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1882 History of Mason County Michigan pg2

As night came on-he requested them to sleep, assuring them that he would call them when he felt the death hour arrive. A few hours after they heard his feeble voice, and hastening to his side, found him at the point of dissolution. Upon the bank of the river, and near the waters of the great lake, they dug his grave, as he had directed, and then pursued their way to Michilimackinac.

This was on the 18th of May, 1675. In 1676 a party of Ottawa’s, being in the vicinity, disinterred the remains and placed them in a birch box. They were then escorted in a procession of thirty canoes to St. Ignace, where they were deposited beneath the floor of the old mission chapel, in which the good man had so often administered the rites of the religion he had so nobly honored and so faithfully taught. In religion Marquette was a Roman Catholic, yet he is the property of no single denomination.

He belongs to history, and his name and virtues will be forever associated with the history of the Northwest. His race of duty was nobly run. To save the soul of a fellow mortal was more to him than all else, and sacred are the associations which cluster about the spot where he breathed his last prayer, and his worn-out body was laid at rest. MARQUETTE’S GRAVE.

The exact location of the spot where Marquette died and was buried has been a subject of some controversy, and numerous patches of soil have been moistened by the tears of admiring pilgrims who supposed they were weeping over the grave of the illustrious missionary. A few years ago a gentleman visiting Ludington was shown a spot where it was claimed Marquette was buried, but the stranger said he had shed tears over the same grave in so many different places that he should be constrained to do the remainder of his mourning in a general way. It is still believed by some that he was buried near where the Filer mill is now located.

At this point is an old Indian burying-ground, and some are of the opinion that a landing was made near where the mill stands, and that his grave was made upon the little eminence a few rods back. A few years ago a party of Roman Catholics came here, and placing a cross temporarily upon this spot, had a photographic view taken of it, to represent the burial-place of the great missionary. A thorough examination of all the information obtainable does not seem to sustain the opinion that he was buried at that place.

The channel of the river at that time was just north of the bluff which rises abruptly a short distance south of where the Taylor mill is now situated. This bluff is a short distance north of the Filer mill. All accounts are that the party landed at the mouth of the river, probably entering the channel just enough to make a landing. The shed of bark was made upon the shore, and by it his grave was made.

The Indian tradition is that his grave was at this point, near the bluff. It was at this point that the Indians visited his grave. At one time a very large cross was erected, and the tradition is that as the cross decayed a cedar sapling grew up, and that in after years the waves of Lake Michigan washed the sapling and the grave away. The Indian tradition is more authentic than any other information that can be obtained, and the version here given is from the lips of ” Good John,” the last survivor of the Ottawa’s, who inhabited the Indian village at this place.

In addition to this evidence is the testimony of an old Frenchman who worked for Burr Caswell, soon after he settled here. This Frenchman was brought up at Mackinaw, and he used to relate to Mr. Caswell, how that, when a boy, he came with a boat’s crew and a Catholic priest, and they put up a cross on the spot where they supposed Marquette to have been buried. The cross was erected on the bank of the channel near the bluff, as before described. This must have been some time prior to 1820. It is said that before his death Marquette predicted that the channel of the river would some time change, but there is probably no genuine authority for this statement, as the Indians knew nothing of any such prediction.

Marquette requested that his remains be some time removed to St. Ignace, as they afterwards were, for there was the mission he had helped to found, and it was to that point he was hastening, when death overtook him on the way. But at whatever exact spot his grave was dug is a matter of minor importance. It was upon the bank of this river that the life of the good man was ended; here his last prayer was uttered, and the stillness of that night in May was broken only by his benedictions, and the grief-sobs of his bereaved comrades as they laid him tenderly away.

The circumstance has made the place forever one of historic interest, and here his name will be perpetuated. VILLAGE OF THE OTTAWAS. From the death of Marquette down to the advent of the first permanent white settler, in 1847, the local history of the territory now included in Mason County is quickly told. The entire area was covered with timber, save here and there small openings, which in more recent years were cultivated by Indians in their rude way.

The Indian name of the lake and river, afterwards named Pere Marquette, was Not-a-pe-ka-gon, meaning a “river with heads on sticks:” Very many years ago an encampment of Indians on the lake was nearly exterminated by a band of Pottawotamie Indians, coming from the south. The heads of the slain were severed from their bodies and placed on sticks; hence the name. For a great many years prior to the settlement by white men, there was an Indian village located near where the Caswell farm is situated. This village consisted of wigwams built of bark, and about fifty in number. The inhabitants of this village were a tribe of Ottawa’s.

They raised some corn and potatoes, but their main occupation was fishing and hunting. The last chief of this tribe was Sog-e-maw, who died about 1845, and was buried in the old Indian burying-ground, where the apple tree planted by ” Good John’s ” grandmother is still standing. This was their burying ground for many years, but at last the Indians became alarmed lest the waters of the lake should wash the graves away, and about 1847 they changed their burial place to the ground near the Filer mill. The Ottawa’s who lived here were peaceably disposed and obtained some of the notions of civilized life from white traders and trappers who came among them. In matters of dress they tried to adopt the fashions of the whites, as far as the partially civilized Indian tastes will permit. It was not an uncommon sight to see the young men fantastically arrayed in plug hats, black coats and such of their native apparel as they deemed necessary to complete a gorgeous outfit. The name of this Indian village was Nin-de-be-ka-tun-ning, which means “a place of skulls.” Toward 1847 the sounds of advancing civilization reached the ears of the Indians, and soon they heard that the Government intended to send them away somewhere into another country. About the year 1848 they abandoned their village and scattered hither and thither.

The only survivor of the tribe of Ottawa’s that inhabited this place is now living on a small farm near the village of Custer, and is known by the name of “GOOD JOHN.” His Indian name is Naw-gone-ko-ung, which means “Leading Thunder.” He was born at the Indian village here about the year 1807. His father, Gee-gush, died when John was ten or twelve years of age, and was buried in the old burying-ground. He is a cousin of the Indian chief Sog-e-maw.

His early life was spent in Indian pursuits, and after the village was abandoned he remained

1882 History of Mason County Michigan Intro pg1




The history of exploration and civilization in the Northwest begins with the advent of the Jesuit missionaries. In 1641 a mission was established among the Chippewa’s, at the Sault, by Fathers Charles Raymbault and Isaac Jacques. This enterprise was soon after abandoned, and Indian wars following, no further attempt was made to establish missions among them until 1668, when Father James Marquette arrived at the Sault, and the following year, in connection with Father Doblon, built a church and planted the first permanent settlement made on the soil of Michigan. The early history of the Northwest can never be written without giving the French Jesuits an honored place on its pages.


They were men of the highest order of refinement, learning and piety. Says Shea: “The missionaries who, step by step, threaded the network of lakes and rivers, not only reported the data which they obtained, and preserved them, but they gleaned from members of distant tribes statements as to the geography, fauna and mineralogy of the lands beyond. The holy errand upon which these self-sacrificing men came to the American wilds was to convert the Indians to Christianity and to bring them the blessings and comforts of civilization.


Not a cape was turned nor a river entered but a Jesuit led the way.” Their detailed records furnished the world with a historical legacy of incalculable value. Says Parkman: “Nowhere is the power of courage, faith and an unflinching purpose more strikingly displayed than in the record of these missions. ” * Their virtues shine amidst the rubbish of error like diamonds and gold in the gravel of the torrent.” One of the noblest of these noble men was Father James Marquette, whose name and fame are inseparably connected with Mason County.




This illustrious Jesuit missionary was born in France, about the year 1637. His parents were people of high rank, and although his early life was surrounded with all the luxuries and gaieties that wealth and high social rank could command, he abandoned them all and subordinated himself to the strict and hard discipline of the life of the Jesuits. He was highly gifted by nature, and his proficiency as a linguist was so great that in a few years after coming among the Indians he learned to speak six different Indian languages fluently. He was never physically robust, but his fervor of devotion to the cause of Christianity and his intense zeal inspired him with almost superhuman energy, and toil and privation in the Master’s cause he esteemed a joy.


He was one of those saintly characters that belong to a past age, and his transcendent loveliness of character, and the sublimity of his faith, his sincerity and courageous daring, must ever command the admiration of all who learn the story of his life and death. The Jesuits selected none but the bravest and purest for the American missions, and when he was chosen for one he embraced the opportunity to take up the hard lot of a life among the savage tribes of tile American wilds with the greatest delight. He chose Canada as the field of his labors, and was early transferred to the remotest of the missionary outposts on Lake Superior.


This was about 1668. In 1669 he was joined at the Sault by Father Doblon, and a church was built. This was the first permanent settlement on the soil of Michigan. He had heard, in his-intercourse with the “Illinois,” of a great river flowing through grassy plains, on which grazed countless herds of buffalo, and he felt a strong desire to explore it and preach the gospel to the savage tribes that dwelt upon its banks. In 1673 he started upon his voyage of discovery, accompanied by Louis Joliet, a native of Quebec, and an agent of the French government.


The outfit consisted of two bark canoes, seven men, including Marquette and Joliet, and a quantity of Indian corn and dried meat. The duration of the voyage none could foresee; its hardships and sufferings found no place in their calculations. On the 17th of May, 1673, they set out from the Mission of St. Ignatius, at Michilimackinac.


They passed along the coast of Lake Michigan and finally reached Green Bay. From there they ascended the Fox River, passed through Lake Winnebago, threaded the sluggish stream beyond it to the Portage; then crossing the water-shed, the canoes were re-embarked, and they floated down the Wisconsin River to its mouth. This was on the 17th day of June that the broad current of the Mississippi greeted their delighted vision. From this point they floated down the Mississippi as far as the mouth of the Arkansas, and being satisfied with the result of their voyage in this direction, they decided to return.


Reaching the mouth of the Illinois River, they ascended that stream, and were conducted by Indian guides to the Chicago River, descending which they entered Lake Michigan, and, in the latter part of September, again reached Green Bay, having been absent four months. Marquette, being afflicted with consumption, remained at this point until October of the following year, when, with two white companions and a company of Indians, he again coasted along the western shore, and ascended the Chicago River, a short distance from the mouth of which they encamped for the Winter, Marquette being too feeble to proceed farther.


In March, 1675, they proceeded on their journey down the Illinois, but returned in about a month, and started along the east coast of Lake Michigan. On the 19th of May he felt that the seal of death was upon him and that his last hour was rapidly, approaching. The warm breath of Spring fanned his cheek as he lay prostrate in his canoe, but it could not revive him.


He told his companions that he was soon to leave them, and as they were passing the mouth of the river that now bears his name, he asked the men to land. Tenderly they bore him to the bank of the stream, and constructed a shed of bark for his shelter. With the greatest cheerfulness and composure he gave directions as to the mode of his burial, and instructed his companions in the duties of life, and expressed his fervent gratitude to them for their devoted kindness.

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