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ART. 4. - DISCOVERY IN THE MISSISSIPPI VAL
LEY.- No. 11.
The next European, after Marquette and Toliette, who visited the Mississippi from the north, was Hennepin, a Fleming by birth, and a Franciscan priest by profession. He was passionately fond of travelling from childhood, and he nourished this passion by reading all books of voyages which fell into his hands. Especially did he read the travels of those of his own order an order which had been peculiarly prominent in furnishing Missionaries -- and their works,
and their works, as he says, not only increased his fondness for visiting foreign lands, but gave
him a passion for carrying the Gospel to the heathen. He was a man of an imaginative and romantic mind, born to be a traveller, but unhappily so anxious to publish an entertaining volume to the world, that in writing the history of his journeys, he scrupled not to call in the aid of fancy, when facts would not have been sufficiently interesting. When he speaks of the adventures of others, he may be relied on; but he was so anxious for his own fame, that when he speaks of his own adventures, one can only rely on the fact, that he will affirm that he has seen whatever he wishes to have seen.
He embarked for America with Francis de Laval, afterwards Bishop of Quebec. Before his swelling imagination, the opening prospect of the ocean, was the uncurtaining of a new world. On the ever restless seas, brooded mysterious ter
He witnessed with astonishment, fights between the sword-fish and whale, and the quantities of fish taken on New Foundland. But at length escaping storm and surge and the vague fears of the sea, he arrived at Quebec. To harden himself for missionary enterprizes, he at first went on short missionary excursions, of 20 or 30 leagues, round about Quebec. His first regular mission was among the Iroquois. He spent two years and a half at Catarokony, or Frontenac, situated on the north side of the mouth of Lake Ontario. Here he finished the mission house, made the tour of the five cantons of the Iroquois with a single soldier in winter, preached the Gospel to them, and with the aid of Father Luke Buisset, translated the Apostle's creed, Lord's prayer and ordinary litany into Iroquois, and taught them to the Indian children. He laments, however, that all their instructions were of no avail. The savages listened to the missionaries, because their teachings were accompanied with presents. The Indian's faith lasted no longer than it was accompanied with food and presents from the white men. In their summer hunting expeditions, says Hennepin, they forgot all that they had learned in the winter.
Having spent about three years in this region, (where he had learnt from the Indians, that there was an easy passage through the country of the Iroquois, by the Hohio, into the sea at Florida,) he returned to Quebec. He was to accompany La Salle on his Western expedition, and entered into the Reccollet's convent of St. Mary, to prepare and sanctify himself for his great work. Having received the Bishop's blessing, and provided himself with a portable chapel, one blanket and a mat of rushes -- which constituted all his baggage - he started up the St. Lawrence.
the St. Lawrence. At Montreal his two boatmen were sed iced away, and he was obliged to procure two others. On November 18, 1678, he sailed in a Brigantine of ten tons from Frontenac, and on the 16th of January, 1779, entered the river Niagara. On January 11th, mass was performed by him, the first time it was ever celebrated in that country.Touching and solemn must have been the worship paid by these few feeble men, in these frozen and savage regions, in the heart of a continent. On the one side moaned the wintry surges of Lake Ontario, on the other, the winds stirred the shadows of the dark and endless forests; and between the wilderness and the sea stood man in his weakness, and sought aid of God.
Having got their Brigantine ashore out of the way of the ice, they built a vessel of sixty tons, called the Griffin, six miles above the falls, during the winter and spring of 1679.Hennepin returned to Fort Frontenac to engage two priests to accompany him ; and La Salle returned to finish his preparations, leaving M. de Tonti in command. Having completed their preparations, La Salle and the monks returned, and going on ship board — in all 34 men - on August 7th, 1679, they set sail, w.S. W., with a a good wind, up Lake Erie. Of their voyage up the Lake, and their adventures until they arrive at Fort Creve Coeur, which La Salle established in Illinois, we shall not here speak, as the account belongs properly to the narrative of La Salle's expedition, of which Hennepin was the principle chronicler. We cannot, however, pass over his account of the Falls of Niagara. · In his first volume of travels, he says they are six hundred 'feet high, and describes them as bringing down and killing fishes and wild beasts. It was suspected in France that his travels might contain some romance as well as truth, whereupon, in a preface to a second volume which he published, he is exceedingly indignant, and defending himself from the charge of an untruth in this and other matters, he says, that instead of exaggerating, he had understated the height of the cataract -- that instead of its being only six hundred, it was more than seven hundred feet high, and in other respects far more wonderful than he had represented it to be. *
Various difficulties, which will be spoken of in our accout of La Salle, prevented that able leader from proceeding on at that time to the Mississippi. He therefore left M. de. Tonti in command of Fort Creve Coeur in Illinois; sent Hennepin in a canoe with two men, to explore the Mississippi up from the mouth of Illinois river; while he himself, with three men, returned to Frontenac.
February 29, 1680, Hennepin set sail down the Illinois river in a canoe, with two men, who were all the
troublesome to him, and sometimes were upon the point of leaving him.March 8th, he reached the Mississippi, (the Meschasipi — the great river) but were delayed here some days, by the coming down of the ice. Here he resolved, contrary to the command of La Salle, to descend instead of ascending the river. It is doubtful whether he did descend to the mouth of the Mississippi or not. His journal contains nothing which might not have been drawn from Marquette's journal or some other source, and it is generally believed that his account of descending the river is false. But the ambition which the good Franciscan had to be thought the discoverer of the course and mouth of that great river, was too much for his piety; and the only merit of his journey consists in what was pillaged from others, or was produced in his own imagination. His journal however is an interesting one. He describes the Mississippi, in some places as a league, and where narrowest, half a league wide. He is delighted with the cane-brakes that border on the river -- with the richness of the vegetation, and the varie
* Hennepin's statement as to the height of the falls, however exaggerated, is modest compared with that of Baron la Hontan, the fictitious name under which the monk Guedeville published his travels. He visited Niagara in 1688, and says that the falls are seven or eight hundred feet high, and half a league broad — that towards the middle, there is an island that leans over as if ready to fall — that all the beasts which cross the river within a quarter of a league above the island, are drawn down by the rushing water — and that the water shoots so far over at the fall, that three men may walk underneath between the cataract and the precipice, without any difficulty, except that of being slightly sprinkled with water.
ty of wild animals seen. He frequently met with Indians, and stopped among the Akansas (Arkansas) both going and returning, and was treated with great kindness. On the 10th they killed a cow swimming the river; and lower down they saw crocodiles which at night they frightened with lighted matches. They lived on Indian corn pounded and mixed with water; except occasionally, when they dared to hunt, or met with game accidentally.
March 25th. He arrived at a point at which the Mississippi divides itself into three channels, where he took the middle channel, which was broad and deep. Here the water was brackish ; four leagues lower it was salt as the sea; and yet four leagues lower down he discovered the sea itself, and went ashore on the east side of the river. If Hennepin was actually the discoverer of the Mississippi, we can scarcely imagine a condition in which one could be more cut off from humanity, than he was here in the midst of the swamps that encircle the Balize. Before him opened a vast gulf, almost unknown to the European navigator. "Above him, the vast length of the Mississippi and the Illinois, a continent of wilderness, and a hun. dred intervening hostile and savage tribes divided him from a weak fort, his only place of retreat at the north. With him were two men,
savages, their means of conveyance a birch bark canoe, their supplies a little Indian corn. They left at the mouth of the river, where they landed, a letter signed by himself and his two men— erected a cross twelve feet highknelt — prayed — sung and embarked. April 1st, their returning voyage commenced. They hurried away, dreading not only danger from the savages, but fearing lest they should ineet with Spaniards from New Mexico, and be carried off as prisoners or be put to death. About the end of April they arrived at the mouth of the Illinois. According to Hennepin the mouth of the Mississippi lins between latitude 27o and 289,From the mouth of the Illinois to the sea, by the windings of the river, according to his calculation, it was three hundred and forty leagues, but only one hundred and fifty leagues in a direct line; while it was 800 leagues from the source of the Mississippi to the Mexican Gulf.
Hennepin having disobeyed the orders of La Salle, dared notto return to Creve Coeur without ascending the Mississippi. This he certainly did, and was the discoverer of St. Anthony's Falls. He has given the distances and names of places with
We give the names as he gives them, that our readers may trace his course, and judge of his accuracy. From the Illinois to the Wisconsin 100 leagues; to the Black
river 25 leagues ; to the lake of tears, (so called because the savages who seized them here debated whether to murder them) 30 leagues. From the river of wild bulls to the river of the Grave, connected by a portage with Lake Superior, 40 leagues : and 10 leagues yet higher, he arrived at the fall of St. Anthony. Of these falls he was the discoverer. He describes them at fifty or sixty feet high. Eight leagues above, is the mouth of the river İssati or St. Francis, which comes out at lake Issati. Here on April 12, they were made prisoners by the Issati Indians. From this time he was carried as a prisoner among the Issati and Annadonessians, for some months, in the region between the head waters of the Mississippi and Lake Superior. They were used savagely, they were robbed of their property and their lives threatened. They travelled about in a country full of morasses, swamps and lakes. It is impossible, however, to trace their route upon any
He says that the northern Indians have bark canoes; that the canoes of the southern Indians are made entirely of wood; hence on account of the superior lightness and swiftness of the birch bark canoe, the Indians of the Upper Mississippi have greatly the advantage in war. After a variety of wanderings with the Indians, compelled to row their canoes and subjected to every variety of hardship, he was set free. Returning to the Mississippi, he descended to the mouth of the Wisconsin, and ascending that river he crossed the usual portage, and entered by the Fog river the bay of Puars, now Green bay, and wintered at Michillimacinac. * He left this place during easter week 1681. The water around the borders of the lake was still frozen, but he hurried on to Quebec. La Salle was absent, and Hennepin made no mention to any one of his having descending to the mouth of the Mississippi. Hennepin having lived eleven years in America, returned to France and, in 1684, published his account of Louisiana. It was not until after this that he pretended to have discovered the course of the Mississippi below the Iilinois.
His reason for not doing it, he says was the fear of disobliging La Salle, who was anxious to have the honor of this discovery, and who did descend the Mississippi in 1682. When the latter found that Hennepin had discovered it two years before him, and contrary to his orders, he never forgave him, but procured his expulsion from France. Such is a brief abstract of father Hennepin's account of his journeyings in the Mississippi Valley.
* This place is remarkable as being the one where Marquette began the first European Bettlement, north-west of Fort Frontenac. This took place in 1671. Since then, it has ever been
one of the principal seats of the fur trade in those regions.