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THE STATE OF ILLINOIS was, originally, a part of Florida, and belonged to Spain, and was so laid down upon the old Spanish map of North America. The Spaniards, led on by the daring Fernando de Soto, were the first Europeans who had discovered the Mississippi; they had erected the standard of Spain on its shores in the year 1541, and, according to the views at that time prevailing, had thus established the title of their country to the whole of that vast region watered by its tributary streams, so that thenceforth the State of Illinois became a Spanish colony, and its native inhabitants vassals of the Spanish crown. But, although the Spaniards claimed the State by right of possession, its settlement was never eutered upon by them, but was first carried into effect by the French.
At the very time that the Spaniards under Fernando de Soto were exploring Florida and the valley of the Mississippi, several attempts were made on the part of the French by two enterprising adventurers, Cartier and Roberval, to plant settlements on the banks of the St. Lawrence; but these enterprises proving abortive, nothing effectual was done by the French to colonize North America, until the year 1603, when certain merchants at Rouen having formed themselves into a company for this purpose, Champlain, a man of untiring energy and great intrepidity, who had been charged with the direction of their enterprise, succeeded in establisbing the first permanent French settlement upon the North American Continent. As early as 1608, he laid the foundation of Quebec, and, in the following year, explored the region occupied by the Indian Nations of Northern New York.
By a charter from Louis XIII, granted to him in the year 1627, he obtained a patent of New France, embracing the whole basin of the St. Lawrence and Canada, and entered upon its goverument in the year 1632. Perceiving that the climate of New France would offer but little encouragement to immigration, he thought, that the settlement of the new country could not be more effectually promoted than by establishing missions, to call upon religion to aid bim in the execution of his designs, and to enter into a close alliance with the nativo Indians. No sooner, indeed, had the French established their authority in Canada, than numbers of Jesuit missionaries resorted thither, and commenced preaching the gospel to the untutored savages, and forming alliances, in the name of their king, with the numerous savage tribes that inhabited the “ Far West.” In August, 1665, Father Claude Allouez set out to travel among the Indians, visited the Chippeways, entered their councils, displaying before the wondering savages pictures of hell and of the last judgment, and lighted the Catholic torch at the council fires of more than twenty nations, whom he claimed for his country and his king. In his endeavors to extend the influence of France he was assisted by various missionaries employed for that purpose; among others by James Marquette, who labored incessantly for the cause of his Redeemer and his country, travelling far and wide, exposed to the inclemencies of the season, often subsisting on no other food than the unwholesome moss which he gathered from the rocks, and sleeping beneath the skies on the open ground, without the comfort of a fire. Whilst he was preparing to leave St. Mary's, the outlet of Lake Superior, where he then was, in order to explore the Mississippi, Louis XIV. and his minister Colbert having formed a plan for the extension of the dominion of France in North America, Nicholas Perot appeared at St. Mary's as their agent, and convoked a universal congress of the Indian nations at that place. The remotest Indian nations, from the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, and the Red River being assembled in council, in the presence of brilliantly-clad officers from the veteran French armies, it was announced to the amazed savages by Allouez, who acted as interpreter, that they had been placed under the protection of Louis XIV., king of France; and thereupon “a cross of cedar was raised, and the whole company, bowing
before this emblem of Christianity, chanted to its glòry a hymn of the seventh century;" after which a cedar column, with the arms of the Bourbons engraved on it, being planted by the side of the cross, the faith and the rule of France were supposed to be permanently estab
the Continent. In 1673 James Marquette, with five Frenchmen as companions and two Indians for guides, reached the great “father of waters,” on which they embarked “with a joy that could not be expressed,” and hoisting the sails of their bark canoes, floated down the majestic river, “over broad clear sandbars," and glided past islets swelling from its bosom with tufts of massive thickness, between the “broad plains of Illinois and Iowa, all garlanded with majestic forests and chequered with illimitable prairies and island groves.” After descending the Mississippi for about sixty leagues, they discovered an Indian trail, and unhesitatingly left their canoes to follow it. After walking for some six miles, they came to an Indian village, whence four men immediately advanced to meet them, offering the pipe of peace, their calumets “brilliant with many colored plumes,” and speaking to them in language which Marquette understood : “We are Illinois ;” that is, we are men.' “How beautiful is the sun, O Frenchman, when thou comest to us ! our whole village awaits thee, thou shalt enter in peace all our dwellings." After staying with that hospitable people for a while, James Marquette and his companions further descended the Mississippi River until they were satisfied of its flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, when they returned, and having reached the 39th degree of North Latitude, entered the Illinois River and followed it to its source. The tribe of Illinois Indians, which occupied its banks, invited Marquette to remain and reside among them. But expressing a desire to continue his travels, he was conducted by one of the chiefs and several warriors to Chicago, in the vicinity of which place he remained to preach the gospel to the Miamis, whilst his companions returned to Quebec to announce their discoveries. Two years afterwards Marquette entered the little river in the State of Michigan, called by his name, and erecting on its bank a rude altar, said mass after the rites of the Catholic Church; and being left alone at his own request, “he kneeled down by its side, and offering to the Mightiest solemn thanks and supplications, fell asleep to wake no
The light breeze from the lake sighed his requiem, and the Algonquin nation became his mourners.”
The fame of Marqpette induced others to follow in his wake; and among these was Robert Cavalier de la Salle. In 1667, when the attention of Europe was directed to New France, he resorted thither, and first established himself as a fur-trader at La Chine, being in habits of daily intercourse with the warriors of the Iroquois, the Five Nations of Northern New York. Hearing from them the most glowing accounts of the Far West, he resolved to annex the same to France, and to establish a close connection between the valley of the Mississippi and New France by a line of military posts, and for that purpose repaired to France, where he sought and obtained an interview with Colbert, then the prime minister of Louis XIV. Colbert listened with delight to the gigantic schemes of La Salle, and a paper having been obtained from the king commissioning La Salle to explore the valley of the Mississippi, he arrived with a number of mechanics, and military stores and merchandise for the Indian trade, at Fort Frontenac, in the year 1678. In the fall of that year a boat of ten tons, the first that ever entered the Niagara River, conveyed part of his company to the Niagara Cataract. He immediately established a trading-house in its vicinity, and laid the keel of a vessel of sixty tons, called the Griffin, which in the summer of 1679 was launched on the Upper Niagara, being the first vessel that ever rode on the waters of Lake Erie. The roar of its artillery reverberated from shore to shore, arousing the savages in their forests and making them come forward in their swift canoes and look with astonished curiosity upon it. He sailed across the lake and cast anchor on the 27th of August in Green Bay, where he exchanged his goods at an immense profit for a rich cargo of furs, wbich he shipped in the Griffin to Niagara River to be disposed of, in order that he might make a remittance to his creditors. He next entered the river St. Joseph, on the banks of which he erected a small fort, known as the fort of the Miamies; and after waiting for a long time to hear tidings of the Griffin, being weary of delay, he resolved to explore the interior of Illinois. He left ten men as the garrison of his little fortress, and descended the Illinois as far as Lake Peoria, where he met large parties of Illinois Indians, who, desirous of obtaining axes and firearms, offered him the calumet and assented to an alliance.
They received him and his companions with great joy, and when they learned, that colonies were to be established in their neighborhood, the happiness of these simple-minded savages was complete. They offered to conduct him to the Mississippi. But after building a fort a little above where Peoria now stands, which fort he named Crève Cour, La Salle, destitute of almost every means required to
voyage, and ruined in fortune by the loss of the Griffin, set out on foot for Canada to procure aid, taking but three men to accompany him and leaving the rest to guard the fort, the command of which he entrusted to Tonti, with directions to fortify Rock Fort, a cliff on the Illinois River, rising to a great height above its banks. During the absence of La Salle, a large body of warriors of the Iroquois or the five Indian Nations of Northern New York, excited to hostilities by the enemies of La Salle, forced Tonti to abandon the construction of the fort and to seek refuge in the country.of the Miamies. When La Salle afterwards returned, with a supply of men and stores, he found the fort entirely deserted, and thereupon visited Green Bay, recommenced trade and established friendly intercourse with the natives, found Tonti and his companions, left Chicago on the 4th of January, 1682, and having built a spacious barge on the Illinois River, descended the Mississippi to the sea. La Salle saw at once the unparalleled resources of this vast valley, and his exultation knew no bounds, when he planted the arms of France on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Claiming the country for France, in honor of Louis XIV., under whose patronage its discovery was achieved, be called it Louisiana. Having descended the Mississippi to the sea and informed himself about everything he wanted, he returned. On ascending the river a part of the company left behind settled at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, and their vicinity, being afterwards joined by other emigrants from Canada. La Salle bimself returned to France by way of Canada, and having given a most glowing description of his discoveries to the king, was entrusted with the command of another expedition, fitted out by the king himself for the purpose of effecting the settlement of Louisiana; but having inadvertently passed the mouth of the Mississippi, was obliged by his companions, who were unwilling to return, to land in Texas, where he founded the first settlement, and after