The Fr. Marquette Legend
Some Jesuit missionaries may have erected crosses on prominent elevations. This possiblity, along with the date and description on the hermit's map coincides with the French expeditions in this area from 1673 to 1679.
Indian folklore supports the traditional belief of a Jesuit missionary in this area. The Potawatomis and their chief, Kewaskum, camped near Pike Lake and often spoke of the black robe chief who wore a crucifix and rosary at his belt.
The Indians reported that the black robe prayed at the big hill where he planted a cross. Chief Monches of the Menomonee Indians confirmed the Potawatomi story. Chief Monches loved to illustrate the story in the sand or snow while telling how the black robe chief came from Lake Michigan in search of the Rock River. A combination of lndian folklore and reports of the hermit's map and French diary gave birth to the legend of Fr. Marquette's presence at Holy Hill in 1673. This legend has been included in all past histories of the hill.
Fr. Marquette could not have visited Holy Hill in 1673. He and Joliet were in the midst of their Mississippi explorations during that year. Marquette and Joliet had contemporary witnesses to their explorations and kept precise records of distances traveled, as well as a daily journal of events. Although Fr. Marquette was on the Milwaukee shores of Lake Michigan and met with a tribe of friendly Indians between November 23 and 27, 1674, it is very unlikely that he would have come this far inland without keeping an accurate record of the journey and the distanced traveled. Fr. Marquette became ill in the summer of 1674 and died somewhere in the wilderness along Lake Michigan's eastern shore on May 18, 1675.
Even though Fr. Marquette could not have visited Holy Hill in 1673, his journeys through the wilderness and his devotion to Mary give him a unique spiritual bond with pilgrims who come to Holy Hill. He placed his travels under Mary's protection and asked his companions to take her for their patron daily. This was their dedication prayer: "We, with full accord, commenced a new devotion to the Holy Virgin Immaculate which we practiced every day." This was the opening line from his prayer for protection: "Above all, I put our voyage under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate..." If Fr. Marquette were here today, he would be pleased with the meaning of the Greek wrought-iron letters set into the ceiling lamps of the upper church. Together these letters spell out the word "hodegetria". The translation for hod is -"way". The translation for egetria is feminine "leader" or "guide". In reference to Mary this means she is our guide of the Way and leader for all pilgrims who search for "...the way, the truth and the life" (Jn. 14:6) - the Lord Jesus Christ.
Early Irish Settlers
Many of the early settlers came to the Holy Hill area in 1842 from Counties Kerry, Cork and Waterford in Ireland. They named the area in which they clustered Erin Township in honor of their beloved homeland. Their first Eucharistic Liturgy was celebrated at the log home of Barney McConville. The celebrant, Fr. Martin Kundig. walked from Prairieville (now Waukesha) by way of Merton and Monches. In 1854 the German population began buying the small impoverished farms of the Irish. Though many of the Irish left the area because of hard times, their memorial is in the names given during the 1960's to the picturesque country roads in the immediate area around Holy Hill. These names - Donegal, Waterford, Shamrock Lane, and Emerald Drive - reflect the romance of the area's Irish heritage.