Hennepin, Louis

Hennepin, Louis hĕnˈəpĭn [key], 1640–1701?, French cleric and explorer in North America. A Franciscan Recollect friar, Hennepin came to Canada in 1675, meeting on the journey La Salle, who made him chaplain of his proposed Western expedition in 1678. After some time spent at Fort Frontenac the party sailed (1679) in the Griffon, the first ship on the Great Lakes, for Green Bay. La Salle crossed to the Mississippi by the Illinois route and from there sent Hennepin with the expedition, led by Michel Aco, which was the first to explore the upper Mississippi valley. They ascended the river to Minnesota, where they were captured by the Sioux. In the course of his captivity Hennepin first saw and named the Falls of St. Anthony, where Minneapolis was located afterward. He was rescued by Duluth. After returning to France, Hennepin claimed in his Description de la Louisiane (1682) the leadership and all the credit for the upper Mississippi expedition. Later, in his Nouveau Voyage (1696) and Nouvelle Découverte (1697), he falsely claimed to have descended the Mississippi to its mouth. His narratives, however, have undeniable charm and importance. He was the first to describe such parts of America as the upper Mississippi and Niagara Falls. R. G. Thwaite's translation, Hennepin's New Discovery (1903, repr. 1972) contains a biography and bibliography.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies