Century of Conflict

By Joseph Lister Rutledge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE WESTERN SEA

The eyes of New France still look to the far horizons. From the Gulf of Mexico men follow the great river systems--the Red, the Arkansas, the Missouri. Opening a new domain, they almost touch hands with other men who, facing unbelievable obstacles, still dream of a Western Sea. Pierre de la Vérendrye and his four sons open the lands beyond the lake head. They build forts on unknown lakes and rivers and see the vast prairies. They find lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba and follow the great Saskatchewan River. They move into Minnesota and the Dakotas to the fringes of the Rocky Mountains. Then bitter disillusionment at once again there emerges the sinister figure of François Bigot.

Louisburg was not typical of the spirit of New France. There it seemed that some strange malady had deadened a spirit that once had been bright and aspiring, leaving in its place only the crafty and predaceous. But elsewhere the challenge of a new land still called to men with a continuing urgency and met the old, undaunted response. The names of the actors in these scenes are not as familiar as are the names of Iberville or Cadillac or Tonty or Du Lhut or that Le Moyne de Bienville who is forever associated with the Gulf Coast; with Biloxi, and Mobile, which he governed so long, and the great city of New Orleans, which he founded.

Probably few have heard of Juchereau de St. Denis. Yet he was the first to venture for beyond the mouth of the Red River. This is not our Red River of the North, but the lowest western branch of the Mississippi and a mighty stream in itself, thirteen hundred miles long. Many long miles beyond where any white man had been before, he founded the present city of Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was to be the starting point of all the later adventuring in the Southwest. One of these

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