Fort Orleans


Fort Orleans

Fort Orleans (sometimes referred to Fort D'Orleans) was French fort in colonial North America that was the first fort by any European country on the Missouri River. It was to be a linchpin in a vast New France empire stretching from Montreal to New Mexico. It was the first multi-year settlement in what is today the U.S. state of Missouri.

The fort was established in 1723 somewhere around the mouth of the Grand River near Brunswick, Missouri on the Missouri River by Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont. It was to be the Missouri River headquarters of the newly created Louisiana (New France) territory. It like the newly created New Orleans, Louisiana was named for the Duke of Orléans.

Bourgmont had commanded the French fort at Fort Detroit but deserted along with other soldiers in 1706 when he was criticized by Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac for his handling of a skirmish with attacking Ottawa (tribe) members in which a priest and French soldier were killed along with 30 Ottawa tribesmen.

While on the lam from French authorities he lived with the Native Americans and explored the lower Missouri while trading (often illegally) in furs. Missionaries urged that he be arrested for indecency when he showed up at French outposts traveling with his Native American wife and child. His base was the Missouri (tribe) village near where Fort Orleans was to be established.

In 1713 Bourgemont wrote "Exact Description of Louisiana, of Its Harbors, Lands and Rivers, and Names of the Indian Tribes That Occupy It, and the Commerce and Advantages to Be Derived Therefrom for the Establishment of a Colony." He followed this up in March 1714 following travels to the mouth of the Platte River with "The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River."

His descriptions along with names of rivers based on the names of neighboring tribes were to be used by cartographer Guillaume Delisle for the first map of the region. Among the revelations in the map was the use of the term of "Missouri" for the river rather than "Pekitanoui" which explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette when they discovered it in 1673.

In 1718 Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founder of the Louisiana territory said that instead of arresting Bourgemont they should work with him and he recommended that Bourgemont receive the Cross of Saint Louis for service to France.

In 1720 Bourgemont and his son along with a chief traveled to France where they were greeted as national heroes. His reputation was enhanced as news arrived that the Pawnee (who had been friendly with Bourgemont) had slaughtered the Villasur expedition near modern day Columbus, Nebraska effectively stopping the Spanish from establishing settlements in the Missouri River Valley.

In addition to there was a run up in stock for the Mississippi Company based on forecast great riches in Louisiana. Bourgemont was promised a title of nobility if he could build a fort and strike up an alliance with the Native Americans to keep the Spanish out of the Missouri valley. Bourgemont stayed in Normandy and married a woman in his hometown in 1721.

In 1722 he returned to New Orleans but was too sick to proceed on an expedition. In the meantime, funds in the Mississippi Company collapsed and he argued with his sponsors over whether a fort was even necessary -- just as long as he could enlist the Native Americans to unite to fight the Spanish.

Bourgmont argued that his mission had not changed. He established the fort on November 9, 1723 with 40 French soldiers. [ [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC50098694&id=wsi2RFkRLCAC&q=%22Fort+Orleans%22&dq=%22Fort+Orleans%22&pgis=1 Illinois Catholic Historical Review - 1924] ]

In 1724, he traveled at least part way up the Kansas River to the southwest where he smoked a peace pipe to establish peace treaty between the Commanche and the Missouri, Osage (tribe), Iowa, Pawnees, Oto, and Makah (the Commanche had earlier sided with the Spanish against the French).

In celebration he was to take the chiefs of the tribes in 1725 to Paris to show them the "glory of France" including Paris and the palaces at Château de Marly, Fontainebleau and Versailles and to hunt on the royal preserve with Louis XV.

Bourgemont stayed at his home Normandy and did not accompany the chiefs back to Missouri. The fort was abandoned in 1726. One story says the fort was reduced to eight soldiers was attacked and burned by Native Americans who killed all its inhabitants. [ [http://www.rootsweb.com/~neresour/OLLibrary/Journals/HPR/Vol06/nhrv06p5.html Nebraska History & Record of Pioneer Days Vol. VI - rootseweb.com (Retrieved February 9, 2007] ] Another story says it was merely abandoned.

No official trace of the fort has ever been discovered by archeologists despite some promising starts particularly south of the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark visited the area in June 1804 looking for the fort but reported they found no trace of it [ [http://lewisandclarktrail.com/section1/mocities/kansascity/history1.htm Lewis and Clark Journal Entries - 1804 Journal Entry Archives June 12- 17, 1804] ]

The three possible locations for the fort are: [ [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC24928966&id=nLvUqMuVR2cC&pg=RA3-PA9&lpg=RA3-PA9&dq=%22Fort+Orleans%22#PRA3-PA10,M1 - A History of Missouri By Eugene Morrow Violette - Published 1918] ]
* Near Malta Bend, Missouri in Saline County, Missouri on the south side of the Missouri - The argument for this location is archeological discoveries in what is now Van Meter State Park in area known as "the Pinnacles." Included in park is an earth works fort (which archeolgists believe is of Native American and not French origin).
* North bank of the Missouri River by the mouth of Wakunda Creek in Carroll County, Missouri (based on Bourgemont's description of the Missouri village) on the north shore of the Missouri.
* An island in the Missouri River between the two (based on a drawing about 1748 of the plans for the fort).

References

External links

* [http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/LSA&CISOPTR=539&REC=19 Drawing about 1745 of the fort]
* [http://www.kclibrary.org/localhistory/list.cfm?list=sub&SubjectareaID=47404 Kansas City Public Library information on fort]
* [http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/LSA&CISOPTR=539&REC=4 Louisiana Digital Libraries] Plan for Fort Orleans
* [http://www.historicmarkers.com/Missouri/Carroll_County_Missouri/Fort_Orleans_MO540/ Historic marker]


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