In 1673, Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet, and five voyageurs left the New France mission of St. Ignace to explore the Mississippi River. When Marquette and his fellow explorers began their return journey north, they learned from the local Native Americans that the Illinois River provided a shorter route back to the Great Lakes. By that route they reached Lake Michigan near the site of what would become the city of Chicago. After making a report of his findings to his superiors, Marquette and his companions returned to the Illinois territory late in 1674, becoming the first Europeans to winter in Chicago.
The area that would encompass the Chicago Province was originally administrated by the Jesuits from Missouri. The Missouri Province quickly expanded into Cincinnati, Ohio where they opened St. Xavier’s College. The success of the Society in Cincinnati, led to its expansion into Chicago. In 1857, Arnold Damen was sent to look over possible sites for a dioceses, and three years later Holy Family Church was dedicated. In the fall of 1870 St. Ignatius College, later Loyola University, opened its doors with Damen as its first president.
Due to the growth of the society, the Chicago Province was formed out of the Missouri Province in 1928, creating two independent provinces. Members of the Chicago Province served in several missions overseas, including India, Nepal, and Peru.
In 1955, the Chicago Province was a divided into the Chicago and Detroit Provinces. Reconfiguration of the American provinces led to the rejoining of the Chicago and Detroit Provinces in January 2011, as the Chicago-Detroit Province.
The Chicago Province Archive was transferred to Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1997 to be part of the newly formed Midwest Jesuit Archives, which brought together the collections of the Chicago, Detroit, Missouri, and Wisconsin Provinces. The Midwest Jesuit Archives was later renamed the Jesuit Archives: Central United States. The collections within the Jesuit Archives: Central United States, including the Chicago Province Archive, were relocated to their current home at the Jesuit Archives & Research Center in November 2017.
The Chicago Province Archive is arranged in three record groups:
RG 1: Government of the Province
RG 2: Personnel in the Province
RG 3: Locations of Ministries in the Province