Jennifer McGraw and The Unsolved Mysteries of Father Marquette’s Many Graves

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JENNIFER MCGRAW writes non-fiction history focusing on the 1600s and the Michilimackinac region.  Her latest book, The Unsolved Mysteries of Father Marquette’s Many Graves, discusses his time in the Great Lakes area, his life at Sault Sainte Marie and Saint Ignace, his trip down the Mississippi, and his death.  It then goes on to extensively cover the multiple times that he was buried and dug up as well as the evidence that led people to conclude that the remains they had found were him.  It tells of the treatment given to his bones when he was dug up which included scraping the flesh from them, likely cremating that flesh, and disarticulating his skeleton to prepare his bones for transport. This book follows other books or booklets she has authored including Lawless Mackinac and The David Haynes Dig.  She is also co-author of a collection of writings called The Reminiscences of David Corp (co-authored with Prentiss M. Brown, Jr.). The Unsolved Mysteries of Father Marquette’s Many Graves is available at multiple area bookstores and gift shops.  It can be purchased online at or by contacting Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island at

“I was impressed with McGraw’s in-depth research and how she incorporated text from her sources, including The Jesuit Relations, to make this scholarly work both informative and entertaining reading. One highlight for me was the many details about Native American customs of the time and how the Jesuits tried not only to convert the Native Americans, but to get them to give up practices they disagreed with from living together before marriage to believing in the power of dreams.

But one Native American custom was particularly important to Father Marquette’s story—related to the Odawa’s way of showing respect for their dead. Father Marquette died on May 18, 1675, as he was journeying across Lake Michigan on his way back to St. Ignace. Realizing he was not going to live to see again the mission where he had served, he asked to be set ashore near present-day Ludington, Michigan, where he died. He was buried there, but two years later, the Odawa he had served decided to return his remains to the mission at St. Ignace. McGraw notes that this was the deepest sign of respect they could have shown him, and how they exhumed and treated his body was one of their customs. They practiced a process called excarnation—McGraw describes it in detail—where they dug him up and removed the flesh from his bones. Then they transported the body to St. Ignace. McGraw notes that they treated Father Marquette with the same respect they showed to loved ones whose bodies or bones they would sometimes carry with them for decades.” 
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, U.P. Book Review

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