European Arrival: French Missionaries

The first Europeans to arrive in Cross Village were French Jesuit missionaries, who set up a mission in the early eighteenth century. The French were welcomed by the local Odawa tribe, and converted the Odawa to Christianity. French trappers soon followed, trading with the local people.

Early Michigan Map
Fr. Marquette

Fr. Jacques Marquette

French Priest

In the seventeenth century, French fur traders had began to visit Michigan in search of beaver pelts. They met and started to trade with Native Americans, and brought back word of these encounters to Quebec. By the late half of the century, Jesuit missionaries were traveling throughout the Great Lakes in search of large Native American villages to preach to.

The first recorded Jesuit arrival in Cross Village occurred in 1691, when Fr. Sebastian Rasle stayed a winter in the village on a return journey to Quebec from the Illinois area. Rasle wrote in a letter that there was already a Jesuit in the village, although no one is sure who this priest was.

It is speculated that Father Jacques Marquette visited Cross Village during his journeys through Lake Michigan, and believed that he could have erected a large white cross on the bluff, although this was never recorded. We do know that a cross was standing in present-day Cross Village in 1799, which is the first time a written account mentioned of a cross, but it is likely the cross was placed on the bluff by Jesuit missionaries before 1700, as was their custom.

In 1734, Fr. Peter Du Jaunay arrived in Cross Village, where he would spend the next 31 years. He was beloved by the local Odawa, and preached all along the coast, from present-day Harbor Springs to Fort Michilimackinac, and even Beaver Island. In 1765, Fr. Du Jaunay was forced to leave the area following France’s loss of Quebec. The Odawa never learned of the reason for the withdraw of the Jesuit missionaries, and spent many years waiting for the return of a mission priest.