In 1846, Father Frederic Baraga built a wooden cross at the mouth of Cross River as a “thank you” to the lord after a rough, stormy ride on Lake Superior.
Born in present-day Slovenia, Father Baraga came to the area in 1830 to minister to the Ottawa and Ojibwe tribes and later the immigrant miners of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His many travels throughout the area using only snowshoes into his 60s in winters earned him the nickname “Snowshoe Priest.” The Roman Catholic missionary was a grammarian of Native American languages, spoke in eight different eight tongues and wrote the first book in the Ottawa language. He became bishop of the now Diocese of Marquette in 1853 before his death in 1868.
Father Baraga often had to brave Lake Superior by canoe to reach his flocks. After catching wind of a possible epidemic in an Ojibwe village in Grand Portage one particularly stormy day, he steeled himself and hopped into his small boat to investigate. The storm increased in strength and Father Baraga, his Ojibwe guide and their wee boat were tossed around the lake, eventually blown into the mouth of Cross River, safely deposited onto a sandbar.
Grateful for their miraculous safe passage, the priest erected a small wooden cross at the site that Thanksgiving. It was later replaced with a stately cross made of granite, and a plaque that tells the story. The cross and the plaque are located just off Highway 61 near Schroeder, Minnesota. His canonization underway, Father Baraga is buried in the 1890 Romanesque cathedral of Marquette.
Know Before You Go
The Cross River is at Mile Marker 78 on Highway 61. Park at the Father Baraga's Cross Wayside and walk 0.3 miles to the monument.