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French and Indians of Illinois river online

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deer skins. Notwithstanding it was very large —
capable of holding one thousand or more persons
— so many workmen were employed that it was
completed on the third day. When the house of
God was ready for use, all the chiefs and old
warriors assembled therein, when Marquette ded-
icated it in honor of the Holy Virgin, giving it
the same name that he had already given to the
Mississippi river — *' The Immaculate Conception."

Every day the chapel was tilled with Indians,
and Marquette preached to them, calling on the
warriors to forsake the religion of their fathers
and embrace Christianity. Many came forward
and joined the church, and one hundred or
more were baptized at a time. For a number of
weeks Marquette preached daily to the Indians,
baptizing and instructing them in the ways of

On Easter Sunday the chapel was decorated
with evergreens, representing crosses, anchors,
crucilixes, &ic. Incense was burned on the altar,
and lights were kept burning during the day, ac-
cording to the custom of the Catholic church.
The woods far and near had been searched for
geese and turkey eggs, which were beautifully
colored and distributed among the converts, in


commemoration of Christ's resurrection. The day
was a joyous one for the Indians , and it was long
remembered by them, but with it ended the
ministry of Marquette among the red men of the

Spring had now come ; the groves were once
more green, and the prairie was covered with grass
and flowers, but it did not bring health and vigor
to the fast-failing priest. His disease had again
returned in its worst form, and he felt that his life
was fast passing away. After spending two days
and nights in prayer, communing with Christ and
the Holy Virgin, he concluded to return to Can-
ada, where he could receive the sacrament from
the hands of his brethren before he died.

On the third week after Easter, the Indians
were assembled in the chapel, when Marquette,
pale and feeble as he was, instructed them in the
ways of Christianity, telling them that he was
about to depart for Canada, but promised to send
a priest to teach them in the ways of salvation.
The Indians heard the news in sadness, gathering
around the holy father, and begged him to remain
with them. But he told them that his work was
ended — that a tew weeks would close his pilgrim-
age here on earth, and before he departed hence
he desired to return to Canada, and there leave bis
bones among his countrymen.


Marquette's canoe was once more put on the
water, and with his two faithful companions he
commenced his journey eastward. About five hun-
dred warriors, some in canoes and otlier8mounte<l
on ponies, accompanied Marquette as far as Lake
Michigan, and then received from him tlie parting

After parting with the Indians, Marquette's
canoe started around the head of the lake, and
with sail hoisted and oars applied, they coasted
along the southern shore with the expectation of
j'eaching Canada in about five weeks. Pierre
and Jacques with all their power plied the oars
to increase their speed, while the sick priest lav
prostrated in tlie bottom of the canoe, communing
with the Virgin and with angels.


When near the mouth of St. Joseph river,
Marquette felt that his time had come, and he
told his com])anions to land him on the beach of
the lake, in order that he miglit receive the
sacrament before he died. On a high piece of
land, at the mouth of a small stream which still
bears his name, they built a bark shanty, and
carried thither the dying priest. With his eyes
fixed on a crucifix, which one of his companions


held before him, and while murmuring the name
of Mary and Jesus, he breathed liis last. His
companions dug a grave on tlie bank of the stream,
near the spot where he died, and buried him
there. In obedience to his request, they erected
a large cross, made of basswood timber, over his
grave, on which was engraved his name and date
of his death. After burying Marquette, Pierre
and Jacques again put their canoe on the lake
and continued their journey toward Canada, con-
veying thither the sad news of his death.

Three years after Marquette's death, a party oi
Indians of Mackinaw, who had been converted to
Christianity some years before under his preach-
ing, went to Lake Michigan, opened the grave,
and took up his remains. After washing and
drying the bones, they placed them in a box made
of birch bark and carried them to Mackinaw. With
the remains of the holy father they turned their
canoes homeward, singing and chanting praises
as tliey went along. Seven miles above Mackinaw
they were met by a large delegation of Indians in
canoes, who formed a procession to escort the
remains to the mission. With their faces blacked,
oars nuiHied, and singing a fnneral dirge, the pro-
cession slowly approached the mission, and w^ere
met at the landing by priest, traders and Indians,
all of whom wore badges of mourning. With


a solemn ceremony tlie remains of Fatlier Mar-
quette were received at the mission, and buried
beneath the little chapel of St. Ignace, which he
had built some years before. On the following
day Fatlier Allonez preached to the Indians col-
lected here, and a large number of them embraced
Christianity and were baptized.

Two centuries have now passed away since the
burial of Marquette, and long since the little
chapel of St. Ignace has gone to decay, but the
spot where it stood was hallowed by the French
and converted Indians, and is now pointed out to

For many years after the death of Marquette,
the French sailors on the lakes kept his picture
nailed to the mast-head as a guardian angel, and
when overtaken by a storm they would pray to
the holy father, beseeching him to calm the wind
and still the troubled waters, in order that they
might reach port in safety.



Seven years after Joliet and Marquette discov-
ered the upper Mississippi, La Salle obtained a
patent from the king of France, authorizing him
to explore and take possession of all the country
west of the great lakes. La Salle's success and
failures in this enterprise is a matter of history,
and foreign to our purpose, but as his name ap-
pears in connection with many incidents, a few
facts relating to him may be of interest to the

Robert Cavnlier (La Salle being a title only)
was born in the year 1643, in the city of Rouen,
of wealthy parentage, and was educated for the
priesthood. In person he is said to have been
large and muscular, possessing a fine intellect, an
iron constitution, and well qualified for the enter-
prise in which he embarked. He inherited from
his ancestors a large fortune, which was used in
advancing his enterprise^ but was squandered in


consequence of misplaced confidence in those
with whom he associated. Although La Salle
made his mark in history, his life was one of
hardships, exposure and deprivations, and he
finally died by the hand of an assassin in the
wilds of Texas.

A few years ago, while strolling through the
city of Rouen, my guide pointed out an old
palace standing on high ground, and overlooking
the river Seine. For beauty of architecture and
antique appearance, this palace has no equal in
the old Norman capital. This old palace, said
my guide, was once the residence of the duke of
Normandy, afterwards known as William the
Conqueror, and from its portico this great warrior
addressed his lords and nobles on the day he left
Normandy for the conquest of England. In this
palace, continued my guide, now lives Count
Cavalier, a descendant of the family of La Salle.
Two squares distant from here is an antique look-
ing house, pointed out as the birth place, and for
some time the residence of the great explorer.
La Salle, and is still occupied by his family de-


In the summer of 1669, La Salle built a vessel
on Niagara river, above the falls, for the purpose


of navigating the upper lakes. This vessel was
of sixty tons burden, carrying lateen-sails, and
named the Griffin. It was armed with a number
of small cannon, and a large wooden eagle sur-
mounted its prow. On the day of departure the
vessel was visited by a large body of Indians, who
were astonished at this great canoe, as they called
it, as nothing like it had ever been seen on the
upper lakes before. Father Hennepin preached
to these Indians from the deck of the Griffin,
when they clapped their hands, shouting and yell-
ing in response to his words, and offered him
presents to be used as sacrifices to the great
Manito of the French*

All things being ready, the cannons fired a
salute, the sails were spread to the breeze, and
the Griffin moved forward, plowing through the
maiden waves of Lake Erief

*An ingenious Prencliinan painted on canvas a colossal pic-
ture of a griffin, according to Grecian myttiology. This monster
had the body of a lion, with the wings of an eagle, representing
strength and swiftness. This picture (the motto of the vessel)
was stretched between the masts, and the Indians mistook it for
the French Manito or god,so they bowed down and worshiped it.

fin La Salle's party was an Italian officer, second in command,
named Tonti, who figures extensively in our narrative, and a
short account of whom will be found elsewhere. In this party
were also three Jesuit priests, Louis Hennepin, Gabriel Re-
bourde, and Zenobe Membre. The former of these priests Is
known in history by his surname, and the two latter by their
given names.


After a number of days sail, the vessel passed
through a small lake, which La Salle gave the
name of St. Clair, in honor of that saint whose
name appeared that day in the calendar. On the
following day, after parsing Lake St. Clair, they
were overtaken by a terrible storm, which threat-
ened the vessel with destruction, and all on board
believed their time had come. The rolling of
the vessel and lashing of the waves, caused
the sailors to hold fast to the bulwarks to pre-
vent being carried overboard. . Father Hennepin
in his journal says that he joined with others in
fervent prayer to St, Anthony, making a solemn
vow to that saint if he would deliver them from
their peril with which they were surrounded, the
first chapel built in the new discovered country
should be dedicated to him. The saint heard
their prayers — the wind calmed, and the Griffin
continued on her way, while plunging through the
foaming billows.

After a voyage of four weeks, the Griffin ar-
rived at Mackinaw, and was safely moored in the
harbor of St. Ignace. Here at the straits of Mack-
inaw was an Indian village, a Jesuit mission, and
the seat of a large fur trade. Both Fi-ench and
Lidians collected around the vessel in great as-
tonishment, as nothing larger than a bark canoe
was ever seen there before. The goods brought


by the Griffin were exchanged for furs at a large
profit, and the vessel, loaded with pelts, started
back for Niagara, but was never heard of after-

Late in November La Salle, accompanied by
fourteen persons, left Mackinaw in four canoes, and
coasted along the shore of Lake Michigan in a
southern direction. They carried with them a
blacksmith's forge, carpenter tools, and other
utensils required in building a fort, besides a large
amount of merchandise to trade with the Indians.

On the second day out, they were overtaken
by a storm, which compelled them to land, drag
their canoes on the beach, and there remain four
days for the angry waters to subside. Again trust-
ing their frail barks to the waters of Lake Michi-
gan, they found themselves on the following day
overtaken by a severe gale, and amid the lashing
of waves their canoes drifted on a barren, rocky
island, some distance from the main land. Here
on this rocky island they remained two days and
nights, without shelter or fire, and their blankets
alone protected them from the cold winter blast.

•The fate of the Griffln was never known. Some thought
she perished In a gale, others that she was burned by the In-
dians, and the crew- put to death. But La Salle believed that
the crew, after disposing of the furs and pelts for their own
benefit, burned the vessel and fled the country to escape pun-


Wlien the wind and waves subsided, they again
continued their journey, but a new trouble over-
took them. Having been so long on the water,
their stock of provisions became exhausted, and
three of the party went in search of an Indian
village, in order to obtain a supply. On the fol-
lowing day a large party of Indians came to their
camp, bringing with them corn and venison,
w^hich they exchanged for goods. These Indians
encamped near the French, and during the night
amused them with songs and dances.

It was cold weather when the travelers reached
the mouth of St. Joseph river, and here they
remained for a few days waiting for Tonti and his
companions. On the arrival of Tonti the party,
consisting of thirty-five persons in l)ark canoes,
commenced ascending St. Joseph river.*

♦History says the Griffin went to Green Bay and from there
La SaUe and companions started in their canoes for lUinols.
But this is not probable, as there was no trading post at Green
Bay at that time, and it was not Hkely that tlie vessel would go
any further west than trade had gone. If the voyageurs had
landed at Green Bay, they would have followed along the west-
ern shore of Lake Michigan to the mouth -.f Phioago river-
ascending th.at stream, and down the Des Plaines to Illinois.
This route was known at the time to the French, as Joliet and
Marquette passed over it seven years before I^a Salle and party
could not have crossed I>ake Michigan in their cmoes, and it is
highly improbable that they followed around its southern end,
as It would be out of their course.

Two years before this expedition, Father Alloner established
a mission at the mouth of St. Joseph's river, and at this point


On arriving at or near tlie present site of South
Bend, tliej stopped to search for the path which
led across the portage to the head waters of Kan-
kakee. While thus engaged, La Salle lost his
reckoning, and in the thick forest he rambled
about all day and a part of the night, during a
severe snow storm. Many times he fired his gun
as a signal to his friends, but received from them
no response. About two o'clock in the morning
he discovered through the thick undergrowth a
gleam of light, and he hastened thither, supposing
it to be his camp, but was disappointed at finding
no one there. By the side of the fire was a bed
made of dry grass and leaves, which was still
warm, the occupant having been frightened away
at his approach. La Salle called out in different
Lidian dialects, but received no reply, so he laid
down on the deserted bed and slept until morn-
ing. The former occupant of this bed was never
known, but supposed to have been an Indian

they expected to meet Tonti with twenty men, who came from
Mackinaw by land. It is said Tonti and his party got lost among
thick forests and lakes of Michigan, and did not reaeh their
destination for some time after La Salle's arrival.

There is an old traditionary acount of this affair, which says
La Salle and party were afraid to trust their frail Darks again
on the angry waters of the lake in mid winter, after their past
experieuce, and therefore went by the way of St. Joseph and
Kankakee rivers.


Tlie friends of La Salle were very much alarmed
at his long absence, and during the night they
fired guns and beat their drum in order to direct
him to camp, but without effect. They had about
given him up as lost, when about four o'clock on
the following day they saw him approaching the
camp with two opossums hanging from his belt.*

The canoes were carried across the portage, five
miles in width, put on the water of the Kanka-
kee, and floated down that stream and the Illinois
river to La Yantum, the great town of Illinois.
It was now mid winter, and they found the town
deserted, its occupants having gone off on their
winter hunt, in accordance with their custom.
Being in a starving condition, La Salle ordered
one of the caches opened, and took therefrom
twenty minots of corn, hoping at some future
time to compensate the Indians for this robbery.
After spending two days in the desolate lodges
of the town, the party again boarded their canoes
and continued on their wav down the river.

About five leagues below La Vantum, at the
mouth of a stream — supposed to have been Bureau
creek — the voyageurs landed and sent out a party
to hunt buffalo. The hunters were successful in
their search, and on coming up with a large herd

•" Parkman's Disoovery of th« Or*at West."


of buffalo, a short distance from the river ; they
killed two of them and returned to camp with
the meat. This supply of meat, with the corn
they took from the Indian store-house, drove
hunger from their camp,and the three priests joined
in retiirnine: tlianks to the Holv Yiro-in for thus
providing for their wants, while journeying
through this wild wilderness country.

The following day being New Year, 1680, it
was agreed to spend it in camp worshiping, saying
mass, and taking sacrament in accordance to an
old custom in the Catholic Church.

Before leaving Canada, Father Hermepin pro-
vided himself with a miniature altar, which folded
up like an army chair, and could be carried on
the back the same as a knapsack. With this altar
on his back, Father Hennepin started off" through
the woods in search of a suitable place for wor-
ship, followed by the other priests and the rest of
the party. A place was selected, the altar erected,
and the holy father preached to his companions,
causing the woods to resound with his loud ex-
hortations and songs of praise. After preaching
and saying mass, the sacred emblems were placed
by the side of the altar, preparatory to taking the
sacrament. But great was Father Hennepin's
surprise to iind the wine vessel empty, as one of
the party, a blacksmith by trade, and nicknamed


La Forge, had drank it up while on the road.
For this act of sacrilege, Father Hennepin pro-
nounced against him a curse, equal to the one
Pope Leo pronounced against Martin Luther for
publishing the Bible.


• According to history, on the 3d of January,
1680, the inhabitants of an Indian village situated
on the west bank of Peoria Lake, were much
surprised to see eight canoes filled with armed
men opposite their town. The canoes were all
abreast, presenting a formidable appearance, and
the men seated in them held guns in their hands,
ready for an attack or defence. These canoes
rounded to and landed at the village, causing a
great panic among the Indians, some of whom
fled in terror, while others seized their arms and
prepared to defend themselves. Amid the con-
fusion that followed, La Salle sprang ashore, and
presented to the astonished Indians the calumet,
(a token of friendship), while Father Hennepin
caught several frightened children and soothed
their fears with kindness and small presents.

The French pitched their tent in the Indian
village, and remained for some days. But dis-


contentment among the men, and fearing treach-
ery of the Indians, caused La Salle to remove to
a place of greater security. A site was selected,
a fort built, and all the valuables at their camp
transferred thereto. On account of the gloomy
prospects, the discontentment and desertion of
some of the men, La Salle named this fort Creve
Ceour, which in the French language means
broken heart*

Fort Creve Ceour consisted of stockades, en-
closing a small plat of ground, and within which
were a number of log cabins — quarters for officers
and soldiers. Father Hennepin lamented the loss
of wine, which prevented him from administering
the sacrament, but each morning and evening all
the occupants of the fort were summoned to his
cabin fur prayer. Father Gabriel and Zenobe
spent most of their time in the Indian village,
preaching to and instructing the natives in the
ways of Christianity, but they made but few

About the first of February Father Hennepin,
in a canoe, accompanied by two companions, left
the fort on a voyage of discovery. Passing down

*The exact location of this fort is not known, but it is believed
to have stood on the east side of the river, about three miles
below the outlet of the lake, at a place now called Wesley.
This place answers the description given by Hennepin, and
also accords with traditionary accounts.


to the mouth of the Illinois river, they ascended
tlie Mississippi as far as the falls of St. Anthony.
Here Hennepin was made a prisoner hj the In-
dians, and remained with them some months, but
was finallv set at libertv, reached Canada in safety,
returned to France and published a book of his

Early in the spring La Salle returned to Can-
ada to procure men and supplies, leaving Tonti
in command of the fort. A short time after La
Salle's departure, all the soldiers except three
deserted their post, ascending the river in canoes,
and coastino around the shore of Lake Micliiiian
they readied Mackinaw in safety. Tunti, being
left with the two priests and three soldiers, aban-
doned the tort, and it was never occupied

.n K'



Amoiio^ the man)^ adventurers wlio accompanied
La Salle to America and took part in exploiting
the wilds of the west, was an Italij^n of noble
birth by the name of Henri de Tonti. Some
years before, young Tonti, with his father's family,
were banished from Italy, on account of having
taken part in a revolution of that country, and they
found a home in Rouen, France. Tonti, having
a military education, joined the French army, and
served five years, a part of the time as cap^'^in, in
the National Guards. At the close of the war
he was discharged from service, came to America
and joined La Salle in his enterprise. La Salle
made Tonti his lieutenant, or second in command,
and the sequel shows that he w^as worthy of the
trust placed in him.

Tonti's right hand having been shot off in the
Sicilian war, its place was supplied with an iron
one, which he kept always covered with a glove.


With this iron hand, Tonti, on different occasions,
broke the heads or knocked out the teeth of dis-
orderly Indians, whicli caused them to believe
that he possessed supernatural power.

Tonti brought with him from France a large
sum of money, which he used in common with
La Salle in exploring and taking possession of the
west, as well as in trade with the Indians.

The late Dr. Sparks says history never can do
ample justice to Tonti. His life was one of patri-
otism and self-sacrifice, and the discovery and
taking possession of the great west belong mainly
to him.

Forty years of Tonti's life was spent in the
wilds of the west, enduring hardships, dangers,
and deprivations, associating with savages, and
without the benefits and comforts of civilization.
His fortune sacrificed — his health and manhood
destroyed — he became a wanderer along the gulf
of Mexico, but at last returned to die at Fort St.
Louis, and his bones now rest on the bank of the
Illinois river, at the west end of Starved H.»ck.

In one of the Louvre picture galleries in Pai-is,
can be seen a full-length portrait of a youthful
looking man, dressed in French uniform, with
epaulets on his shoulders and an eagle on his
breast. His left hand holds a sword, while the
left presents a singular appearance, as though


deforiiied, but is hidden by a glove. This tall,
gracelnl figure, and the piercing black eyes, never
fails to attract;the attention of strangers, and in-
quiry would naturally arise for the history of the
person here represented. Below this portrait is

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Online LibraryN. (Nehemiah) MatsonFrench and Indians of Illinois river → online text (page 3 of 14)