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The La Salle Odyssey

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In January of 1685, after a five-month journey from France, explorer René Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, believing himself to be close to the mouth of the Mississippi River. By February, his three-ship fleet (one ship had been captured by Spanish pirates) diminished to two, when L'Aimable–laden with supplies–ran aground in the shallow waters of Matagorda Bay. Shortly after the loss of L'Aimable, another ship, Le Joly, returned to France. La Salle and some 180 men, women, and children pressed on, intending to establish a colony that would help validate Louis XIV's claim to the uncharted territories of North America. While they did establish a small colony called Fort St. Louis in present-day Victoria County, misfortune soon befell the group. Early in 1686, La Belle sank in the rough seas of Matagorda Bay, and within the year, while attempting to walk back to French lands in the north, La Salle was murdered by disenchanted followers.

Three years later, Spanish explorers discovered the abandoned colony, buried its cannons, and erased the last traces of La Salle's journey. That might have been the end of the story. But in 1995, divers in Matagorda Bay discovered a bronze cannon from La Belle, and an excavation uncovered more artifacts. Today, the ship itself lies in the hands of conservationists at Texas A&M University, but many of the ship's artifacts can be seen at museums throughout the state.

A seven-museum cooperative called the La Salle Odyssey–the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History (361/883-2862), the Texana Museum in Edna (361/782-5431), the Matagorda County Museum in Bay City (979/245-7502), the Palacios Area Historical Association Museum (361/972-1148), the Calhoun County Museum in Port Lavaca (361/553-4689), the Museum of the Coastal Bend in Victoria (under construction; 361/582-2511), and the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport (361/729-1271)–will complete their exhibitions detailing La Salle's exploration into Texas by summer 2003. You can visit throughout the year to watch the projects take shape; be sure to check out the museums in Bay City, Corpus Christi, and Rockport, which already feature cannons, scale models, and dioramas.

For more information, call the individual museums, or log on to www.texas-settlement.org or www.thc.state.tx.us.

Read 170 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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