Jesuit missionaries were early visitors to the region, but the first record of a white man's arrival on the site of the present city is in the journal of the Recollect missionary, Reverend Zenobe Membre, who accompanied Robert Chevalier de la Salle to the Illinois country in 1679.
In 1699 Jean Francois Buisson de Saint Cosme "arrived at Melwarik," then an Indian village, from which in 1818 Solomon Juneau founded the city of Milwaukee.
The first Mass was celebrated in 1837 in the home of Juneau by Reverend J Bonduel, a missionary from Green Bay.
In the same year the Reverend Patrick Kelly came to Milwaukee, and held services in the court-house until the erection of the first Catholic church (Saint Peter's) in 1839, which served as the cathedral for many years.
In 1844 Milwaukee was made a diocesan see, and in 1875 an archdiocese.
In 1847 the foundation was laid for the new cathedral of Saint John, built by contributions from Cuba and Mexico and consecrated in 1853.
Saint Mary's Church for German Catholics and the first Catholic hospital, in charge of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, were opened in 1846.
In 1856 the seminary of Saint Francis of Sales was founded by Dr Joseph Salzmann, who was also founder of the first Catholic normal school in the United States, and Pio Nono College in the suburb of Saint Francis (1871).
The Jesuits, established in Milwaukee in 1856, opened Marquette College, now Marquette University, in 1880, and have charge of the Gesu, one of the handsomest churches in the northwest.
The Sisters of Notre Dame, of Saint Francis, and of Mercy have mother-houses in Milwaukee, and there are 57 Catholic churches and 52 parochial schools in the city.
New Catholic Dictionary