Michigan Transportation History

Claude-Jean Allouez

PersonMichiganJesuitMissionaryFrenchExplorerAuthorPublicNew France


Claude-Jean Allouez (1622-1689) was a French Jesuit missionary in CanadaCanada and the Great Lakes region. He arrived in New FranceNew France in 1658 and served at missions throughout the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes region until his death at NilesNiles in 1689. Allouez's ministered to at least twenty-three different Native American societies of Michigan and WisconsinWisconsin for thirty-two years and is claimed to have baptized at least 10,000 people during those years. So extensive were his travels and his accomplishments (no other Jesuit missionary traveled as widely in the West as did Allouez) that John Gillmary Shea called Allouez, "the founder of Catholicity in the West."1

Ministry in the Great Lakes region

In 1660, he was appointed as father superior at the mission at Trois-Rivières, Quebec. In 1663 he was appointed by Bishop François de Laval to be vicar general of the Upper Great Lakes thus establishing the first ecclesiastical organization in region and becoming the first vicar general of any region that was later to become the U.S.2 In 1665, he was sent to Lake Superior and founded the mission at La Pointe du Saint Esprit in the Chequamegon Bay (October 1)Chequamegon Bay. The house he built there was at the time the only French settlement west of the Georgian Bay. The Hurons, to whom he ministered, had not seen a Catholic missionary since they fled upper Ontario in 1649. Allouez also circumnavigated Lake Superior in 1667 and created the first European map of the lake.

Between 1667 and 1669, Allouez was very active establishing missions along the western shores of Lake Michigan. He established missions among the Pottawatomie, the Mesquakie, the Miami, and Mascouten Indians. While traveling in this region, he collected information and stories about a "great river" to the west (which was the Mississippi). This information he passed on to Louis Jolliet? and Jacques Marquette and became the basis for their exploration of the Mississippi River in 1673.

By 1671, Allouez, because of his fluency in the Algonquian languages and because of his prestige among the peoples of the Upper Great Lakes, was principal speaker at the Pageant of the Sault, which he conducted. Later that year, he founded the St. Francis Xavier Mission at the Rapides Des Pères (or Falls of the Fathers, present day De Pere, WI), which is first cataract on the Fox River from the Green Bay.

Following the death of Jacques Marquette in 1675, Allouez was appointed to continued Marquette's work among the Illinois and Miami Indians. For this purpose, he established the mission of St. JosephSt. Joseph near present-day Niles, Michigan. He made southern Michigan the base of his operations for the next fourteen years. It was from here that he came into conflict with and opposed the activities of La Salle. Allouez died at the St. Joseph mission in 1689 and was buried there.


Much of his diary has been published in the Jesuit Relations. Throughout his life, he traveled over 3,000 miles, ministering to the peoples of 23 different nations. According to Claude Dablon, Allouez baptized over 10,000 people. Through these efforts, Allouez is probably the most influential missionary at establishing the Catholic Church in the Great Lakes region.3



1. John Gilmary Shea, A History of the Catholic Church within the Limits of the United States, from the First Attempted Colonization to the Present Time (New York: by the author, 1886), 331.

2. John Gilmary Shea, A History of the Catholic Church Within the Limits of the United States, from the First Attempted Colonization to the Present Time (New York: by the author, 1886), 269.

3. G. J. Garraghan, The Jesuits of the Middle United States (3v., New York, 1938), I-3.


Primary Sources

Jesuit Relations

See also American Journeys for original documents from Allouez.

Secondary Sources


Pouliot, Léon. "Claude-Jean Allouez," Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto, 2000).

Dictionary of Wisconsin History

Catholic Encyclopedia

Unchecked sources at Wisconsin History:

Citation: When referencing this page please use the following citation:

R. D. Jones, "Claude-Jean Allouez," Michigan Transportation History (Ypsilanti, MI: 2020), www.michtranshist.info/.

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Page last modified on October 23, 2023, at 11:17 AM EST

Page last modified on October 23, 2023, at 11:17 AM EST