Catholicism in French Lower Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, 1673–1763
In July 1673, on the Mississippi River just above its junction with the Arkansas River, a French Catholic missionary first encountered natives in what would become the American South. French Jesuit Jacques Marquette, and five other Frenchmen had left Mackinac Island on a journey in search of a great river. Fr. Marquette's brief visit to an area that eventually became the state of Arkansas heralded a French presence that would last for nine decades in the lower Mississippi River and Gulf coast, virtually dividing Spain's colonies of Florida and Texas. Using Roman Catholicism, France would, in time, send missionaries to this portion of the American South, yet it was no accident that Marquette had entered the American South from Quebec, which had served as France's base for empire in North America since 1608. Nine years after Marquette, Robert de La Salle made his major contribution for France's empire with his trip down the Mississippi River.
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