The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives contains several collections relating to history of Christian religious organizations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These manuscript records document the different stories through original correspondence, journals and reports of financial and sacramental records. The number and variety of collections are suitable for extensive research on the history of religious conviction in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Majority of the collections pertain to the history of Catholic groups and Churches in Marquette. Before the city of Marquette was established the area had been explored by Missionaries with the intent to convert natives and immigrants in the area. Marquette, Michigan, was named in honor of a French Jesuit missionary Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675). Father Marquette founded Michigan’s first European settlement, Sault Ste. Marie, and explored much of what is known today as Upper Peninsula. Today, a large number of Christian denominations are active in the region, including, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Jehovah witness.
Participation in religious associations and activates eased the transitions to a new land. Italian’s are just one of many nationalities to settle in the mining and lumber towns. In 1965, Msgr. David Spelegatti founded the Paisano Club as a benevolent society for Italian immigrants and their children. The Msgr. David P. Spelgatti papers document the early years of the Pisano Club and the activities of St. John’s Catholic Church of Ishpeming, Michigan. Msgr. Spelgatti served the St. John the Evangelist parish from 1958 to 1991.
In 2005 a presentation commemorating St. Louis the King Catholic Church describes the history of the St. Louis the King Catholic Parish in Harvey, Michigan from 1955 to 2005. St. Louis the King Catholic Church was formed in 1954 in Harvey, Michigan, just south of Marquette. After a groundbreaking ceremony for the first church structure in 1955, the congregation grew to nearly 700 families by 1999. A new church structure was opened in 2000 and he original church building became the church social hall. The church operates the Annual Chocolay Summerfest, contributes to the local parish school system, and has had six pastors since its inception. The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan records detail the history and the growth of the Church in the Upper Peninsula. The Archives maintains related religious collections, such as; the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church records, and First Methodist Church records.
Within other collections you can find leading figures in Marquette’s history including Peter White, Which can be found in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records. Peter White is well-known for his contributions to the building of the city of Marquette and major contributions establishing the Peter White Public Library.
Shortly after the Civil War, immigrants from all over Europe began to settle in the Upper Peninsula forming close communities based a similar background’s and common language. Immigrants from Cornwall and other areas of Great Britain began arriving in the Upper Peninsula in the 1840s. They took jobs as iron and copper miners and were members of the Anglican Church. In 1854, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan expanded to the Upper Peninsula and built two churches in Houghton and Ontonagon, Michigan, to address the religions needs of Cornish miners. In 1891, the Dioceses appointed Gershom Mott Williams as the first Archdeacon of the Upper Peninsula. Later in 1895, the archdeaconry became the Episcopal Diocese of Marquette with Archdeacon Williams consecrated as the first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan.
Written by Morgan Paavola