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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Nelson publication debuts in Helena

  • Ruth Nelson, a Chicago area history buff, has been gathering every piece of pertinent information she could about the life, travels and statues of Father Jacques Marquette, the acclaimed French missionary whose travels brought him downstream on the Mississippi River. Nelson has published “Searching for Marquette, a Pilg...
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  • Ruth Nelson, a Chicago area history buff, has been gathering every piece of pertinent information she could about the life, travels and statues of Father Jacques Marquette, the acclaimed French missionary whose travels brought him downstream on the Mississippi River. Nelson has published “Searching for Marquette, a Pilgrimage in Art” that retells the story of the 17th century French Jesuit missionary-explorer, a celebrated surveyor of the Mississippi River. In April 2009, Nelson contacted Joe. St. Columbia, a history buff in his own right, who provided her a thorough tour of Phillips County's history, taking her to the Phillips County Library and Museum, the Delta Cultural Center and even giving her some air time as a guest on Sonny Payne's “King Biscuit Time” radio program. According to St. Columbia, Nelson was conducting the research for her Master's thesis. Nelson learned that Marquette made his last stop in Helena, which was only part of the Marquette legacy that began on the southern shore of Lake Superior and ended on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. In searching for Marquette, Nelson followed his journey through towns in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Arkansas to uncover French relics, Native-American royalty and hearty settlers in a drama of faith, the fur trade and the future of America's heartland. “We all learn about Marquette and {Louis} Joliet in grade school,” Nelson stated in the Town Crier. “As I researched, I became more interested in the Catholic history in the Midwest and this story just grabbed a hold of me. It became my passion. I just fell in love with the story.” After earning her Master's degree in 2007, she received a grant from the Corning Museum of Glass to further study mosaics. That grant spawned more interest in Father Marquette and she eventually decided to write a book about the many statues and memorials honoring him. “What I realized was the more that I dug, the more good stuff I learned and the longer it took. There's so much history here,” commented Nelson. While on her visit in Helena, she visited the Marquette statue that was originally erected in October 1936 but was replaced with a replica due to an automobile accident that crushed the statue that stood on Oakland Avenue. Nelson explained that Marquette made the trip down the Mississippi River twice before dying of an intestinal aliment. Marquette came initially to Canada as a Catholic missionary. Among the noble points in the book include references to Samuel Champlain, the founder of Quebec. Each chapter in the book focuses on the statues honoring Father Marquette in Midwest cities where he traveled, including Chicago, Utica, Peoria, and Summit in Illinois, Milwaukee and Prairie Du Chien in Wisconsin, Gary in Indiana, Helena in Arkansas, St. Louis in Missouri and Marquette St. Ignace, Mackinac Island and Ludington in Michigan. The historical reflections of Helena can be found in Nelson's “Searching for Marquette, a Pilgrimage in Art” at the Phillips County Library.
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