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New exhibit at Peoria Riverfront Museum celebrates Marquette and Joliet's voyage through Peoria

A stole worn by Father Jacques Marquette, who spent three days with the Peoria Tribe in 1673.
Camryn Cutinello
/
WCBU
This exhibit shows a stole worn by Father Jacques Marquette, who spent three days with the Peoria Tribe in 1673. The stole is on display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum until the end of January.

The year 2023 marks the 350th anniversary of French missionary Father Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Joliet’s four-month long journey on the Mississippi River.

During the voyage, the duo spent three days with the Peoria Tribe at what is believed to be Peoria Lake.

A new exhibit at the Peoria Riverfront Museum features a stole once worn by Marquette. The stole was loaned by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

“To my knowledge, it has not been on view anywhere other than the Catholic Diocese in Peoria prior to this,” said chief curator Bill Cogner. “So this is an extremely special moment for the Peoria Riverfront Museum. It's an extremely amazing moment for Peoria, and our entire region, and the Midwest.”

Marquette and Joliet had set out from “New France,” modern day Quebec, to find a river to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they concluded that the Mississippi River ran down to the Gulf of Mexico. They then took the Illinois River back up to Quebec, leading them to the Peoria Tribe.

Marquette wrote about his time with the tribe, including a baptism he performed on a dying child.

“Father Marquette loved all the indigenous peoples of America so much that he began another trip, he wanted to come back down and set about the work that he had begun a year or two earlier,” Cogner said. “And he made it as far as the Grand Village [of Illinois] and Cascadia and was on his way back down to Lake Peoria to again visit the villages here. Except he unfortunately contracted dysentery, which cut his trip short.”

The stole is typically kept at the Catholic Diocese of Peoria’s Fulton Sheen Museum.

Bishop Lou Tylka said he wore Marquette’s stole during his first meeting with the Peoria priests when he was appointed.

“I needed to put the stole on to preach. And I started to walk forward, and they forgot to give me the stole,” Tylka said. “And so I stopped, I said, ‘Wait a second.’ And so they put the stole on my shoulders. And I looked down as the stole now hung over my shoulders. And I looked up, and I said, ‘Talk about feeling the weight of history.’”

Peoria Riverfront Museum President and CEO John Morris said the stole is a testament to the history of central Illinois.

“The people of central Illinois do not fully recognize how incredible the history is of our region,” he said. “Thousands of years of human history, of human beings in this Illinois River Valley. Many more times older than the pyramids of Egypt, a remarkable history of the indigenous people.”

The stole will be on display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum until the end of January.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@ilstu.edu.