French Explorers:
Trade was Their Business

French explorers were on the move west.  The Spanish were settled in the uncharted territory of Colorado, enslaving the Native Americans.  They had no idea others were heading their way.

As early as 1682, a Frenchman named La Salle, floated down the Mississippi River from Canada, where they had settled.

La Salle claimed the Mississippi and the land surrounding it for France, in the name of King Louis.

Other Frenchmen started exploring the area west of the Mississippi and closer to the land the Spanish occupied.


LaSalle Led French Explorers Further West

The Spanish, aware of the westward movement of the French, sent an expedition in 1720 to the eastern part of Colorado to assert their authority as the first to claim the state for Spain.

A man named Villasur led more than 100 Spanish troops to the plains of Colorado, where they were ambushed by Indians along the South Platte River.

The Indians were probably led by Frenchmen.  The ambush ended Spain's rule in the eastern part of Colorado.


The French were more kindly to the Native Americans under their rule.

Many became friends with the Indians, traded with them, hunted with them and learned their culture.


With the new land in French hands, more explorers started investigating the state of Colorado.

The Mallet brothers traveled the Platte River with six other Frenchmen.

In 1739 they gave the river its name, Platte.  At the time, the brothers tried to ford the river in a flat bottomed boat called a platte.

They followed the Platte River on a southwest direction that fed into the Arkansas River and from this river, on to Timpas Creek to the present land around Trinidad.


The Mallet brothers were the first to chart the route through Colorado.

Interesting to note that the brother's trail is the present day route of the Santa Fe Railroad.

The brothers returned to French owned Louisiana and never came back to Colorado.

Because of the Mallet's, the French headed west to trade with the Indians and the Spanish.

They were successful traders and the Spanish were jealous of their trading skills.  So they refused to trade with them.


The French were doing well in the territory, until the French-Indian War.

It is misnamed because the war was not between the French and Indians, who they befriended.

The war was between France and England. A contest to see which country would expand America.

In 1763, the English won and France ceded all the land they claimed to Spain, who were England's allies.

Spain now owned the whole state of Colorado, as well as all French territory in the colonial U.S.


All was well until 1800, when Napoleon pressured Spain to give the Great Louisiana Territory back to France.

Then in 1803, France sold the territory to the United States.  This was know as the "Louisiana Purchase".

It opened up a whole new world for the colonial U.S.



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