BLTC Press Titles

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The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Stories of Missouri

by John Roy Musick


La Salle was a brave, ambitious, and persevering man. He was eager to extend the power of France, in the hope that by so doing he might increase his own riches and honors. The stories told by the Indians fired him with a determination to find the great river of which he had read in the old Spanish chronicles, and to take possession of it in the name of his king.

The earliest French explorers had a wrong idea of the course of the Mississippi River. From what they could gather from the natives, they thought that it flowed into the Pacific, and that it would thus afford a passage to China. Such a passage would have been of great advantage to French merchants in trading with that country, since it would shorten the distance their ships had to sail, by many thousands of miles.

With a party of his countrymen, La Salle set out from Montreal, by way of Lake Ontario, to find the Mississippi. His followers did not possess stout hearts like his own, and when they had marched a few days into the great forest, they began to wish themselves safely back in their settlements again.

There were many dangers surrounding them. Not only was the wily Indian ever ready to slay them, but the dense forests abounded in bears, panthers, and poisonous reptiles, which were a constant menace to their safety.

"Let us return," they implored La Salle, " or else we shall wander so far that we shall be lost in the forest and never find our way home again."

But La Salle thundered back, "I will go on!" in a voice of such determination that his followers knew it was useless to try to dissuade him. They thereupon held a consultation among themselves, and that night they one and all deserted him.

On waking next morning La Salle found only the Indian guide with him. But he was so brave and so determined, that with this single companion he pushed on through the wilderness until he reached the Ohio River. He had gone too far east to strike the Missouri or the Mississippi.

While he was trying to explore the Ohio to its mouth, his one remaining companion deserted him. He was now alone in an unknown wilderness, and, realizing how useless and hopeless it was to attempt to explore that vast country unaided, he turned about and wandered back to Montreal.

La Salle did not despair. He went to France, and some years later secured aid and authority from the king to explore the great river and take possession of it in his name. From the course of the tributaries of the stream which he had seen, as well as from the report of Marquette, La Salle became convinced that the great Mississippi was not an outlet to China, but flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

On his return to Canada, in 1678, he secured men and supplies, built a ship on the Niagara River, and sailed up Lake Erie and Lake Huron to the foot of Lake Michigan. Then the ship was sent back, and the men made their way southward to the head of the lake in canoes.'

In December, 1679, with a party consisting of thirtythree men, La Salle embarked in eight canoes on the St. Joseph River in Michigan. They sailed up the stream a number of miles, then crossed the snow-covered plain by a long portage to the source of the Kankakee River, and then floated down this till they reached the Illinois. Here at a point below Peoria Lake they went into camp and built a fort. The Illinois Indians, because of mistreatment by some French traders, had become very hostile, and for some time it seemed as if the expedition would be a failure. But La Salle made a treaty with them, by which he promised to protect them against their enemies.

It became necessary for La Salle to make a trip from his fort on the Illinois to Canada for more supplies, and to look after some of his affairs, which were in a very confused state. On reaching Montreal, he made a last effort to appease his creditors and borrow money for his new equipment. He succeeded; but soon came the news that the men left in the fort had deserted him. Undismayed, he once more gathered a band of followers and set out for the Illinois by the same dreary route through lake, river, and forest.

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