Into the Library

Beginning this project, I was excited to start working with Primary source documents. As someone who is not majoring in history it has not been something that I have been privileged enough to do until now. My first time going into the Loyola Archives I was nervous and scared that I would get there and be overwhelmed and not know how to start reading the sources in front of me. However, when I got there I quickly settled in and began to enjoy myself as I started to read. The first folder of documents that I went through was that of a Father Gilbert J. Garraghan, S.J who worked in the History department at Loyola and researched Marquette for many years. Within I found a collection of correspondences from a Mr. Arthur J. O’Dea, a lawyer from New Jersey who was very interested in making sure that there were adequate celebrations planned for the tercentenary of Marquette’s birth. As I started reading the first one I thought that it was a single letter written from him to Garraghan and it was not until many letters later that I realized how many there were inside.

When I was reading the first few I could not read his signature and so I did not know who was writing the letters that I was reading, I only knew he was interested in the memory of Father Marquette. His letters span almost a year leading up to the three hundredth anniversary of Marquette’s birth. As I was reading through them I was struck by how interested this single lawyer from New Jersey was with how Marquette was remembered. What drove him to send letters to the postmaster general of the United States attempting to get him to issue a stamp commemorating Marquette? I suppose these are the types of questions that historians are always asking.

With my topic focusing on the memory of Father Marquette the number of primary sources that are available are abundant. I read an article published by a Franciscan name Francis Borgia Steck who argued that Marquette should not be remembered for discovering the Mississippi in Wisconsin as he was just along as a priest and was not in charge of anything.

I cannot help but think that it is possible that Mr. O’Dea’s Catholicism (he wrote many of his letters on paper from a retreat house named after Loyola) played a part into his appreciation of Marquette. Father Steck was a Franciscan, and the Franciscans do not always get along with the Jesuits so that may be part of his bias as to writing in opposition to the main narrative that is told about Marquette.

I have a limitation in the fact that there are so many sources out there that reference Marquette that I almost do not know where to begin. I am traveling up to Marquette University in a few days to work in their archives and they have multiple boxes of articles written about Marquette that I will have to decide what I want to read as I only have so much time to read them. Though this is a good problem for me to have. I look forward to continuing my research and discovering more in the weeks to come.

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So it Begins!

My initial topic that I had planned on studying was the relationship between the Early French Jesuits and the fur trade in the Great Lakes Region during the seventeenth and into the 18th centuries. However, as I was progressing on my research I discovered that the connection was not an obvious one and it would require more time than I had available to me. As I searched for a new topic I was inspired by our visit to the archives at Marquette last semester. I found that there was a large folder with documents from Father Raphael Hamilton, a Jesuit who was the head of the History Department at Marquette from 1932-1956. One of the focuses of his research was on that of Marquette’s namesake Pere Jacques Marquette, a seventeenth century Jesuit who along with Louis Jolliet explored the great lakes region even coming to a place that is present day Chicago. What struck me was an article and collection of letters by a Father Joseph Short who believed that Fr. Marquette had never been ordained going against the entire shared memory of Marquette.

Marquette’s memory has a long history: his death site is a registered historic site in Michigan, there is a marker near Chicago that remembers where he wintered there in 1674-75, countless numbers of towns and parks are named after him, not to mention Marquette University. These memories portray a reverence to a man that explored much of the land in the Great Lakes, was a dedicated Jesuit, and a fervent missionary.

But, where did these memories come from?

What inspired the state of Wisconsin to donate a statue of Marquette to the United States Capital in 1896?

Why are there so many towns named after Marquette?

One of the more important questions about a person of fame is what are they famous for? He did explore much of the Great Lakes with Jolliet but is that it? Or is there more to the story?

These are some of the big questions going through my mind as I am starting to collect information about Marquette. For me it all comes down to why does Father Marquette receive all the attention whereas a martyr like Jean de Brébeuf is not remembered as much in the mainstream memory? The concept of who gets remembered and in what way is fascinating to me.

To discover how Marquette is remembered I am going to utilize the Loyola Archives that possess a large store of information on Jesuit History including the Illinois Catholic Historical Society Records and the Father Gilbert J. Garraghan papers. I am also going to take a short trip north and return to where it all began for me at the Special Collection at Marquette university where they have the Pere Marquette Collection and the Raphael Hamilton Papers. I have already found many articles written in the late nineteenth and throughout the twentieth centuries that focus on Pere Marquette and his Memory. All in all, I am very interested to see where my research takes me.