|Hennepin, Louis, 17th cent.
|A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America [volume 1]
|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.
|426 / 4
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
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.
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
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.