Chicago where French is spoken since 1673

In the history stories of Chicago in the 17th century alone, the French facts of the third largest city by population in the United States in the heart of the Midwest are numerous and delectable. Here are a few.

The need for the Illinois and Michigan Canal to launch Chicago’s economic development was first suggested by Louis Jolliet in 1673 during a portage between Des Plaines River and Chicago River.

The historical marker at 2631 Damen Avenue, formerly Fond du Lac Street, indicates the place where Fathers Jacques Marquette, Jacques Largillier and Pierre Porteret erected their dwelling in 1674 among the Native Miamis.

Winter Quarters of Father Marquette in Chicago in 1674 among the Miamis (source

Robert Cavalier de La Salle stayed in Chicagou in 1679. In two of his travelling letters, reported in Jesuit Relations, he referred to “Chicagou” as his location on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan.

In 1684, Chicagou appeared for the first time on the map of New France that was drawn by Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, King Louis XIV’s cartographer, working in Québec City for Governor Frontenac.

In 1685, Fort Chicago was built by Olivier Morel de la Durantaye, as a secured warehouse for the goods of Fort Saint-Louis du Rocher at Starved Rock on the Illinois River which had been attacked by Iroquois the previous year.

Henri Joutel, son of a gardener from Rouen (France) and a lieutenant of La Salle, inhabited Chicagou for three weeks in 1687-88 to inquire about the origin of the name, an Algonquian word meaning “wild onion”.

In 1693, Pierre d’You Sieur de la Découverte married a Native American woman from the Miami First Nation called Elizabeth. This event was the first recorded marriage in Chicago.

Pierre François Pinet and Julien Pineteau, Jesuit priests, founded the Mission of the Guardian Angel among the Miamis at Chicago in 1696.

From 1697 to about 1702, Pierre-Charles Sieur de Liette, Henri Tonti’s aide-de-camp, operated a fur trading post near the site where Fort Dearborn was built 100 years later.

French is the only international language that has accompanied Chicago on its timeline from birth to present.

The Founder of Chicago

Photo WBEZ

Haitian Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, son of a French-Canadian father, made Chicago his home in 1780 and became the first permanent resident. His property was located on what is now Pioneer Court Square on the bank of Chicago River. DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue was named in his honor. The site is considered the be the cradle of Chicago. Around 1803, DuSable’s property was purchased by John Kinzie, a fur trader born in Québec City (nicknamed America’s accent). DuSable, the first Chicagoan, received the honorary title of “Founder of Chicago” in 1968.

The Mission of the Guardian Angel among the Miamis would be located here (photo Thaddeus Roan)

The 1696 Mission of the Guardian Angel among the Miamis was located in present day downtown Chicago, where the gigantic Merchandise Mart building is situated at the confluence of the North and South branches of the Chicago River. This reputable French mission greatly benefited from its location at the crossing of two busy Aboriginal trails, the Baye Trail leading to Green Bay (in Wisconsin) founded by Jean Nicolet in 1634 and the Vistula Trail between Chicago and Toledo (in Ohio) at the western end of Lake Erie in proximity of Detroit founded by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701.