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La Salle Explored the Mississippi River 1682

The French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, was the first known European to explore the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in 1682. La Salle’s parents intended him to serve as a Jesuit priest, but his personality made him unsuitable for the job. He left the Jesuits and followed his brother to New France after he receiving a land grant.  Adventurous, independent, and bullheaded, La Salle started to explore the Great Lakes area in 1669. He came close to his dream of exploring the Mississippi River and finding an opening to the Pacific Ocean but failed in his first attempt. In 1682 and after many difficulties, La Salle’s dream of exploring the Mississippi River finally came true.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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Early Life and Becoming Sieur de La Salle

Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was born on November 21, 1643, in the parish of St. Herbland in the city of Rouen. He was the son of the wealthy landowner Jean Cavelier by his wife, Catherine Geest. His parents were devout Christians, and they had wanted Rene-Robert and his older brother Jean to become priests even when they were young. Jean entered the Order of Saint Sulpice at a young age, while Rene-Robert enrolled at the Lycée Pierre-Corneille in Rouen at age nine.

The young Rene-Robert excelled in academics at the Jesuit-led school. He was also known for his athleticism, independence, and willfulness as a child which made him unsuitable for a life as a priest. He later joined the Jesuits in Paris and in La Fleche. He asked the Jesuits to send him to a mission in China and in Portugal, but he was refused on both instances. He later decided that he did not want to serve as a priest.

The elder Jean Cavelier died in 1666, and unfortunately for Rene-Robert, his father did not leave him an inheritance. Finding himself penniless, Rene-Robert renounced his vows and decided to follow instead his older brother who had emigrated to New France. With the help of an uncle who had become a member of the Company of One Hundred Associates, the young Rene-Robert made his passage to New France in mid to late 1667. He also received a land grant in Montreal from the Sulpicians, and soon adopted the title Sieur de La Salle.

A New Life in New France

La Salle led a modest life as a landowning gentleman in Montreal. He befriended the natives in the area, learned their language, and soon engaged in the fur trade. These natives told him about the presence of the Ohio River which flowed into another body of water. This body of water was the Mississippi River, but La Salle initially believed that it was the Pacific and that it would eventually lead to China.

He became curious and soon grew restless. He yearned for an adventure, but his resources were limited. To fund this adventure, La Salle sold a portion of the land he received to the Sulpicians (from whom he received the land grant) in January of 1669. He then traveled to Quebec to inform the governor of his goal and secure the necessary permit. The governor was only too happy to grant the permit to expand the borders of New France. La Salle, however, was forced by the governor to team up with the Sulpician missionaries Francois Dollier de Casson and Rene de Brehart de Galinee.