Opening The Upper Lake Region And The Mississippi Valley
Two Lines of Approach.—The French had now established themselves firmly in the lower St. Lawrence basin and in the Caribbean area. From these two bases they now proceeded to the Mississippi Valley and the northern Gulf littoral. From the St. Lawrence they made their way over the portages to the tributaries of the Father of Waters. From the West Indies the Gulf of Mexico served as a highway.
Occupation of the upper lakes.—After the failure of the Huron missions, the Jesuits extended their field of operations to the shores of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The mission at Sault Ste. Marie was revived; in 1665 La Pointe mission near the western end of Lake Superior was established by Father Allouez, who was succeeded by Marquette four years later. Between 1670 and 1672 St. Ignace, at Michillimackinac, and St. Xavier on Green Bay (at De Pere) were established. In 1670 Talon despatched Saint Lusson to take possession of the Northwest; at a meeting of the tribes at Sault Ste. Marie the following year the sovereignty of the king over that region was proclaimed. Albanel was also sent to open communication between the St. Lawrence and Hudson Bay.
Marquette and Joliet.—In 1672 Count Frontenac became governor and lieutenant-general of New France. Shortly after his arrival at Quebec, at the suggestion of Talon, he sent the fur trader Joliet to find the Mississippi. At Michillimackinac he met the missionary Marquette, who decided to accompany him. On May 17, 1673, they started westward; after reaching Green Bay, they followed the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the Mississippi, which they descended to the mouth of the Arkansas, just at the time when Father Larios was founding Spanish missions near the Rio Grande. Being convinced that the Mississippi emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, and fearing that they might fall into the hands of the Spaniards, they determined to turn back. The return was by the Mississippi, the Illinois, and Chicago rivers and the western shores of Lake Michigan. Father Marquette returned to work among the Illinois, but was soon forced by illness to abandon the field. On his way north he died at the site of Ludington. His work among the Illinois was taken up by others, among them being Fathers Allouez and Hennepin.
Fort Frontenac.—While Joliet and Marquette were exploring the Mississippi, the governor was engaged in founding Fort Frontenac, on the northern shore of the outlet of Lake Ontario, near modern Kingston, his purpose being to overawe the Iroquois, and to divert their trade and allegiance from the English. With the governor was La Salle, who later became commandant of the new fort.
Frontenac's quarrels.—Shortly after Frontenac became governor the king again changed the form of government. The council was increased to seven members who held office directly from the king. Its chief function was judicial. A minor court called the prévôté, having original jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases, was reëstablished, appeals being taken from the prévôté to the council. Frontenac, who was of an imperious nature and exceedingly jealous of his authority, quarreled with the officials and clergy of Montreal, with Laval who had recently been made Bishop of Quebec, with the new intendant Duchesneau, and with the council. Regulation of the fur trade and questions of authority were the fruitful sources of disagreement. Under such conditions the colony did not advance rapidly. As Le Sueur says in his life of Frontenac, "The great trouble in Canada was that it was an overgoverned country.... What these people needed in the first place was freedom to seek their living in their own way, and secondly, an extremely simple form of government." The constant bickering finally exhausted the patience of the home government, and in 1682 both Frontenac and Duchesneau were recalled.
La Salle's fur trade monopoly.—During Frontenac's administration La Salle was engaged in the exploration of the Illinois country and the Mississippi. Having secured a royal patent to build forts and engage in the fur trade in the interior, La Salle, with a party which included Tonty, an Italian soldier of fortune, and the Recollet Hennepin, erected a fort at Niagara Falls and built a vessel called the Griffon, on which in 1679 they sailed up the lakes to Green Bay. The boat was sent back with a cargo of furs, but never reached its destination. The shores of Lake Michigan and the Illinois country were explored and Fort Crêvecœur was erected near the site of Peoria. From there Accau and Hennepin were sent to explore the upper Mississippi. La Salle then returned to Fort Frontenac, crossing lower Michigan and following Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Exploration of the Mississippi.—While La Salle was gone, Tonty occupied Starved Rock, later known as Fort St. Louis, but a mutiny and an Iroquois invasion forced the French to return to Green Bay, so that when La Salle returned he found the country abandoned. After a fruitless search, he heard from the Indians of Tonty's whereabouts and hastened north to meet him. Together they returned to Fort Frontenac. Nothing daunted, they again sought the Mississippi. On December 21, 1681, they were again at Fort Miami, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River. On February 6, 1682, they reached the Mississippi, and arrived at its mouth in April, when they took formal possession of the great valley, naming it Louisiana in honor of the king. By the end of September they were back at Fort Miami, and in 1683 the leader returned to Quebec.
La Salle's Colony on the Gulf.—La Salle now planned a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River, as a means of developing the fur trade, controlling the Mississippi Valley, providing a base for commanding the Gulf, and, in case of war, for attack on the coveted mines of New Spain. France and Spain were on the verge of war, and in 1683 French buccaneers three times sacked the Spanish settlement of Apalache. La Salle's proposals were favored, therefore, by Louis XIV. In the summer of 1684 La Salle left France with a colony of some four hundred people. In the autumn he reached the West Indies, the ketch St. François having been captured by the Spaniards on the way. Continuing the voyage in November, La Salle missed the mouth of the Mississippi and landed on the Texas coast at Matagorda Bay. Tonty descended the Mississippi to coöperate (1686), but did not find his chief. On the way he built a small post on the Arkansas.
La Salle's Colony on the Texas Coast, 1684-1689.
Failure.—The expedition rapidly went to pieces. One vessel was wrecked in landing, and Beaujeu, the naval commander, returned to France with a second, and part of the men and supplies. La Salle moved his colony inland to the Garcitas River, near the head of the Lavaca Bay, where he founded Fort St. Louis, and then began a series of expeditions northeastward in the hope of finding the Mississippi River. While engaged in exploring, the last of his vessels was wrecked. Through desertion and sickness the colony rapidly dwindled. On his third expedition northeastward, in 1687, La Salle reached the Hasinai (Cenis) Indians, east of the Trinity River. On his fourth expedition he was murdered by his companions near the Brazos River. The remainder of his party, led by Joutel, made their way to the Arkansas post and to Canada. In the fall of 1689 Tonty, in an effort to rescue La Salle's colonists, descended the Mississippi River, and made his way to the Cadodacho and Hasinai villages. Meanwhile the colony on the Gulf had been completely wiped out by an Indian massacre which occurred early in 1689. La Salle's occupation of Matagorda Bay later became a basis of the claim of the United States to Texas.
Explorers in the Southwest.—The failure of La Salle's colony did not put an end to exploration in the Southwest. Interest in a passage to the South Sea was perennial, and no tale of Spanish treasure was too guttering to find credence on the French frontier. Mathieu Sagean told of a golden country of the Accanibas, and Baron La Hontan of a Long River. The coureurs de bois were ever led west and southwest in their fur trading operations. The result was that in this western country traders from Canada roamed far and wide at an early date. A Canadian is known to have reached the Rio Grande overland before 1688 and by 1694 Canadian traders were among the Missouri and Osage tribes.
The upper Mississippi—Duluth.—While La Salle was operating in the Illinois country, others were at work in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1678 Duluth, a cousin of Tonty, left Montreal for the west. For several years he traded among the tribes west of Lake Superior. Hearing in 1680 that Frenchmen were near, he went in search of them, and found Accau and Hennepin, who had explored the upper Mississippi. Duluth went to France, where he secured a license to trade with the Sioux. In 1683 he returned to Wisconsin with thirty men, proceeded to the north shore of Lake Superior, and built forts near Lake Nipigon and Pigeon River. The highway from Brulé River to the St. Croix became known as Duluth's Portage. In 1686 he erected a temporary fort near Detroit to bar the English traders.
Le Sueur.—Between 1683 and 1700 Le Sueur, a prominent fur trader, operated in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 1683 he was at St. Anthony's Falls. The Fox Indians of Wisconsin opposed the passage of the French to the Sioux and practically cut off their trade route. For this reason Le Sueur protected the Brulé-St. Croix highway. To effect this, in 1693 he built a fort at Chequamegon Bay, on the south shore of Lake Superior, and another on the Mississippi near the mouth of the St. Croix. This post became a center of commerce for the western posts. In 1697 Le Sueur was in France, where he secured permission to work copper mines near Lake Superior. In 1699 he went from France to Louisiana with Iberville. Thence, with twenty-nine men, he ascended the Mississippi to Blue River, Minnesota, and built Fort L'Huiller (1700) at Mankato, where he traded with the Sioux.
Perrot.—In 1685 Nicholas Perrot, who had been in Wisconsin as early as 1665, and had acquired great influence over the western tribes, was made "commander of the west" and sent among the Sioux. In 1686 he built Fort St. Antoine on the Mississippi near Trempealeau, Wisconsin. Other posts established by him were Fort Perrot on the west side of Lake Pepin, Fort Nicholas at Prairie du Chien, and one farther down the Mississippi near the Galena lead mines, which he discovered and worked.
The Illinois and Detroit.—In the Illinois country the French Jesuits labored from the time of Marquette, among his successors being Fathers Allouez and Hennepin. In 1699 a Sulpician mission was established at Cahokia and in 1700 the Jesuits moved down the Illinois River to Kaskaskia. A year later Detroit was founded to protect the route from Lake Erie to Lake Huron, cut off English trade with the Indians, and afford a base for the Illinois trade. Missionaries entered the region of the lower Mississippi and the lower Ohio, where Tonty and other Frenchmen maintained a considerable trade.
Traders on the Tennessee.—Because of Iroquois control of the country south of the Great Lakes and as far as the Tennessee River, the French in La Salle's time had little knowledge of the Ohio and its tributaries. At that period the Shawnee of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers were declining under Iroquois attacks. On the upper Tennessee lived the Cherokees. In spite of the Iroquois, however, by the end of the century several coureurs de bois of Canada had ascended the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, crossed the divide, and descended the Savannah River into South Carolina, in defiance of the government, which tried to maintain a trade monopoly. Their activities brought them into rivalry with the English on the Carolina frontier.
Couture and Bellefeuille.—Among these pathfinders was Jean Couture, who had been left by Tonty at the Arkansas post. As early as 1693 he deserted the French colony and made his way overland to the English. In 1699 he was on the Savannah, where he proposed to lead the English to certain mines in the west. Returning, he led a party of English traders, sent by Governor Blake of South Carolina, up the Savannah, and down the Tennessee and Ohio, in an attempt to divert the western trade from Canada to the English. In February, 1700, they reached the Arkansas River, where they were met by Le Sueur on his way up the river to Minnesota. At the request of Iberville, the new governor of Louisiana, the government now permitted Illinois traders to sell their peltry in Louisiana, to prevent them from earning it over the mountains to the English. In 1701 a party of Frenchmen under Bellefeuille and Soton crossed the mountains to South Carolina, and attempted to open up trade. Returning they descended the Mississippi and visited Biloxi. It was now proposed, in order to stop the road to Carolina, that posts be established on the Miami and the lower Ohio. For this purpose Juchereau de St. Denis established a post at Cairo in 1702. Through the establishment of Louisiana and the opening of trade with Canada, this danger was largely averted.
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