Origin of the Name
The local Indians and most early settlers called Holy Hill the big hill. After hearing the story of the black robe chief from the Indians, some of the Irish settlers dedicated the hill to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a special place of prayer. These Irish were the first to call this place Holy Hill. From 1858 until 1891, most area Catholics referred to the site as St. Mary's Hill or Maria Hilfberg. Because Francois Soubrio resided there within this same time period, many called it hermit's hill. The name Holy Hill was first used formally by Fr. George Strickner in the course of his sermon when dedicating a log chapel as the first Shrine of Mary - Help of Christians on May 24, 1863.
The summer of 1873 brought the United States Army Corps of Engineers to the hill. The engineers erected an observatory on its summit in order to map out Lake Michigan's coastline. In 1881 the Treasury Department surveyed the area to establish baselines between points on the Mississippi River, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Again in 1891, the engineers returned to make a topographical survey for the Department of the Interior. The presence of these United States survey teams and the work they accomplished, resulted in the hill being referred to as Government Hill.