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Document Number: AJ-124a
Author: Hennepin, Louis, 17th cent.
Title: A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America [volume 1]
Source: Hennepin, Louis. A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, by Father Louis Hennepin. Reprinted from the Second London Issue of 1698, with Facsimiles of Original Title-Pages, Maps, and Illustrations, and the Addition of Introduction, Notes, and Index by Reuben Gold Thwaites. In Two Volumes. (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1903). Volume 1.
Pages/Illustrations: 426 / 4
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-124a/

Author Note

Born in 1626 in Belgium, Hennepin began studying for the priesthood at age 17. Over the next 30 years he served in many churches throughout Europe as a Franciscan priest. He also served as chaplain to Dutch troops and in 1674 had a chance battlefield encounter with explorer Daniel Greysolon Duluth. In 1675, at age 49, he was chosen to accompany La Salle to New France as a Recollet missionary.

After briefly serving churches in the French settlements, Hennepin went to frontier Fort Frontenac at modern Kingston, Ontario, for two years. In 1678, he traveled with La Salle to Niagara Falls, and was the first European to leave a description or publish a picture of it (see vol. 1, pages 54-57). The following year they constructed a sailing vessel called The Griffon large enough to navigate the Great Lakes from end to end. Following the expedition described below, Hennepin quickly wrote a short account of the interior called Description de la Louisiane..., published in 1683, which became an international best-seller. He resumed the life of a priest and 15 years later, following the deaths of most witnesses to his travels, he published the two highly embellished accounts of his adventures given here. He died about 1705.

Expedition of 1679-1681

Hennepin and La Salle set sail for the west in 1679, cruising from the vicinity of modern Buffalo, New York, to that of Chicago, and establishing trading posts as far west and south as present-day Peoria, Illinois. At the end of February 1680 Hennepin

set out south by canoe with two companions. Although at the time he reported that the Indians inhabiting the river would not let them pass, he later claimed to have gone all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi.

On April 11, 1680, somewhere north of the junction of the Illinois River with the Mississippi, Hennepin and his two companions were captured by 33 canoes of Sioux Indians. They carried the Frenchmen into northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, where over the next four months they ranged through much of the upper Mississippi Valley, including northwest past the Falls of St. Anthony (which Hennepin named) at the site of modern Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. In August 1680, on a Sioux hunting trip into Wisconsin, they were discovered and ransomed by Duluth, who had met Hennepin on a Belgian battlefield six years before. The priest returned to Quebec in the spring of 1681 and to Europe later in the year.

Document Note

In 1697 Hennepin published his Nouvelle Decouverte d'un Tres Grand Pays Situé dans l'Amérique, given here in volume 1. In 1698 he followed this success with Nouveau Voyage d'un Pais plus Grand que l'Europe avec les Reflections des Entreprises du Sieur de la Salle…. In 1698 a London publisher issued both books in English translation, with the Nouveau Voyage… called A Continuation of the New Discovery…. This composite English edition is given here, with the New Discovery… occupying volume 1 and the New Voyage… volume 2. Full bibliographical details on the early editions of these works are given in the introduction to volume 1, pages xlv-lxiv. The original French editions of all three of Hennepin's travel books -- the 1683 Description of Louisiana as well as the two presented here -- are available at “Early Canadiana Online” (www.canadiana.org).

Other Internet and Reference Sources

This is one of several documents concerning the career of the French explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle (see also AJ-049, AJ-53, AJ-114, AJ-121, AJ-122).

More biographical data is available at the “Virtual Museum of New France:” http://www.mvnf.civilisations.ca/vmnf/explor/henn_e2.html

The National Library of Canada has created “Pathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of Canada” at http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/24/h24-220-e.html with a wealth of background information, images, and excerpts from primary sources on the country's early history that will provide further biographical and historical information.

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