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"Who or What Are All Those 'Pere Marquettes'?"
The name "Pere Marquette" has been used for a large number of things, due to its historic significance in the Great Lakes region of the United States. While the Pere Marquette Historical Society's primary interest is in the Pere Marquette Railroad, we frequently receive questions about the "other" Pere Marquettes.
Pere Marquette (literally "Father Marquette") was a Jesuit missionary who explored North America during the mid-to-late-1600s. Most of his work was in the Great Lakes area, particularly the shores of Lake Michigan, although he traveled the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, too. He is credited with establishing Michigan's earliest European settlements, circa 1670, at St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie, and helped Louis Joliet map the Mississippi River. He died en route from western Illinois to St. Ignace between 1675 and 1677, and was buried in St. Ignace, Michigan (location of a historical site in his honor) in 1677.
Since the passing of Father Marquette, his historic significance has led to the names "Pere Marquette" and "Marquette" being used for a number of things, most notably:
The town of Ludington, Michigan, where the Pere Marquette River widens into Pere Marquette Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan, was called "Pere Marquette" before it was incorporated as Ludington. It is from this that the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad, one of the major components of the Pere Marquette Railroad, took part of its name.
Pere Marquette Lake is located along the south side of Ludington, Michigan. It is at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River, and among other attributes, serves as the harbor for Ludington and the historic home for the railroad car ferries operated first by the Pere Marquette, then the C&O, the Michigan-Wisconsin Transit Company, and now the Lake Michigan Car Ferry Company.
The ex-C&O carferry S.S. Spartan is currently berthed at the Lake Michigan Carferry Company docks on Pere Marquette Lake. The S.S. Badger is based on Pere Marquette Lake, and is the sole ferry in service, carrying automobiles and passengers between Ludington and Manitowoc, WI during the summer months.
The Pere Marquette River begins in southeastern Lake County, just west of Reed City, then winds its way westward to drain into Pere Marquette Lake, then Lake Michigan in Ludington. It is well-known for its trout fishing, and is one of Michigan's most scenic rivers. Between Reed City and Ludington, both the Pere Marquette Railroad and highway US-10 approximated the path of the meandering Pere Marquette River. Between Baldwin and Ludington, the distance by river is over 100 miles, while the railroad and highway cover the same run in just over 30. The Pere Marquette Watershed Council is an organization devoted to preserving the Pere Marquette River's scenic, natural habitat and recreational characteristics.
"Pere Marquette Highway" is the name given to the stretch of road that was formerly highway US-31 south of Ludington, Michigan and to that portion of highway US-10 between Ludington and Scottville, Michigan.
The "Pere Marquette Rail Trail" is a rails-to-trails project preserving the former Pere Marquette right-of-way between Clare and Midland, Michigan for recreational purposes such as bicycling and hiking. It is currently open between Midland and Coleman, but the group Friends of the Pere Marquette Rail Trail is actively seeking funds to open the remainder of the route from Coleman to Clare. Along its present route, the depots at Coleman and Sanford are preserved.
A short stretch in Reed City, also named the "Pere Marquette Trail," has also been paved, and plans are in the works to extend this part of the trail east to Hersey.
The Pere Marquette Shipping Company was a Ludington, Michigan-based concern which hauled bulk commodities on the barge Pere Marquette 41. This barge was the last Pere Marquette carferry, S.S. City of Midland, until it was cut down in 1996. It was sold, along with carferry S.S. Badger, to Interlake Holdings at the end of 2020.
In August of 1984, rail passenger service returned to Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph and New Buffalo, Michigan, when Amtrak (with financial support from the State of Michigan) inaugurated The Pere Marquette, a daily passenger train connecting these West Michigan communities with Chicago. Prior to this new service's inauguration, the last scheduled passenger train serving the Michigan towns was the C&O's daily passenger trains, which were terminated April 30, 1971, on the eve of "Amtrak Day."
The story of the inauguration of Amtrak's Pere Marquette was told in the October, 1984 Passenger Train Journal, with an illustrated follow-up article describing this train and its route nearly ten years later, in the March, 1994 issue. It is interesting that this train would be named the Pere Marquette, in that this name was used almost exclusively for passenger service east of Grand Rapids, particularly the streamliners that ran between Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Route and schedule information for Amtrak's Pere Marquette, trains 370 and 371, can be found on Amtrak's Web site at http://www.amtrak.com/ .
New York financier Thomas Fortune Ryan purchased a private railway car he named Pere Marquette in 1904. He and his family owned it until it was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1942. Aside from the coincidental name, there is no connection between this car and the Pere Marquette Railroad. As far as we can tell, there is not even a record of it ever having run in Michigan on the Pere Marquette.
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