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Map of Iowa County
THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY.
EARLY FRENCH EXPLORATIONS IN THE MISSISSIPPI
De Soto-Le Caron-Samuel de Champlain-French Adventurers-James Marquette-Louis
Joliet - Embarkation to Explore New Countries — Lake Michigan and Green Bay - The “Ouisconsin "- Indian Accounts of the Country – Discovering the Great River — Indian Name of the River--Joy of the Explorers-Interview with Indians on lowa Soil-FeastSpeech of an Indian Chief—The Des Moines River—"Muddy Water" - The ArkansasReturn-Indian Nations – Marquette's Record -- His Subsequent Voyage-La VantumMarquette's Death-Removal of His Remains-Joliet's Subsequent Explorations—Robert La Salle-Louis Hennepin-Chevalier de Tonti-De La Motte-Fort Creveceur-Hennepin's Voyage-Falls of St. Anthony-Seur de Luth-Hennepin's Claims as an ExplorerColonization of Louisiana-Dissensions--Murder of La Salle.
The three great colonizing powers of the Old World first to raise the standard of civilization within the limits of North America were France, England, and Spain. The French made their earliest settlements in the cold and inhospitable regions of Quebec; the English at Jamestown, Virginia, and at Plymouth, Massachusetts; and the Spaniards on the barren sands of Florida. To the French belongs the honor of discovering and colonizing that portion of our country known as the Valley of the Mississippi, including all that magnificent region watered by the tributaries of the Great River.
It is true that more than one hundred years earlier (1538–41) the Spanish explorer, De Soto, had landed on the coast of Florida, penetrated the everglades and unbroken forests of the south, finally reaching the banks of the Great River, probably near where the city of Memphis now stands. Crossing the river, he and his companions pursued their journey for some distance along the west bank, thence to the Ozark Mountains and the Hot Springs of Arkansas, and returning to the place of his death on the banks of the Mississippi. It was a perilous expedition indeed, characterized by all the splendor, romance and valor which usually attended Spanish adventurers of thât age. De Soto and his companions were the first Europeans to behold the waters of the Mississippi, but the expedition was a failure so far as related to colonization. The requier chanted by his companions as his remains were committed to the waters of the great river he had discovered, died away with the solemn murmurs of the stream, and the white man's voice was not heard again in the valley for more than ahundred years. De Soto had landed at Tampa Bay, on the coast of Florida, with a fleet of nine vessels and seven hundred men. More than half of them died, and the remainder made their way to Cuba, and finally back to Spain.
Four years before the pilgrims "moored their bark on the wild New Eng, land shore," a French Franciscan, named Le Caron, penetrated the region of
the great lakes of the north, then the home of the Iroquois and the Hurons, but a French settlement had been established at Quebec by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. This was followed by the establishment of various colonies in Canada, and the hardy French adventurers penetrated the country by the way of the St. Lawrence and the lakes. In 1625 a number of missionaries of the Society of Jesus arrived in Canada from France, and during the succeeding forty years extended their missions all along the shores of Lake Superior.
In 1637 a child was born at the little city of Laon, in France, whose destiny it was in the fullness of time to be instrumental in the hands of Providence in giving to the world a definite knowledge of the grandest and most fertile region ever opened up to civilization. That child was James Marquette, the descendant of a family of Celtic nobles. He entered the Society of Jesus when seventeen years of age, and soon conceived a desire to engage in the labors of a missionary among the Indians. He sailed for Quebec in 1666, and two years later founded the mission of Sault Ste. Marie at the Falls of St. Mary. The winter of 1669–70 he spent at Point St. Ignatius, where he established another mission. Here the old town of Michillimackinac, afterward called Mackinaw, was founded. It was from Indians of the different tribes who came to this mission that he received some vague intimations of the great river-the father of all the rivers. He at once conceived a desire to penetrate to the banks of the wonderful river, and carry his missionary work to the tribes which he had learned inhabited its borders. He applied to his Superior, Claude Dablon, for permission to "geek new nations toward the Southern sea.' The authorities at Quebec were equally desirous of having new regions explored, and therefore appointed Louis Joliet to embark upo. a voyage of discovery. Joliet was a native of Quebec and had been educated in a Jesuit College. He had at the age of eighteen taken minor orders, but had abandoned all thoughts of the priesthood and engaged in the fur trade. He was now twenty-seven years of age, with a mind ripe for adventure. He left Quebec, and arriving at Mackinaw found Father Marquette highly delighted with the information that they were to be companions in a voyage which was to extend the domain of the King of France, as well as to carry the Gospel to new nations of people. The explorers, accompanied by five assistants, who were French Canadians, started on their journey, May 13, 1673. Marquette has himself recorded in the following simple language their feelings on this occasion: “We were embarking on a voyage the character of which we could not foresee. Indian corn, with some dried meat, was our whole stock of provisions. With this we set out in two bark canoes, M. Joliet, myself and five men, firmly resolved to do all and suffer all for so glorious an enterprise.” They coasted along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, entered Green Bay, and passed up the Fox river, carrying their canoes across the Portage to the “Ouisconsin, now called 'Wisconsin. At Lake Winnebago, before crossing the Portage, they stopped at an Indian village, which was the furthest outpost to which Dablon and Allouez had extended their missionary work. Here they assembled the chiefs and old men of the village and told them of the objects of the voyage. Pointing to Joliet, Father Marquette said: “My friend is an envoy of France to discover new countries, and I am an ambassador from God to enlighten them with the truths of the Gospel.” The Indians furnished two guides to conduct them to the Wisconsin river. It is related that a tribe of Indians endeavored to dissuade them from pursuing their perilous journey