Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

History of Louisisana by Le Page Du Pratz

Part 4 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.


Matters thus ordered, we set out according to the intention I had to
go to the northward. I observed every day, with new pleasure, the more
we advanced to that quarter, the more beautiful and fertile the
country was, abounding in game of every kind: the herds of deer are
numerous; at every turn we meet with them; and not a day passed
without seeing herds of buffaloes, sometimes five or six, of upwards
of an hundred in a drove.

In such journeys as these we always take up our night's lodging near
wood and water, where we put up in good time: then at sun-set, when
every thing in nature is hushed, we were charmed with the enchanting
warbling of different birds; so that one would be inclined to say,
they reserved this favourable moment for the melody and harmony of
their song, to celebrate undisturbed and at their ease, the benefits
of the Creator. On the other hand, we are disturbed in the night, by
the hideous noise of the numberless water-fowls that are to be seen on
the Missisippi, and every river or lake near it, such as cranes,
flamingo's, wild geese, herons, saw-bills, ducks, &c.

As we proceeded further north, we began to see flocks of swans roam
through the air, mount out of sight, and proclaim {127} their passage
by their piercing shrill cries. We for some days followed the course
of a river, at the head of which we found, in a very retired place, a

We set up our hut within reach of this retreat, or village of beavers,
but at such a distance, as that they could not observe our fire. I put
my people on their guard against making any noise, or firing their
pieces, for fear of scaring those animals; and thought it even
necessary to forbid them to cut any wood, the better to conceal

After taking all these precautions, we rose and were on foot against the
time of moonshine, posted ourselves in a place as distant from the huts
of the beavers, as from the causey or bank, which dammed up the waters
of the place where they were. I took my fusil and pouch, according to my
custom of never travelling without them. But each Indian was only to
take with him a little hatchet, which all travellers in this country
carry with them. I took the oldest of my retinue, after having pointed
out to the others the place of ambush, and the manner in which the
branches of trees we had cut were to be set to cover us. I then went
towards the middle of the dam, with my old man, who had his hatchet, and
ordered him softly to make a gutter or trench, a foot wide, which he
began on the outside of the causey or dam, crossing it quite to the
water. This he did by removing the earth with his hands. As soon as the
gutter was finished, and the water ran into it, we speedily, and without
any noise, retired to our place of ambush, in order to observe the
behaviour of the beavers in repairing this breach.

A little after we were got behind our screen of boughs, we heard the
water of the gutter begin to make a noise: and a moment after, a beaver
came out of his hut and plunged into the water. We could only know this
by the noise, but we saw him at once upon the bank or dam, and
distinctly perceived that he took a survey of the gutter, after which he
instantly gave with all his force four blows with his tail; and had
scarce struck the fourth, but all the beavers threw themselves pell-mell
into the water, and came upon the dam: when they were all come thither,
one of them muttered and mumbled to the {128} rest (who all stood very
attentive) I know not what orders, but which they doubtless understood
well, because they instantly departed, and went out on the banks of the
pond, one party one way; another, another way. Those next us were
between us and the dam, and we at the proper distance not to be seen,
and to observe them. Some of them made mortar, others carried it on
their tails, which served for sledges. I observed they put themselves
two and two, side by side, the one with his head to the other's tail,
and thus mutually loaded each other, and trailed the mortar, which was
pretty stiff, quite to the dam, where others remained to take it, put it
into the gutter, and rammed it with blows of their tails.

The noise which the water made before by its fall, soon ceased, and
the breach was closed in a short time: upon which one of the beavers
struck two great blows with his tail, and instantly they all took to
the water without any noise, and disappeared. We retired, in order to
take a little rest in our hut, where we remained till day; but as soon
as it appeared, I longed much to satisfy my curiosity about these

My people together made a pretty large and deep breach, in order to
view the construction of the dam, which I shall describe presently: we
then made noise enough without further ceremony. This noise, and the
water, which the beavers observed soon to lower, gave them much
uneasiness; so that I saw one of them at different times come pretty
near to us, in order to examine what passed.

As I apprehended that when the water was run off they would all take
flight to the woods, we quitted the breach, and went to conceal
ourselves all round the pond, in order to kill only one, the more
narrowly to examine it; especially as these beavers were of the grey
kind, which are not so common as the brown.

One of the beavers ventured to go upon the breach, after having
several times approached it, and returned again like a spy. I lay in
ambush in the bottom, at the end of the dam: I saw him return; he
surveyed the breach, then struck four blows, which saved his life, for
I then aimed at him. But these {129} four blows, so well struck, made
me judge it was the signal of call for all the rest, just as the night
before. This also made me think he might be the overseer of the works,
and I did not choose to deprive the republic of beavers of a member
who appeared so necessary to it. I therefore waited till others should
appear: a little after, one came and passed close by me, in order to
go to work; I made no scruple to lay him at his full length, on the
persuasion he might only be a common labourer. My shot made them all
return to their cabins, with greater speed than a hundred blows of the
tail of their Overseer could have done. As soon as I had killed this
beaver, I called my companions; and finding the water did not run off
quick enough, I caused the breach to be widened, and I examined the

I observed these beavers to be a third less than the brown or common
sort, but their make the same; having the same head, same sharp teeth,
same beards, legs as short, paws equally furnished with claws, and
with membranes or webs, and in all respects made like the others. The
only difference is, that they are of an ash-gray, and that the long
pile, which passes over the soft wool, is silvered, or whitish.

During this examination, I caused my people to cut boughs, canes, and
reeds, to be thrown in towards the end of the pond, in order to pass
over the little mud which was in that place; and at the same time I
caused some shot to be fired on the cabins that lay nearest us. The
report of the guns, and the rattling of the shot on the roofs of the
cabins, made them all fly into the woods with the greatest
precipitation imaginable. We came at length to a cabin, in which there
were not six inches of water. I caused to undo the roof without
breaking any thing, during which I saw the piece of aspin-tree, which
was laid under the cabin for their provisions.

I observed fifteen pieces of wood, with their bark in part gnawed. The
cabin also had fifteen cells round the hole in the middle, at which
they went out; which made me think each had his own cell.

I am now to give a sketch of the architecture of these amphibious
animals, and an account of their villages; it is thus {130} I call the
place of their abode, after the Canadians and the Indians, with whom I
agree; and allow, these animals deserve, so much the more to be
distinguished from others, as I find their instinct far superior to
that of other animals. I shall not carry the parallel any farther, it
might become offensive.

[Illustration: TOP: _Beaver_--MIDDLE: _Beaver lodge_--BOTTOM:
_Beaver dam_]

The cabins of the beavers are round, having about ten or twelve feet
in diameter, according to the number, more or {131} less, of fixed
inhabitants. I mean, that this diameter is to be taken on the flooring
at about a foot above the water, when it is even with the dam: but as
the upper part runs to a point, the under is much larger than the
flooring, which we may represent to ourselves, by supposing all the
upright posts to resemble the legs of a great A, whose middle stroke
is the flooring. These posts are picked out, and we might say, well
proportioned, seeing, at the height this flooring is to be laid at,
there is a hook for bearing bars, which by that means form the
circumference of the flooring. The bars again bear traverses, or cross
pieces of timber, which are the joists; canes and grass complete this
flooring, which has a hole in the middle to go out at, when they
please, and into this all the cells open.

The dam is formed of timbers, in the shape of St. Andrew's cross, or
of a great X, laid close together, and kept firm by timbers laid
lengthwise, which are continued from one end of the dam to the other,
and placed on the St. Andrew's crosses: the whole is filled with
earth, clapped close by great blows of their tails. The inside of the
dam, next the water, is almost perpendicular; but on the outside it
has a great slope, that grass coming to grow thereon, may prevent the
water that passes there, to carry away the earth.

I saw them neither cut nor convey the timbers along, but it is to be
presumed their manner is the same as that of other Beavers, who never
cut but a soft wood; for which purpose they use their fore-teeth,
which are extremely sharp. These timbers they push and roll before
them on the land, as they do on the water, till they come to the place
where they want to lay them. I observed these grey Beavers to be more
chilly, or sensible of cold, than the other species: and it is
doubtless for this reason they draw nearer to the south.

We set out from this place to come to a high ground, which seemed to
be continued to a great distance. We came the same evening to the foot
of it, but the day was too far advanced to ascend it. The day
following we went to its top, found it a flat, except some small
eminences at intervals. There appeared to be very little wood on it,
still less water, and least of all stone; though probably there may be
some in its bowels, having {132} observed some stones in a part where
the earth was tumbled down.

We accurately examined all this rising ground, without discovering any
thing; and though that day we travelled upwards of five leagues, yet
we were not three leagues distant from the hut we set out from in the
morning. This high ground would have been a very commodious situation
for a fine palace; as from its edges is a very distant prospect.

Next day, after a ramble of about two leagues and a half, I had the
signal of call to my right. I instantly flew thither; and when I came,
the scout shewed me a stump sticking out of the earth knee high, and
nine inches in diameter. The Indian took it at a distance for the
stump of a tree, and was surprised to find wood cut in a country which
appeared to have been never frequented: but when he came near enough
to form a judgement about it, he saw from the figure, that it was a
very different thing: and this was the reason he made the signal of

I was highly pleased at this discovery, which was that of a lead-ore.
I had also the satisfaction to find my perseverance recompensed; but
in particular I was ravished with admiration, on seeing this wonderful
production, and the power of the soil of this province, constraining,
as it were, the minerals to disclose themselves. I continued to search
all around, and I discovered ore in several places. We returned to
lodge at our last hut, on account of the convenience of water, which
was too scarce on this high ground.

We set out from thence, in order to come nearer to the Missisippi:
through every place we passed, nothing but herds of buffaloes, elk,
deer, and other animals of every kind, were to be seen; especially
near rivers and brooks. Bears, on the other hand, keep in the thick
woods, where they find their proper food.

After a march of five days I espied a mountain to my right, which
seemed so high as to excite my curiosity. Next morning I directed
thither my course, where we arrived about three in the afternoon. We
stopped at the foot of the mountain, where we found a fine spring
issuing out of the rock.

{133} The day following we went up to its top, where it is stony.
Though there is earth enough for plants, yet they are so thin sown,
that hardly two hundred could be found on an acre of ground. Trees are
also very rare on that spot, and these poor, meagre, and cancerous.
The stones I found there are all fit for making lime.

We from thence took the route that should carry us to our pettyaugre,
a journey but of a few days. We drew the pettyaugre out of the water,
and there passed the night. Next day we crossed the Missisippi; in
going up which we killed a she-bear, with her cubs: for during the
winter, the banks of the Missisippi are lined with them; and it is
rare, in going up the river, not to see many cross it in a day, in
search of food: the want of which makes them quit the banks.

I continued my route in going up the Missisippi quite to the Chicasaw
Cliffs, (Ecores a Prud'homme) where I was told I should find something
for the benefit of the colony: this was what excited my curiosity.

Being arrived at those cliffs we landed, and concealed, after unlading
it, the pettyaugre in the water; and from that day I sought, and at
length found the iron-mine, of which I had some hints given me. After
being sure of this, I carefully searched all around, to find Castine:
but this was impossible: however, I believe it may be found higher up in
ascending the Missisippi, but that care I leave to those who hereafter
shall choose to undertake the working that mine. I had, however, some
amends made me for my trouble; as in searching, I found some marks of
pit-coal in the neighbourhood, a thing at least as useful in other parts
of the colony as in this.

After having made my reflections, I resolved in a little time to
return home; but being loth to leave so fine a country, I penetrated a
little farther into it; and in his short excursion I espied a small
hill, all bare and parched, having on its top only two trees in a very
drooping condition, and scarce any grass, besides some little tufts,
distant enough asunder, which grew on a very firm clay. The bottom of
this hill was not so barren, and the adjacent country fertile as in
other parts. {134} These indications made me presume there might be a
mine in that spot.

I at length returned towards the Missisippi, in order to meet again the
pettyaugre. As in all this country, and in all the height of the colony
we find numbers of buffaloes, elk, deer, and other game; so we find
numbers of wolves, some tigers, Cat-a-mounts, (Pichous) and
carrion-crows, all of them carnivorous animals, which I shall hereafter
describe. When we came near the Missisippi we made the signal of
recognition, which was answered, though at some distance. It was there
my people killed some buffaloes, to be dressed and cured in their
manner, for our journey. We embarked at length, and went down the
Missisippi, till we came within a league of the common landing-place.
The Indians hid the pettyaugre, and went to their village. As for
myself, I got home towards dusk, where I found my neighbours and slaves
surprised, and at the same time glad, at my unexpected return, as if it
had been from a hunting-match in the neighbourhood.

I was really well pleased to have got home, to see my slaves in
perfect health, and all my affairs in good order: But I was strongly
impressed with the beauties of the countries I had seen. I could have
wished to end my days in those charming solitudes, at a distance from
the tumultuous hurry of the world, far from the pinching gripe of
avarice and deceit. There it is, said I to myself, one relishes a
thousand innocent delights, and which are repeated with a satisfaction
ever new. It is there one lives exempt from the assaults of censure,
detraction, and calumny. In those delightsome meadows, which often
extend far out of sight, and where we see so many different species of
animals, there it is we have occasion to admire the beneficence of the
Creator. To conclude, there it is, that at the gentle purling of a
pure and living water, and enchanted with the concerts of birds, which
fill the neighbouring thickets, we may agreeably contemplate the
wonders of nature, and examine them all at our leisure.

I had reasons for concealing my journey, and stronger reasons still to
suppress what I had discovered, in order to avail myself thereof
afterwards: but the crosses I underwent, and {135} the misfortunes of
my life, have, to this day, prevented me from profiting by these
discoveries, in returning to that charming country, and even so much
as to lay them before the public.


_Of the Nature of the Lands of Louisiana. The Lands on the Coast._

In order to describe the nature of this country with some method, I
shall first speak of the place we land at, and shall therefore begin
with the coast: I shall then go up the Missisippi; the reverse of what
I did in the Geographical Description, in which I described that river
from its source down to its mouth.

The coast, which was the first inhabited, extends from Rio Perdido to
the lake of St. Louis: this ground is a very fine land, white as snow,
and so dry, as not to be fit to produce any thing but pine, cedar, and
some ever-green oaks.

The river Mobile is the most considerable of that coast to the east.
[Footnote: This river, which they call Mobile, and which after the
rains of winter is a fine river in spring, is but a brook in summer,
especially towards its source. _Dumont_, II, 228.] It rolls its waters
over a pure sand, which cannot make it muddy. But if this water is
clear, it partakes of the sterility of its bottom, so that it is far
from abounding so much in fish as the Missisippi. Its banks and
neighbourhood are not very fertile from its source down to the sea.
The ground is stony, and scarce any thing but gravel, mixt with a
little earth. Though these lands are not quite barren, there is a wide
difference between their productions and those of the lands in the
neighbourhood of the Missisippi. Mountains there are, but whether
stone fit for building, I know not.

In the confines of the river of the Alibamous (Creeks) the lands are
better: the river falls into the Mobile, above the bay of the same
name. This bay may be about thirty leagues in length, after having
received the Mobile, which runs from {136} north to south for about
one hundred and fifty leagues. On the banks of this river was the
first settlement of the French in Louisiana, which stood till New
Orleans was founded, which is at this day the capital of the colony.

The lands and water of the Mobile are not only unfruitful in all kinds
of vegetables and fish, but the nature of the waters and the soil
contributes also to prevent the multiplication of animals; even women
have experienced this. I understood by Madam Hubert, whose husband was
at my arrival Commissary Director of the colony, that in the time the
French were in that post, there were seven or eight barren women, who
all became fruitful, after settling with their husbands on the banks
of the Missisippi, where the capital was built, and whither the
settlement was removed.

Fort St. Louis of Mobile was the French post. This fort stands on the
banks of that river, near another small river, called Dog River, which
falls into the bay to the south of the fort.

Though these countries are not so fertile as those in the
neighbourhood of the Missisippi; we are, however, to observe, that the
interior parts of the country are much better than those near the sea.

On the coast to the west of Mobile, we find islands not worth

From the sources of the river of the Paska-Ogoulas, quite to those of
the river of Quefoncte, which falls into the lake of St. Louis, the
lands are light and fertile, but something gravelly, on account of the
neighbourhood of the mountains that lie to the north. This country is
intermixt with extensive hills, fine meadows, numbers of thickets, and
sometimes with woods, thick set with cane, particularly on the banks
of rivers and brooks; and is extremely proper for agriculture.

The mountains which I said these countries have to the north, form
nearly the figure of a chaplet, with one end pretty near the
Missisippi, the other on the banks of the Mobile. The inner part of
this chaplet or chain is filled with hills; which {137} are pretty
fertile in grass, simples, fruits of the country, horse-chesnuts, and
wild-chesnuts, as large, and at least as good as those of Lyons.

To the north of this chain of mountains lies the country of the
Chicasaws, very fine and free of mountains: it has only very extensive
and gentle eminences, or rising grounds, fertile groves and meadows,
which in springtime are all over red, from the great plenty of wood
strawberries: in summer, the plains exhibit the most beautiful enamel,
by the quantity and variety of the flowers: in autumn, after the
setting fire to the grass, they are covered with mushrooms.

All the countries I have just mentioned are stored with game of every
kind. The buffalo is found on the most rising grounds; the partridge
in thick open woods, such as the groves in meadows; the elks delight
in large forests, as also the pheasant; the deer, which is a roving
animal, is every where to be met with, because in whatever place it
may happen to be, it always has something to browse on. The ring-dove
here flies in winter with such rapidity, as to pass over a great deal
of country in a few hours; ducks and other aquatick game are in such
numbers, that wherever there is water, we are sure to find many more
than it is possible for us to shoot, were we to do nothing else; and
thus we find game in every place, and fish in plenty in the rivers.

Let us resume the coast; which, though flat and dry, on account of its
sand, abounds with delicious fish, and excellent shell-fish. But the
crystal sand, which is pernicious to the sight by its whiteness, might
it not be adapted for making some beautiful composition or
manufacture? Here I leave the learned to find out what use this sand
may be of.

If this coast is flat, it has in this respect an advantage; as we
might say, Nature wanted to make it so, in order to be self-defended
against the descent of an enemy.

Coming out of the Bay of Paska-Ogoulas, if we still proceed west, we
meet in our way with the Bay of Old Biloxi, where a fort was built,
and a settlement begun; but a great fire, spread by a violent wind,
destroyed it in a few moments, which in prudence ought never to have
been built at all.

{138} Those who settled at Old Biloxi could not, doubtless, think of
quitting the sea-coast. They settled to the west, close to New-Biloxi,
on a sand equally dry and pernicious to the sight. In this place the
large grants happened to be laid off, which were extremely
inconvenient to have been made on so barren a soil; where it was
impossible to find the least plant or greens for any money, and where
the hired servants died with hunger in the most fertile colony in the
whole world.

In pursuing the same route and the same coast westward, the lands are
still the same, quite to the small Bay of St. Louis, and to the
Channels, which lead to the lake of that name. At a distance from the
sea the earth is of a good quality, fit for agriculture; as being a
light soil, but something gravelly. The coast to the north of the Bay
of St. Louis is of a different nature, and much more fertile. The
lands at a greater distance to the north of this last coast, are not
very distant from the Missisippi; they are also much more fruitful
than those to the cast of this bay in the same latitude.

In order to follow the sea-coast down to the mouth of the Missisippi,
we must proceed almost south, quitting the Channel. I have elsewhere
mentioned, that we have to pass between Cat-Island, which we leave to
the left, and Cockle-Island, which we leave to the right. In making
this ideal route, we pass over banks almost level with the water,
covered with a vast number of islets; we leave to the left the
Candlemas-Isles, which are only heaps of sand, having the form of a
gut cut in pieces; they rise but little above the sea, and scarcely
yield a dozen of plants, just as in the neighbouring islets I have now
mentioned. We leave to the right lake Borgne, which is another outlet
of the lake St. Louis, and continuing the same route by several
outlets for a considerable way, we find a little open clear sea, and
the coast to the right, which is but a quagmire, gradually formed by a
very soft ooze, on which some reeds grow. This coast leads soon to the
East Pass or channel, which is one of the mouths of the Missisippi,
and this we find bordered with a like soil, if indeed it deserves the
name of soil.

There is, moreover, the South-east Pass, where stands Balise, and the
South Pass, which projects farther into the sea. {139} Balise is a
fort built on an island of sand, secured by a great number of piles
bound with good timber-work. There are lodgings in it for the officers
and the garrison; and a sufficient number of guns for defending the
entrance of the Missisippi. It is there they take the bar-pilot on
board, in order to bring the ships into the river. All the passes and
entrances of the Missisippi are as frightful to the eye, as the
interior part of the colony is delightful to it.

The quagmires continue still for about seven leagues going up the
Missisippi, at the entrance of which we meet a bar, three fourths of a
league broad; which we cannot pass without the bar-pilot, who alone is
acquainted with the channel.

All the west coast resembles that which I mentioned, from Mobile to
the bay of St. Louis; it is equally flat, formed of a like sand, and a
bar of isles, which lengthen out the coast, and hinder a descent; the
coast continues thus, going westward, quite to Ascension Bay, and even
a little farther. Its soil also is also barren, and in every respect
like to that I have just mentioned.

I again enter the Missisippi, and pass with speed over these
quagmires, incapable to bear up the traveller, and which only afford a
retreat to gnats and moskittos, and to some water-fowl, which,
doubtless, find food to live on, and that in security.

On coming out of these marshes, we find a neck of land on each side of
the Missisippi; this indeed is firm land, but lined with marshes,
resembling those at the entrance of the river. For the space of three
or four leagues, this neck of land is at first bare of trees, but
comes after to be covered with them, so as to intercept the winds,
which the ships require, in order to go up the river to the capital.
This land, though very narrow, is continued, together with the trees
it bears, quite to the English Reach, which is defended by two forts;
one to the right, the other to the left of the Missisippi.

The origin of the name, English Reach, (Detour aux Anglois) is
differently assigned. I made enquiry of the oldest of the country, to
what circumstance this Reach might owe its {140} name. And they told
me, that before the first settlement of the French in this colony, the
English, having heard of the beauty of the country, which they had,
doubtless, visited before, in going thither from Carolina by land,
attempted to make themselves masters of the entrance of the
Missisippi, and to go up the river, in order to fortify themselves on
the first firm ground they could meet. Excited by that jealousy which
is natural to them, they took such precautions as they imagined to be
proper, in order to succeed.

The Indians on their part, who had already seen or heard of several
people (French) having gone up and down the Missisippi at different
times; the Indians, I say, who, perhaps, were not so well pleased with
such neighbours, were still more frightened at seeing a ship enter the
river, which determined them to stop its passage; but this was
impossible, as long as the English had any wind, of which they availed
themselves quite to this Reach. These Indians were the Ouachas and
Chaouachas, who dwelt to the west of the Missisippi, and below this
Reach. There were of them on each side of the river, and they lying in
the canes, observed the English, and followed them as they went up,
without daring to attack them.

When the English were come to the entrance of this Reach, the little
wind they had failed them; observing besides, that the Missisippi made
a great turn or winding, they despaired of succeeding; and wanted to
moor in this spot, for which purpose they must bring a rope to land:
but the Indians shot a great number of arrows at them, till the report
of a cannon, fired at random, scattered them, and gave the signal to
the English to go on board, for fear the Indians should come in
greater numbers, and cut them to pieces.

Such is the origin of the name of this Reach. The Missisippi in this
place forms the figure of a crescent, almost closed; so that the same
wind which brings up a ship, proves often contrary, when come to the
Reach; and this is the reason that ships moor, and go up towed, or
tacking. This Reach is six or seven leagues; some assign it eight,
more or less, according as they happen to make way.

{141} The lands on both sides of this Reach are inhabited, though the
depth of soil is inconsiderable. Immediately above this Reach stands
New Orleans, the capital of this colony, on the east of the
Missisippi. A league behind the town, directly back from the river, we
meet with a Bayouc or creek, which can bear large boats with oars. In
following this Bayouc for the space of a league, we go to the lake St.
Louis, and after traversing obliquely this last, we meet the Channels,
which lead to Mobile, where I began my description of the nature of
the soil of Louisiana.

The ground on which New Orleans is situated, being an earth accumulated
by the ooze, in the same manner as is that both below and above, a good
way from the capital, is of a good quality for agriculture, only that it
is strong, and rather too fat. This land being flat, and drowned by the
inundations for several ages, cannot fail to be kept in moisture, there
being, moreover, only a mole or bank to prevent the river from
over-flowing it; and would be even too moist, and incapable of
cultivation, had not this mole been made, and ditches, close to each
other, to facilitate the draining off the waters: by this means it has
been put in a condition to be cultivated with success.

From New Orleans to Manchac on the east of the Missisippi, twenty-five
leagues above the capital, and quite to the Fork to the west, almost
over-against Manchac, and a little way off, the lands are of the same
kind and quality with those of New Orleans.


_Quality of the Lands above the_ Fork. _A Quarry of Stone for building_.
_High Lands to the East: Their vast Fertility. West Coast: West Lands:

To the west, the Fork, the lands are pretty flat, but exempt from
inundations. The part best known of these lands is called Baya-Ogoula,
a name framed Bayouc and Ogoula, which signifies the nation dwelling
near the Bayouc; there having been a nation of that name in that
place, when the first Frenchmen {142} came down the Missisippi; it
lies twenty-five leagues from the capital.

[Illustration: _Indians of the North leaving in the winter with their
families for a hunt_]

But to the east, the lands are a good deal higher, seeing from Manchac
to the river Wabache they are between an hundred and two hundred feet
higher than the Missisippi in its greatest floods. The slope of these
lands goes off perpendicularly from the Missisippi, which on that side
receives but few rivers, and those very small, if we except the river
of the Yasous, whose course is not above fifty leagues.

All these high lands are, besides, surmounted, in a good many places,
by little eminences, or small hills, and rising grounds running off
lengthwise, with gentle slopes. It is only when we go a little way
from the Missisippi, that we find these high lands are over-topped by
little mountains, which appear to be all of earth, though steep,
without the least gravel or pebble being perceived on them.

The soil on these high lands is very good; it is a black light mold,
about three feet deep on the hills or rising grounds. This upper earth
lies upon a reddish clay, very strong and stiff; the lowest places
between these hills are of the same nature, {143} but there the black
earth is between five and six feet deep. The grass growing in the
hollows is of the height of a man, and very slender and fine; whereas
the grass of the same meadow on the high lands rises scarce knee deep;
as it does on the highest eminences, unless there is found something
underneath, which not only renders the grass shorter, but even
prevents its growth by the efficacy of some exhalations; which is not
ordinarily the case on hills, though rising high, but only on the
mountains properly so called.

My experience in architecture having taught me, that several quarries
have been found under a clay like this, I was always of opinion there
must be some in those hills.

Since I made these reflections, I have had occasion, in my journey to
the country, to confirm these conjectures. We had set up our hut at
the foot of an eminence, which was steep towards us, and near a
fountain, whose water was lukewarm and pure.

This fountain appeared to me to issue out of a hole, which was formed
by the sinking of the earth. I stooped in order to take a better view
of it, and I observed stone, which to the eye appeared proper for
building, and the upper part which was this clay, which is peculiar to
the country. I was highly pleased to be thus ascertained, that there
was stone fit for building in this colony, where it is imagined there
is none, because it does not come out of the earth to shew-itself.

It is not to be wondered, that there is none to be found in the Lower
Louisiana, which is only an earth accumulated by ooze; but it is far
more extraordinary, not to see a flint, nor even a pebble on the
hills, for upwards of an hundred leagues sometimes; however, this is a
thing common in this province.

I imagine I ought to assign a reason for it, which seems pretty
probable to me. This land has never been turned, or dug, and is very
close above the clay, which is extremely hard, and covers the stone,
which cannot shew itself through such a covering: it is therefore no
such surprise, that we observe no stone out of the earth in these
plains and on these eminences.

{144} All these high lands are generally meadows and forests of tall
trees, with grass up to the knee. Along gullies they prove to be
thickets, in which wood of every kind is found, and also the fruits of
the country.

Almost all these lands on the east of the river are such as I have
described; that is, the meadows are on those high grounds, whose slope
is very gentle; we also find there tall forests, and thickets in the
low bottoms. In the meadows we observe here and there groves of very
tall and straight oaks, to the number of fourscore or an hundred at
most: there are others of about forty or fifty, which seem to have
been planted by men's hands in these meadows, for a retreat to the
buffaloes, deer, and other animals, and a screen against storms, and
the sting of the flies.

The tall forests are all hiccory, or all oak: in these last we find a
great many morels; but then there grows a species of mushrooms at the
feet of felled walnut-trees, which the Indians carefully gather; I
tasted of them, and found them good.

The meadows are not only covered with grass fit for pasture, but
produce quantities of wood-strawberries in the month of April; for the
following months the prospect is charming; we scarce observe a pile of
grass, unless what we tread under foot; the flowers, which are then in
all their beauty, exhibit to the view the most ravishing sight, being
diversified without end; one in particular I have remarked, which
would adorn the most beautiful parterre; I mean the Lion's Mouth (_la
gueule de Lion_).

These meadows afford not only a charming prospect to the eye; they,
moreover, plentifully produce excellent simples, (equally with tall
woods) as well for the purposes of medicine as of dying. When all
these plants are burnt, and a small rain comes on, mushrooms of an
excellent flavour succeed to them, and whiten the surface of the
meadows all over.

Those rising meadows and tall forests abound with buffaloes, elk, and
deer, with turkeys, partridges, and all kinds of game; consequently
wolves, catamounts, and other carnivorous animals are found there;
which, in following the other animals, destroy and devour such as are
too old or too fat; and when the {145} Indians go a hunting, these
animals are sure to have the offal, or hound's fee, which makes them
follow the hunters.

These high lands naturally produce mulberry-trees, the leaves of which
are very grateful to the silk-worm. Indigo, in like manner, grows
there along the thickets, without culture. There also a native tobacco
is found growing wild, for the culture of which, as well as for other
species of tobacco, these lands are extremely well adapted. Cotton is
also cultivated to advantage: wheat and flax thrive better and more
easily there, than lower down towards the capital, the land there
being too fat; which is the reason that, indeed, oats come there to a
greater height than in the lands I am speaking of; but the cotton and
the other productions are neither so strong nor so fine there, and the
crops of them are often less profitable, though the soil be of an
excellent nature.

In fine, those high lands to the east of the Missisippi, from Manchae
to the river Wabache, may and ought to contain mines: we find in them,
just at the surface, iron and pit-coal, but no appearance of silver
mines; gold there may be, copper also, and lead.

Let us return to Manchac, where I quitted the Missisippi; which I
shall cross, in order to visit the west side, as I have already done
the east. I shall begin with the west coast, which resembles that to
the east; but is still more dry and barren on the shore. On quitting
that coast of white and crystal sand, in order to go northward, we
meet five or six lakes, which communicate with one another, and which
are, doubtless, remains of the sea. Between these lakes and the
Missisippi, is an earth accumulated on the sand, and formed by the
ooze of that river, as I said; between these lakes there is nothing
but sand, on which there is so little earth, that the sand-bottom
appears to view; so that we find there but little pasture, which some
strayed buffaloes come to eat; and no trees, if we except a hill on
the banks of one of these lakes, which is all covered with ever-green
oaks, fit for ship-building. This spot may be a league in length by
half a league in breadth; and was called Barataria, because enclosed
by these lakes and their outlets, to form almost an island on dry

{146} These lakes are stored with monstrous carp, as well for size as
for length; which slip out of the Missisippi and its muddy stream,
when overflowed, in search of clearer water. The quantity of fish in
these lakes is very surprising, especially as they abound with vast
numbers of alligators. In the neighbourhood of these lakes there are
some petty nations of Indians, who partly live on this amphibious

Between these lakes and the banks of the Missisippi, there is some
thin herbage, and among others, natural hemp, which grows like trees,
and very branched. This need not surprise us, as each plant stands
very distant from the other: hereabouts we find little wood, unless
when we approach the Missisippi.

To the west of these lakes we find excellent lands, covered in many
places with open woods of tall trees, through which one may easily
ride on horseback; and here we find some buffaloes, which only pass
through these woods because the pasture under the trees is bitter; and
therefore they prefer the grass of the meadows, which lying exposed to
the rays of the sun, becomes thereby more savoury.

In going still farther west, we meet much thicker woods, because this
country is extremely well watered; we here find numbers of rivers,
which fall into the sea; and what contributes to the fertility of this
land, is the number of brooks, that fall into these rivers.

This country abounds with deer and other game; buffaloes are rare; but
it promises great riches to such as shall inhabit it, from the
excellent quality of its lands. The Spaniards, who bound us on that
side, are jealous enough: but the great quantities of land they
possess in America, have made them lose sight of settling there,
though acquainted therewith before us: however, they took some steps
to traverse our designs, when they saw we had some thoughts that way.
But they are not settled there as yet; and who could hinder us from
making advantageous settlements in that country?

I resume the banks of the Missisippi, above the lakes, and the lands
above the Fork, which, as I have sufficiently acquainted {147} the
reader, are none of the best; and I go up to the north, in order to
follow the same method I observed in describing the nature of the
lands to the east.

The banks of the Missisippi are of a fat and strong soil; but far less
subject to inundations than the lands of the east. If we proceed a
little way westward, we meet land gradually rising, and of an
excellent quality; and even meadows, which we might well affirm to be
boundless, if they were not intersected by little groves. These
meadows are covered with buffaloes and other game, which live there so
much the more peaceably, as they are neither hunted by men, who never
frequent those countries; nor disquieted by wolves or tigers, which
keep more to the north.

The country I have just described is such as I have represented it,
till we come to New Mexico: it rises gently enough, near the Red
River, which bounds it to the north, till we reach a high land, which
was no more than five or six leagues in breadth, and in certain places
only a league; it is almost flat, having but some eminences at some
considerable distance from each other: we also meet some mountains of
a middling height, which appear to contain something more than bare

This high land begins at some leagues from the Missisippi, and
continues so quite to New Mexico; it lowers towards the Red River, by
windings, where it is diversified alternately with meadows and woods.
The top of this height, on the contrary, has scarce any wood. A fine
grass grows between the stones, which are common there. The buffaloes
come to feed on this grass, when the rains drive them out of the
plains; otherwise they go but little thither, because they find there
neither water, nor saltpetre.

We are to remark, by the bye, that all cloven-footed animals are
extremely fond of salt, and that Louisiana in general contains a great
deal of saltpetre. And thus we are not to wonder, if the buffalo, the
elk, and the deer, have a greater inclination to some certain places
than to others, though they are there often hunted. We ought therefore
to conclude, that there is more saltpetre in those places, than in such
as they {148} haunt but rarely. This is what made me remark, that these
animals, after their ordinary repass, fail but rarely to go to the
torrents, where the earth is cut, and even to the clay; which they lick,
especially after rain, because they there find a taste of salt, which
allures them thither. Most of those who have made this remark imagine
that these animals eat the earth; whereas in such places they only go in
quest of the salt, which to them is so strong an allurement as to make
them bid defiance to dangers in order to get at it.


_Quality of the Lands of the_ Red River. _Posts of the_ Nachitoches. _A
Silver Mine. Lands of the_ Black River.

The Banks of the Red River, towards its confluence, are pretty low,
And sometimes drowned by the inundations of the Missisippi; but above
all, the north side, which is but a marshy land for upwards of ten
leagues in going up to the Nachitoches, till we come to the Black
River, which falls into the Red. This last takes its name from the
colour of its sand, which is red in several places: it is also called
the Marne, a name given it by some geographers, but unknown in the
country. Some call it the River of the Nachitoches, because they dwell
on its banks: but the appellation, Red River, has remained to it.

Between the Black River and the Red River the soil is but very light,
and even sandy, where we find more firs than other trees; we also
observe therein some marshes. But these lands, though not altogether
barren, if cultivated, would be none of the best. They continue such
along the banks of the river, only to the rapid part of it, thirty
leagues from the Missisippi. This rapid part cannot justly be called a
fall; however, we can scarce go up with oars, when laden, but must
land and tow. I imagine, if the waterman's pole was used, as on the
Loire and other rivers in France, this obstacle would be easily

The south side of this river, quite to the rapid part, is entirely
different from the opposite side; it is something higher, {149} and
rises in proportion as it approaches to the height I have mentioned;
the quality is also very different. This land is good and light, and
appears disposed to receive all the culture imaginable, in which we
may assuredly hope to succeed. It naturally produces beautiful fruit
trees and vines in plenty; it was on that side muscadine grapes were
found. The back parts have neater woods, and the meadows intersected
with tall forests. On that side the fruit trees of the country are
common; above all, the hiccory and walnut-trees, which are sure
indications of a good soil.

From the rapid part to the Nachitoches, the lands on both sides of
this river sufficiently resemble those I have just mentioned. To the
left, in going up, there is a petty nation, called the Avoyelles, and
known only for the services they have done the Colony by the horses,
oxen, and cows they have brought from New Mexico for the service of
the French in Louisiana. I am ignorant what view the Indians may have
in that commerce: but I well know, that notwithstanding the fatigues
of the journey, these cattle, one with another, did not come, after
deducting all expenses, and even from the second hand, but to about
two pistoles a head; whence I ought to presume, that they have them
cheap in New Mexico. By means of this nation we have in Louisiana very
beautiful horses, of the species of those of Old Spain, which, if
managed or trained, people of the first rank might ride. As to the
oxen and cows, they are the same as those of France, and both are at
present very common in Louisiana.

The south side conveys into the Red River only little brooks. On the
north side, and pretty near the Nachitoches, there is, as is said, a
spring of water very salt, running only four leagues. This spring, as
it comes out of the earth, forms a little river, which, during the
heats, leaves some salt on its banks. And what may render this more
credible is, that the country whence it takes its rise contains a
great deal of mineral salt, which discovers itself by several springs
of salt water, and by two salt lakes, of which I shall presently
speak. In fine, in going up we come to the French fort of the
Nachitoches, built in an island, formed by the Red River.

{150} This island is nothing but sand, and that so fine, that the wind
drives it like dust; so that the tobacco attempted to be cultivated
there at first was loaded with it. The leaf of the tobacco having a
very fine down, easily retains this sand, which the least breath of
air diffuses every where; which is the reason that no more tobacco is
raised in this island, but provisions only, as maiz, potatoes,
pompions, &c. which cannot be damaged by the sands.

M. de St. Denis commanded at this place, where he insinuated himself
into the good graces of the natives in such a manner, that, altho'
they prefer death to slavery, or even to the government of a
sovereign, however mild, yet twenty or twenty-five nations were so
attached to his person, that, forgetting they were born free, they
willingly surrendered themselves to him; the people and their Chiefs
would all have him for their Grand Chief; so that at the least signal,
he could put himself at the head of thirty thousand men, drawn out of
those nations, which had of their own accord submitted themselves to
his orders; and that only by sending them a paper on which he drew the
usual hieroglyphics that represent war among them, with a large leg,
which denoted himself. This was still the more surprising, as the
greatest part of these people were on the Spanish territories, and
ought rather to have attached themselves to them, than to the French,
if it had not been for the personal merits of this Commander.

At the distance of seven leagues from the French Post, the Spaniards
have settled one, where they have resided ever since M. de la Motte,
Governor of Louisiana, agreed to that settlement. I know not by what
fatal piece of policy the Spaniards were allowed to make this
settlement; but I know, that, if it had not been for the French, the
natives would never have suffered the Spaniards to settle in that

However, several French were allured to this Spanish settlement,
doubtless imagining, that the rains which come from Mexico, rolled and
brought gold along with them, which would cost nothing but the trouble
of picking up. But to what purpose serves this beautiful metal, but to
make the people vain and idle among whom it is so common, and to make
them {151} neglect the culture of the earth, which constitutes true
riches, by the sweets it procures to man, and by the advantages it
furnishes to commerce.

Above the Nachitoches dwell the Cadodaquious, whose scattered villages
assume different names. Pretty near one of these villages was
discovered a silver mine, which was found to be rich, and of a very
pure metal. I have seen the assay of it, and its ore is very fine.
This silver lies concealed in small invisible particles, in a stone of
a chesnut colour, which is spongy, pretty light, and easily
calcinable: however, it yields a great deal more than it promises to
the eye. The assay of this ore was made by a Portuguese, who had
worked at the mines of New Mexico, whence he made his escape. He
appeared to be master of his business, and afterwards visited other
mines farther north, but he ever gave the preference to that of the
Red River.

This river, according to the Spaniards, takes its rise in 32 degrees
of north latitude; runs about fifty leagues north-east; forms a great
elbow, or winding to the east; then proceeding thence south-east, at
which place we begin to know it, it comes and falls into the
Missisippi, about 31 deg. and odd minutes.

I said above, that the Black River discharges itself into the Red, ten
leagues above the confluence of this last with the Missisippi: we now
proceed to resume that river, and follow its course, after having
observed, that the fish of all those rivers which communicate with the
Missisippi, are the same as to species, but far better in the Red and
Black Rivers, because their water is clearer and better than that of
the Missisippi, which they always quit with pleasure. Their delicate
and finer flavour may also arise from the nourishment they take in
those rivers.

The lands of which we are going to speak are to the north of the Red
River. They may be distinguished into two parts; which are to the
right and left of the Black River, in going up to its source, and even
as far as the river of the Arkansas. It is called the Black River,
because its depth gives it that colour, {152} which is, moreover,
heightened by the woods which line it throughout the Colony. All the
rivers have their banks covered with woods; but this river, which is
very narrow, is almost quite covered by the branches, and rendered of
a dark colour in the first view. It is sometimes called the river of
the Wachitas, because its banks were occupied by a nation of that
name, who are now extinct. I shall continue to call it by its usual

The lands which we directly find on both sides are low, and continue
thus for the space of three or four leagues, till we come to the river
of the Taensas, thus denominated from a nation of that name, which
dwelt on its banks. This river of the Taensas is, properly speaking,
but a channel formed by the overflowings of the Missisippi, has its
course almost parallel thereto, and separates the low lands from the
higher. The lands between the Missisippi and the river of the Taensas
are the same as in the Lower Louisiana.

The lands we find in going up the Black River are nearly the same, as
well for the nature of the soil, as for their good qualities. They are
rising grounds, extending in length, and which in general may be
considered as one very extensive meadow, diversified with little
groves, and cut only by the Black River and little brooks, bordered
with wood up to their sources. Buffaloes and deer are seen in whole
herds there. In approaching to the river of the Arkansas, deer and
pheasants begin to be very common; and the same species of game is
found there, as is to the east of the Missisippi; in like manner
wood-strawberries, simples, flowers, and mushrooms. The only
difference is, that this side of the Missisippi is more level, there
being no lands so high and so very different from the rest of the
country. The woods are like those to the east of the Missisippi,
except that to the west there are more walnut and hiccory trees. These
last are another species of walnut, the nuts of which are more tender,
and invite to these parts a greater number of parrots. What we have
just said, holds in general of this west side; let us now consider
what is peculiar thereto.



_A Brook of Salt Water: Salt Lakes. Lands of the River of the_ Arkansas.
_Red veined Marble: Slate: Plaster. Hunting the Buffalo. The dry
Sand-banks in the_ Missisippi.

After we have gone up the Black River about thirty leagues, we find to
the left a brook of salt water, which comes from the west. In going up
this brook about two leagues, we meet with a lake of salt water, which
may be two leagues in length, by one in breadth. A league higher up to
the north, we meet another lake of salt water, almost as long and
broad as the former.

This water, doubtless, passes through some mines of salt; it has the
taste of salt, without that bitterness of the sea-water. The Indians
come a great way off to this place, to hunt in winter, and make salt.
Before the French trucked coppers with them, they made upon the spot
pots of earth for this operation: and they returned home loaded with
salt and dry provisions.

To the east of the Black River we observe nothing that indicates
mines; but to the west one might affirm there should be some, from
certain marks, which might well deceive pretended connoisseurs. As for
my part, I would not warrant that there were two mines in that part of
the country, which seems to promise them. I should rather be led to
believe that they are mines of salt, at no great depth from the
surface of the earth, which, by their volatile and acid spirits,
prevent the growth of plants in those spots.

Ten or twelve leagues above this brook is a creek, near which those
Natchez retreated, who escaped being made slaves with the rest of
their nation, when the Messrs. Perier extirpated them on the east side
of the river, by order of the Court.

The Black River takes its rise to the north-west of its confluence,
and pretty near the river of the Arkansas, into which falls a branch
from this rise or source; by means of which we may have a
communication from the one to the other with a middling carriage. This
communication with the river of the {154} Arkansas is upwards of an
hundred leagues from the Post of that name. In other respects, this
Black River might carry a boat throughout, if cleared of the wood
fallen into its bed, which generally traverses it from one side to the
other. It receives some brooks, and abounds in excellent fish, and in

I make no doubt but these lands are very fit to bear and produce every
thing that can be cultivated with success on the east of the
Missisippi, opposite to this side, except the canton or quarter
between the river of the Taensas and the Missisippi; that land, being
subject to inundations, would be proper only for rice.

I imagine we may now pass on to the north of the river of the
Arkansas, which takes its rise in the mountains adjoining to the east
of Santa Fe. It afterwards goes up a little to the north, from whence
it comes down to the south, a little lower than its source. In this
manner it forms a line parallel almost with the Red River.

That river has a cataract or fall, at about an hundred and fifty
leagues from its confluence. Before we come to this fall, we find a
quarry of red-veined marble, one of slate, and one of plaster. Some
travellers have there observed grains of gold in a little brook: but
as they happened to be going in quest of a rock of emeralds, they
deigned not to amuse themselves with picking up particles of gold.

This river of the Arkansas is stored with fish; has a great deal of
water; having a course of two hundred and fifty leagues, and can carry
large boats quite to the cataract. Its banks are covered with woods,
as are all the other rivers of the country. In its course it receives
several brooks or rivulets, of little consequence, unless we except
that called the White River, and which discharges itself into the
curve or elbow of that we are speaking of, and below its fall.

In the whole tract north of this river, we find plains that extend out
of sight, which are vast meadows, intersected by groves, at no great
distance from one another, which are all tall woods, where we might
easily hunt the stag; great numbers {155} of which, as also of
buffaloes, are found here. Deer also are very common.

From having seen those animals frightened at the least noise,
especially at the report of a gun, I have thought of a method to hunt
them, in the manner the Spaniards of New Mexico do, which would not
scare them at all, and which would turn to the great advantage of the
inhabitants, who have this game in plenty in their country. This
hunting might be set about in winter, from the beginning of October,
when the meadows are burnt, till the month of February.

This hunting is neither expensive nor fatiguing: horses are had very
cheap in that country, and maintained almost for nothing. Each hunter
is mounted on horseback, and armed with a crescent somewhat open,
whose inside should be pretty sharp; the top of the outside to have a
socket, to put in a handle: then a number of people on horseback to go
in quest of a herd of buffaloes, and always attack them with the wind
in their backs. As soon as they smell a man, it is true, they run
away; but at the sight of the horses they will moderate their fears,
and thus not precipitate their flight; whereas the report of a gun
frightens them so as to make them run at full speed. In this chace,
the lightest would run fast enough; but the oldest, and even the young
of two or three years old, are so fat, that their weight would make
them soon be overtaken: then the armed hunter may strike the buffalo
with his crescent above each ham, and cut his tendons; after which he
is easily mastered. Such as never saw a buffalo, will hardly believe
the quantity of fat they yield: but it ought to be considered, that,
continuing day and night in plentiful pastures of the finest and most
delicious grass, they must soon fatten, and that from their youth. Of
this we have an instance in a bull at the Natchez, which was kept till
he was two years old, and grew so fat, that he could not leap on a
cow, from his great weight; so that we were obliged to kill him, and
got nigh an hundred and fifty pounds of tallow from him. His neck was
near as big as his body.

From what I have said, it may be judged what profit such hunters might
make of the skins and tallow of those buffaloes; {156} the hides would
be large, and their wool would be still an additional benefit. I may
add, that this hunting of them would not diminish the species, those
fat buffaloes being ordinarily the prey of wolves, as being too heavy
to be able to defend themselves.

Besides, the wolves would not find their account in attacking them in
herds. It is well known that the buffaloes range themselves in a ring,
the strongest without, and the weakest within. The strong standing
pretty close together, present their horns to the enemy, who dare not
attack them in this disposition. But wolves, like all other animals,
have their particular instinct, in order to procure their necessary
food. They come so near that the buffaloes smell them some way off,
which makes them run for it. The wolves then advance with a pretty
equal pace, till they observe the fattest out of breath. These they
attack before and behind; one of them seizes on the buffalo by the
hind-quarter, and overturns him, the others strangle him.

The wolves being many in a body, kill not what is sufficient for one
alone, but as many as they can, before they begin to eat. For this is
the manner of the wolf, to kill ten or twenty times more than he
needs, especially when he can do it with ease, and without

Though the country I describe has very extensive plains, I pretend not
to say that there are no rising grounds or hills; but they are more
rare there than elsewhere, especially on the west side. In approaching
to New Mexico we observe great hills and mountains, some of which are
pretty high.

I ought not to omit mentioning here, that from the low lands of
Louisiana, the Missisippi has several shoal banks of sand in it, which
appear very dry upon the falling of the waters, after the inundations.
These banks extend more or less in length; some of them half a league,
and not without a considerable breadth. I have seen the Natchez, and
other Indians, sow a sort of grain, which they called Choupichoul, on
these dry sand-banks. This sand received no manner of culture; and the
women and children covered the grain any how with their feet, without
taking any great pains about it. After this sowing, {157} and manner
of culture, they waited till autumn, when they gathered a great
quantity of the grain. It was prepared like millet, and very good to
eat. This plant is what is called Belle Dame Sauvage, [Footnote: He
seems to mean Buck-wheat.] which thrives in all countries, but
requires a good soil: and whatever good quality the soil in Europe may
have, it shoots but a foot and a half high; and yet, on this sand of
the Missisippi, it rises, without any culture, three feet and a half,
and four feet high. Such is the virtue of this sand all up the
Missisippi; or, to speak more properly, for the whole length of its
course; if we except the accumulated earth of the Lower Louisiana,
across which it passes, and where it cannot leave any dry sand-banks;
because it is straitened within its banks, which the river itself
raises, and continually augments.

In all the groves and little forests I have mentioned, and which lie
to the north of the Arkansas, pheasants, partridges, snipes, and
woodcocks, are in such great numbers, that those who are most fond of
this game, might easily satisfy their longing, as also every other
species of game. Small birds are still vastly more numerous.


_The Lands of the River_ St. Francis. _Mine of_ Marameg, _and other
Mines. A Lead Mine. A soft Stone resembling Porphyry. Lands of the_
Missouri. _The Lands north of the _ Wabache. _The Lands of the
Illinois_. De la Mothe's _Mine, and other Mines._

Thirty leagues above the river of the Arkansas, to the north, and on
the same side of the Missisippi, we find the river St. Francis.

The lands adjoining to it are always covered with herds of buffaloes,
nothwithstanding they are hunted every winter in those parts: for it
is to this river, that is, in its neighbourhood, that the French and
Canadians go and make their salt provisions for the inhabitants of the
capital, and of the neighbouring {158} plantations, in which they are
assisted by the native Arkansas, whom they hire for that purpose. When
they are upon the spot, they chuse a tree fit to make a pettyaugre,
which serves for a salting or powdering-tub in the middle, and is
closed at the two ends, where only is left room for a man at each

The trees they choose are ordinarily the poplar, which grow on the
banks of the water. It is a white wood, soft and binding. The
pettyaugres might be made of other wood, be cause such are to be had
pretty large; but either too heavy for pettyaugres, or too apt to

The species of wood in this part of Louisiana is tall oak; the fields
abound with four sorts of walnut, especially the black kind; so
called, because it is of a dark brown colour, bordering on black; this
sort grows very large.

There are besides fruit trees in this country, and it is there we
begin to find commonly Papaws. We have also here other trees of every
species, more or less, according as the soil is favourable. These
lands in general are fit to produce every thing the low lands can
yield, except rice and indigo. But in return, wheat thrives there
extremely well: the vine is found every where; the mulberry-tree is in
plenty; tobacco grows fine, and of a good quality; as do cotton and
garden plants: so that by leading an easy and agreeable life in that
country, we may at the same time be sure of a good return to France.

The land which lies between the Missisippi and the river St. Francis,
is full of rising grounds, and mountains of a middling height, which,
according to the ordinary indications, contain several mines: some of
them have been assayed; among the rest, the mine of Marameg, on the
little river of that name; the other mines appear not to be so rich,
nor so easy to be worked. There are some lead mines, and others of
copper, as is pretended.

The mine of Marameg, which is silver, is pretty near the confluence of
the river which gives it name; which is a great advantage to those who
would work it, because they might {159} easily by that means have
their goods from Europe. It is situate about five hundred leagues from
the sea.

I shall continue on the west side of the Missisippi, and to the north
of the famous river of Missouri, which we are now to cross. This river
takes its rise at eight hundred leagues distance, as is alledged, from
the place where it discharges itself into the Missisippi. Its waters
are muddy, thick, and charged with nitre; and these are the waters
that make the Missisippi muddy down to the sea, its waters being
extremely clear above the confluence of the Missouri: the reason is,
that the former rolls its waters over a sand and pretty firm soil; the
latter, on the contrary, flows across rich and clayey lands, where
little stone is to be seen; for though the Missouri comes out of a
mountain, which lies to the north-west of New Mexico, we are told,
that all the lands it passes through are generally rich; that is, low
meadows, and lands without stone.

This great river, which seems ready to dispute the pre-eminence with
the Missisippi, receives in its long course many rivers and brooks,
which considerably augment its waters. But except those that have
received their names from some nation of Indians who inhabit their
banks, there are very few of their names we can be well assured of,
each traveller giving them different appellations. The French having
penetrated up the Missouri only for about three hundred leagues at
most, and the rivers which fall into its bed being only known by the
Indians, it is of little importance what names they may bear at
present, being besides in a country but little frequented. The river
which is the best known is that of the Osages, so called from a nation
of that name, dwelling on its banks. It falls into the Missouri,
pretty near its confluence.

The largest known river which falls into the Missouri, is that of the
Canzas; which runs for near two hundred leagues in a very fine
country. According to what I have been able to learn about the course
of this great river, from its source to the Canzas, it runs from west
to east; and from that nation it falls down to the southward, where it
receives the river of the Canzas, which comes from the west; there it
forms a great elbow, which terminates in the neighbourhood of the
Missouri; {160} then it resumes its course to the south-east, to lose
at last both its name and waters in the Missisippi, about f our
leagues lower down than the river of the Illinois.

There was a French Post for some time in an island a few leagues in
length, overagainst the Missouris; the French settled in this fort at
the east-point, and called it Fort Orleans. M. de Bourgmont commanded
there a sufficient time to gain the friendship of the Indians of the
countries adjoining to this great river. He brought about a peace
among all those nations, who before his arrival were all at war; the
nations to the north being more war-like than those to the south.

After the departure of that commandant, they murdered all the
garrison, not a single Frenchman having escaped to carry the news: nor
could it be ever known whether it happened through the fault of the
French, or through treachery.

As to the nature of that country, I refer to M. de Bourgmont's
Journal, an extract from which I have given above. That is an original
account, signed by all the officers, and several others of the
company, which I thought was too prolix to give at full length, and
for that reason I have only extracted from it what relates to the
people and the quality of the soil, and traced out the route to those
who have a mind to make that journey; and even this we found necessary
to abridge in this translation.

In this journey of M. de Bourgmont, mention is only made of what we
meet with from Fort Orleans, from which we set out, in order to go to
the Padoucas: wherefore I ought to speak of a thing curious enough to
be related, and which is found on the banks of the Missouri; and that
is, a pretty high cliff, upright from the edge of the water. From the
middle of this cliff juts out a mass of red stone with white spots,
like porphyry, with this difference, that what we are speaking of is
almost soft and tender, like sand-stone. It is covered with another
sort of stone of no value; the bottom is an earth, like that on other
rising grounds. This stone is easily worked, and bears the most
violent fire. The Indians of the country have contrived to strike off
pieces thereof with their arrows, {161} and after they fall in the
water plunge for them. When they can procure pieces thereof large
enough to make pipes, they fashion them with knives and awls. This
pipe has a socket two or three inches long, and on the opposite side
the figure of a hatchet; in the middle of all is the boot, or bowl of
the pipe, to put the tobacco in. These sort of pipes are highly
esteemed among them.

All to the north of the Missouri is entirely unknown, unless we give
credit to the relations of different travellers; but to which of them
shall we give the preference? In the first place, they almost all
contradict each other: and then, men of the most experience treat them
as impostors; and therefore I choose to pay no regard to any of them.

Let us therefore now repass the Missisippi, in order to resume the
description of the lands to the east, and which we quitted at the
river Wabache. This river is distant from the sea four hundred and
sixty (three hundred) leagues; it is reckoned to have four hundred
leagues in length, from its source to its confluence into the
Missisippi. It is called Wabache, though, according to the usual
method, it ought to be called the Ohio, or Beautiful River; seeing the
Ohio is known under that name in Canada, before its confluence was
known: and as the Ohio takes its rise at a greater distance off than
the three others, which mix together, before they empty themselves
into the Missisippi, this should make the others lose their names; but
custom has prevailed on the occasion. [Footnote: But not among the
English; we call it the Ohio.] The first river known to us, which
falls into the Ohio, is that of the Miamis, which takes its rise
towards lake Erie.

It is by this river of the Miamis that the Canadians come to
Louisiana. For this purpose they embark on the river St. Laurence, go
up this river, pass the cataracts quite to the bottom of Lake Erie,
where they find a small river, on which they also go up to a place
called the Carriage of the Miamis; because that people come and take
their effects, and carry them on their backs for two leagues from
thence to the banks of the river of their name, which I just said
empties itself into {162} the Ohio. From thence the Canadians go down
that river, enter the Wabache, and at last the Missisippi, which
brings them to New Orleans, the capital of Louisiana. They reckon
eighteen hundred leagues [Footnote: It is but nine hundred leagues.]
from the capital of Canada to that of Louisiana, on account of the
great turns and windings they are obliged to take.

The river of the Miamis is thus the first to the north, which falls
into the Ohio; then that of the Chaouanons to the south; and lastly,
that of the Cherakees; all which together empty themselves into the
Missisippi. This is what we call the Wabache, and what in Canada and
New England they call the Ohio. This river is beautiful, greatly
abounding in fish, and navigable almost up to its source.

To the north of this river lies Canada, which inclines more to the
east than the source of the Ohio, and extends to the country of the
Illinois. It is of little importance to dispute here about the limits
of these two neighbouring colonies, as they both appertain to France.
The lands of the Illinois are reputed to be a part of Louisiana; we
have there a post near a village of that nation, called Tamaroueas.

The country of the Illinois is extremely good, and abounds with
buffalo and other game. On the north of the Wabache we begin to see
the Orignaux; a species of animals which are said to partake of the
buffalo and the stag; they have, indeed, been described to me to be
much more clumsy than the stag. Their horns have something of the
stag, but are shorter and more massy; the meat of them, as they say,
is pretty good. Swans and other water-fowl are common in these

The French Post of the Illinois is, of all the colony, that in which
with the greatest ease they grow wheat, rye, and other like grain, for
the sowing of which you need only to turn the earth in the slightest
manner; that slight culture is sufficient to make the earth produce as
much as we can reasonably desire. I have been assured, that in the
last war, when the flour from France was scarce, the Illinois sent
down to New Orleans upwards of eight hundred thousand weight thereof
in {163} one winter. Tobacco also thrives there, but comes to maturity
with difficulty. All the plants transported thither from France
succeed well, as do also the fruits.

In those countries there is a river, which takes its name from the
Illinois. It was by this river that the first travellers came from
Canada into the Missisippi. Such as come from Canada, and have
business only on the Illinois, pass that way yet: but such as want to
go directly to the sea, go down the river of the Miamis into the
Wabache, or Ohio, and from thence into the Missisippi.

In this country there are mines, and one in particular, called De la
Mothe's mine, which is silver, the assay of which has been made; as
also of two lead-mines, so rich at first as to vegetate, or shoot a
foot and a half at least out of the earth.

The whole continent north of the river of the Illinois is not much
frequented, consequently little known. The great extent of Louisiana
makes us presume, that these parts will not soon come to our
knowledge, unless some curious person should go thither to open mines,
where they are said to be in great numbers, and very rich.


_Of the Agriculture, or Manner of cultivating, ordering, and
manufacturing the Commodities that are proper Articles of Commerce. Of
the Culture of_ Maiz, Rice, _and other Fruits of the Country. Of the_

In order to give an account of the several sorts of plants cultivated
in Louisiana, I begin with Maiz, as being the most useful grain,
seeing it is the principal food of the people of America, and that the
French found it cultivated by the Indians.

Maiz, which in France we call Turkey corn, (and we Indian-corn) is a
grain of the size of a pea; there is of it as large as our sugar-pea:
it grows on a sort of husks, (Quenouille) in ascending rows: some of
these husks have to the {164} number of seven hundred grains upon
them, and I have counted even to a greater number. This husk may be
about two inches thick, by seven or eight inches and upwards in
length: it is wrapped up in several covers or thin leaves, which
screen it from the avidity of birds. Its foot or stalk is often of the
same size: it has leaves about two inches and upwards broad, by two
feet and a half long, which are chanelled, or formed like gutters, by
which they collect the dew which dissolves at sun-rising, and trickles
down to the stalk, sometimes in such plenty, as to wet the earth
around them for the breadth of six or seven inches. Its flower is on
the top of the stalk, which is sometimes eight feet high. We
ordinarily find five or six ears on each stalk, and in order to
procure a greater crop, the part of the stalk above the ears ought to
be cut away.

For sowing the Maiz in a field already cleared and prepared, holes are
made four feet asunder every way, observing to make the rows as
straight as may be, in order to weed them the easier: into every hole
five or six grains are put, which are previously to be steeped for
twenty-four hours at least, to make them rise or shoot the quicker,
and to prevent the fox and birds from eating such quantities of them:
by day there are people to guard them against birds; by night fires
are made at proper distances to frighten away the fox, who would
otherwise turn up the ground, and eat the corn of all the rows, one
after another, without omitting one, till he has his fill, and is
therefore the most pernicious animal to this corn. The corn, as soon
as shot out of the earth, is weeded: when it mounts up, and its stalks
are an inch big, it is hilled, to secure it against the wind. This
grain produces enough for two negroes to make fifty barrels, each
weighing an hundred and fifty pounds.

Such as begin a plantation in woods, thick set with cane, have an
advantage in the Maiz, that makes amends for the labour of clearing
the ground; a labour always more fatiguing than cultivating a spot
already cleared. The advantage is this: they begin with cutting down
the canes for a great extent of ground; the trees they peel two feet
high quite round: this operation is performed in the beginning of
March, as then the sap is in motion in that country: about fifteen
days after, the canes, {165} being dry, are set on fire: the sap of
the trees are thereby made to descend, and the branches are burnt,
which kills the trees.

On the following day they sow the corn in the manner I have just
shewn: the roots of the cane, which are not quite dead, shoot fresh
canes, which are very tender and brittle; and as no other weeds grow
in the field that year, it is easy to be weeded of these canes, and as
much corn again may be made, as in a field already cultivated.

This grain they eat in many different ways; the most common way is to
make it into Sagamity, which is a kind of gruel made with water, or
strong broth. They bake bread of it like cakes (by baking it over the
fire on an iron plate, or on a board before the fire,) which is much
better than what they bake in the oven, at least for present use; but
you must make it every day; and even then it is too heavy to soak in
soup of any kind. They likewise make Parched Meal [Footnote: See Book
III, Chap. I.] of it, which is a dish of the natives, as well as the
Cooedlou, or bread mixt with beans. The ears of corn roasted are
likewise a peculiar dish of theirs; and the small corn dressed in that
manner is as agreeable to us as to them. A light and black earth
agrees much better with the Maiz than a strong and rich one.

The Parched Meal is the best preparation of this corn; the French like
it extremely well, no less than the Indians themselves: I can affirm
that it is a very good food, and at the same time the best sort of
provision that can be carried on a journey, because it is refreshing
and extremely nourishing.

As for the small Indian corn, you may see an account of it in the
first chapter of the third Book; where you will likewise find an
account of the way of sowing wheat, which if you do not observe, you
may as well sow none.

Rice is sown in a soil well laboured, either by the plough or hoe, and
in winter, that it may be sowed before the time of the inundation. It
is sown in furrows of the breadth of a hoe: when shot, and three or
four inches high, they let water into the furrows, but in a small
quantity, in proportion as it grows, and then give water in greater

{166} The ear of this grain nearly resembles that of oats; its grains
are fastened to a beard, and its chaff is very rough, and full of
those fine and hard beards: the bran adheres not to the grain, as that
of the corn of France; it consists of two lobes, which easily separate
and loosen, and are therefore readily cleaned and broke off.

They eat their rice as they do in France, but boiled much thicker, and
with much less cookery, although it is not inferior in goodness to
ours: they only wash it in warm water, taken out of the same pot you
are to boil it in, then throw it in all at once, and boil it till it
bursts, and so it is dressed without any further trouble. They make
bread of it that is very white and of a good relish; but they have
tried in vain to make any that will soak in soup.

The culture of the Water-melon is simple enough. They choose for the
purpose a light soil, as that of a rising ground, well exposed: they
make holes in the earth, from two and a half to three feet in
diameter, and distant from each other fifteen feet every way, in each
of which holes they put five or six seeds. When the seeds are come up,
and the young plants have struck out five or six leaves, the four most
thriving plants are pitched upon, and the others plucked up to prevent
their starving each other, when too numerous. It is only at that time
that they have the trouble of watering them, nature alone performing
the rest, and bringing them to maturity; which is known by the green
rind beginning to change colour. There is no occasion to cut or prune
them. The other species of melons are cultivated in the same manner,
only that between the holes the distance is but five or six feet.

All sorts of garden plants and greens thrive extremely well in
Louisiana, and grow in much greater abundance than in France: the
climate is warmer, and the soil much better. However, it is to be
observed, that onions and other bulbous plants answer not in the low
lands, without a great deal of pains and labour; whereas in the high
grounds they grow very large and of a fine flavour.

The inhabitants of Louisiana may very easily make Silk, having
mulberries ready at hand, which grow naturally in the {167} high
lands, and plantations of them may be easily made. The leaves of the
natural mulberries of Louisiana are what the silk-worms are very fond
of; I mean the more common mulberries with a large leaf, but tender,
and the fruit of the colour of Burgundy wine. The province produces
also the White Mulberry, which has the same quality with the red.

I shall next relate some experiments that have been made on this
subject, by people who were acquainted with it. Madam Hubert, a native
of Provence, where they make a great deal of silk, which she
understood the management of, was desirous of trying whether they
could raise silk-worms with the mulberry leaves of this province, and
what sort of silk they would afford. The first of her experiments was,
to give some large silk-worms a parcel of the leaves of the Red
Mulberry, and another parcel of the White Mulberry both upon the same
frame. She observed the worms went over the leaves of both sorts,
without shewing any greater liking to the one than to the other: then
she put to the other two sorts of leaves some of the leaves of the
White-sweet or Sugar-Mulberry, and she found that the worms left the
other sorts to go to these, and that they preferred them to the leaves
of the common Red and White Mulberry. [Footnote: See an account of
these different sorts of Mulberry, in the notes at the end of this

The second experiment of Madam Hubert was, to raise and feed some
silk-worms separately. To some she gave the leaves of the common White
Mulberry, and to others the leaves of the White Sugar-Mulberry; in
order to see the difference of the silk from the difference of their
food. Moreover, she raised and fed some of the native silk-worms of
the country, which were taken very young from the mulberry-trees; but
she observed that these last were very flighty, and did nothing but
run up and down, their nature being, without doubt, to live upon
trees: she then changed their place, that they might not mix with the
other worms that came from France, and gave them little branches with
the leaves on them, which made them a little more settled.

{168} This industrious lady waited till the cocoons were perfectly
made, in order to observe the difference between them in unwinding the
silk; the success of which, and of all her other experiments, she was
so good as to give me a particular account of. When the cocoons were
ready to be wound, she took care of them herself, and found that the
wild worms yielded less silk than those from France; for although they
were of a larger size, they were not so well furnished with silk,
which proceeded, no doubt, from their not being sufficiently
nourished, by their running incessantly up and down; and accordingly
she observed that they were but meagre; but notwithstanding, their
silk was strong and thick, though coarse.

Those who were fed with the leaves of the Red Mulberry made cocoons
well furnished with silk; which was stronger and finer than that of
France. Those that were fed upon the leaves of the common White
Mulberry, had the same silk with those that were fed on the leaves of
the Red Mulberry. The fourth sort, again, that had been fed with the
leaves of the White Sugar-Mulberry, had but little silk; it was indeed
as fine as the preceding, but it was so weak and so brittle, that it
was with great difficulty they could wind it.

These are the experiments of this lady on silk-worms, which every one
may make his own uses of, in order to have the sorts of silk,
mulberries, or worms, that are most suitable to his purpose, and most
likely to turn to his account: which we are very glad of this
opportunity to inform them of, that they may see how much society owes
to those persons who take care to study nature, in order to promote
industry and public utility.


_Of_ Indigo, Tobacco, Cotton, Wax, Hops, _and_ Saffron.

The high lands of Louisiana produce a natural Indigo: what I saw in
two or three places where I have observed it, grew at the edges of the
thick woods, which shews it delights in a good, but light soil. One of
these stalks was but ten or twelve inches high, its wood at least
three lines in diameter, and of as {169} fine a green as its leaf; it
was as tender as the rib of a cabbage leaf; when its head was blown a
little, the two other stalks shot in a few days, the one seventeen,
the other nineteen inches high; the stem was six lines thick below,
and of a very lively green, and still very tender, the lower part only
began to turn brown a little; the tops of both were equally ill
furnished with leaves, and without branches; which makes it to be
presumed, that being so thriving and of so fine a growth, it would
have shot very high, and surpass in vigour and heighth the cultivated
Indigo. The stalk of the Indigo, cultivated by the French at the
Natchez, turned brown before it shot eleven or twelve inches; when in
seed it was five feet high and upwards, and surpassed in vigour what
was cultivated in the Lower Louisiana, that is, in the quarter about
New Orleans: but the natural, which I had an opportunity of seeing
only young and tender, promised to become much taller and stouter than
ours, and to yield more.

[Illustration: Indigo.]

The Indigo cultivated in Louisiana comes from the islands; its grain is
of the bigness of one line, and about a quarter longer, brown and hard,
flatted at the extremities, because it is compressed in its pod. This
grain is sown in a soil prepared like a garden, and the field where it
is cultivated is called the Indigo-garden. In order to sow it, holes are
made on a straight line with a small hoe, a foot asunder; in each hole
four or five {170} seeds are put, which are covered with earth; great
care is had not to suffer any strange plants to grow near it, which
would choak it; and it is sown a foot asunder, to the end it may draw
the fuller nourishment, and be weeded without grazing or ruffling the
leaf, which is that which gives the Indigo. When its leaf is quite come
to its shape, it resembles exactly that of the Acacia, so well known in
France, only that it is smaller.

It is cut with large pruning-knives, or a sort of sickles, with about
six or seven inches aperture, which should be pretty strong. It ought
to be cut before its wood hardens; and to be green as its leaf, which
ought, however, to have a bluish eye or cast. When cut it is conveyed
into the rotting-tub, as we shall presently explain. According as the
soil is better or worse, it shoots higher or lower; the tuft of the
first cutting, which grows round, does not exceed eight inches in
heighth and breadth: the second cutting rises sometimes to a foot. In
cutting the Indigo you are to set your foot upon the root, in order to
prevent the pulling it out of the earth; and to be upon your guard not
to cut yourself, as the tool is dangerous.

In order to make an Indigo-work, a shed is first of all to be built:
this building is at least twenty feet high, without walls or flooring,
but only covered. The whole is built upon posts, which may be closed
with mats, if you please: this building has twenty feet in breadth,
and at least thirty in length. In this shed three vats or large tubs
are set in such a manner, that the water may be easily drained off
from the first, which is the lowermost and smallest. The second rests
with the edge of its bottom on the upper edge of the first, so that
the water may easily run from it into the one below. This second vat
is not broader but deeper than the first, and is called the Battery;
for this reason it has its beaters, which are little buckets formed of
four ends of boards, about eight inches long, which together have the
figure of the hopper of a mill; a stick runs across them, which is put
into a wooden fork, in order to beat the Indigo: there are two of them
on each side, which in all make four.

The third vat is placed in the same manner over the second, and is as
big again, that it may hold the leaves; it is called the {171}
Rotting-tub, because the leaves which are put into it are deadened,
not corrupted or spoiled therein. The Indigo-operator, who conducts
the whole work, knows when it is time to let the water into the second
vat; then he lets go the cock; for if the leaves were left too long,
the Indigo would be too black; it must have no more time than what is
sufficient to discharge a kind of flower or froth that is found upon
the leaf.

The water, when it is all in the second vat, is beat till the
Indigo-operator gives orders to cease; which he does not before he has
several times taken up some of this water with a silver cup, by way of
assay, in order to know the exact time in which they ought to give
over beating the water: and this is a secret which practice alone can
teach with certainty.

When the Indigo-operator finds that the water is sufficiently beaten,
he lets it settle till he can draw off the water clear; which is done
by means of several cocks one above another, for fear of losing the
Indigo. For this purpose, if the water is clear, the highest cock is
opened, the second in like manner, till the water is observed to be
tinged; then they shut the cock: the same is done in all the cocks
till all the Indigo be in a pap at the bottom of the second vat. The
first, or small vat, serves only to purify the water which is found to
be tinged, and let run while clear.

When the Indigo is well settled, they put it in cloth bags a foot and
six inches wide, with a small circle at top, which helps to receive
the Indigo with ease; it is suffered to drain till it gives no more
water: however, it must be moist enough to spread it in the mould with
a wooden knife or spatula.

In order to have the seed, they suffer it to run up as many feet as
they foresee shall be necessary for seed; it shoots four or five feet
high, according to the quality of the soil. There are four cuttings of
it in the islands, where the climate is warmer; three good cuttings
are made in Louisiana, and of as good a quality at least as in the

Tobacco, which was found among the Indians of Louisiana, seems also to
be a native of the country, seeing their ancient tradition informs us,
that from time immemorial they {172} have, in their treaties of peace
and in their embassies, used the pipe, the principal use of which is
that the deputies shall all smoke therein. This native Tobacco is very
large; its stalk, when suffered to run to seed, shoots to five feet
and a half and six feet; the lower part of its stem is at least
eighteen lines in diameter, and its leaves often near two feet long,
which are thick and succulent, its juice is strong, but never
disorders the head. The Tobacco of Virginia has a broader but shorter
leaf; its stalk is smaller, and runs not up so high; its smell is not
disagreeable, but not so strong; it takes more plants to make a pound,
because its leaf is thinner, and not so full of sap as the native.
What is cultivated in the Lower Louisiana is smaller, and not so
strong; but that made in the islands is thinner than that of
Louisiana, but much stronger, and disorders the head.

In order to sow Tobacco, you make a bed on the best piece of ground
you are master of, and give it six inches in heighth; this earth you
beat and make level with the back of a spade; you afterwards sow the
seed, which is extremely fine, nearly resembling poppy seed. It must
be sown thin, and notwithstanding that attention, it often happens to
be too thick. When the seed is sown, the earth is no longer stirred,
but the seed is covered with ashes the thickness of a farthing, to
prevent the worms from eating the tobacco when it is just shooting out
of the earth.

As soon as the tobacco has four leaves, it is transplanted into a soil
prepared for it, put into holes a foot broad made in a line, and
distant three feet every way; a distance not too great, in order to
weed it with ease, without breaking the leaves.

The best time for transplanting it is after rain, otherwise you must
water it: in like manner, when the seed is in the earth, if it rains
not, you must gently sprinkle it towards evening, because it is
somewhat slow in rising, and when it is sprouted it requires a little
water. You must lightly cover the plant in the day time with some
leaves plucked the night before; a precaution on no account to be
dispensed with, till the young plant has fully struck root. You must
also daily visit the {173} tobacco, to clear it of caterpillars, which
fasten upon it, and would entirely eat it up, if they are not
destroyed. The tobacco-caterpillar is of the shape of a silk-worm, has
a prickle on its back towards its extremity; its colour is of the most
beautiful sea-green, striped with silver-streaks; in a word, it is as
beautiful to the eye as it is fatal to the plant it is fond of.

I gave great attention to keep my plantation clear of all weeds,
observing in weeding it with the hoe not to touch the stalks, about
which I caused to lay new earth, as well to secure them against gusts
of wind, as to enable them to draw from the earth a more abundant
nourishment. When the tobacco began to put forth suckers, I plucked
them off, because they would have shot into branches, which would
impoverish the leaves, and for the same reason stopped the tobacco
from shooting above the twelfth leaf, afterwards stripping off the
four lowermost, which never come to any thing. Hitherto I did nothing
but what was ordinarily done by those who cultivate tobacco with some
degree of care; but my method of proceeding afterwards was different.

I saw my neighbours strip the leaves of tobacco from the stalk, string
them, set them to dry, by hanging them out in the air, then put them
in heaps, to make them sweat. As for me, I carefully examined the
plant, and when I observed the stem begin to turn yellow here and
there, I caused the stalk to be cut with a pruning-knife, and left it
for some time on the earth to deaden. Afterwards it was carried off,
on handbarrows, because it is thus less exposed to be broken than on
the necks of negroes. When it was brought to the house, I caused it to
be hung up, with the big end of the stem turned upwards, the leaves of
each stalk slightly touching one another, being well assured they
would shrivel in drying, and no longer touch each other. It hereby
happened, that the juice contained in the pith (sometimes as big as
one's finger) of the stem of the plant, flowed into the leaves, and
augmenting their sap, made them much more mild and waxy. As fast as
these leaves assumed a bright chesnut colour, I stripped them from the
stalk, and made them directly into bundles, which I wrapped up in a
cloth, and bound it close with a cord for twenty four hours; {174}
then undoing the cloth, they were tied up closer still. This tobacco
turned black and so waxy, that it could not be rasped in less than a
year; but then it had a substance and flavour so much the more
agreeable, as it never affected the head; and so I sold it for double
the price of the common.

The cotton which is cultivated in Louisiana, is of the species of the
white Siam, [Footnote: This East-India annual cotton has been found to
be much better and whiter than what is cultivated in our colonies,
which is of the Turkey kind. Both of them keep their colour better in
washing, and are whiter than the perennial cotton that comes from the
islands, although this last is of a longer staple.] though not so
soft, nor so long as the silk-cotton; it is extremely white and very
fine, and a very good use may be made of it. This cotton is produced,
not from a tree, as in the East-Indies, but from a plant, and thrives
much better in light than in strong and fat lands, such as those of
the Lower Louisiana, where it is not so fine as on the high grounds.

This plant may be cultivated in lands newly cleared, and not yet
proper for tobacco, much less for indigo, which requires a ground well
worked like a garden. The seeds of cotton are planted three feet
asunder, more or less according to the quality of the soil: the field
is weeded at the proper season, in order to clear it of the noxious
weeds, and fresh earth laid to the root of the plant, to secure it
against the winds. The cotton requires weeding, neither so often, nor
so carefully as other plants; and the care of gathering is the
employment of young people, incapable of harder labour.

When the root of the cotton is once covered with fresh earth, and the
weeds are removed, it is suffered to grow without further touching it,
till it arrives to maturity. Then its heads or pods open into five
parts, and expose their cotton to view. When the sun has dried the
cotton well, it is gathered in a proper manner, and conveyed into the
conservatory; after which comes on the greatest task, which is to
separate it from the grain or seed to which it closely adheres; and it
is this part of the work, which disgusts the inhabitants in the
cultivation {175} of it. I contrived a mill for the purpose, tried it,
and found it to succeed, so as to dispatch the work very much.

[Illustration: Top: Cotton on the stalk--Bottom: Rice on the stalk]

The culture of indigo, tobacco, and cotton, may be easily carried on
without any interruption to the making of silk, as any one of these is
no manner of hindrance to the other. In the first place, the work
about these three plants does not come on till after the worms have
spun their silk: in the second place, {176} the feeding and cleaning
the silk-worm requires no great degree of strength; and thus the care
employed about them interrupts no other sort of work, either as to
time, or as to the persons employed therein. It suffices for this
operation to have a person who knows how to feed and clean the worms;
young negroes of both sexes might assist this person, little skill
sufficing for this purpose: the oldest of the young negroes, when
taught, might shift the worms and lay the leaves; the other young
negroes gather and fetch them; and all this labour, which takes not up
the whole day, lasts only for about six weeks. It appears therefore,
that the profit made of the silk is an additional benefit, so much the
more profitable, as it diverts not the workmen from their ordinary
tasks. If it be objected, that buildings are requisite to make silk to
advantage; I answer, buildings for the purpose cost very little in a
country where wood may be had for taking; I add farther, that these
buildings may be made and daubed with mud by any persons about the
family; and besides, may serve for hanging tobacco in, two months
after the silk-worms are gone.

I own I have not seen the wax-tree cultivated in Louisiana; people
content themselves to take the berries of this tree, without being at
pains to rear it; but as I am persuaded it would be very advantageous
to make plantations of it, I shall give my sentiments on the culture
proper for this tree, after the experiments I made in regard to it.

I had some seeds of the wax-tree brought me to Fontenai le Comte, in
Poictou, some of which I gave to several of my friends, but not one of
them came up. I began to reflect, that Poictou not being by far so
warm as Louisiana, these seeds would have difficulty to shoot; I
therefore thought it was necessary to supply by art the defect of
nature; I procured horse, cow, sheep, and pigeon's dung in equal
quantity, all which I put in a vessel of proportionable size, and
poured on them water, almost boiling, in order to dissolve their
salts: this water I drew off, and steeped the grains in a sufficient
quantity thereof for forty-eight hours; after which I sowed them in a
box full of good earth; seven of them came up, and made shoots between
seven and eight inches high, but they were all {177} killed by the
frost for want of putting them into the greenhouse.

This seed having such difficulty to come up, I presume that the wax,
in which it is wrapped up, hinders the moisture from penetrating into,
and making its kernel shoot; and there fore I should think that those
who choose to sow it, would do well if they previously rolled it
lightly between two small boards just rough from the saw; this
friction would cause the pellicle of wax to scale off with so much the
greater facility, as it is naturally very dry; and then it might be
put to steep.

Hops grow naturally in Louisiana, yet such as have a desire to make
use of them for themselves, or sell them to brewers, cultivate this
plant. It is planted in alleys, distant asunder six feet, in holes two
feet and one foot deep, in which the root is lodged. When shot a good
deal, a pole of the size of one's arm, and between twelve and fifteen
feet long, is fixed in the hole; care is had to direct the shoots
towards it, which fail not to run up the pole. When the flower is ripe
and yellowish, the stem is cut quite close to the earth and the pole
pulled out, in order to pick the flowers, which are saved.

If we consider the climate of Louisiana, and the quality of the high
lands of that province, we might easily produce saffron there. The
culture of this plant would be so much the more advantageous to the
planters, as the neighbourhood of Mexico would procure a quick and
useful vent for it.


_Of the Commerce that, and may be carried on in_ Louisiana. _Of the
Commodities which that Province may furnish in return for those of_
Europe. _Of the Commerce of_ Louisiana _with the Isles_.

I have often reflected on the happiness of France in the portion which
Providence has allotted her in America. She has found in her lands
neither the gold nor silver of Mexico and Peru, nor the precious
stones and rich stuffs of the East-Indies; but she will find therein,
when she pleases, mines of iron, lead, and copper. She is there
possessed of a fertile soil, {178} which only requires to be occupied
in order to produce not only all the fruits necessary and agreeable to
life, but also all the subjects on which human industry may exercise
itself in order to supply our wants. What I have already said of
Louisiana ought to make this very plain; but to bring the whole
together, in order, and under one point of view, I shall next relate
every thing that regards the commerce of this province.

_Commodities which_ Louisiana _may furnish in return for those
of_ Europe.

France might draw from this colony several sorts of furs, which would
not be without their value, though held cheap in France; and by their
variety, and the use that might be made of them, would yield
satisfaction. Some persons have dissuaded the traders from taking any
furs from the Indians, on a supposition that they would be moth-eaten
when carried to New-Orleans, on account of the heat of the climate:
but I am acquainted with people of the business, who know how to
preserve them from such an accident.

Dry buffalo hides are of sufficient value to encourage the Indians to
procure them, especially if they were told, that only their skins and
tallow were wanted; they would then kill the old bulls, which are so
fat as scarce to be able to go: each buffalo would yield at least a
hundred pounds of tallow; the value of which, with the skin, would
make it worth their while to kill them, and thus none of our money
would be sent to Ireland in order to have tallow from that country;
besides the species of buffaloes would not be diminished, because
these fat buffaloes are always the prey of wolves.

Deer-skins, which were bought of the Indians at first, did not please
the manufacturers of Niort, where they are dressed, because the
Indians altered the quality by their way of dressing them; but since
these skins have been called for without any preparation but taking
off the hair, they make more of them, and sell them cheaper than

The wax-tree produces wax, which being much drier than bees-wax, may
bear mixture, which will not hinder its lasting longer than bees-wax.
Some of this wax was sent to Paris to {179} a factor of Louisiana, who
set so low a price upon it as to discourage the planters from sowing
any more. The sordid avarice of this factor has done a service to the
islands, where it gives a higher price than that of France.

The islands also draw timber for building from Louisiana, which might
in time prevent France from making her profits of the beauty,
goodness, and quantity of wood of this province. The quality of the
timber is a great inducement to build docks there for the construction
of ships: the wood might be had at a low price of the inhabitants,
because they would get it in winter, which is almost an idle time with
them. This labour would also clear the grounds, and so this timber
might be had almost for nothing. Masts might be also had in the
country, on account of the number of pines which the coast produces;
and for the same reason pitch and tar would be common. For the planks
of ships, there is no want of oak; but might not very good one be made
of cypress? this wood is, indeed, softer than oak, but endowed with
qualities surpassing this last: it is light, not apt to split or warp,
is supple and easily worked; in a word, it is incorruptible both in
air and water; and thus making the planks stouter than ordinary, there
would be no inconvenience from the use of cypress. I have observed,
that this wood is not injured by the worm, and ship-worms might
perhaps have the same aversion to it as other worms have.

Other wood fit for the building of ships is very common in this
country; such as elm, ash, alder, and others. There are likewise in
this country several species of wood, which might sell in France for
joiners work and fineering, as the cedar, the black walnut, and the
cotton-tree. Nothing more would therefore be wanting for compleating
ships but cordage and iron. As to hemp, it grows so strong as to be
much fitter for making cables than cloth. The iron might be brought
from France, as also sails; however, there needs only to open the iron
mine at the cliffs of the Chicasaws, called Prud'homme, to set up
forges, and iron will be readily had. The king, therefore, might cause
all sorts of shipping to be built there at so small a charge, that a
moderate expence would procure a numerous fleet. If the English build
ships in their colonies {180} from which they draw great advantages,
why might not we do the same in Louisiana?

France fetches a great deal of saltpetre from Holland and Italy; she
may draw from Louisiana more than she will have occasion for, if once
she sets about it. The great fertility of the country is an evident
proof thereof, confirmed by the avidity of cloven-footed animals to
lick the earth, in all places where the torrents have broke it up: it
is well known how fond these creatures are of salt. Saltpetre might be
made there with all the ease imaginable, on account of the plenty of
wood and water; it would besides be much more pure than what is
commonly had, the earth not being fouled with dunghills; and on the
other hand, it would not be dearer than what is now purchased by
France in other places.

What commerce might not be made with Silk? The silk-worms might be
reared with much greater success in this country than in France, as
appears from the trials that have been made, and which I have above

The lands of Louisiana are very proper for the culture of Saffron, and
the climate would contribute to produce it in great abundance; and,
what would still be a considerable advantage, the Spaniards of Mexico,
who consume a great deal of it, would enhance its price.

I have spoken of Hemp, in respect to the building of ships: but such
as might be built there, would never be sufficient to employ all the
hemp which might be raised in that colony, did the inhabitants
cultivate as much of it as they well might. But you will say, Why do
they not? My answer is, the inhabitants of this colony only follow the
beaten track they have got into: but if they saw an intelligent person
sow hemp without any great expence or labour, as the soil is very fit
for it; if, I say, they saw that it thrives without weeding; that in

Book of the day: