The Great Lakes Frontier: An Epic of the Old Northwest

The Great Lakes Frontier: An Epic of the Old Northwest

The Great Lakes Frontier: An Epic of the Old Northwest

The Great Lakes Frontier: An Epic of the Old Northwest

Excerpt

In June 1673 SEVEN MEN DESCENDED THE MISSISSIPPI IN TWO BIRCH- bark canoes. At the bow of the first canoe stood the leader of the expedition, his alert look falling on each new object as his two companions paddled down the wide and swift river. He was a large, sinewy young man with dark eyes and beard. The French authorities of Canada, Talon and Frontenac, had sent him from Quebec to explore the mighty river often described by the Sioux. Quite different was the unoccupied man in the other canoe. He was a delicate, careworn ascetic clad in a shapeless and frayed black robe. His deeply sunken eyes and his thin, clean-shaven face bespoke excessive vigils. He was a Jesuit, a worthy successor to those priestly martyrs of the frontier--Jogues, Garnier and Brébeuf. While the rough fur trader in the first canoe often scanned the riverside with apprehension, the gentle missionary in the other canoe burned only to suffer, even to die, in the service of Jesus and the Virgin. Very opposite were the personalities of the first known explorers of the Illinois country, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette.

No sign of mankind relieved the terrible silence of their voyage. Father Marquette startled at something that bumped into his canoe. His companions threw in a net and caught a sizeable spadefish. Presently they saw herds of buffalo grazing on the lush prairie that skirted the river. Father Marquette could not forget the old bulls staring fiercely through half-blinding manes.

The expedition owed its origin to Jean Talon, who for several years had served as the King's intendant at Quebec. As the officer in charge of the financial, police and Judicial affairs of the province, he was the most important person in Canada next to Count Fron tenac . . .

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