Group offering to buy Father Marquette Memorial.

February 13, 2018

Photo by Todd Reed, used with permission.

Group offering to buy Father Marquette Memorial.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

PERE MARQUETTE CHARTER TOWNSHIP — A community based organization is being formed to revitalize the Pere Marquette Memorial Association. Ludington attorney Carlos Alvarado has sent a letter to the township board stating the group’s request to purchase the Father Marquette Memorial (also known as the Father Marquette Shrine).

The site has been a topic of controversy lately because of a Muskegon based atheist who has threatened to sue the township over ownership of a site that has a religious symbol on it. Many in the public have argued that the site should be allowed because it is a historical site, dedicated to Father (Pere in French) Jacques Marquette, a French missionary and explorer who died near what is now Ludington, on the Buttersville Peninsula, in the 1670s, rather than a religious symbol.

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The memorial site, which overlooks Pere Marquette Lake (also named after the explorer) consists of two parcels of land. “Since the site consists of two distinct parcels, the (organization) offers to purchase one of the parcels, the parcel on which the memorial with the cross sits (parcel 1), so that the Township may maintain ownership of the second parcel, where the boat launch exists for the public,” Alvarado said. “The (organization) shall pay fair market, and reasonable value, based on all the relevant circumstances and conditions, in an amount agreed upon by the parties. The Township shall obtain a professional appraisal, which shall take into consideration the deed restrictions on the site and the physical conditions of the land. If the parties cannot agree to such a price, this agreement shall be void.”

Alvardo said the site was originally deeded by the estate of Marshall F. Butters on Oct. 26, 1937 to the Pere Marquette Memorial Association with certain restrictions listed on the title. He did not list the restrictions.

The current memorial was built in the 1950s, though many local historians agree that a memorial to Marquette existed on the site for several decades prior. PM Township has invested nearly $80,000 to renovate the cross that towers over the memorial. Alvarado said that the new organization would fulfill the financial obligations to complete restoration of the cross.

He added that the organization would establish a fund with the Community Foundation for Mason County with a minimum of $20,000 for annual maintenance of the site.

Carlos Alvarado

MCP has been told by a township trustee previously that the township is unable to sell or give away the land because of a pending grant from the Department of Natural Resources which restricts the sale or donation of township recreational land.

The township board of trustees is expected to discuss the offer during its regular monthly meeting today at 6:30 p.m. at the township hall, 1699 S. Pere Marquette Highway.

Historical note:

In 1673, Marquette and French-Candadian explorer Louis Jolliet, left St. Ignace and followed Lake Michigan to Green Bay, up the Fox River to its headwaters. They eventually entered the Mississippi River and traveled within 435 miles of the Gulf of Mexico, turning back at the mouth of the Arkansas River. They followed the Mississippi back to the Illinois River and reached what is now Chicago. In the spring of 1675 Marquette began his journey back to St. Ignace on the east side of Lake Michigan. He died of dysentery, at the age of 37, on what is now known as the Buttersville Peninsula south of modern Ludington. He was buried on the site but his remains were eventually moved to St. Ignace.

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