Skip navigation

1749 Bonnecamps


Joseph Pierre de Bonnecamps [1707-1790] was a Jesuit who taught Hydrography at the college of Quebec. This journal of his voyage on the beautiful Ohio River as Chaplain for the Celeron expedition. The object of the journey was to take possession of the country along the Ohio River in the name of the King of France as the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle had left the boundaries between the French and English in America uncertain. Celeron planted leaden plates along his route claiming the land for the French. The expedition consisted of one Captain, eight subaltern officers, six cadets, one Chaplain, twenty soldiers, one hundred and eighty Canadians, and about thirty Indians.

We left la Chine on the 15th of June, toward 3 o'clock in the afternoon, numbering 23 canoes both French and savage....

...On the 6th [of October] we arrived at the mouth of the Detroit River, where we found canoes and provisions for our return. Monsieur de Celoron had the goodness to permit me to go to the fort with some officers. We spent there the entire day of the 7th. I took the latitude in Father Bonaventure's courtyard, and I found 42 38'.

In the evening we returned to our camp, where we spent the 8th waiting for our savages, a class of men created in order to exercise the patience of those who have the misfortune to travel with them. I profited from this hindrance in order to take the latitude of our camp, which was 42 28'.

I remained too short a time at Detroit to be able to give you an exact description of it. All I can say to you about it is, that its situation appeared to me charming. A beautiful river runs at the foot of the fort; vast plains, which only ask to be cultivated, extend beyond the sight. There is nothing milder than the climate, which scarcely counts two months of winter. The productions of Europe, and especially the grains, grow much better than in many of the cantons of France. It is the Touraine and Beauce of Canada. Moreover, we should regard Detroit as one of the most important posts of the Colony. It is conveniently situated for furnishing aid to Michilimakinak, to the St. Joseph River, to the Bay, to the Miamis, Ouiatanons, and to the Beautiful River, supposing that settlements be made thereon. Accordingly, we cannot send thither too many people; but where shall we find the men therefor? Certainly not in Canada. The colonists whom you sent there last year contented themselves with eating the rations that the King provided. Some among them, eve, carried away by their natural levity, have left the country and gone to seek their fortune elsewhere. How many poor laborers in France would be delighted to find a country which would furnish them abundantly with what would repay them for their industry and toil.

The Fort of Detroit is a long square; I do not know its dimensions, but it appeared large to me. The village of the Hurons and that of the Outaouas are on the other side of the river, - (where father La Richardie to me, the rebels were beginning to disperse, and the band of Nicolas was diminishing day by day. We had asked news about him, when upon the Beautiful River;) and were told that he had established his residence in the neighborhood of lake Erie.

We left Detroit on the 9th of October....

From: Lambing, A.A. Celeron's Journal. Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications. 1920 (29): 397, 412-413.

See Also:

Jesuit Relations 69: 19-21, 151-199, 288.

Wood, George. Celeron de Blainville and French Expansion in the Ohio Valley. Mississippi Valley Historical Review 1923 9 (4): 302-319.