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Home » Louis Jolliet The Canadian explorer-Voyages, Life and Death,Legacy

Louis Jolliet The Canadian explorer-Voyages, Life and Death,Legacy

Louis Jolliet Early Life


The Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet was born in Quebec City on September 21st of the year 1645. His father Jean Jolliet was a wagon maker by profession. Louis got his education at Jesuit College in Quebec where he focused on music, religious and philosophical studies. Because of his inner adventurous spirit, his passion always was to explore the places. He could speak English, French and Spanish languages.

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Louis Jolliet

Where is Louis Jolliet from?

In those days, Quebec was the main place of French fur trade. As he grew up in an environment where he interacted on a regular basis with the natives of Quebec he got the opportunity to know and learn a great deal about these people and this helped him in his later travels. Jolliet was the first explorer who was born on Canadian soil who played a very important role in exploring North America.

How many siblings did Louis Jolliet have?

Louis was the second son of Jean Jolliet and Marie d’Abancour, who were both French colonists. He had an elder brother, Adrien and was followed by a sister, Marie and a brother, Zacharie.

Louis Jolliet as Trader

At the age of 23 years, Louis decided to pursue his passion for exploring places and he started this with fur trading. He initially traded goods from merchant Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye during October 1668. Louis traded guns, pistols, and packets of glass beads, axes, small bells, linens, tobacco, and similar products. He borrowed the money to buy these merchandise from Monsignor Laval who was Bishop of Quebec.

Louis was at Sault Ste. Marie during June 1671 when Simon Daumont de Saint-Lusson took possession of the western interior of France occupation. Fourteen other Amerindian nations took part in this event where the extension of Louis XIV rule was declared over the region. All the countries, lakes and rivers between the Pacific in the West, the Hudson Bay in the North, the Gulf of Mexico in the South, discovered already or to be discovered would be considered as the realm of Louis XIV. One of the signatories of this declaration was Louis Jolliet as well.

Jacques Marquette’s Mission

During October 1672, French Governor of Quebec, Louis de Buade Frontenac commissioned Louis Jolliet to join Father Jacques Marquette who was a Jesuit priest, for the expedition to explore the Mississippi River.

The great voyage of Jolliet together with Marquette began in May 1673 when the two left St. Ignace along with their fleet. They sailed to the Fox River via Lake Michigan and Green Bay. It was from this point that they started for Wisconsin River and from there they made their way up to the Mississippi River in June 1673, after building a trade base at Wisconsin.

Louis Jolliet voyage
Louis Jolliet voyage

What did Louis Jolliet Discover?

Louis explored the area near to Mississippi river and met different Indian tribes. However, later the team realized that the river did not merge with the Pacific Ocean and it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. They kept the record of the country they went through in the diary and drew a map of the entire area.

 Return from Mississippi

From the famous river, they made their way to the Gulf of Mexico but unfortunately could not go further beyond the Arkansas River for fear of entering into a conflict with the Spanish. Thus, they turned back making their way to the Illinois River in order to make a short cut to the Great Lakes as guided by the natives.

On the way back they crossed the rivers of Des Plaines and finally entered Lake Michigan. Jolliet then made his way back to his hometown and informed his fellow men about his achievements. Louis reported each finding regarding Mississippi River to Governor Louis de Buade Frontenac, post which the Governor planned to colonize the newly explored area as an extension land of France.

Louis Jolliet map
Louis Jolliet map

How long was Louis Jolliet’s voyage?

Jolliet and Marquette’s mission lasted for four months. Their voyage initiated the first settlement in North America by non-natives.

Why did Louis Jolliet explore the Mississippi river?

Jolliet was commissioned by Intendant Jean Talon to make an exploration and find out whether the Mississippi River flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, as known from aboriginal tales or into the Pacific ocean.

Marriage and Fur Trader

In 1675, Louis started living a more tranquil life. Louis married Claire-Francoise Bissot. He started playing the organ in the cathedral and soon became an effective personality near to his living area. His passion for the fur trade had not gone and in 1676 Louis established a company for fur trading in St. Lawrence. This business made him famous not only in New France but in France and England as well and established himself as a successful merchant.

Achievements of Louis Jolliet

What was Louise Jolliet known for?

Louis Jolliet, the Canadian explorer was well known for his travels and discoveries of new places in North America and he was passionate about travelling through new places. He is best known for his contribution with regards to the Mississippi River which he had discovered together with Marquette. The two also mapped the River in the year 1673.

As the reward of his exploration of Mississippi river, King Louis XIV of France gave him the Island of Anticosti at the mouth of St. Lawrence River of an area of around 8000 square kilometres, where Louis built a fort. Louis successfully explored an area of Labrador and around the Hudson Bay.

In the year 1680 Jolliet became the proud owner of the Anticosti Island and in 1693 he became the Royal Hydrographer.

Louis Jolliet

How did Louis Jolliet Die?

In April 1697 he overtook the fiefdom of New France thereby becoming a lord and came to be called Sir Jolliet with respect! It is believed that Louis Jolliet, the Canadian explorer died in 1700 on his way to Anticosti which was then his island.

However, no clear evidence of his death was ever found and so his death has forever remained a mystery in the pages of history. Louis Jolliet in the present day is well remembered and respected and his name lives on in the names of different cities and places.

Jolliet, Jolliet Montana, Illinois and the city of Jolliet in Quebec are all part of his legacy and are signs that clearly reveal the honour and love that he enjoyed! In fact, there was a rose which had the same name as he was specially grown and cultivated as a sign of honour for the great man.

There are also cadets named after him under the Saint-Jean military force which reiterates his courage and bravery! Louis Jolliet is a name that Canada will remember through the centuries and his descendants still continue to inhabit the streets of Canada keeping his memory and his great deeds alive.

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