Antoine Hennepin was born in Ath in the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Hainaut, Belgium). In 1659, Béthune, the town where he lived, was captured by the army ofLouis XIV of France. Henri Joulet, who accompanied Hennepin and wrote his own journal of their travels, called Hennepin a Fleming (i.e. a native of Flanders).
At the request of Louis XIV the Récollets sent four missionaries to New France in May 1675, including Hennepin, accompanied byRené Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. In 1678, Hennepin was ordered by his provincial superior to accompany La Salle on an expedition to explore the western part of New France. Hennepin was 39 when he departed in 1679 with La Salle from Quebec Cityto construct the 45-ton barque Le Griffon, sail through the Great Lakes, and explore the unknown West.
Hennepin was with La Salle at the construction of Fort Crevecouer (near present-day Peoria, Illinois) in January 1680. In February, La Salle sent Hennepin and two others as an advance party to search for the Mississippi River. The party followed the Illinois River to its junction with the Mississippi. Shortly thereafter, Hennepin was captured by a Sioux war party and carried off for a time into what is now the state of Minnesota.In September 1680, thanks to Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Du Lhut, Hennepin and the others were given canoes and allowed to leave, eventually returning to Quebec. Hennepin returned to France and was never allowed by his order to return to North America. Local historians credit the Franciscan Récollet friar as the first European to step ashore at the site of present-day Hannibal, Missouri.
Two great waterfalls were brought to the world's attention by Hennepin: Niagara Falls, with the most voluminous flow of any in North America, and the Saint Anthony Falls in what is now Minneapolis, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River.
|Painting by Douglas Volk. The First People's were not impressed.|