Departs For Fort Frontenac

Before starting for Frontenac, La Salle commissioned Tonti to have charge of the Crevecoeur fort, and also to build a fort at Starved Rock. On March 1st, the day following the departure of Ako and Hennepin for the upper Mississippi, La Salle departed, with three companions, for Fort Frontenac. This was a long, dangerous, and discouraging journey. Every venture which he had engaged in seems to have failed. After finally getting together supplies such as were needed, he started on his return journey. He was continually hearing stories from the travelers of the desertion of Crevecoeur. When he came within a few miles of the Kaskaskia village he began to see signs of destruction. On arriving at the village nothing but a few blackened posts remained. The Iroquois Indians had made a campaign against the Illinois Indians and their trail could he traced by death and destruction. When La Salle left the locality of Starved Rock for Fort Crevecoeur, on his way from Canada, he passed the Iroquois on one side of the river and the Illinois on the other. He searched everywhere for Tonti but could find no trace of him. He came to Crevecoeur about the first of December, 1680, and found the fort deserted and the storehouse plundered; the boat, however, was without damage. La Salle went to the mouth of the Illinois River in search of Tonti but without success. He returned to Fort Miami in the spring of 1681. Here he began the organization of all the Indian tribes into a sort of confederation. Upon the approach of the Iroquois shortly after the departure of La Salle from Fort Crevecoeur, in March, 1680, Tonti and his party were scattered far and near. Tonti and Father Membre made their way to Green Bay and from there to Mackinaw. La Salle heard of them here and went immediately to them. Another expedition was organized. La Salle, Father Membre and Tonti visited Fort Frontenac, where supplies were procured, and late in December, 1681, the expedition had crossed the Chicago portage. There were in this company fifty-four people twenty-three Frenchmen and thirty-one Indians. They passed the Kaskaskia village near Starved Rock, but it was in ruins. On January 25, 1682, they reached Fort Crevecoeur. The fort was in fair condition. Here they halted six days, while the Indians made some elm bark canoes. They reached the Mississippi the 6th of February. After a little delay they proceeded down the river, passed the mouth of the Missouri, and shortly after that a village of the Tamaroa Indians. The village contained one hundred and twenty cabins, but they were all deserted. La Salle left presents on the posts for the villagers when they returned. Grand Tower was passed, later the Ohio. The trip to the mouth of the Mississippi was without special interest. They reached the mouth of the river in April, and on the ninth of that month erected a post upon which they nailed the arms of France wrought from a copper kettle. A proclamation was prepared by the notary, Jacques de la Metairie, and read. It recited briefly their journey to the country drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries. On the 10th of April the party began the return journey. La Salle was stricken with a severe illness and was obliged to remain at Fort Prudhomme, which had been erected on the Chickasaw bluffs just above Vicksburg. Tonti was sent forward to look after his leader’s interests. He went by Fort Miami, but found everything in order. He reached Mackinaw the 22d of July. La Salle reached Crevecoeur on his way north. He left eight Frenchmen here to hold this position. He reached Fort Miami, and thence passed on to Mackinaw. He then sent Father Membre to France to report his discovery to the king, while he himself set about the building of Fort St. Louis, at Starved Rock, on the Illinois. The detachment left by La Salle at Crevecoeur was ordered north to Fort St. Louis, and he began to grant his followers small areas of land in recognition of their services with him in the past few years. The fort was completed and in March, 1683, the ensign of France floated to the breeze. The tribes for miles in circuit came to the valley about the fort and encamped. La Salle patiently looked for French settlers from New France but they did not come. During the absence of La Salle at the mouth of the Mississippi, Count Frontenac had been superseded by Sieur de la Barre, who had assumed the duties of his office October 9, 1682. He was not friendly to La Salle’s schemes of extending the possessions of France in the New World. La Salle suspected, in the summer of 1683, that the new governor was not in sympathy with him. After a great deal of fruitless correspondence with the new governor, La Salle repaired to France to lay before the king his new discoveries as well as plans for the future.

Illinois Genealogy

Source: A Standard History of Champaign County, Illinois, by J. R. Stewart, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago And New York, 1918.

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