The Triumphs Of La Salle

Chevalier de La Salle came to America in the year 1667. Shortly after arriving in this country he established himself as a fur trader at a trading post called La Chine, on the Island of Montreal. Here he came in contact with the Indians from the far west. Within two years he had departed on an exploration. For the next two or three years he had probably visited the Ohio River and had become quite familiar with the country to the south and west of the Great Lakes. Count Frontenac built a fort on the shore of Lake Ontario where the lake sends its waters into the St. Lawrence River. La Salle was put in charge of this fort. He named it Fort Frontenac. The purpose of this fort was to control the fur trade, especially that from up the Ottawa, and prevent it from going to New York. In 1674 La Salle went to France and while there was raised to the rank of a noble. The king was greatly pleased with the plans of La Salle and readily granted him the seigniory of Fort Frontenac, together with a large quantity of land. For all this La Salle promised to keep the fort in repair, to maintain a garrison equal to that of Montreal, to clear the land, put it in a state of cultivation, and continually to keep arms, ammunition, and artillery in the fort. He further agreed to pay Count Frontenac for the erection of the fort, to build a church, attract Indians, make grants of land to settlers, and to do all for the ultimate purpose of furthering the interest of the French government. La Salle returned from France and was perhaps at Fort Frontenac when Joliet passed down the lakes in the summer of 1674. The next year he began the improvement of his fort. For two years he prosecuted a thriving trade with the Indians and also engaged in farming, ship-building, cattle-raising, and study. The fall of 1678 found him in France with a request that the king grant him permission to explore the western part of New France and if possible find the mouth of the Mississippi River. La Salle had matured plans by which New France was to be connected with the western country by a line of strong fortifications. Fort Frontenac was the first step in this plan. He there explained how easy it would be to reach the region of the Great Lakes by the St. Lawrence route or by the Mississippi. There is no doubt that both Frontenac and La Salle wished to transfer the emphasis from the converting of the Indians to that of the conquest of territory for France, and to the more profitable business, as they saw it, of commerce. Frontenac had therefore strongly endorsed La Salle and his plans. Through Colbert and his son, La Salle succeeded in getting his patent from the king.

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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