Fort St. Louis

The site of the earliest European settlement on the entire Gulf coast between Pensacola, Florida, and Tampico, Mexico is in Victoria County in East Texas. Most often called Fort St. Louis, this outpost is an example of the three-way struggle for America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Spanish explorers made their way north and south from the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. England had its colonies on the Atlantic coast. France claimed Canada and the Great Lakes region, then wanted the center of the continent via its greatest river, the Mississippi.

The explorer La Salle brought a group of 180 French colonists to Victoria County in 1685. He was searching for the Mississippi River, hoping to settle his colony there. The expedition, however, missed its target and landed instead on the Texas coast, 400 miles away from the Mississippi River.

The colonists struggled and died in the wilderness from disease. They were ambushed by the Indians and died from eating poisonous fruits picked in the unknown environment.

The little colony had no defensive wall, only eight useless cannons arranged around a few rough buildings.

Only one child was born in the colony, but he only lived a few months.

By the time La Salle left the colony in January 1687 to seek help, less than 50 colonists remained. They waited in hope for rescue, but no help ever arrived.

The French settlers were killed by the Karankawa Indians. Later, Spaniards burned the buildings and buried the bodies and the eight cannons.

La Salle went on to discover the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Source: Fort St. Louis
Copyright Texas Beyond History, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL) at the University of Texas at Austin

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