The history of the Catholic movement in SJC
A “History of St. Joseph County” written in 1911 describes the early Catholic movement in St. Joseph County. The first Catholic Church was built in Mendon.
The Recollect Father Louis Hennepin, the companion of French explorer Robert de La Salle, came up the St. Joseph River as far as where Three Rivers is now situated. The Recollects were a French commonly known today as Franciscans. It is certain that Father Jacques Marquette explored the river upwards about 25 miles and gave it the name St. Joseph.
Tradition has it that an Indian mission was established and for a long time flourished close by the concrete bridge in Three Rivers. This mission may have been founded by Father Allouez, who came to Niles in 1680, and labored along the St. Joseph River till his death in 1690. When Fort St. Joseph was attacked in 1759, all the missionaries were taken as prisoners to Quebec. The natives preserved the memory of the Faithful Black Robes and their belief in the Christian religion for nearly 100 years. The log chapels and the various articles of the sacred service of the church were guarded by the bereaved Christians, and often they made touching appeals for priests to instruct their children in the faith of their fathers. The Pottawatomies were banished by the government to the country beyond the Mississippi. Some Indians contrived to evade the order of banishment in spite of the presence of the governor and his agents, preferring to live and die in the land on the “Mitchi Sawgyegan” (great lake), from which is derived the name Lake Michigan. To these Indians as well as to the white men who now came in large numbers, the Fathers of the Holy Cross for several years administered the consolations of Catholicism. They visited the missions and the scattered families from St. Joseph to Kalamazoo.
See Saturday's print or e-edition of the Commercial-News for the full article.