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French in the West.
the attempt to rescue themselves by land, they proceeded to prepare such vessels as they could to take them to the sea. From January to July 1543, the weak, sickly band of gold-seekers, labored at the doleful task; and in July reached, in the vessels thus wrought, the Gulf of Mexico, and by September, entered the river Panuco. One-half of the six hundred* who had disembarked with De Soto, so gay in steel and silk, left their bones among the mountains and in the morasses of the South, from Georgia to Arkansas.
Such was the first expedition by Europeans, into the great Western Valley of North America. They founded no settlements, left no traces, produced no effect unless to excite the hostility of the red against the white men, and to dishearten such as might otherwise have tried to follow up the career of discovery to better purpose. As it was, for more than a century after the expedition of De Soto, the West remained utterly unknown to the whites. In 1616, four years before the Pilgrims “moored their bark on the wild New England shore,” Le Caron, a French Franciscan, had penetrated through the Iroquois and Wyandotst to the streams which run into Lake Huron; and in 1634, two Jesuits had founded the first mission among the rivers and marshes of the region east of that great inland sea; but it was 1641, just one hundred years after De Soto reached the Mississippi, that the first Canadian envoys met the savage nations of the Northwest, at the falls of St. Mary, below the outlet of lake Superior. This visit, however, led to no permanent result, and it was not till 1659 that even any of the adventurous furtraders spent a winter on the frozen and inhospitable shores of the vast lake of the North, nor till 1660 that the unflinching devotion of the Missionaries caused the first station to rise upon its rocky and pine-clad borders. But Mesnard, who founded that station, perished in the woods in a few months afterward, and five more years slipped by before Father Claude Allouez, in 1665, built the earliest of the lasting habitations of white men among the kindly and hospitable Indians of the Northwest. Following in his steps, in 1668, Claude Dablon and James Marquette founded the mission at St. Mary's Falls; in 1670,
* De Biedma says there landed 620 men.
+ The Wyandots are the same as the Hurons. Heckewelder's Narr. 336, note : see their traditionary history by J. Badger, a Missionary among them.-Cist's Cincinnati Miscellany I. 153.
Marquette leaves Green Bay.
Nicholas Perrot, as agent for Talon, the intendant of Canada, explored lake Michigan as far as Chicago; in 1671 formal possession was taken of the Northwest by French officers in the presence of Indians assembled from every part of the surrounding region, and in the same year Marquette gathered a little flock of listeners, at Point St. Ignatius, on the main land north of the island of Mackinac.* During the three years which this most excellent man had now spent in that country, the idea of exploring the lands yet farther towards the setting sun, had been growing more and more definite in his mind. He had heard, as all had, of the great river of the West, and fancied upon its fertile banks,—not mighty cities, mines of gold, or fountains of youthbut whole tribes of God's children to whom the sound of the Gospel had never come. Filled with the wish to go and preach to them he obeyed with joy the orders of Talon, the wise intendant of Canada, to lead a party into the unknown distance; and having received, as companions on behalf of the government, a Monsieur Joliet, of Quebec, together with five boatmen, in the spring of 1673, he prepared to go forth in search of the much talked of stream.t
Upon the 13th of May, 1673, this little band of seven left Michillimacinac in two bark canoes, with a small store of Indian corn and jerked meat, bound they knew not whither.
The first nation they visited, one with which our reverend Father had been long acquainted, being told of their venturous plan, begged them to desist. There were Indians, they said, on that great river, who would cut off their heads without the least cause; warriors who would seize them; monsters who would swallow them, canoes and all; even a demon, who shut the way, and buried in the waters that boiled about him, all who dared draw nigh; and, if these dangers were passed, there were heats there that would infallibly kill them. “I thanked them for their good advice,” says Marquette, “but I told them that I could not follow it; since the salvation of souls was at stake, for which I should be overjoyed to give my life.”
Passing through Green Bay, from the mud of which, says our voyager, rise “mischievous vapors, that cause the most grand
* This was the first town of Michillimacinac. The post and station north of the Strait were afterward destroyed, and others with the same name, St. Ignatius, built on the southern shore, at the extremity of the peninsula of Michigan-Charlevoit's Journal.
For the above dates, &c., see Bancroft's U. S., Vol. III.
1673. and perpetual thunders that I have ever heard,” they entered Fox river, and toiling over stones which cut their feet, as they dragged their canoes through its strong rapids, reached a village where lived in union the Miamis, Mascoutens, and “Kikabeux" (Kickapoos.) Here Allouez had preached, and behold! in the midst of the town, a cross, (une belle croix,) on which hung skins, and belts, and bows, and arrows, which “these good people had offered to the great Manitou, to thank him because he had taken pity on them during the winter, and had given them an abundant chase.”
Beyond this point no Frenchman had gone; here was the bound of discovery; and much did the savages wonder at the hardihood of these seven men, who, alone, in two bark canoes, were thus fearlessly passing into unknown dangers.
On the 10th of June, they left this wondering and well-wishing crowd, and, with two guides to lead them through the lakes and marshes of that region, started for the river, which, as they heard, rose but about three leagues distant, and fell into the Mississippi. Without ill-luck these guides conducted them to the portage, and helped them carry their canoes across it; then, returning, left them “alone amid that unknown country, in the hand of God.”
With prayers to the mother of Jesus they strengthened their souls, and committed themselves, in all hope, to the current of the westward-flowing river, the “Mescousin" (Wisconsin ;) a sand-barred stream, hard to navigate, but full of islands covered with vines, and bordered by meadows, and groves, and pleasant slopes. Down this they floated until, upon the 17th of June, they entered the Mississippi, “with a joy,” says Marquette, “ that I cannot express."
Quietly floating down the great river, they remarked the deer, the buffaloes, the swans,—“wingless, for they lose their feathers in that country,” – the great fish, one of which had nearly knocked their canoe into atoms, and other creatures of air, earth, and water, but no men. At last, however, upon the 21st of June, they discovered, upon the western bank of the river, the foot-prints of some fellow mortals, and a little path leading into a pleasant meadow. Leaving the canoes in charge of their followers, Joliet and Father Marquette boldly advanced upon
In Charlevoix's time these occupied the country from the Illinois to the Fox river, and from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi.-See his Map.
this path toward, as they supposed, an Indian village. Nor were they mistaken; for they soon came to a little town, to which, recommending themselves to God's care, they went so nigh as to hear the savages talking. Having made their presence known by a loud cry, they were graciously received by an embassy of four old men, who presented them the pipe of peace, and told them, that this was a village of the “Illinois.” The voyagers were then conducted into the town, where all received them as friends, and treated them to a great smoking. After much complimenting and present-making, a grand feast was given to the Europeans, consisting of four courses. The first was of hominy, the second of fish, the third of a dog," which the Frenchmen declined, and the whole concluded with roast buffalo. After the feast they were marched through the town with great ceremony and much speech-making; and, having spent the night, pleasantly and quietly, amid the Indians, they returned to their canoes with an escort of six hundred people. The Illinois, Marquette, like all the early travellers, describes as remarkably handsome, well-mannered, and kindly, even somewhat effeminate.
Leaving the Ilinois, the adventurers passed the rocks upon which were painted those monsters of whose existence they had heard on Lake Michigan, and soon found themselves at the mouth of the Pekitanoni, or Missouri of our day; the character of which is well deseribed; muddy, rushing, and noisy.“ Through this,” says Marquette, “I hope to reach the Gulf of California, and thence the East Indies.” This hope was based upon certain rumors among the natives, which represented the Pekitanoni as passing by a meadow, five or six days' journey from its mouth, on the opposite side of which meadow was a stream running westward, which led, beyond doubt, to the South Sea. “If God give me health," says our Jesuit, “I do not despair of one day making the discovery.” Leaving the Missouri, they passed the demon, that had been portrayed to them, which was indeed a dangerous rock in the river,f and came to the Ouabouskigou, or Ohio, a stream which makes but
* A dog feast is still a feast of honor among the savages. See Fremont's Report of Expeditions of 1842, 243, and ’44, printed at Washington, 1845; p. 42. Fremont says the meat is somewhat like mutton. See, also, Dr. Jarvis's discourse before the N. York Historical Society in 1819, note R.; Lewis and Clark's Journal, II, 165; Godman's Natural History, I. 254.
# The grand Tower
8 Murquette returns.
1675. a small figure in Father Marquette's map, being but a trifling water-course compared to the Illinois. From the Ohio, our voyagers passed with safety, except from the musquitoes, into the neighborhood of the “Akamscas,” or Arkansas. Here they were attacked by a crowd of warriors, and had nearly lost their lives; but Marquette resolutely presented the peace-pipe, and some of the old men of the attacking party were softened, and saved them from harm. “God touched their hearts,” says the pious narrator.
The next day the Frenchmen went on to “Akamsca," where they were received most kindly, and feasted on corn and dog till they could eat no more. These Indians cooked in and eat from earthen ware, and were amiable and unceremonious, each man helping himself from the dish and passing it to his neighbor.
From this point Joliet and our writer determined to return to the North, as dangers increased towards the sea, and no doubt could exist as to the point where the Mississippi emptied, to ascertain which point was the great object of their expedition. Accordingly, on the 17th of July, our voyagers left Akamsca; retraced their path with much labor, to the Illinois, through which they soon reached the Lake; and “nowhere,” says Marquette, “did we see such grounds, meadows, woods, stags, buffaloes, deer, wildcats, bustards, swans, ducks, parroquets, and even beavers," as on the Illinois river.
In September the party, without loss or injury, reached Green Bay, and reported their discovery; one of the most important of that age, but of which we have now no record left except the brief narrative of Marquette, Joliet, (as we learn from an abstract of his account, given in Hennepin's second volume, London, 1698,) having lost all his papers while returning to Quebec, by the upsetting of his canoe. Marquette's unpretending account, we have in a collection of voyages by Thevenot, printed in Paris in 1681.* Its general correctness is unquestionable; and, as no European had claimed to have made any such discovery at the time this volume was published, but the persons therein named, we may consider the account as genuine.
Afterwards Marquette returned to the Illinois, by their request,
This work is now very rare, but Marquette's Journal has been republished by Mr. Sparks, at least in substance, in Butler's Kentucky, 2d Ed. 492; and in the American Biography, 1st series, Vol. X. A copy of the map by Marquette, is also given by Mr. Bancroft, Vol. III. We have followed the original in Thevenot, a copy of which is in Harvard Library