History of American Exploration from 1675 to 1700

About the history of American exploration from 1675 to 1700 including explorations of La Salle and Kino.


1678-1680 La Salle built a series of forts for New France, actually centers for the fur trade. He began with Fort Conti on the Niagara River, where his men--working "briskly" in the face of Indian hostility--built the Griffon, the first vessel to sail the Great Lakes. With Belgian priest Louis Hennepin (1640-1701?), one-armed Italian Henri de Tonti (1650-1704), and a crew, La Salle sailed the boat to Green Bay through Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, then sent it back with a cargo of furs. On the eastern shore of Lake Michigan they built Fort Miami, then in December, 1796, made a trip up the St. Joseph, portaging to the Kankakee River, which links the Mississippi and the Great Lakes. From Fort Creve Coeur ("Fort Heartbreak"), which they built on the Illinois River, La Salle, leaving "Iron Hand" de Tonti behind, set off with several others on a terrible overland journey to Detroit--during which thickets of thorns bloodied their faces, La Salle later reported--and then on to Montreal. The journey of 1,000 mi. was completed in 65 days. The Griffon, however, was lost. De Tonti, abandoned in the wilderness after a mutiny at the fort, survived by eating garlic, then was captured by the Iroquois, who set him free after sticking a knife to his chest and holding up his hair as if to scalp him. He was reunited with La Salle in 1681. Meanwhile Hennepin, captured by the Sioux and taken to Minnesota, also had a narrow escape; only because the Indians thought his glittering chalice might be inhabited by spirits did they spare his life. After the Sioux let him go, Hennepin accidentally met Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Duluth (De Tonti's cousin), who had been exploring the headwaters of the Mississippi since 1678, and together they traveled back to Montreal.

1682 With De Tonti, La Salle sailed all the way down the Mississippi River. At the mouth of the Arkansas, they heard through the fog the "sound of the tambour" coming from an Indian celebration. In April they reached the Gulf of Mexico, where La Salle took possession of the territory for France, calling it Louisiana in honor of Louis XIV. Then La Salle returned to France.

1684-1687 Back in the Americas, La Salle tried to locate the mouth of the Mississippi again, hoping to establish a colony there, but couldn't find it, so instead he started a settlement on the fever-ridden marshes of the Colorado River. By August, 1686, only 44 of the original 150 settlers were alive and all four of his ships were lost. To save the colony he started marching north on foot, but he was shot to death by his own men near the Brazos River in March, 1687. The survivors of the mutiny--two priests and three soldiers--were led to safety by La Salle's aide, Henri Joutel, who later wrote an account of the experience. De Tonti searched for La Salle's body but never found it.

1687-1711 Eusebius Kino, a German Jesuit explorer and cartographer, made more than 40 expeditions to the north, west, northwest, and southwest of Sonora, Mexico. He drew the earliest map to show the Gila and Colorado rivers and southern Arizona, as they were later named.

1690-1692 "The Boy Henry Kellsey" (1670?-?), "a very active lad, delighting much in Indians' company," was the first to explore the Canadian plains south and west of Lake Winnipeg.

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