Father Baraga's Cross
Address: 56 Baraga Cross Rd, Schroeder, MN 55613
Coordinates: 47.5528, -90.8764
Hours of Operation: Daylight Hours are best, no closing time
Accessibility: Dirt path, not accessible by wheelchair during winter
Amenities: Porta Potty, Full toilets available on opposite side of Hwy 61: Not available during the winter. Picnic tables by the water.
Noise Restrictions: Neighboring houses are present
Water Access: Beach access available, no motor boats allowed
What is Father Baraga's Cross?
"Father Frederic Baraga, learning of a possible epidemic afflicting the Indians at Grand Portage in 1846, set out in a small boat from Madeline Island in Wisconsin with an Indian Guide. An unexpected storm threatened them but their lives were spared when they were blown over the sandbar and into the quiet mouth of Cross River. In Thanksgiving they erected a small wooden cross at the site which was later replaced by this granite one.
Father Baraga, born in Slovenia in 1787, came to the United States in 1830 and devoted his life to the Indian of the Upper Great Lakes. Consecrated a Bishop of Upper Michigan in 1853, Bishop Baraga, whose life was filled with heroism and zeal for the souls died January 19, 1868 and his remains rest in the crypt of St. Peters Cathedral in Marquette, Michigan."
- Courtesy of Knights of Columbus
When one visits Father Baraga's Cross one will read the story above that is inscribed on a plaque that sits on the cross itself. Strewn about one will find flowers, painted stones, notes all left for this man who drifted across Lake Superior in a birch bark canoe with his fellow Metis (half Ojibwe/half European) paddler named Louis Gaudin. One might also find a rosary or prayer ties hanging from the tree behind it. Father Baraga's Cross seems to offer a place of prayer and respite for many who happen to stop by this small landmark.
In the year 1846 alone, Father Baraga traveled from L'Anse to Madeline Island to Fond Du Lac, back to Madeline Island before attempting this near fatal mission across Lake Superior to help the Ojibwe Natives who lived in Grand Portage. The whole of this trip was made in snowshoes which totaled over 690 miles! In that same year, Father Pierz, a close constituent of Father Baraga's, had traveled extensive distances himself to reach and help the Ojibwe people. Father Baraga, in the fall and after that trip by snowshoe, then traveled across Lake Superior in his small boat where Father Baraga steered and with Louis Gaudin who rowed. In that year alone Father Skolla established himself at Madeline Island and Father Baraga sought to build a church in Fond Du Lac and Grand Portage. This cross marks as a memorial for all of his efforts to help the Ojibwe stay on their lands.
Click Here to read the whole story about Father Baraga's Cross as told by Johann Kohl who traveled with Father Baraga.
Things to do near Father Baraga's Cross
Father Baraga's Cross is a great location to be able to relax and unwind while looking over the shores of Lake Superior. There have been many people that have come here for several hours just to be able to enjoy time for themselves or with another by the beach. During the summer time one can enjoy seeing the varieties of flowers in bloom as well around Father Baraga's cross or just time to lay on the rocks and read.
Father Baraga's Cross is located right next to the Cross River Heritage Center which is also a great place to learn about Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) art and culture and the history of the region.
Across the street from the Cross River Heritage Center and Schroeder Baking Company which can be seen as "Lamb's Resort & Campground" on the map. If you feel like ordering out or exploring a new small town restaurant, you can also stop in the subs, bakery and pizza restaurant called the Schroeder Baking Company.
One can see the most spectacular waterfall on Cross River and a dedication to Father Baraga himself at what can be seen as the "Gitchi Gami State Trail" above. And if you feel like just making a pit stop for a moment, this is the place to do so! There is a restroom here to stop at on the west side of the road before actually heading down to Father Baraga's cross.
You will find a sign that simply says, "Father Baraga's Cross" when you wish to visit the cross itself. This cross is located in Schroeder, MN on the western side of Lake Superior.
This Pipestone Cross was brought forward to honor Father Baraga's legacy for the care and concern of the Native populations.
This year (2022) Father Baraga's Plaque was replaced with this plaque. The original text stating that Father Baraga was from Yugoslavia now correctly states that he is from Slovenia. The picture has also been updated.
This is the image of cross river right next to the cross. Father Baraga entered the mouth of this river where he was saved.
This is the scene that one sees from the cross itself. There is also a beach here where one can spend time with their family, friends or on their own!
This is the year that Father Baraga made this perilous voyage on behalf of the Ojibway people.
This is the symbol inscribed on the cross which can also be found at the pit stop above.
This is the waterfall one can find across from the bakery and museum.
This is the highway sign after the bakery and museum that tells one where to turn to get to the cross.
This is the plaque that can be found at the pit stop talking about Father Baraga's Cross.
The Story of Father Baraga's Cross
Father Baraga's Cross
The Milky Way is in the background of this beautiful photo used with permission from Patrick Forslund Photography. Click Here to see the full photo on his site which is available for purchase.
The story of Father Baraga's journey was captured, written and published by Johann Georg Kohl in 1860 who was talking with Canadian Voyageur Du Roy while taking a tour of the Ojibwe locations with Father Baraga in 1855. It is Du Roy's cousin, Louis Goudin nicknamed Dubois, who was the one who paddled the birch bark canoe with Father Baraga across Lake Superior. This is found in the book Kitchi Gami: Among the Lake Superior Ojibway which was originally published in 1860 by Johann Georg Kohl, 14 years after Father Baraga made this journey. Here is a exact story as found in his book:
Du Roy: "Do you know the summer voyage our most reverend friend, your companion, once made in a birch-bark canoe right across Lake Superior? Ah! that is a celebrated voyage, which everybody round the lake is acquainted with. Indeed, there is hardly a locality on the lake which is not connected with the history of his life, either because he built a chapel there, or wrote a pious book, or founded an Indian parish, or else underwent danger and adventures there, in which he felt that Heaven was protecting him.
"The aforesaid summer voyage, which I will tell you here as companion to his winter journey, was as follows:
"He was staying at that time on one of the Islands of the Apostles, and heard that his immediate presence was required at one of the little Indian missions or stations on the northern shore of the lake. As he is always ready to start at a moment, he walked with his breviary in his hand, dressed in his black robe, and with his gold cross fastened on his breast - he always travels in this solemn garb, on foot or on horse-back, on snow-shoes or in a canoe - he walked, I say, with his breviary in his hand and his three-cornered hat on his head, into the hut of my cousin, a well-known Voyageur, and said to him: 'Dubois, I must cross the lake, direct from here to the northern shore. Hast thou a boat ready?'
" 'My boat is here,' said my cousin, 'but how can I venture to go with you straight across the lake? Is is seventy miles, and the weather does not look very promising. No one ever yet attempted this "traverse" in small boats. Our passage to the north shore is made along the coast, and we usually employ eight days in it.'
" ' Dubois, that is too long; it cannot be. I repeat it to thee. I am called. I must go straight across the lake. Take thy paddle and "couverte," and come!' And our reverend friend took his seat in the canoe, and waited patiently till my obedient cousin (who, I grant, opened his eyes very wide, and shook his head at times) packed up his traps, sprang after him, and pushed the canoe on the lake.
"Now you are aware, monsieur, that we Indians and Voyageurs rarely make greater traverses across the lake than fifteen miles from cape to cape, so that we may be easily able to pull our boats ashore in the annoying caprices of our weather and water. A passage of twenty-five or thirty miles we call a 'grande traverse,' and one of seventy miles is an impossibility. Such a traverse was never made before, and only performed this once. My cousin, however, worked away obediently and cheerfully, and they were soon floating in their nutshell in the middle of the lake like a loon, without compass and out of sight of land. Very soon, too, they had bad weather.
"It began to grow stormy, and the water rose in high waves. My cousin remarked that he had prophesied this, but his pious, earnest passenger read on in his breviary quietly, and only now and then addressed a kind work of encouragement to my cousin, saying that he had not doubted his prophecy about the weather, but he replied to it that he was called across the lake, and God would guide them both to land.
"They toiled all night through the storm and waves, and, as the wind was fortunately with them, they moved along very rapidly, although their little bark danced like a feather on the waters. The next morning they sighted the opposite shore. But how? With a threatening front. Long rows of dark rocks on either side, and at their base a white stripe, the dashing surf of the terribly excited waves. There was no opening in them, no haven, no salvation.
" 'We are lost, your reverence,' my cousin said, 'for it is impossible for me to keep the canoe balanced in those double and triple breakers; and a return is equally impossible, owing to the wind blowing so stiffly against us.'
" 'Paddle on, dear Dubois - straight on. We must get through, and a way will offer itself.'
"My cousin shrugged his shoulder, made his last prayers, and paddled straight on, he hardly knew how. Already they heard the surf dashing near them; they could no longer understand what they said to each other, owing to the deafening noise, and my cousin slipped his couverte from his shoulders, so as to be ready for a swim, when, all at once, a dark spot opened out in the white edge of the surf, which soon widened. At the same time the violent heaving of the canoe relaxed, it glided on more tranquilly, and entered in perfect safety the broad mouth of a stream, which they had not seen in the distance, owing to the rocks that concealed it.
" 'Did I not say, Dubois, that I was called across, that I must go, and that thou woulst be saved with me? Let us pray!' So the man of God spoke to the Voyageur after they had stepped ashore, and drawn their canoe comfortably on the beach. They then went into the forest, cut down a couple of trees, and erected a cross on the spot where they landed, as a sign of their gratitude.
"They then went on their way to perform their other duties. Later, however, a rich merchant, a fur trader, came along the same road, and hearing of this travers, which had became celebrated, he set his men to work, and erected at his own expense, on the same spot, but on a higher rock, a larger and more substantial cross, which now can be seen a long distance on the lake, and which the people call 'The Cross of [Baraga]'s Traverse.' "
What was happening with the Ojibwe Natives in the Year 1846 near this area?
#1: A Small Pox Epidemic
This story was shared in relation to Father Pierz and his journey that year near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan which was about 400 miles from Madeline Island. Father Pierz was a close constituent to Father Baraga as he was inspired to come to the United States to care for the Ojibwe people because of Father Baraga. This was written about Father Pierz that year and his journey with the small pox epidemic.
"Father Pierz often acted as a physician for the unfortunate Indians. He was a strong believer in homeopathy and treated many sick among the pagans as well as among the Christians, thus breaking down prejudice and bring to him many who otherwise would not have come near him. During the smallpox epidemic of 1846, which struck several northwestern bands with destruction, the doctor of the Mackinac region was himself sick and unable to answer Father Pierz's call for help. The missionary sent for vaccine and administered it to nine hundred individuals, giving himself no rest or care, though he was then in his sixtieth year."
"All this was done without the assistance of an American missionary society and without the help of the United States government. Pierz did appeal to the government for a small pittance of a teacher's salary, but the request was not heeded. The Leopoldine Society of Vienna and the Ludwig Mission Society of Bavaria listed to his appeals and responded to the best of their ability, but the amount given to Pierz was small in comparison with the sums expended by the United States government, and the Protestants through the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions."
Here I am, the author of this site, holding my native pipe in my arms as I lean against Father Baraga's Cross who worked with the Ojibwe. Learn about how this author's journey began with Father Baraga.
Father Baraga, if following in the shoes of Father Pierz in that same year, would have been close behind in ensuring that the Ojibway people received the proper vaccines or seeing if they were in need of any. Father Baraga was also of the same inclination as Father Pierz acting as a physician to them in their greatest need. He wanted to ensure that anyone who came to the region as missionaries were likewise able to give them this proper care and concern.
#2: Preparing for a Potential Removal
In 1845 (the year previous) in the region near Madeline Island (where Father Baraga departed prior to arriving at Cross River), there was a surveying of the region and a new county line was instituted called the "La Pointe" county. Fortunately, the indigenous natives had not yet been forced to relocate per the 1830 Indian Removal Act, but the pressure continued to surmount as immigrant surveying of land encroached further and further on the region in which they were situated. Having a county made where they were located was a sure sign of the possibility of future settlers. Not more than two years afterwards, in 1848, Wisconsin received statehood and Madeline Island, the heart of the Ojibway region, would now be within the boundaries of a state rather than a territory. These changes then would put pressure on the Ojibwe to be removed to a different region on the opposite side of the Mississippi River which was that boundary of the 1830 Indian Removal Act.
Father Baraga of course would have been situated to help them prepare for this situation. Although instead of preparing them for removal, Father Baraga would be working tirelessly to ensure that they could stay and survive on the land and in preparation for working with the settlers. The main assurance of this possibility remained only if the Ojibwe were able to retain and have a peaceful relationship with these settlers. Father Baraga, a man of peace himself, would work with the Chief and the people as well as purchase land himself so that this possibility could be offered. The Ojibwe would have to have discussions with the government, etc during this time to ensure that the government understood that they were not to be removed.
Ultimately the government did attempt to remove the Ojibwe from the region in 1850. This resulted in what is considered the Sandy Lake Tragedy which ended up unfortunately costing the lives of nearly 400 Ojibwe people in less than a year. This removal attempt was staged by having the Ojibwe treaty payments received at a different location in Sandy Lake, MN. When they arrived there would be no person there to give them the payments that they relied on at this point. They had to wait to receive them and this wait would end up costing the lives of the people due to starvation, bad food that was given from the fur traders, illness, and cold. It took the indian agent over a month to be able to distribute what was required. Despite this significant loss the Ojibwe still continued to press forward in staying on their land calling attention to the misbehaviors of the government during this attempted removal.
#3: The Building of a Church in Grand Portage
In that same year in 1846 a church would be established in Grand Portage where Father Baraga intended to go in the form of a wigwam. Several missionaries were present in the creation of this mission. A mission was created there previously in 1836 by Father Pierz at the direction of Father Baraga, but this mission did not have as great of success due to the challenges that Father Baraga had in being able to visit this location often and the need for Father Pierz to establish himself in Sault Ste. Marie. It's proximity to where Father Baraga primarily resided didn't allow for frequent visits. The Cotte Family, who were Catholic Fur Traders in the region, were the primary people then to help continue the mission with Father Baraga's Ojibway Prayer Book close in hand. Thus the need for a new mission to be established at a later point and time in the year of 1846. Later, in the 1854 treaty, Grand Portage would be considered one of the locations where the Ojibwe would be able to have their own reservation which encompasses the whole of the very northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Superior National Forest would be just west of this reservation. This Forest was ceded as part of the 1854 treaty although there were still hunting, fishing and gathering rights imbedded in the treaty itself. This forest includes the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This region is one of the few regions where motor boats are not allowed, but only canoes and is a region in which the Ojibwe frequented over the portages previous to the arrival of the settlers.
Events at Father Baraga's Cross
2018: 150th Anniversary Pilgrimage for Father Baraga
In 2018 Father Kevin Manthey and his two hiking companion on the left complete a voyage for Father Baraga on behalf of the 150th anniversary of his death 1868. They honored the cross by caring for the landscape around it and then went to the boundary waters canoe area which honored Father Baraga's time spent in a canoe during the 1800's.
2012: Rededication of Father Baraga's Cross
On Sunday, August 5, 2012, just a few months after Father Baraga was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Sirba of the Duluth Catholic Diocese and Father Seamus Walsh of St. Johns Catholic Church in Grand Marais rededicated this site.