Posted tagged ‘Father Marquette’

Visiting Sault Sainte Marie

July 4, 2017

Few cities are more closely connected to Marquette’s history than Sault Sainte Marie. Just as Negaunee and Ishpeming play a key role in Marquette’s history because they are the source of the iron ore shipped out of Marquette’s harbor, so the Sault is where the ore has to pass through the locks to reach its destination in the major cities on the lower Great Lakes. As a result, in 1855, the Sault locks began construction under the guidance of Charles Harvey, who would also found Marquette’s neighboring city, Harvey, Michigan.

Sault Sainte Marie’s history is long and fascinating. Marquette is not even half as old since it was founded in 1849, while the Sault dates to 1688 when Father Jacques Marquette established a mission there, making it the first permanent European settlement in Michigan. The Sault remained a significant gathering place for the Chippewa (Ojibwa) whom Father Marquette came to convert to Christianity throughout the eighteenth century, but its real history begins in the nineteenth.

I recently visited Sault Sainte Marie for a book fair at Island Books and Crafts where I got to spend time with ten of my fellow Michigan authors. I also used this trip as an opportunity to see the sites and do some research for an upcoming book I plan to write.

China from Ireland owned by the Johnstons.

One of the places I visited were the historic homes on the waterfront. The first of these homes belonged to John Johnston, an Irishman who settled in the Sault in 1796 as a fur trader. Johnston married Oshahguscodaywayquay, the daughter of a local Chippewa chief. She took the English name Susan and went to live in Johnston’s home but all her life she retained her Native clothing and she would only speak her native tongue, although she understood French and English. She and Johnston would raise a family of four sons and four daughters.

Johnston, being British, sided with the British in the War of 1812, leading a group of men from the Sault to Mackinac Island to aid the British. In retaliation, the Americans went to the Sault and burned down his home as well as the Northwest Fur Company offices. After the war, Johnston tried to receive compensation, but since the Sault became American territory and he had fought against them, he never received compensation. Not surprisingly, he also never applied for American citizenship.

Dining room of the Johnston home.

The Chippewa were not pleased by the Americans moving into the Sault and were planning to attack General Cass who was sent to Fort Brady to claim it for the Americans. He took down the last British flag to fly on American soil there. Fortunately, Susan Johnston was wiser than the Chippewa men and she persuaded them not to attack the Americans, thus saving many lives on both sides. Cass, who would later become Governor of Michigan, always afterwards said he owed her his life.

Spinning wheel in the Johnston home.

The Johnston’s daughter, Jane, was highly educated and made trips to Europe with her father. When Henry Schoolcraft came to the Sault as the Indian agent, he became familiar with the Johnston family and eventually married Jane. Schoolcraft had a job to do in treating with the Chippewa, but Susan Johnston took him under her wing, making him sympathetic and interested in the Chippewa and their culture. Schoolcraft would eventually write down many of the stories he heard from his wife Jane about the legends of Hiawatha, a book that would influence Longfellow’s famous poem of the same name.

Henry Schoolcraft’s Office

Of course, Bishop Baraga also resided in the Sault and would have known the Johnstons and Schoolcrafts. Baraga had come to Upper Michigan as a missionary to the Native Americans from his native Slovenia. He became known as the snowshoe priest because he would travel across the Upper Peninsula and even into Wisconsin and Minnesota by snowshoe to preach the gospel. After many years of missionary work, he was appointed the first Bishop of the Marquette diocese. The diocese’s see was Sault Sainte Marie, and there a house was built for Baraga which he called his palace since he had long slept in rude little huts or lived with fellow priests, but now he had his own house. He resided there for only two years, 1864-1866, before it was decided to move the see to Marquette as a more central location for the diocese. Baraga would die in Marquette in 1868 and be buried there in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

The Bishop Baraga Home as viewed from the Tower of History.

Overall, Sault Sainte Marie is full of history. There are many other museums to visit including the Valley Ship Museum, the Tower of History, the River History Museum, the Chippewa Historical Society, and the campus of Lake Superior State University, built where once Fort Brady stood.

I’m sure I’ll be making many more trips to this place where three Great Lakes meet and history is very much part of the present.

St. Mary’s Church as viewed from the Tower of History. This church is on the same property where the proto-cathedral stood – the first cathedral of the Diocese of Marquette before the see was moved to Marquette and St. Peter’s Cathedral there.

View of the Saint Mary’s River taken from the Tower of History

Interior of the Baraga Home

Interior of the Baraga Home

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Ten-Year Anniversary Edition Released of Iron Pioneers: The Marquette Trilogy, Book One

April 21, 2016

Marquette, MI, April 20, 2016—In 2006, local author Tyler R. Tichelaar published his first novel, Iron Pioneers, which was soon followed by two sequels, The Queen City and Superior Heritage to complete The Marquette Trilogy. Now Tichelaar is celebrating the ten-year anniversary of this first novel by reprinting it with a new color cover, an interior historic map of Marquette, and a new preface “Creating a Literature for Upper Michigan.”

Iron Pioneers has a new cover for its ten-year anniversary edition as well as a new preface.

Iron Pioneers has a new cover for its ten-year anniversary edition as well as a new preface.

“It felt like the ten-year anniversary of my first book was a reason to celebrate,” said Tichelaar. “And Iron Pioneers remains my bestselling book to this day, but I was never happy with the brown cover, which was chosen by my publisher at the time. I initially envisioned a gold cover, so I’ve chosen that, which seemed appropriate for an anniversary edition.”

Tichelaar first had the idea to write novels set in Marquette back in 1987 when he began writing his first book, eventually published in 2009 as The Only Thing That Lasts. But it was in 1999, when he was living in Kalamazoo, earning his Ph.D. in Literature, and homesick for the U.P., that he had the idea to write a novel that covered the scope of Marquette’s history. “It was Marquette’s sesquicentennial year,” he said, “and I felt it was time to tell Marquette’s story in a new way that highlighted its significant role in American history.” Tichelaar planned to write one novel, but the more research he did, the larger it grew, until it eventually became a trilogy. “It was seven years from conception to publication,” said Tichelaar, “but nearly 600,000 words and countless drafts later, I found it all worth it when people began reading The Marquette Trilogy.”

The plot of Iron Pioneers begins with a prologue about Father Marquette coming to the Marquette area. It then moves ahead to 1849 when Marquette was founded. It follows several fictional families through the early pioneer years, the Civil War, the fire of 1868, and the growth of Marquette. Numerous historical people, including Bishop Baraga and Peter White, are featured in the story. The story concludes in 1897 with the celebrations surrounding the Father Marquette statue’s unveiling. The successive books in the trilogy continue the story of Marquette’s history up to the sesquicentennial celebrations in 1999. “I wanted readers to feel they were stepping back in time to meet Marquette’s pioneers and to come away appreciating the sacrifices they made and the courage they showed when the settled here,” said Tichelaar.

Tichelaar has been very pleased with his readers’ responses to Iron Pioneers and his other books. “People tell me that they look at Marquette differently after they read my books. They notice old buildings, wonder about the people who once lived or worked there, and want to learn more about them. Tichelaar also noted that when he began writing Iron Pioneers, there was a lack of adult fiction set in Upper Michigan. Since then, the number of U.P. writers has exploded. “Today we can be proud that we have a vibrant and diverse U.P. literature,” said Tichelaar. “We have novels, history books, and poetry. I know of over one hundred U.P. writers all doing their part to capture the essence of our life here. I am proud to be one of the pioneers of that movement, and I intend to write many more books for the people who love this place and call it home.”

Iron Pioneers, The Marquette Trilogy: Book One (ISBN 9780979179006, Marquette Fiction, 2016) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.MarquetteFiction.com. Review copies available upon request.

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Father Marquette Statue

December 29, 2010

The history of Marquette’s own Father Marquette statue, as reprinted from My Marquette.

Tyler in front of the Father Marquette Statue in April 2010

            In another second, the figure of Father Marquette was clearly revealed to all the residents of his namesake city. The crowd applauded and the people murmured with delight that the statue faced the town. The figure of the Jesuit priest stood atop a pedestal of sandstone, and on its base was a relief of Father Marquette preaching to the Indians at Lighthouse Point. But most striking was the statue itself. Father Marquette stood looking about him with wonder, as though admiring the beauty of the land he had visited; his brow spoke of determination to carry out his Christian mission to the Indians. His bearded face and large forehead suggested wisdom beyond his years. History had lost all record of the Jesuit missionary’s appearance, only knowing he had died at the young age of thirty-eight, but here he was portrayed as a figure of indestructible and eternal force. His left hand clutched his robe, as if he had just stepped out of a canoe and was steeling himself against a harsh northern wind; in one hand he held a piece of paper, perhaps Marquette’s city charter.

            Margaret looked at the statue and saw a romantic hero, but the older residents of Marquette, saw a pioneer like themselves; someone with a harsh, grim look who had known years of hardship; Father Marquette was one of them, the very first to experience the rigors of this land. Molly Montoni looked at the statue and remembered her first husband who like Father Marquette had also died young, but who would be proud of the community’s survival. Charles Kawbawgam saw in the statue a symbol of how much his world had changed, and that change had begun with the coming of this black robe. Jacob Whitman looked at the statue and saw the immigrant spirit of all those pioneers, his parents and grandparents, his in-laws, cousins, aunt and uncle, his precious Agnes, and even himself, when he had come as a boy to a village of a few wooden buildings on the shores of Lake Superior. That moment of the statue’s unveiling seemed a little eternity as everyone contemplated the changes of Marquette’s half century. — Iron Pioneers

            Father Marquette first arrived on the shores of Marquette in 1671, where in 1849 a city would be founded in his honor. By the 1890s, Marquette was a prosperous town with several prominent city buildings and a significant role in the nation’s industry. Out of civic pride, the time had come to erect a statue to its namesake. Marquette’s citizens were aware that Wisconsin had just commissioned a statue of Father Marquette for Statuary Hall in Washington D.C., so they wanted a similar statue for themselves. Peter White was opposed at first to the statue because of the financial panic of 1893 and initially did not donate money to the cause, but later, he did support the cause, and when the statue was unveiled, rumors would surface that the statue looked like Peter White.

At the time, no one knew what Father Marquette looked like. Not until the 1960s did a portrait surface, which the Marquette County History Museum received from a museum in Paris. The portrait was supposedly drawn just before Father Marquette left France in 1666. He would have been in his late twenties at the time, although the portrait makes him look like a balding middle-aged man.

The statue was placed near the new waterworks building across from the foot of Ridge Street. It was a beautiful part of town at the time, with the Longyear Mansion overlooking it and the lakeshore nearby. Controversy ensued as to whether Father Marquette should face the lake or the city, so not until the unveiling in 1897 was it revealed he would face the town.

The day of the unveiling, as described in Iron Pioneers, was a day of great civic pride in Marquette. Peter White was so proud of the statue he raised money to have a similar one placed in Marquette Park on Mackinac Island. (A photo of the unveiling is included in the print copy of My Marquette.)

My Marquette by Tyler R. Tichelaar

In 1912, the statue was moved to its current location in Lakeside Park near the current Chamber of Commerce building. The move occurred after railroad tracks laid near the Waterworks building ended plans for a park along the lakeshore. The giant cast iron flowerpot by the new City Waterworks building is the only sign remaining of the statue’s original foundation.

In her 1906 children’s novel The Girls of Gardenville, local author Carroll Watson Rankin depicts a young lady first learning how to drive an automobile. Losing control of her vehicle as she comes down a large hill, she smashes into a statue. Rankin must have imagined a car bolting down Ridge Street’s hill into the Father Marquette statue. History has not preserved any actual automobile assaults to the statue but that same year, discussion about moving the statue began. Hopefully, Father Marquette feels safe today on a small hill, far from the reach of any out-of-control vehicles.

Marquette’s Post Office – Up for Sale?

November 23, 2010

On November 12th the Mining Journal reported that Marquette’s Post Office may be up for sale. You can read that story at Marquette Post Office for Sale.

Marquette's Post Office

Just a few days later, the story about My Marquette ran on the front page of the Mining Journal and mentioned that my grandfather had helped to build the Marquette Post Office. The story included a photo of the post office being built that I provided. Those of you who read the story online didn’t get to see the photo so I am attaching it here along with the section from My Marquette about the post office. More pictures, including one of the first Post Office, the federal building, are in the paper copy of the book.

While times are changing, I trust the Post Office building will remain used for many years to come, and I always consider it a treat to go in there and think about my grandpa.

From My Marquette:

He crossed Washington Street, gazing up at the tall Post Office and Federal Building. He remembered seeing a photograph of his grandfather peering out of one of those upper windows. John’s novel had started out from an idea based on his grandfather’s life; he missed his grandpa so much he had wanted to immortalize his memory, but the story had gotten away from him, creating a character only loosely based on Henry Whitman; nevertheless, John knew it was the best piece he had ever written. He thought it might bring luck that he was mailing his novel at the post office his grandfather had helped to build.

            Inside, three people waited in line before him. John stared at the painting of Father Marquette standing up in a canoe while Indians paddled it; everyone in Upper Michigan knows you cannot stand in a canoe, and the Indians looked crabby, as if irritated that Father Marquette was not helping to paddle. But since John had set the novel in the city named for this Jesuit priest, he thought seeing the picture might bring him good luck. — Superior Heritage

            Marquette has had a post office since its very founding. Initially, Amos Harlow ran a post office out of his own home, and there was also a Carp River post office. Since the bulk of the mail was addressed to the Carp River post office, it eventually became predominant.

            Delivery of mail to Marquette was not easy in the first years, and especially once winter set in, residents could go for months without receiving letters. The mail route over land was from Green Bay, Wisconsin, about a 180-mile journey. In 1850, the city fathers decided something had to be done to get the mail delivered more regularly, so they sent Peter White to Green Bay to collect the mail, hauling it by sleigh back to Marquette.

            The situation did not improve, however, until in 1854, Peter White took matters into his own hands, as related in Iron Pioneers:

In January 1854, Marquette had received no mail for three months, so Peter had been elected to go to Green Bay to fetch it. With Indian companions and dog sleds, he set out on the one hundred eighty mile journey. Halfway, he met sleighs coming north with the village’s mail. Eight tons of Marquette’s mail had accumulated in Green Bay, and it took three months for the postmaster to find someone willing to carry it north. Peter sent his companions and the mail back to Marquette, but intent to resolve the situation, he continued on to Green Bay.

            Upon his arrival, he discovered Marquette’s mail was accumulating at the rate of six bushels a day. Frustrated, Peter traveled another fifty miles to Fond du Lac so he could telegraph Senator Cass about the situation. Determined to receive a response, he bombarded the senator with telegrams until a special agent came to Green Bay to investigate. The postmaster in Green Bay, as upset about the situation as Peter, agreed to act as accomplice. Together the two men filled all the post office’s empty sacks, claiming, when the agent arrived, that every bag contained mail for Marquette. Thirty bags of actual mail now appeared to be four times as much. The agent, overwhelmed by the sight, quickly authorized weekly mail delivery to Marquette from Green Bay. Marquette had not lacked for its mail since, and Peter had been hailed as a town hero.

             As Marquette grew, the mail soon surpassed even the fake amount Peter White had created to remedy the delivery issues. The need for a larger post office resulted in the 1886 construction of the Federal Building on the corner of Washington and Third Street where today the current post office stands. Construction of the building cost $100,000 but was several times delayed, among other reasons, because a stonemason who was fired from his job for being drunk decided to shoot the general contractor and then commit suicide (perhaps the earliest example of someone going “postal”). Despite the setbacks, when the Federal Building, the first U.S. Government building in Upper Michigan, was completed it was highly impressive and worthy of the beautiful city hall soon to stand beside it. The Federal Building’s high tower and its arched doorways and windows make one regret it was ever replaced.

Building the Post Office - my grandpa is in an upstairs window on the far right

           In the 1930s, the U.S. Government decided a new United States Post Office and Court House was needed, and the old Federal Building was soon no more. The new building would be built of Bedford limestone and completed in 1937. Its style is typical of 1930s Art Deco. My grandfather, Lester White, was among those employed in its construction, so I feel a fondness for it whenever I go inside. I have mailed many of my manuscripts to various publishers inside this building, hopeful, since my grandpa helped to construct it, that the post office would bring me some luck.

            Inside the main lobby is a mural that was commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) soon after the building was opened. Artist Dewey Albinson depicted Father Marquette with two French voyageurs and two Indians in a canoe. Most likely to lend significance to the Jesuit priest, Albinson depicted Father Marquette as standing up. When I was a student at Northern Michigan University, my American literature professor, David Mitchell, told the students to go down to the post office and write a description of what they thought this painting represented about America. After reading the papers, Professor Mitchell remarked that he could tell he was in Upper Michigan because every student had commented on how Father Marquette would have known that to stand up in a canoe would tip it over.

Post Office Mural

            Mail delivery in Marquette has vastly improved since Peter White’s days, but it remains difficult. The postal workers of Upper Michigan embody the saying “neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow” will stop the U.S. mail. In the worst of blizzards, I have come home to find my mailman has climbed over snowbanks to put my letters in my mailbox. The cost of stamps is small for such dedication.

 Read more Marquette history at www.MarquetteFiction.com

My Marquette