The River was their Highway

By contributing writer Jerry Williams
It was 13 February 1682 where the Illinois River entered into the icy waters of the Mississippi River. Twenty Frenchmen, a few Europeans and some Native American Indians began their journey down the Mississippi in frail birch-barked canoes dodging large chunks of floating ice. They used an accepted practice of claiming any land connected to the river they were on and the land surrounding all its tributaries. They took possession of this land for France and their king Louis the Great. Two months into their journey they stopped near the mouth of the Mississippi. On April 9, 1682, they buried a lead plate with an inscription on it and erected a column bearing the arms of France. (Louisiana Endowment of The Humanities-Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge –published May 18, 2011)
In 1749 France sent Frenchmen to bury leaden plates along the Ohio River which bore inscriptions about their land claims (The Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia 1935 (p. 780)) They were repeating the same methods of land claims as their earlier French counterparts in the 1682 expedition. Some of these plates have been recovered by archaeologist.
In Texas Williams has explored sections of the Red River, The Wichita River, and miles of the Little Wichita River, the Brazos, and the North Fork. Regrettably, it could have been nothing like what would have been there when the French explorers were here. The wild flavor was gone out of these rivers when he traveled them. In the day when the Indian roamed to hunt the buffalo, he left the women and children at home drawing water from these rivers for cooking and cleaning. Williams believes some of the wildness was eliminated due to the Native American men who somewhat tamed these rivers for the safety of their families. To read more pick up the July 2014 issue of North Texas Farm & Ranch.

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