Selected records of Sacred Heart Franciscan priests and brothers who evangelized Native American communities in Arizona, California, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Included on microfilm is correspondence between missionaries, church and government officials, and native parishioners, parish and friary reports; school and sacramental records; scrapbooks and news clippings; chronicles, monographs and religious writings; and a variety of published materials. Also included are photographs and additional publications. Significant topics include administrative, financial, and political concerns of mission parishes and schools; biographical information on several missionaries and select Native Americans; and cultural and historical information on the Menominee, Ojibwa, and Ottawa tribes in Michigan and Wisconsin. Most records created before 1920 and a minority to about 1940 are written in German, reflecting the German nativity of the early members of the province.

In 1982, Marquette University microfilmed the original records after borrowing them from the Sacred Heart Franciscan Archives, St. Louis, Missouri. At that time, the the Sacred Heart Franciscan Archives donated selected photographic prints (Series 4) and publications (Series 5), all of which were duplicate items within the original archival records. 4.2 cubic feet with 43 reels microfilm.


Historical Notes

Itinerant Jesuit and  Franciscan missionaries evangelized the North American interior since the seventeenth century. Initially this included Pima, Tohono O'odham, and Yaqui Indians on the northern Mexican frontier and Ojibwa and Ottawa Indians in the western Great Lakes region. By mid-nineteenth century, the development of mission facilities and linguistic and religious materials in the native languages enhanced the ongoing missionary effort.  Missions were established northward along the California coast and at the principal trade outposts of Tucson, Arizona (1782), Harbor Springs, Michigan (1829, formerly New Abre Croche) and La Pointe, Wisconsin (1835, precedes Bayfield). Publications by Baraga and others facilitated native language study for subsequent missionaries.

Despite centuries of missionary effort, indigenous belief systems thrived.  After the 1867 expulsion of the Jesuits, northern frontier natives without benefit of clergy managed their own church organizations, which integrated Christian and Native beliefs and practices.  Among the Apache, evangelizing was never initiated, owing to persistent hostilities with Mexico. In the Great Lakes region, the Dream Dance or Drum Religion, a religious revival from the northern plains, swept across the traditional communities enabling non-Christians to effectively resists conversion.

Meanwhile, German Franciscans sought refuge in the United States. They established the Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, Missouri) in 1879 and soon accepted requests from bishops in the following dioceses to establish and administer missions, parishes, and schools among Native Americans:

1878-1905 (succeeded by Superior Diocese) Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin: Ojibwa of northwestern Wisconsin  
1880-1975 (transferred to Green Bay Diocese) Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin: Menominee and Ojibwa of northeastern Wisconsin  
1884-1971 (succeeded by Gaylord Diocese) Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Ottawa of the northern lower peninsula of Michigan  
1887-1922 (closed) Archdiocese of San Francisco, California: Pomo and Yuki in Mendocino County  
1896-1922 (transferred to Santa Barbara Province Franciscans) Diocese of Tucson, Arizona: Apache, Maricopa, Pima, Tohono O'dham, and Yaqui of southern Arizona  
1905-2010s Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin: Ojibwa of northwestern Wisconsin  
1971-1970s Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan: Ottawa of the northern lower peninsula of Michigan  

Mission sites were generally dispersed to correspond with the prevalent native settlement patterns of small widely scattered camps and settlements.  In most places, development of evangelization work required the construction of new schools, churches, and friaries as former facilities were few and frequently inadequate. Prominent among the friaries were:  Ashland and Bayfield among the Ojibwa, Harbor Spring among the Ottawa, Keshena among the Menominee, and Tucson among the Tohono O'dham, Pima, and Yaqui (established 1913).  At these and other centers, schools were developed and staffed by sisters and occasional brothers and lay persons. Academic and vocational subjects were standard areas of study. Unique among the Franciscan schools was the student operated press (1884-1915), publisher of numerous books and periodicals of historic, linguistic, religious, and promotional nature. Especially prior to 1920, mission stations were ministered catechists. Finances were provided by donations from numerous sources and erratic but important federal school subsidies (ca. 1885-1910).

During the Great Lakes logging boom (ca. 1880-1910) employment opportunities coupled with expanding native populations attracted many from the rural communities to the towns of Ashland, Bayfield, and Neopit (established 1909) in Wisconsin, and Harbor Springs in Michigan. Initially, the new mission parishes were frequently mixed native-immigrant congregations with a native majority. Subsequently, in all towns except Neopit, native residents dispersed, seeking employment elsewhere. As immigrant communities developed, some parishes transferred to diocesan control (Shawano, 1888 and Washburn, 1910). Meanwhile, a mission station was temporarily established among the Stockbridge (1894-1938) and Phillip Gordon (Ojibwa) was ordained in 1906. During the 1970's, administration for many of the Michigan and Wisconsin parishes was transferred to the local dioceses.

See also -- the following repository entries in Marquette's Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States, which pertain to the Sacred Heart Franciscans and their Native American ministries. The entries include chronologies with events that affected the record holdings and descriptions of them plus other holdings at these repositories.


Phoenix, Catholic Church. Diocese of Phoenix. Archives

Topawa, St. Catherine Mission

Tucson, Catholic Church. Diocese of Tucson. Archives

Tucson (San Xavier), San Xavier del Bac Mission

California, Menlo Park, Catholic Church. Archdiocese of San Francisco. Archives


Gaylord, Catholic Church. Diocese of Gaylord. Archives

Grand Rapids, Catholic Church. Diocese of Grand Rapids. Archives

Harbor Springs, Holy Cross Church

Petoskey, St. Francis Xavier Church

Missouri, St. Louis: Franciscans. Sacred Heart Province. Archives: Original holdings that correspond to this microfilm collection.


Ashland, Our Lady of the Lake Church

Bayfield, Holy Family Church

Green Bay, Catholic Church. Diocese of  Green Bay. Archives

Keshena, St. Michael Church

La Crosse, Catholic Church. Diocese of La Crosse. Archives

Neopit, St. Anthony Church

Reserve (Stone Lake), St. Francis Solanus Church and School

Superior, Catholic Church. Diocese of Superior


Scope and Content

Reformatted records: Records that have been microfilmed are so noted, most of which are available throughout the United States via interlibrary loan. These and other records are or can be made available in digital formats via email. Reformatting fees may apply. Ask an Archivist for details.

The 43 reels of microfilm constitute the bulk of the collection and are numbered consecutively throughout.

Sacred Heart Franciscan Series 1, Localia: "Local Records," reels 1-24, is comprised of the records from the Indian parishes and schools and local Franciscan friaries, plus some local-specific publications. Reel 9 contains a few publications written in Ojibwa and Ottawa and reel 20 contains Noble Lives of a Noble Race, by the students of St. Mary's School, Odanah, Wisconsin, 1908. The Marquette Archives also holds a bound handwritten and hand illustrated manuscript copy of this book.

Reel 22 includes letters by Reverend Philip B. Gordon, Ti-bish-go-gi-jik (Ojibwa, 1885-1948), written from Reserve, Wisconsin, 1914-1919. Additional letters by Father Gordon are found in the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records, Series 1-1 General Correspondence.

Restrictions: Reels 8-9 and 16 not available for interlibrary loan. They contain pre-1930 sacramental and/or school records, i.e. Holy Childhood Church and School, Cross Village/ Harbor Springs, Michigan, and St. Michael's Mission and Joseph's School, Keshena, Menominee Reservation, Wisconsin, and therefore, are restricted for 70 years. Guidelines for Catholic sacramental records by the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists follow the U.S. Government practice of 70-year closure on census records. In standard archival practice, restrictions on life-long records are lifted 70 years after their date of creation. For more information about access to these records and other genealogical records at Marquette University, please submit an Application for Genealogical Query.

Sacred Heart Franciscan Series 2, Realia: "Vital Records," reel 24, in part, focuses on correspondence between Franciscans and the dioceses. It includes reports about the missions, and correspondence between Franciscans and the editors of the Franciscan publications, which published a number of their historical writings.

Sacred Heart Franciscan Series 3, Personalia: "Personal Papers," reels 24-39, focus on the personal records of Franciscans, which include biographical and personnel records and a variety of local history and native language research notes and writings. Several publications pertaining to Ojibwa (and or Ottawa, at least in part) are dispersed throughout reels 25-30 and 37-40.

The Reverend Odoric Derenthal, O.F.M., papers contain sacramental records (Ojibwa?) from Northwest Wisconsin, 1880-1884, which are not restricted.

Sacred Heart Franciscan Series 4, Photography, includes images pertaining to American Indians and the Franciscan missions and parishes. These images were duplicate items within the original photographs at the Sacred Heart Franciscan Archives.

Selected images from this collection are featured online in the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Photographs Digital Collection.

Searching tips: Related images may exist in more than one collection at Marquette University, either online or off-line. To identify all online images pertinent to your research, use the Advanced Search function, which provides simultaneous searching across more than one digital collection, e.g. Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Digital Images (also includes images from the Walter Bernard Hunt Collection and the Sacred Heart Province Franciscan Records), The Indian Sentinel Digital Publication, Holy Rosary Mission/Red Cloud Indian School Images, St. Francis Mission Digital Images. To insure that pertinent online images are not overlooked, conduct multiple advanced searches using diverse but related key words such as names of objects, persons, places, organizations, and ethnic groups. Need help? Need more images? With specific parameters, archives staff will provide copies of images not online. Ask an Archivist about these records

Sacred Heart Franciscan Series 5, Publications: reels 40-43, is comprised of the Franciscan Herald, 1913-1981 (not microfilmed), Annals of the Province of the Sacred Heart O.F.M., 1929-1941, and Lesser Brothers, 1968-1981, all of which include writings by Franciscans about their evangelization of Native Americans. In the Franciscan Herald, most related articles pertained to Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and appeared before 1930. Also included were serialized histories about related missions in French Canada, 1914, Spanish Florida, 1913-1915, Spanish Texas, 1915-1917, Spanish New Mexico, 1918-1922, and Wisconsin, 1926-1927. All of the titles were duplicate publications within the original records in the Sacred Heart Franciscan Archives. Additional publications, which are dispersed through Localia and Personalia, are described under those series above.