Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v. (lvi, 2731 p., [228] leaves of plates) : ill., maps (some fold.), ports. ; 27 cm.

1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 2 Part 2


The next expedition entering what is now the State of Kansas was sent out from the Spanish settlements in New Mexico. The first intimation the French authorities had of this invasion was contained in a letter written on the 24th of May, 1721, by M. De Boisbriant. Governor of the Illinois District, to Bienville, saying that three hundred Spaniards had left Santa Fe to drive the French from Louisiana, but that they had been turned back by the Pawnees and Osages.

The facts concerning this foray into the Great Plains have not been available until recently, the first intelligible account of it having been published by the Kansas State Historical Society.2 Its object was to throw back the Pawnees, who had established a strong town in the forks of the Platte River as a means of protecting their hunting grounds from the Spaniards and the Indians under their influence. The Pawnees were moved to this action by the erection of a pueblo or tribal dwelling by the Picuries in what is now Scott County, Kansas. The Picuries were from Northern New Mexico, and had there been under Spanish rule. They moved to the Great Plains and set up their communal establishment, called El Quartelajo, about 1702, and its remains are yet to be seen. This alarmed the Pawnees, then seated in what is now Nebraska and Northwest Kansas, and as an offset they made the settlement at the forks of the Platte. This Pawnee town, projected into the center of the buffalo range, was likely to have an adverse effect on the hunting operations of the New Mexicans and their allies, and the Spanish authorities decided that it must be destroyed. This decision was the more natural since it was well known on the Rio Grande that French hunters and traders were then appearing upon the Great Plains in close alliance with Indian tribes dwelling there. As early as 1700 they had destroyed the village of Jumanos far out on the plains, if Spanish reports are to be credited. And all this is proof of how far individual enterprise and personal effort move in advance of governmental action. History rarely preserves the names of the first explorers of the interior of any country. Hardy traders and adventurers plunged into the woods and streamed over the plains long before the expeditions set down as the original explorations. But the names of these old rangers are lost - were never recorded except in local family annals.

An additional motive for the Spanish expedition was the punishment of the predatory Comanches and Utes, or at least a display of force sufficient to curb their arrogance. Coming in upon the eastern or plains country of New Mexico from the southeast, they had stolen horses and harried the white and Indian inhabitants of the province.

Don Antonie Valverde was Governor of New Mexico. In 1719 he determined to lead a military force against the Pawnee village at the forks of the Platte. But he did not get beyond El Quartelajo, returning from that outpost to Santa Fe. The action of Valverde can only be explained by a knowledge of his character, which seems to have been of the worst. A renegade Frenchman, Jean L'Archeveque, one of the murderers of La Salle, was one of his associates and his tool. This degenerate Frenchman bore an ignoble part in this final Spanish expedition, where he met justice in death at the hands of the Pawnees and their French allies.

Valverde had a force of two hundred men, which he considered insufficient in 1719, but he ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Villazur to proceed in 1720 with but forty men. Villazur marched from Santa Fe on the 14th of June. He halted at Jacarilla, one hundred and ten miles north of Santa Fe, to rest his troops and secure Indian recruits. From that post it was two hundred and fifty miles to El Quartelajo, which was reached by toilsome marches. There Villazur secured another band of Apaches and set out for the Pawnee village, one hundred and ninety miles away. It was another difficult march, but on the 15th of August the Spaniards came in sight of the Pawnee town. It was on the north Fork of the Platte about a mile and a half above its junction with the South Fork. The Spaniards first saw it from a hill or bluff some distance from the river.

When the Spaniards came into full view of the town the Pawnee warriors, who were even then south of the river, rode forward to meet them. The Spaniards had dismounted, but they now mounted their horses and rode slowly forward to meet the Pawnees, who, when within a quarter of a mile, put their horses to the gallop, parted into two wings, and encircled the Spanish command. In this situation all advanced to the bank of the South Fork of the Platte a little above its junction with the North Fork. The Pawnees there leaving the Spaniards and returning to their town, Villazur dismounted his force, and permitted the horses to graze. Early in the afternoon the Spaniards descended the river to a point about two miles below the junction of the forks of the Platte. There camp was made on the river bank. The grass was of rank growth on the rich river-bottom, and perhaps so high as to well-nigh conceal the horses. The Spaniards cut it away from a space large enough for the camp - some two acres. Here were piled the baggage and the camp-equipment. At night the horses were brought up and tied about this cleared space.

The Pawnees had early information of the departure of the expedition from the Rio Grande. After it left El Quartelajo they kept it ever in sight. They were not deceived as to its purpose. The Indian town was not surprised when the Spanish force came into view on the south plain - it was expected. There were more than twenty Frenchmen in the Pawnee town, all armed with muskets. They were traders and trappers, hunters and coureurs de bois, and friends of the Pawnees.

There was a low bush-grown island in the Platte opposite the Spanish camp. To this island the Pawnee warriors quietly swam with their bows and arrows in the afternoon. At night they swam to the south bank and concealed themselves in the tall grass around the camp. The French were with them and directing them.

At daylight Villazur thought to move his camp to higher land in the open plain, and his men were busily engaged in breaking camp for that purpose. As the Spanish commander was mounting his horse, a volley of musketry was fired into the camp by the Frenchmen. Two-thirds of the Spanish soldiers were killed by this first fire. The survivors drew themselves together and charged their surrounding foes, driving them back three times. But the Spanish Indians had fled at the first fire and were then galloping headlong over the plain intent only on saving their own lives. The Spanish soldiers, seeing they could not beat off their enemies, soon followed their Indian allies. Only six or seven of them reached Santa Fe, twenty-two days later. When the tidings of the dismal failure of the expedition were told there, the town was in a panic, and the expedient of abandoning it was seriously considered. But the Pawnees and French were satisfied with their decisive victory on the Platte and did not pursue. And the French had established their claim to the Mississippi Valley up to the Rocky Mountains. This claim was never afterward disputed by the Spaniards.

2 See Vol. XI, Kansas Historical Collections, pp. 397, et seq., for the article, written by John B. Dunbar.


The French were ever seeking to develop trade with the Indians, and when commercial relations were established they were fostered and closely guarded. As early as 1718, Sieur Presle, now supposed to have been a stockholder in the Company of the Indies, had suggested that Etienne Venyard Sieur de Bourgmont be sent to arrange trade relations with the Missouris, living at that time near the mouth of the Grand River, and possibly on that stream in the present bounds of Livingston or Carroll counties, in Missouri. To insure the stability and permanency of the trade so arranged, Bourgmont established Fort Orleans in 1723. The exact location of this fort has long been a matter of controversy, though it was probably on an island in the Missouri River, near what is now Malta Bend. It has been located by different writers as far down as the mouth of the Osage. If the Missouri villages were up the Grand River, as some suppose, there would be reason to locate the site of the fort on an island near the modern Brunswick, Mo.3 At that time the French, having in mind the Villazur expedition against the Pawnees, recognized the possibility of a conflict with Spain for the Great Plains. It was supposed that a French fort on the Missouri would check further infringements by the Spaniards living on the Rio Grande. An outpost at the edge of the plains would serve to develop trade with the Indian tribes, causing them to bury their tribal animosities and act in unison in the interests of the French, to whom all would look for the manufactured articles becoming daily more indispensable to the Indians. Another object to be attained by this fort was the winning of the Padoucahs (Comanches) to the French interest. These plains barbarians roamed all the regions from below the Rio Grande to the Upper Platte. They were, mainly by theft, securing horses from the Spaniards. Mounted on these, they became the whirlwind of the deserts and the buffalo plains. To a people to whom the possibility of commerce appealed, their friendship was considered desirable, and Bourgmont was charged to visit and conciliate them. Their nearest towns were on the head waters of the Kansas River, beyond the hunting-grounds of both the Kansas and the Pawnees.

In the summer of 1724, Bourgmont occupied himself with the performance of his charge concerning the plains Indians. To accomplish the first stage of his objective, he divided his expedition into two detachments. The first he led in person. One part of it was made up of one hundred Missouris, then firmly bound to the French. They were commanded by a head-chief and eight war-chiefs. There were sixty-four 0sages, commanded by four war-chiefs. Of Frenchmen in the party, there were Sieur La Renaudiere and his Canadian engage De Gaillard, De Bellerive, a cadet, Simon, the servant of the commander, and troopers D'Estienne Roulot, Derbet, and the drummer D'Hamelin. This division did not march until the 3d of July. The other detachment had set out in batteaux on the 25th of June to ascend the Missouri. It was commanded by St. Ange, an ensign of the fort. It had an escort or guard of eleven soldiers - La Jeunesse, Bonneau, Saint Lazare, Ferret, Derbet, Avignon, Sans-Chagrin, Poupard, Gaspard, Chalons, and Brasseur. Two of the engages of Sieur La Renaudiere, Antoine and Toulouse, were of the company, as were five Canadians - Mercier, Quesnel Rivet, Rolet, and Lespine.

The first stage of the expedition was to end at the Canzes village on the west side of the Missouri, where the town of Doniphan, Kansas, now is. This destination was reached by Bourgmont on the morning of the 8th of July, after a pleasant march over beautiful prairies. The reception of the Frenchmen was cordial. The Canzes feasted their distinguished visitors and made them presents, excepting rich gifts in return. The river detachment had to push against rapid currents augmented by the summer floods in the Missouri from the melting snow in the Rocky Mountains. And it was slow in appearing at the Canzes town. Many of the men were attacked by the fevers incident to such a life in a new country. On the day of his arrival among the Canzes, a courier from St. Ange presented himself before Bourgmont to report conditions and ask that food be supplied him. This request was granted, and St. Ange was sent an exhortation to hasten up the river. He did not arrive until late in July. During the tedious waiting courtesies were continually exchanged between Bourgmont and the Canzes, and two captive Padoucahs - slaves - were turned over to the French. It was the intention to gain the good will of the Padoucahs by returning these captives, but they died of the prevailing fever.

Upon the arrival of St. Ange the French distributed presents to the Canzes, Bourgmont requesting them to go with him to visit the Padoucah towns. The Indians were not satisfied with the quantity of presents received from the Frenchmen, and they said they did not wish to go out against the Padoucahs. This difficulty was finally overcome, and Bourgmont sent his sick back to Fort Orleans. On the 24th of July he started across the plains to visit the Padoucahs. The army got under way at six in the morning. Three hundred Canzes warriors, commanded by two head-chiefs and fourteen war-chiefs, went along. The Indian contingent had also three hundred women, five hundred children, and three hundred dogs taught to draw the travois. The march was to the southwest over a beautiful country. The days were very hot, and the nights were cool, and on this account, on the 30th, Bourgmont became so ill that he had to be carried in a litter. Becoming no better, he was compelled to return to Fort Orleans, but before his departure he sent Gaillard with two ransomed Padoucah captives to the Padoucah towns. These captives were to be returned to their tribe with the compliments of the French commandant, who also sent word that he would appear there as soon as his illness had ceased and he was able to make the journey. On the 4th of August Bourgmont departed for his fort in a pirogue and arrived there the following day. On the 6th of September it was reported to him that Gaillard had performed his mission with success, having reached the Padoucah town on the 25th of August and delivered the captives to their own people - and that the French would be welcomed there in consequence.

Bourgmont did not make a complete recovery from his attack of malarial fever, but on the 20th of September he set out by boat for the Canzes town, where he arrived on the 27th. Gaillard came in on the 2d of October, accompanied by three chiefs and three warriors - Padoucahs - to escort the French chieftain into their country. The head-chief and seven war-chiefs of the Otoes came to the Canzes town on the 4th of October; and on the 5th six chiefs of the Iowas came very early to the Canzes village. Bourgmont departed for the country of the Padoucahs on the 6th, but he curtailed his Indian force to forty persons. Gaillard and Quesnel were sent on in advance with two Padoucahs to announce the approach of the French commandant. The route of Bourgmont was again to the southwest to the Canzes River, which was reached and crossed on the 11th. This stream was ascended until the elevated plains at the head of the Smoky Hill were attained. On the 18th of October the country of the Padoucahs was reached. A great smoke from the burning grass of the plain was descried and answered by setting ablaze the prairies around them. Soon the Padoucahs appeared mounted, thundering over the plain at full speed, bearing the French flag left with them by Gaillard. The French were conducted to the Padoucah town, which consisted of one hundred lodges - having eight hundred warriors, fifteen hundred women, and two thousand children, as computed by Bourgmont. Polygamy was in evidence, some of the warriors having as many as four wives. The council at which a formal peace and alliance were concluded was held on the 18th, an account of which is quoted.

The day after their arrival at the Padoucas, M. de Bourgmont caused the goods allotted for this nation to be unpacked, and the different species parceled out, which he made them all presents of.

After which, M. de Bourgmont sent for the Grand Chief and other Chiefs of the Padoucas, who came to the camp to the number of two hundred, and placing himself between them and the goods, thus parceled and laid out to view, he told them he was sent by his Sovereign to carry to them the word of Peace, this flag and these goods, and to exhort them to live as brethren with their neighbors, the Panimahas, Aiaouez, Othouez, Canzas, Missouris, Osages and Illinois, and to traffick and truck freely together, and with the French. He, at the same time, gave the flag to the Grand Chief of the Padoucas, who received it with demonstrations of respect, and told him, "I accept this flag which you present to me on the part of your Sovereign. We rejoice at our having peace with all the nations you mentioned, and promise, in the name of our nation, never to make war on any of your allies; but to receive them, when they come among us, as our brethren; as we shall in like manner the French, and conduct them when they want to go to the Spaniards, who are but twelve days' journey from our village, and who truck with us in horses, of which they have such numbers they know not what to do with them; also in bad hatchets of a soft iron, and some knives, whose points they break off, lest we should use them against themselves. You may command all my Warriors. I can furnish you with upwards of two thousand. In my own and in the name of my whole nation, I entreat you would send some Frenchmen to trade with us. We can supply them with horses, which we truck with the Spaniards for buffalo mantles, and with great quantities of furs.

These people are far from being savage, nor would it be a difficult matter to civilize them - a plain proof they have had long intercourse with the Spaniards. The few days the French stayed among them they were become very familiar, and would fain have M. de Bourgmont leave some Frenchman among them, especially they of the village at which the peace was concluded with the other nations. This village consisted of an hundred and forty huts, containing about eight hundred warriors, fifteen hundred women and at least two thousand children, some Padoucas having four wives.

Bourgmont left the Padoucah town to return home on the 22d of October, reaching the banks of the Missouri on the first of November. There a canoe made of buffalo hide was prepared. On the 2d he embarked for Fort Orleans, which he reached on the 5th, after having accomplished a remarkable and difficult mission on the Great Plains. He had traversed the future State of Kansas from end to end - from the Missouri to the plains bordering the front range of the Rocky Mountains. He noted the streams, the boundless prairies, the rolling, surging millions of buffalo. He had bound the roving savage tribes to the fortunes of France and the interests of Louisiana. Henceforth the Kansas country was to be as familiar to the coureurs de bois as the woods and streams about their native towns.

The commercial and political arrangements perfected by Bourgmont seem to have been substantial and lasting. It was found to be unnecessary to maintain Fort Orleans. In 1726 its commandant was M. Perier, and on the 30th of September he was directed to abandon the post as a military establishment and turn it over to the missionaries. Even these must have declined to assume the burden of its maintenance, for silence envelopes it from that time. There are indeed stories that all the garrison were massacred and the buildings destroyed by the Indians because of the mistreatment of a Missouri squaw by some Frenchmen, but they are probably without foundation. The fort most likely decayed and disappeared, and the island on which it stood was washed into the ever gnawing, wasting Missouri.

The incident of Fort Orleans closes an era or period in the founding of the French province of Louisiana. The preliminary conquest of the wilderness and its savage inhabitants had been accomplished. Future events were to follow a different course. And even this had been foreseen by, La Salle, the primal genius of the Mississippi Valley. Of him it has been justly said:

The explorer's eagle eye had fixed upon the most commanding points between Quebec and Mexico. He chose LaChine as the outpost and bastion of Montreal; he selected Kingston (Fort Frontenac) as the best place to control Lake Ontario; he chose the site of the fort on the Niagara River afterward known as Fort Erie; his eye appreciated the advantages of Detroit and Mackinac; Chicago, Peoria, St. Joseph's, Natchez, New Orleans, and Matagorda Bay were all points of his choosing; and, as was the case with Alexander, the places which he selected for forts and trading-posts have most of them grown to be cities by the natural process of the "Survival of the fittest."

3 See Houck's A History of Missouri, Vol. I, pp. 260, et seq.
Also Kansas Historical Collections. Vol. IX. pp. 252. et seq.


In America, the war between Great Britain and France was known as the "French and Indian War." It was decided by the victory of Wolf on the plains of Abraham in 1759. Montreal fell in 1760, and the campaign that year convinced France that she was defeated in America. On the 15th of July, 1761, she proposed terms of peace by which Canada and that part of Louisiana east of the Mississippi should be ceded to England. Negotiations proceeded for nearly two years. A treaty had been virtually concluded between Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal in 1762. It was made definitive, as affecting these powers, at Paris, on February 10th, 1763. By its terms New France disappeared. The British bounds were extended to the Mississippi.

The calamity of France was far greater than was made known at the conclusion of the treaty. For at Fontainbleau, on the 3d of November, 1762, the island and City of New Orleans and all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi were ceded by France to Spain. This was a secret cession, and knowledge of it was not made public for more than a year. This treaty changed the sovereignty of the country now embraced in Kansas. And Spain secured by treaty through the stress of France what she might have had more than two centuries before for the mere taking, but which she lost then through indolence and indifference.

Upper Louisiana had grown in commercial importance under the rule of France. Its trade began to attract the attention of those engaged in large enterprises. In 1762 Maxent, Laclede & Co. secured from the Governor-General the grant of a monopoly of the fur trade with the Missouri Indians and tribes to the north of them. The junior member of the company was sent up the Mississippi with boats laden with goods suitable for the trade of their venture in Upper Louisiana. His name was Pierre Laclede Liguest, but after the manner of the French, he chose to be popularly known by the name of Laclede. Failing to find storage for his goods at St. Genevieve, he went on to Fort Chartres. From this point he examined the east bank of the Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri for a suitable site for a trading-post. As he returned he gave his attention to the west bank, when the choice for the location of his post fell upon the site now occupied by the City of St. Louis. In February Auguste Chouteau, then but thirteen, was sent in charge of a party to begin the erection of buildings on the spot marked by Liguest. He arrived on the 14th of February, 1764, and on the 15th he began to clear away the forest and put up some temporary shelter for his men.

The selection of the site for the trading-station was most fortunate. When the French inhabitants of the Illinois country learned that they had been made British subjects by the fortunes of war, they moved in large numbers to the west of the Mississippi. St. Louis soon became a post of importance. It became the point of supply for all the country drained by the Missouri. The pressure of white population upon the Indian lands on the western waters threw many tribes beyond the Mississippi. The Delawares, Shawnees, Mohegans, Iroquois and other Eastern Indians were forced across the Alleghenies, pushing the Illinois, Kaskaskias, Miamis and other Western aborigines into the Spanish possessions. This movement was not of sudden origin for it began in fact with the founding of the English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. It continued until the aboriginal population had been pushed out of all the country east of the Mississippi. This migration was the more marked after the British had taken possession of Eastern Louisiana. For the English occupation of the country required an absolute title to the soil, with no troublesome Indian neighbors The Indians had to move off or be exterminated. It became the policy of the Americans after the Revolution to require cessions from the tribes in return for "reservations" to the westward. But prior to the adoption of this course the Indians were forced to migrate into countries already occupied by aboriginal people, twenty-one tribes having crossed the Mississippi in the time from 1804 to 1825. Many tribes had crossed over in whole or in part before. Most of these crossed into Louisiana near St. Louis, adding more than thirty thousand to the Indian population of what is now Missouri. In 1820 there were eighteen hundred Shawnees in the vicinity of St. Louis.

The presence of this additional Indian population on the west side of the Mississippi brought trouble to the town of St. Louis, but it also tended to increase the trade of that town in such commodities as the Indian life produced and required. While the Spaniards could never develop trade with the Indians as could the French, it must be remembered that there remained in Louisiana the French inhabitants found on the soil at the time of the cession. French Canadians continued to come in ever increasing numbers, for the Spanish power was never exacting on the prairies, and along the streams, and over the Great Plains. St. Louis became the trading-point for Upper Louisiana and grew in wealth and importance during the Spanish regime.

It was during the Spanish rule of Louisiana that those conditions arose which made it possible - necessary - that the United States should acquire all of Louisiana.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.