Radisson and des Grosseilliers
Expedition to Lake Superior

In 1659, Radisson and des Grosseilliers began their first venture together. Des Grosseilliers was aware of rich furs available to the west of Lake Superior and this would be where they would go first.

Southwest of Lake Superior, Radisson and des Grosseilliers set up at trading post at Chagouagimon and, from there, continued west where they explored and mapped the headwaters of the Mississippi River. During this voyage, they also explored and mapped the Pigeon and Gooseberry Rivers. ('Gooseberry' is the English translation of 'Grosseilliers', and the name by which des Grosseilliers would become known to the British.)

On their return to Trois-Rivières, Radisson and des Grosseilliers encountered a 'grand portage' of Assiniboine and Cree who were en route to the trading post in the east. The two Frenchmen joined the group and finished their journey with them, learning that the Assiniboine were from the western sea (probably Lake Superior) and that the Cree were from the northern sea (Hudson Bay). They would not travel to Hudson Bay on this voyage, but they knew the importance of discovering an over-land route for the French. By setting up trading posts on Hudson Bay, the French could avoid the Iroquois invasions and the Dutch competition to the south of the St. Lawrence.

They arrived in Quebec on August 24, 1660, to cannon salvos from both the fort and trading ships anchored in the harbour. Without the load of furs which Radisson and des Grosseilliers had brought with them, the ships would have returned to France empty.

The excitement and notariety would be short-lived, however. Not only would they be unable to convince the French of the importance of setting up trading posts on Hudson Bay, but they were also fined by the new Governor General of New France who had declared it illegal to trade west of Montreal. The furs were confiscated and the brothers-in-law received no compensation for them. As a final injustice, the two men were imprisoned for having left the colony without permission from the Governor.

These actions began an influx of illegal fur traders known as 'coureurs des bois', but it also caused Radisson and des Grosseilliers to change their allegiance to Britain - for the first time - and to create the Hudson's Bay Company.


Radisson and des Grosseilliers

Médard Chouart des Grosseilliers
Pierre-Esprit Radisson
* Expedition to Lake Superior *
Changing Allegiance
Hudson Bay Company
Back to France
The Final Chapter