La Salle: An Explorer Who Charted A Legacy

Feb 11, 2014

Credit wikipedia
Rene-Robert Cavelier de La Salle died more than 300 years ago.  But his achievements can still be felt today in Illinois and the midwest.

"He had a vision. He had a big dream.  That was to connect Canada, Quebec and the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River," historian Mark Walczynski said.  

La Salle built a trading post at what is now Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois.  Walczynski works there with the Starved Rock Educational Historical Foundation.  He brings his wealth of knowledge on the subject to Springfield this Wednesday as the featured speaker at the next Illinois State Museum Science Series lecture.

La Salle's dream was realized, though he never saw it. 

"It ended up being quite successful because we are the beneficiaries of it today.  He was the one who was able to build a foundation that everything else was built off of," Walczynski said.

La Salle was forced to leave Illinois soon after his base of operations was complete.  Reports of his arrogance toward subordinates might have led to his demise.  He was killed in a mutiny in what is now Texas.  The fort at Starved Rock was overtaken by Native Americans a year later.

Walczynski will lecture about the difficulties La Salle faced.  He'll also discuss La Salle's writings and show how his efforts are still visible today. 

The lecture begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday February 12 at the State Museum's Research and Collections Center at 1011 E. Ash St.  Admission is free.