Early exploration across pre-statehood Texas unravels over the course of several centuries, providing history enthusiasts with real life adventure stories writ large.
Some of the first expeditions, led by French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and financed by the notorious King Louis XIV, succeeded in opening much of the Mississippi to later exploration and claimed the Texas territory for France, making some of our ancestors French subjects, if only briefly. But La Salle's final adventure reads like a thriller. Mutiny, pirates, and hapless orienteering plagued the expedition from the get-go, landing La Salle's men and his charge—a group of colonists—at Matagorda Bay where they attempted to survive in misery. His ships suffered as well, with the last, La Belle, wrecked off the Matagorda peninsula in a squall.
Leaving the colonists to fend for themselves, La Salle headed north with a small expedition only to be ambushed and murdered by one of his men, Pierre Duhaut. Most of the remaining colonists fared no better. Men and women were killed by the local Karankawa, leaving the children to tribal adoption. Two surviving children suffered a final insult as well. Once rescued by the French enemy (the Spanish), they were sent to Mexico in servitude to the viceroy Conde de Galve. But as tragic as La Salle's exploits appear, they also offer grist for today's heritage enthusiasts who can view the archived remains, including the shipwrecked guts of La Belle, in museums across the Texas coast.
Explore the La Salle Odyssey with the following Texas Historical Commission travel resources:
Mobile Tour – Go mobile with the La Salle Odyssey mobile tour, featuring a rich blend of images, videos, first-person interviews, maps, and useful visitor information for exploring historical sites across Texas.
Texas Time Travel website – Use the map and links below to explore La Salle Odyssey historic sites in Texas.