Saturday, May 4, 2013

Legend of the Cross

One summer day a few years ago my oldest daughter wanted to go for a canoe ride on the river.  The Fox River flows north so we usually canoe with the current.  It is much easier to paddle without fighting the current.  We usually put in the canoe near a downtown Princeton boat landing and then someone will drive the truck to another landing and either wait, or we bring two cars and leave one of them at the ending point.

We had an enjoyable trip seeing herons, eagles, fish jumping and turtles.  It is amazing how different everything looks from the river.  When we got to the final destination, there was a man standing looking out at the river.  After we docked, we started chatting with him.  As it turns out he is a local 4H leader and  his family has lived in the area for many generations.  He knew so much local history.

One of the stories he told was about Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet plus five other men.  They traveled in two birch bark canoes to explore unknown lands.  Father Marquette thought if he found the Mississippi River, it would probably take him west to California and then to the Orient.  It didn't work out that way.   As he and the others traveled up the Fox River, they came across a major Indian encampment.  There were Miami and Kickapoo Indians as well as the Mascoutin's.  They all spoke the Algonquin language.  Father Marquette had an advantage because he knew six Native American dialects.  This was a place where French trappers, missionaries and Native Americans were all on friendly terms.  This place had mineral water and natural springs.  The springs are still there but we couldn't find them today.  The entire area is still flooded from this years flooding.

Before Marquette and Jolliet moved on, they also placed a large Cross to the area.  For many generations the Native Americans spoke of the great meeting of the man who wore the black robe.  Catholics and other religious groups would make pilgrimages to this site.  The original arrival to this location was June 7, 1673.  Throughout the years a cross of some sort has remained at this location.  The man who showed us around and his friends and family installed a new one.  It is on private property now, but if you look real hard,  it is visible from the river. 

As everyone knows Marquette and Jolliet continued to explore finding the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien.  They had traveled 2500 miles by canoe.  There is some controversy about the Mascoutin Indians and when they left Wisconsin and what happened to these people.  The Mascoutin name lives on in the area.  It is used in the name of some establishments including the Mascoutin Golf Club in Berlin, WI.  If it hadn't been for this unplanned meeting at the boat landing, we would not have known about this Legend of the Cross.  This gentleman also showed us a lost cemetery and the site of the Village of St. Marie.  This village was directly across the river and does not exist any longer.  Maybe I will write about that in the future.  He also invited my husband and I to speak at one of their 4H meetings about geocaching. 

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