History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is. — Thomas Jefferson

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

La Salle's Adventures

In the meantime, another French explorer, La Salle, had also been at work, and had discovered the Ohio River. In 1679, six years after Marquette and, Joliet sailed down the Mississippi, La Salle came to the Illinois River, where he built Fort Crevecoeur ("heartbreak"), near the place occupied by the present city of Peoria.

La Salle next went back to Canada for supplies, and reached Montreal only by means of much paddling and a long tramp of a thousand miles. But he left orders with a priest, named Hennepin, to explore the upper part of the Mississippi River. Father Hennepin, therefore, went down the Illinois, and then paddled upstream to the Falls of. St. Anthony, in 1680. His adventures were very exciting, for he fell into the hands of the Sioux Indians. Long after he got back to Europe, he claimed to have been the first to sail all the way down the Mississippi; but this honor is now generally believed to belong to La Salle.

When La Salle came back to Crevecoeur a year later, he found his fort in ruins; most of his men had deserted. At first he thought that his few faithful followers had been killed by the Indians, but his fears were quieted when they joined him at Michilimackinac.

In 1681 La Salle again set out, with his lieutenant Tonty and a band of Indians, for the southern end of Lake Michigan. Sailing tip the Chicago, he had his canoes carried across to the Illinois River. It was the Indians who taught the white men thus to pass from one stream to another, and to avoid falls and rapids. These carrying places received from the French explorers the name of "portage," by which they are still known, even though no one now thinks of using them for that purpose.

Sailing down the Illinois and Mississippi, La Salle reached the mouth of the latter stream in 1682. As was the custom with explorers of every nation, he solemnly took possession, in the name of his king, of the river and the land it drained. This territory, as you can see on your map, included most of the region between the Rocky and Alleghany Mountains, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico; it was called Louisiana, in honor of Louis XIV. of France.

Arriving at Quebec, after meeting with many adventures, La Salle told Frontenac that France ought to make good her claim to the land by building trading posts at intervals all along the principal streams. He added that it was also necessary to have a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi, and soon after went to France to tell the king about his discoveries, and ask for help.

Louis XIV. gave La Salle several ships loaded with supplies; and a small army of colonists having joined him, the explorer set out. His fleet reached the Gulf of Mexico in 1684 but, owing to some mistake, it sailed past the mouth of the Mississippi without seeing it. As the captain would not believe La Salle and turn back, they coasted on until they finally landed at Matagorda Bay, in Texas.

Here a fort was built; but the spot proved so unhealthful that many colonists died. The ships having gone back, run aground, or been dashed to pieces, the French could not get away again by sea. La Salle therefore decided to set out on foot, so as to join Tonty and obtain more supplies for his unhappy colony.

As had been agreed, Tonty had come down the Mississippi to meet La Salle. But after waiting vainly for him several months, he went northward again, leaving a letter in the fork of a tree, and telling the Indians to give it to the first white man they saw. Long before reaching this place, La Salle's men became angry because their expedition had been a failure. They blamed their leader for all their sufferings, and, falling upon him unawares, basely murdered the man who is known as the "father of French colonization in the Mississippi valley."

Although La Salle was dead, his plan was too good to be abandoned. Some thirteen years later, therefore, a Frenchman named Iberville came out from France to found a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi. He sailed up the stream, and received from the Indians Tonty's letter, which, they gravely said, was a "speaking bark." As Iberville found no good place for a fort near the mouth of the "Father of Waters," he built Biloxi, on the coast of what is now the state of Mississippi.

Shortly after, a party of Frenchmen, exploring the banks of the river, saw an English ship sailing upstream. The newcomers said they had come to build a fort on the Mississippi; but the Frenchmen either deceived them by telling them this was not the stream they sought, or gave them to understand they had come too late. So the English turned around and sailed away, and ever since that bend in the great river has been called the "English Turn."

Iberville's brother, Bienville, in 1718 built a fort and established a colony on the spot where New Orleans now stands. He gave the place that name in honor of the French city of Orleans.

There was no more trouble with the English, but this colony came very near being swept away by the Natchez Indians, who made an agreement with the Choctaws to fall upon the white men on a certain day and hour, and kill them all. To make sure that there should be no misunderstanding, each chief was given a small bundle of sticks, with directions to burn one every day, making the attack only after the last had been consumed.

An Indian boy, seeing his father burn one of these sticks, stole two, and secretly set fire to them; and though he thus found out that they were nothing but ordinary wood, his theft made his father attack the French two days too soon.

Instead of a general raid upon all the settlements, only one was surprised, two hundred men being killed, and the women and children carried off into captivity. The other French colonists had time to arm, and they defended themselves so bravely that the plans of the Indians came to naught.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell