It was the 25th of May 1670 when Galinee and Casson arrived at Sault Ste Marie, after an arduous canoe journey from their wintering camp on Lake Erie, near the site of the present town of Port Dover. At the Sault they found a thriving mission. It had a capacious chapel and a comfortable dwelling-house; it was surrounded by a palisade of cedars, and about it were cultivated bits of ground planted with wheat, Indian corn, peas, and pumpkins. Near by were clusters of bark wigwams, the homes of Ojibwas and other Indians, who came here each year to catch the whitefish that teemed in the waters of the rapids fronting the settlement.
One of the priests in charge of this mission, when the Sulpicians halted at it on their circuitous journey back to Montreal, was the young Jesuit Jacques Marquette, a man of delicate mould, indomitable will, keen intellect, and ardent faith. He was not to remain long at Sault Ste Marie; for he had heard ‘the call of the west’; and in the summer of this year he set out for the mission of St Esprit, at La Pointe, on the south-west shore of Lake Superior. Here there was a motley collection of Indians, among them many Hurons and Petuns, who had fled to this remote post to be out of reach of the Iroquois. These exiles from Huronia still remembered the Jesuits and retained ‘a little Christianity.’ St Esprit was not only a mission; it was a centre of the fur trade, and to it came Illinois Indians from the Mississippi and Sioux from the western prairies. From these Marquette learned of the great river, and from their description of it he was convinced that it flowed into the Gulf of California. He had a burning desire to visit the savage hordes that dwelt along this river, and a longing to explore it to its mouth. But while he meditated the journey war broke out between the Sioux—the Iroquois of the west—and the Hurons and Ottawas of St Esprit. The Sioux won, and the vanquished Hurons and Ottawas took to flight, the Hurons going to Michilimackinac and the Ottawas to Great Manitoulin Island. Marquette followed the Hurons, and set up a mission at Point St Ignace, on the north shore of the strait of Michilimackinac.
Meanwhile ‘the great intendant,’ Talon, was pushing out in all directions for new territory to add to the French dominions in America. And just before the end of his brilliant administration he commissioned the explorer Louis Jolliet to find and explore the Mississippi, of which so much had been heard from missionaries, traders, and Indians. Like Marquette, Talon believed that this river flowed into the Western Sea—the Pacific ocean—and that it would open a route to China and the Indies; and it was directed that Marquette should accompany Jolliet on the journey.