Louis Jolliet

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Louis Jolliet
Louis Jolliet
Alfred Laliberté’s Louis Jolliet sculpture in front of Parliament Building (Quebec)
Birthday/Birthplace (1645-09-21)September 21, 1645
near Quebec City, Canada
Deceased 1700
en route from Quebec to Anticosti Island
Allegiance New France (Canada)
Awards Won Jolliet was granted land south of Quebec in return for his favours
Relations Jacque Jolliet: Father
Other work Canadian explorer

Louis Jolliet , also known as Joliet (Quebec, September 21, 1645 – May 1700), was a French-Canadian explorer of North America, especially the current territory. Quebecers Together with the Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, in 1673 they were the first Europeans to travel and draw maps of the upper Mississippi River, which they arrived traveling from New France, the territory of present-day Canada (from the south, the river had already been explored by the Spaniards of the expedition of Hernando de Soto).

According to the Encyclopedia of Canadian Music, Louis Jolliet also scored a page in the history of music in Canada. He was the first Canadian to study music in Europe. Jérôme Lalemant wrote: «Mons. Bishop dined with us and mr. Meser [Maizerets], and in the evening we invite Messrs. Morin and Joliet, our music officers, to dine. “Louis Jolliet played the harpsichord and the organ. At a commemorative service in 1700, he was thanked “for having played the organs in the Cathedral and the parish for many years. Made for free ».

Louis Jolliet’s Biography

First years

Louis Jolliet was born in 1645 in a French settlement near Quebec City, son of Jean Jolliet, member of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, and María Abancourt. When he was seven years old, his father died and his mother remarried a successful merchant. Jolliet’s stepfather owned land on the island of Orleans, an island on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, which was home to several Native American tribes. Jolliet spent a lot of time on the island of Orleans, so he is likely to start speaking indigenous languages ​​at a young age. During his childhood, Quebec was the center of the French fur trade. The natives were part of everyday life in Quebec, and Jolliet grew up knowing a lot about them. He also spoke English, Spanish and French.

Jolliet started his studies at the Seminary of Quebec at the age of 10 years. His first desire was to become a member of the clergy, receiving minor orders on August 16, 1662. As he had certain musical gifts, he was promoted to music officer at the university. Later, he became the first organist of the cathedral of Quebec.

In 1666, the census describes him as “clerc d’église” (secretary of the church). On July 2 of the same year he defended a thesis of philosophy in the presence of Monsignor de Laval, Governor Rémy-de-Courcelles and Mayor Jean Talon.

At that moment, his vocation began to fail. In July 1667, he left the seminary and, a few weeks later, he embarked for France, where he lived mainly in Paris and La Rochelle. In 1668, he is back in Quebec, where he decided to become a distributor after having acquired merchandise to exchange the merchant Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye.

The discovery of the Mississippi

Genesis of the expedition

Jean Talon, who had the goal of developing the economy of New France, had heard of the Mississippi River and believed that the alliance with the natives of that region could pay dividends in the long term. In 1672, he decided to send Louis Jolliet to discover it, since the audacity and determination of the young man were already known at that time. In the autumn, the mayor left Quebec for France, but still offered his candidate to the new governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac, who accepted it without hesitation.

Jolliet, who joined the project with enthusiasm, had some problem at first since he knew that the State was not going to finance his expedition. So he founded a commercial company with some businessmen from the colony, including his brother Zacharie. The revenues of the new company would be used to defray the expenses of the expedition.

On December 8, 1672, Jolliet is in Michilimackinac, at the end of Lake Huron, Superior and Michigan. He carried a letter from Father Claude Dablon to the Jesuit Jacques Marquette, asking him to join the expedition. Marquette accepts with great pleasure, especially because he knows several languages ​​of the indigenous tribes of the region.

Discovering the Mississippi

Map of the 1673 expedition of Marquette and Jolliet la (ca. 1681).

Jolliet and Marquette spent the winter of 1672-73 organizing the final preparations. They departed on May 18, 1673 from St. Ignace, in two canoes in a group composed of seven men, the two of them and five other coureurs des bois of French-Indian descent (today métis). They traveled first to the west, following along the north shore of Lake Michigan and the western shore of Green Bay. After making a stop at the San Francisco Javier Mission, they climbed the Fox River almost to its headwaters, to the town of Mascoutens. There they learned of the existence, three miles away, of a tributary of the Mississippi River. They carried their canoes a distance of just under two miles through marshes and oak plains to reach the Meskousing River (today, Wisconsin River). (At that point the Europeans finally built a trading post, Portage, named for its location.)

From there, the group ventured into the Mississippi basin. They descended the Meskousing and reached the Mississippi on June 17, near the present town of Prairie du Chien. Up to then they had already traveled about 800 km, of which about 200 km corresponded to Wisconsin. For ten days they followed the Mississippi downstream to the south without finding a soul. They arrived at the first indigenous village at the mouth of the Iowa River. It was a tribe of illinois Indians who received them well.

In September of that same year they were the first targets to cross the Chicago River. Then they discovered the mouths of the Missouri and Ouabouskigou rivers (today, Ohio River), the two main tributaries of the Mississippi. At the mouth of the Ohio, they had already traveled almost 2,000 km. They did not dare to go any further since the Indians became hostile. Marquette did not understand their language but he knew that they were already negotiating with the Spaniards and afraid of falling into their hands, they decided to return, and the trip ended, therefore, downstream from the current border of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana. They still had 1,100 km to travel before reaching the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico.

The return trip takes place from mid-July. They followed the Mississippi back to the mouth of the Illinois River, as they had learned from local Indians that it was a shorter route to return to the Great Lakes. Following the Illinois and then one of its sources, the Des Plaines River, then crossed the Chicago Portage, to get back to Lake Michigan, near the location of the current city of Chicago. Jolliet and Marquette were on the San Francisco Javier mission in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in mid-October. Marquette stopped at the mission, while Jolliet returned to Quebec to report the news of his discoveries. He spent the winter of 1673-74 in Sault-Sainte-Marie (Ontario), where he compiled the notes of his trip. Unfortunately, on his return to the colony, in May 1674, he was shipwrecked at Sault-Saint-Louis, upstream of Montreal. He managed to get out alive, but his diary and personal papers disappeared into the water. Some time later, his copies were also destroyed in a fire in Sault-Sainte-Marie, so there is no longer any detailed account of this historic journey.

The group returned to the territory of Illinois at the end of 1674, becoming the first Europeans to spend the winter in what will later become the city of Chicago. Well received as guests by the tribes of the Confederation of Illinois, the explorers were celebrated along the way and were fed ceremonial foods such as the sagamite.

Establishment on the north coast

On October 17, 1675 Jolliet married Claire-Françoise Byssot, a 19-year-old Canadian, daughter of François Byssot and Marie Couillard. He wanted to settle in Illinois, but Jean-Baptiste Colbert objected. In 1678, he received land in the region of Sept-Îles, where he settled.

In 1679, Frontenac commissioned him to visit the Hudson Bay to try to establish commercial links with the Indians of the North and to investigate his contacts with the English who were settled there. He went there taking the Saguenay River and Lake Saint-Jean. He met with the British governor of the place, Charles Bailey, who received him with honor because he had heard about his expedition in the Mississippi. Jolliet returned convinced that the English would make “good trade of Canada” (“plus beau commerce du Canada”).

The same year, Jolliet was granted the land of the Mingan archipelago, where he proposed to establish cod, seal and whale fisheries. The years that followed he spent the summers on the island of Anticosti, building a stay in the river à l’Huile, taking care of his lands and his businesses, and returning to Quebec to spend the winters. He also built a fort, maintained by soldiers. In 1690, the fleet commanded by William Phips, future governor of the British colony of Massachusetts, seized his ship, confiscated his property and took him prisoner, along with his wife and stepmother.

Last years

In 1694, Louis Jolliet explored the Labrador coast, which he described and mapped. His document, which is preserved, contains sixteen cartographic sketches with a first description of the coast between Cape Charles and Zoar.

In 1697, the explorer received his “hydrographe royal” certificate and on April 30 he was granted the manor (fief) of Jolliet, located southwest of Quebec City, making him a minor nobleman, approximately colonial equivalent of a hereditary baronet, with the title of Sieur Jolliet [Lord of Jolliet] (see seigneurial regime of New France, (in English). He spent the warm season working on his land in the Côte-Nord, returning to Quebec in In the autumn of 1700, Louis Jolliet went to the island of Anticosti and presumably died between May 4 and September 15, although his body was never found. A Mass was celebrated for his soul on September 15, 1700.

Jolliet was one of the first descendants of Europeans born in New France to gain international recognition during his life for making important discoveries. Although no authentic period portrait is known, Jolliet is often portrayed wearing the typical border man’s outfit (buckskin pants and fur hat) or, by contrast, as a European nobleman, given his personal wealth and the prestige he had while living in colonial society.

More Facts about Louis Jolliet

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