Before Lewis & Clark

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

made it as far north as the Platte River (in Nebraska) on this initial expedition. He also made a friendly acquaintance with the Kansas Indians, whose villages were near the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers (near Kansas City). He described this country in eloquent terms: "These are the most beautiful countries and the most beautiful pieces of land in the world. The prairies there are like seas and full of wild beasts, especially buffalo, cows, hinds and stags, which are in numbers that stagger the imagination."


Bourgmont's initial expedition was followed by another some 10 years later. Apparently, hostilities and inter-tribal warfare had prevented progress by the French up the Missouri. Commissioned by the Mississippi Company (a French company intent on exploiting the resources of the Missouri River Valley and establishing a trade route with the Spanish to the southwest) Charles DuTisne attempted to make it up the Missouri in 1719 to establish trade relations.

He was thwarted, however, by the Missouri Indians, who, fearful of his intentions, would not let him continue west. He returned to a settlement at Kaskaskia (Illinois) and, determined to complete his mission, crossed the Mississippi and marched due west across the barren Ozark hills to the Osage villages and beyond to the Comanche. Despite his attempts, Du Tisne failed to establish good relations and returned to the Illinois country.

In 1723, Bourgmont returned to the Missouri villages and established Fort Orleans, on the north side of the river. In 1724, he marched west onto the plains to make peace and establish trade relations with the Comanches and their neighbors. Bourgmont's reputation preceded him and he was treated royally by the Indians. Though little truly organized commerce followed his efforts for 40 years, he is credited with establishing a basis for future beneficial relations with the natives.

Rivers Led to the Heart and Soul of Our Nation

These were the earliest and perhaps the bravest explorers on the big rivers. They ventured into the uncharted wilderness and, following the long arms of Mechesebe and Pekitanoui, discovered the heart and soul of our nation. Their bravery and the knowledge they shared opened the door to a world of unrivaled natural wealth.

By 1750, Ste. Genevieve had become the first permanent settlement in Missouri. In 1763, St. Louis was founded and became the gateway to western expansion. By 1832, steamboats plowed up the Missouri to St. Joseph and beyond.

The long arms of Mechesebe and Pekitanoui became the travelways of opportunity. The visions of wealth and fruitful enterprise of Marquette, Joliet, LaSalle, Penicaut, Bourgmont, DuTisne and others were realized.

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