History professor says Marquette map a fraud
Believes sketch couldn't have been made before 1813
BY MICHAEL SMOTHERS
OF THE JOURNAL STAR
PEORIA - If Carl Weber is right, the Hotel Pere Marquette here might want to find a new namesake.
For more than three centuries, history has accepted that Frenchmen Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest, and Louis Joliet were the first Europeans to reach the Mississippi River by canoeing down the Wisconsin River. They discovered the Illinois River, stopping here along the way, by using it to return to Lake Michigan and then to Canada.
History has accepted the so-called "Marquette Autograph Map," a thin sketch accurately detailing the Illinois' curving course like the upper left side of a stop sign, as proof of the famous 1673 journey. Marquette drew it upon their return, after all of Joliet's records were lost when his canoe capsized on the St. Lawrence River.
Marquette, no doubt, "was a good-hearted man," said Weber, a professor of history and the humanities at DeVry Institute in Chicago. But he has a problem with the map.
"It's a historical fraud."
His research has convinced him that, "It couldn't have been made before 1813," said Weber, also a member of the Chicago Map Society based at the Newberry Library.
Weber presented his findings at the Newberry last September and will do so again in October at the Conference on Illinois History in Springfield upon invitation from the Illinois State Historical Society.
His theory, he said, is anchored in cartographical research that is "thick" in detail. But in a nutshell, Marquette's map "is too accurate" and contains information about the Illinois that didn't appear on other early exploration maps "until decades later."
Weber concludes that the Autograph map - supposedly discovered in 1844 among documents stored and virtually forgotten in a Jesuit mission in Canada - was created and forged with Marquette's signature by the Jesuit Order to strengthen its political position in France and The Vatican.
"Some pretty historical chicanery came to pass," he said.
According to his theory, "The likelihood of Marquette going up the (Illinois) river with Joliet is very slim."
And while Joliet probably did traverse the Illinois, other evidence indicates he wasn't the first.
Weber points to the Ellington Stone, a limestone tablet the size of a sheet of paper found near the Mississippi in Adams County that might've been meant as a land marker claiming the Mississippi/Illinois territory for France.
It's clearly etched with the date 1671 and includes a "reclining cross and the letters IHS," said Barbara Wilkinson, director of the Quincy Museum in Quincy, where it's on display. A farmer had kept it for decades after finding it early last century, she said.
Because the farmer left marks from a screwdriver he used to dig mud out of the etchings, one scholar who studied it "claimed it's a fake," Wilkinson said. But "very soon," the University of Illinois plans to use a scanning device to determine if the etchings are as old as they purport to be, Wilkinson said.
If they are - and if Weber's theory of the Autograph map and Marty and Bruce Fischer's theory about Fort Crevecoeur in Beardstown are ever accepted - there will be more than a few pages of history to rewrite.
Michael Smothers can be reached at 686-3287 or email@example.com.
Swans creating safety issues
If you're as old as me, you can remember how rare it once was to see Canada geese winging over Michiana.Of course, that was some 20 years ago and long before they became a nuisance. The giant birds have adapted so well within our area that they don't even migrate anymore.Don't believe it? Visit any city park, riverbank or lake public access and you'll find yourself doing the goose-poop-two-step.
Well, get ready for a similar problem.Indiana and Michigan officials say the mute swan could be the next nuisance bird that waterfront users will face if something isn't done soon. That's why they're lifting restrictions and issuing permits to kill these nasty birds when they're creating problems. And, man, do they create problems. From a distance, the mute swan looks like an elegant bird, swimming gracefully with a large, curved neck, fluorescent orange beak and black head. They're huge, weighing more than 30 pounds, measuring some 60 inches long with a wingspan up to 94 inches.But these dudes are mean and very territorial.
Just ask conservation officers in Stueben county who have answered numerous calls about swan attacks on Lake James and Jimmerson Lake.According to Indiana DNR officer Rodney Clear, swans have shown a particular disdain for personal watercraft (PWC, a.k.a. jet ski) riders. I can't say that I blame the birds for that, since there's nothing more annoying on a lake than irresponsible PWC riders.
But no one wants to see someone get seriously hurt, and that's what's going to happen if these birds aren't brought under control. Clear says vicious attacks are mounting and the DNR is very concerned."One swan took flight from the water and struck a 13-year-old passenger on a PWC and the bird had to be physically removed from the victim," said Clear.Another swan flew after a PWC rider from 60 yards away and nearly knocked her from the jet ski."We had another incident where a 13-year old was swimming toward shore and a swan landed on the water in an attempt to prevent the swimmer from reaching land," the officer added. "The swan forced the teenager under water for several seconds before her father diverted the mute's attention. Luckily, the swimmer was wearing a life jacket which may have prevented her from drowning."The situation has become so bad that Indiana Director Kyle Hupfer has considered some type of hunting season for the birds. Michigan is considering similar actions to help bring the population under control.
Ah, but as could be expected, the animal rights crowd is in an uproar. A public hearing on the matter was held last week at Lake Webster in Kosciusko County."There are people out there who enjoy viewing the swans and aren't affected by their aggressiveness," said Clear. "But it has become a problem we must deal with."The reason, of course, is that numbers of the non-native mutes are spiraling out of control. Michigan is said to have the Mississippi flyway's largest population, estimated at 7,500. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says Indiana's mute swan numbers are under 200, but I've got to believe that's substantially underestimated.And they're growing. Swan numbers in the 13-state region have risen 86 percent since 2004. I can recall seeing only a few of the big white birds sitting on the Juno Chain a couple of years ago. Now there are dozens.Public safety isn't the only issue. Mute swans not only compete with native waterfowl for nesting space, but they attack and kill them as well. They also eat a ton of vegetation, which then gets passed out the other end of the giant birds.
And you thought goose poop was a problem?
For the Record Book
1 week ago