Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “The Archdiocese of Chicago: A Journey of Faith” about the early days of the city and the Catholic Church’s presence here. Chicago Catholics were “present at the creation” of their Midwestern boomtown. In 1833, the same year that the community on Lake Michigan incorporated as a town, a group of French, Irish and British Catholics organized St. Mary’s parish. Ten years later, the city was designated a separate Catholic diocese; the first resident bishop, William J. Quarter, arrived from New York on May 5, 1844. However, Catholics had actually lived at the swampy prairie site that the local Miami Indians called “Chicagou” for a century and a half before its incorporation as a town and its organization as a diocese. The first European who landed in Chicago was a Catholic priest. In September 1673, Father Jacques Marquette, SJ, a French Jesuit, along with Louis Joliet and four other companions, discovered the portage between the Des Plaines and Chicago Rivers. As they dragged their birch bark canoes over this land bridge, they envisioned a canal connecting the watersheds of the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. Father Marquette returned to the site a year later and spent the winter of 1674- 1675 in a rude cabin near the portage. Like many a later Chicagoan, he contracted a deadly virus in the brutal cold and died the following spring while returning northwards to his base at St. Ignace, Michigan. According to Ulrich Danckers, an amateur historian who has meticulously researched “Early Chicago” as a labor of love: “During the next 25 years many other missionaries, traders, and military men followed the pathways opened by Marquette and Joliet. ... By the year 1700 both a mission and a trading post stood on land that is now almost the center of the city.” Father Francois Pinet, SJ, founded La Mission de l’Ange Gardien (Guardian Angel Mission) in 1696, surrounded by a Miami Indian village. This was almost three-quarters of a century before the establishment of the better known California missions. Guardian Angel Mission lasted only until about 1702 or 1703 when it was abandoned due to frequent Indian raids. Throughout the 18th century, small-scale but fierce warfare raged incessantly across the center of North America as the French and their English rivals made and broke numerous alliances with Indian tribes and confederations. Nevertheless, various French traders and missionaries lived on the banks of the Chicago River from time to time throughout the century. After the French and Indian War and then the American Revolution settled the European contest for control of the Midwest, more permanent settlement could begin in Chicago. A French-speaking mulatto with an Indian wife, Jean Baptiste Point de Sable, built a log cabin near the mouth of the Chicago River about 1784 and remained there as a prosperous farmer until 1800. He is widely heralded today as Chicago’s first non-native, long-term settler. Probably born near Montreal, Quebec, Point de Sable was a “free Negro” and a Roman Catholic. The Chicago pioneer and his Indian wife Catherine had their marriage solemnized by a Catholic priest at the mission of Cahokia, Illinois, in 1788 and later their daughter also had her marriage blessed by a priest at the same settlement. Despite the long Catholic presence in Chicago, there was no priest resident there at the end of the 18th century. On April 16, 1833, Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis whose farflung diocese included most of the American Midwest, received a petition from Catholics living in Chicago asking that he send a resident priest to minister to them. The petition to Rosati was signed by 36 men and listed the number of family members belonging to each, for a total of 128 Catholic individuals. Judging by their last names, the petitioners numbered 21 French, 13 Scottish or English and two Irish. Many of the signers had Indian blood or were married to Indian women. The petition was written in French. Chicago incorporated as a town that same year, on June 18. A minimum of 150 settlers was required for incorporation. If the minimum number were present in Chicago, the 128 Catholics would have comprised an overwhelming majority. Even if more Chicagoans were present in 1833, as some historians have estimated, Catholics formed a significant presence in the new town. Bishop Rosati responded to the Chicago petition immediately and sent a newly ordained, French-born priest, John Mary Irenaeus St. Cyr. Arriving in Chicago on May 1, 1833, he said Mass for the first time in Mark Beaubien’s log cabin. St. Cyr and his eager flock formed St. Mary’s parish and quickly built a wooden church building at the corner of Lake and State streets. St. Mary’s church was one of the first buildings in the United States built by the so-called “balloon-frame” method. Instead of employing skilled carpenters to laboriously fit together heavy wooden beams with mortises and tenons, a light-weight frame was hastily assembled from pine boards and nailed together. The balloon frame was cheaper and quicker to erect and so easier to break down again or move intact. Accordingly, St. Mary’s church migrated twice, first to Michigan and Madison and then to Wabash and Madison. St. Cyr ministered not only to his original flock of petitioners in Chicago but to about 400 others, including Indians and African-Americans, in the surrounding area. In 1834, the Chicago area came under the jurisdiction of a newly formed diocese at Vincennes, Indiana, but St. Cyr remained for two more years until October 1836 when he returned to St. Louis and was replaced by a priest from Vincennes. In 1843 Chicago became a separate Catholic diocese, embracing the whole state of Illinois. William J. Quarter, an Irish-born priest working in New York City, was assigned as the first resident bishop.