On this day in 1685 French explorer René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle founded a colony of the area of what is now Texas. It was particularly interesting for being the westernmost French colony at the time.
The French had previously taken a large part of what is now Canada, and it was precisely the mentioned de La Salle who undertook the crucial 1681 expedition during which he traveled the entire route from today’s Canada, down the Mississippi River, and all the way up to the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, de La Salle claimed practically the entire central USA in the name of French king Louis XIV, and that area was therefore named Louisiana.
René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle was born a French nobleman. According to his year of birth (1643) he was a peer of Isaac Newton. It is interesting to note that de La Salle joined the Jesuit order in his youth, but did not become a priest. His brother Jean, however, became a Sulpician priest.
In his twenties, de La Salle moved to the territory of what is now Canada, then called New France (Nouvelle-France). There he received a noble title and manor (seigneurie). He briefly returned to France and made an agreement with Louis XIV, according to which he was to found a colony in the Gulf of Mexico.
The king allegedly insisted that the expedition sails there through the Gulf of Mexico rather than overland from Canada. Although de La Salle asked for only one ship, in the end he was given four ships and around 100 soldiers. The total number of expedition members was around 300.
On this day the expedition disembarked on the coast of Texas and founded a colony named Fort Saint Louis. The colonists were accompanied by six Catholic missionaries and around 10 women and children. Sadly, the French colony didn’t last long. However, France allegedly didn’t renounce its claim on Texas all the way up to 1762.