rivers entered the Mississippi on June 17. The party followed the river southward to about the present site of Arkansas City, Ark., where they turned back on July 17, convinced that the great river led to the Gulf of Mexico. Returning by way of the Illinois River, Jolliet recognized the possibility of a canal from the Des Plaines to the Chicago River.

The most important original documents related to the 1673 Marquette/Jolliet expedition are given at Turning Points in Wisconsin History (www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints).

Again in Quebec, 1674, he sent a map drawn from memory and a report announcing his discovery to Colbert. In 1677 his petition to found a settlement in the Illinois country was denied by Louis XIV, and thereafter he devoted himself to opening fisheries and the fur trade along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He acquired Mingan Islands in 1679, and in 1680 received the fief of Anticosti Island as a reward for his various discoveries.

In 1694 he explored the coast of Labrador, and in the winter of 1695-1696, as pilot of the ship "Clarente," returned to France where he received an appointment as royal hydrographer, an office that he held until his death. No record has been found of the cause of his death or place of burial. Jolliet had six children: two sons who left descendants (Jean-Baptiste and Charles),  two sons who did not (Louis and Francois), and two daughters (Marie-Genevieve and Claire).  He also had two brothers (Adrien and Zacharie) who left descendants. Rene Jette's ¿Dictionnaire genealogique des familles du Quebec¿ (Les Presses de l¿Universite de Montreal, 1983), pp. 603-604, traces the family from its arrival in French Canada until 1730.

For a discussion of the spelling of his names, see Joliet

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

View an account of Joliet and Marquette's discovery of the upper Mississippi at Wisconsin Historical Collections. 

[Source: Dict. Amer. Biog.; E. Gagnon, L. Jolliet (Quebec, 1902); J. Delanglez, Life and Voyages of L. Jolliet (Chicago, 1948); N. Amer. French Regime [on file in Archives, Marquette Univ.]. ]
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