Louis Hennepin [1640-1705] was a Recollect priest who accompanied
the French explorer Cavelier de La Salle on his voyage to explore the
Mississippi River. Hennepin joined La Salle on the first sailing vessel
on the Great Lakes which was built at Niagara and sailed from Niagara to
St. Ignace in 1679. After he left the expedition Hennepin returned to
Europe and published, in 1683, his account of the exploration, Description
de la Louisiana which "had the most unqualified success, the work went
through several editions, and was translated into Italian, Dutch, and
German. The monk became a celebrity overnight for readers hungering for
exotic stories." (DCB:2:279). His was the first published account of the
area we now call Detroit.
The 10th, very early in the Morning, we pass'd
between that Island and 7 or 8 lesser ones; and having sail'd near
another, which is nothing but Sand, to the West of the Lake, we came to
an Anchor at the Mouth of the Streight, which runs from the Lake Huron into that of Erie. The 11th,
we went farther into the Streight, and pass'd between two small
Islands, which make one of the finest Prospects in the World. This
Streight is finer than that of Niagara, being thirty Leagues
long, and every-where one League broad, except in the middle, which is
wider, forming the Lake we have call'd St. Claire. The Navigation is easie on both sides, the Coast being low and even. It runs directly from North to South.
The Country between those two Lakes is very well situated,
and the Soil very fertile. The Banks of the Streight are vast Meadows,
and the Prospect is terminated with some Hills covered with Vineyards,
Trees bearing good Fruit, Groves, and Forests, so well dispos'd, that
one would think Nature alone could not have made, without the Help of
Art, so charming a Prospect. That Country is stock'd with Stags,
Wild-Goats, and Bears, which are good for Food, and not fierce as in
other Countries; some think they are better than our Pork. Turkey-Cocks
and Swans are there also very common; and our Men brought several other
Beasts and Birds, whose Names are unknown to us, but they are
The Forests are chiefly made up of Walnut-trees,
Chesnut-trees, Plum-trees, and Pear-trees, loaded with their own Fruit
and Vines. There is also abundance of Timber fit for Building; so that
those who shall be so happy as to inhabit that Noble Country, cannot but
remember with Gratitude those who have discover'd the way, by venturing
to sail upon an unknown Lake for above one hundred Leagues. That
charming Streight lies between 40 and 41 Degrees of Northern Latitude.
From: A NEW DISCOVERY OF A VAST COUNTRY IN AMERICA
by Father Louis Hennepin. Reprinted from the second London issue of 1698
by Reuben Gold Thwaites. Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1903. Pp 108- 109.
Dictionary of American Biography.
Hamilton, Raphael N. The Early Cartography of the Missouri Valley. American Historical Review 1934 (4): 645-662.
Jaenen, Cornelius J. Missionaries as Explorers: The Recollects of New France. Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 1980 22 (Oct.): 32-45.
Johnston, Patricia C. Portrayals of Henepin, "Discoverer" of the Falls of St. Anthony, 1680. Minnesota History 1980 47 (2): 57-62.
uhlstein, Anka. La Salle: Explorers of the North American Frontier. NY: Arcade, 1994.
Parkman, Francis. La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West. Boston: Little, Brown, 1879.