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.