Notable journeys


People have been going on journeys to gain greater understanding of themselves and the world around them for as long as humans have been able. Marquette’s history is no different, full of tales of people pushing themselves to the limit on long trips for personal and spiritual growth. Here are a few notable historic grand journeys.

Early in Marquette’s history, one man traveled extensively around the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) on a spiritual mission. Catholic Bishop Frederic Baraga from Slovenia was appointed to Sault Sainte Marie in 1852 and remained in the U.P. until his death in 1868. He wished to bring his faith to the community around him and would travel great distances to do so. Bishop Baraga was known as the “snowshoe priest” because he would travel days on snowshoes to go say a Mass. He kept a diary in which he recorded his travels.

Baraga was a deeply spiritual man and would get up as early as 2:00 or 3:00 every morning to pray for hours. He worked very hard to communicate with and convert Michigan’s Native Americans. He wrote twenty books in the Ojibwe language including his Ojibwe French dictionary which is still in use today. Bishop Baraga’s life’s work was to advance the religious and secular education of the Ojibwe and the immigrants in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His travels led him to helping many people and furthering his own spiritual journey.

John Longyear also traveled the U.P. extensively for business and adventure. He first visited the U.P. in 1873, as a twenty-three-year-old man on recommendation from his father’s law partner who told him that there were great opportunities for land business. Longyear fell in love with the woods through his time working in the logging business and hoped to make his fortune in land. In that time, the U.P. was little more than a great forest with only a few scattered small settlements, but he had faith he could find valuable land for logging and mining operations.

Longyear traveled around the U.P. from Marquette to Ontonagon and Menominee as a land surveyor and saw much of the U.P.’s charm and beauty. He wrote of his experiences as a land looker, “I was eager to return to outdoor living which tended to develop a man’s self-reliance, patience, and perseverance. You are obliged to do everything on your own. Such experiences may be severely trying and even exhausting at the time, but you are glad afterwards that you had them. You gain a sense of strength and self- confidence that can be obtained no other way.” This sentiment of perseverance and confidence is still found in Yoopers today.

John Longyear, during the Cruise of the Abbie, ready for trout or pictures.

Longyear also explored Lake Superior, with the Abbie, a ship named after his daughter. In 1889, Longyear and several friends took a 122-mile trip from Marquette to Isle Royal. Longyear kept a journal and took many photos which he presented to his daughter in a bound copy after his return. Longyear’s adventures fishing, sailing, and camping furthered his love of Michigan’s waters and land.

Beginning in the 1960s, a modern pilgrimage route, the roughly 1300-mile Lake Superior Circle Tour, was promoted by the Michigan, Ontario, Wisconsin, and Minnesota’s Departments of Transportation. Initially the route only relied on paper maps and sign posts for navigation. Now there is a mobile app for the tour, complete with a list of places to collect stamps in order to receive a certificate of completion. Over the years, thousands of people have embarked upon Lake Superior Circle trips, traveling by foot, cars, and bikes. There are several designated local spots that trip goers try to visit, including many beauties of nature such as waterfalls and of course many scenic views of Lake Superior.

This past summer Marquette resident Bruce Closser embarked on his own journey and achieved the Guiness World Record for the oldest man to bike across the United States. Whether you know Bruce or not, this record setting 4,200-mile journey on the  TransAmerica Bicycle Trail can only be described by the man himself. Hear the tale from Bruce as he shares stories and photos and takes us along for the ride. He will present Cross Country Closser at the Marquette Regional History Center tonight at 6:30 p.m. $5 suggested donation. For more info visit marquettehistory.org or call 906.226.3571.


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