CCHA, Report, 16 (1949), 13-24
Earliest Catholic Footprints in Minnesota
THE RT. REV. JAMES M. REARDON, P.A.
At first sight it may seem somewhat presumptuous to ask the members of the Canadian Catholic Historical Association and their guests meeting, for the first time outside the East, in Winnipeg, the key-city of the Canadian West, to listen to a paper on a subject which, apparently, has no connection with the Catholic Church in the Dominion of Canada with the history of which they are primarily concerned. And yet those who are familiar with the work of the pioneer missionaries in the valley of the Mississippi know that there is a very intimate and interesting connection between the nascent church in Canada and the preaching of the gospel to the Indians and the early colonists in that part of the United States acquired from France by the Louisiana purchase of 1803.
The first missionaries in that region were members of the Recollect and Jesuit Orders and of the diocesan clergy from the Seminary of Quebec who ventured into the immense area extending from the Mississippi to the Rockies in the wake of La Salle who, in 1682, paddled down the great river to the Gulf of Mexico and took possession of all the lands drained and fertilized by it, on behalf of his sovereign, Louis XIV of France, in whose honor he named it Louisiana.
When the Western World was discovered by Columbus in 1492 a new impetus was given to exploration, colonization and evangelization. The Catholic missionaries who came in the wake of the discoverer were the intrepid explorers of the new land. They penetrated into its vast interior, crossed its wind-swept plains, hewed their way through its trackless forests, charted its lakes and rivers, explored its fertile valleys and climbed its rugged mountains. They gave to its majestic rivers, its broad-bosomed lakes and its myriad hamlets the names of the heroes and heroines of our faith and set up altars for the aboriginal inhabitants and venturesome colonists and thus laid the foundation of religious progress and material prosperity. To these pioneer explorers and missionaries the Church owes a debt of gratitude which it can never repay.
When news of the discovery became known to the people of the Old World the Kings of Spain and of France made efforts to explore the new land for the purpose of colonizing and developing it and bringing the message of the gospel to the aborigines who roamed its fertile plains, and the immigrants who came to take possession of its broad acres.
The new land beyond the uncharted Atlantic belonged to Spain by right of discovery. The claim was ratified by the Bull of Pope Alexander VI, issued on May 4, 1493, by which he also conferred on Ferdinand and Isabella the title of “Catholic.” What is now the State of Minnesota was then included in the domain of their Catholic Majesties. With the beginning of French exploration in the sixteenth century it became part of the realm of their Most Christian Majesties, the Kings of France.
A Spanish expedition headed by De Soto and carrying eight priests and four friars sailed from the homeland on April 6, 1538, landed in Florida and was decimated by hostile Indians. The remnant pushed its way northward and crossed the Mississippi near the present city of Memphis. De Soto was the first European to cross the mighty river of the distant western plains which has its source in Minnesota, and in its murky bosom he found a watery grave on May 21, 1542. There is no record that any of the priests survived long enough to celebrate Mass or utter a prayer on its banks.
An expedition sent out by the King of France and led by Jacques Cartier of Saint Malo discovered and named the St. Lawrence river in 1535 and thus paved the way for the development of the territory along its banks and the evangelization of the roaming Indians, its only inhabitants.
With the founding of Quebec by Champlain in 1608, the roots of the Catholic Faith were planted in the New World under the aegis of France. He it was who established the first colony on the rocky promontory that guards the St. Lawrence waterway and initiated the fur trade with the Indians and sought means of christianizing them. At his request the Recollect Fathers came from France in 1615 and labored for ten years among the savages with heroic dedication. The Jesuits came to their aid and eight of them – six priests and two lay brothers – were called upon to fertilize the soil of New France with martyr blood during the decade prior to 1650.
Father Jogues and Raymbaut were the first white men to pass through the Sault Ste. Marie in 1641 and stand on the shore of Lake Superior whence they could gaze into the land of the Sioux in the upper reaches of the Mississippi.
When La Salle accompanied by the Recollect Father Membre reached the mouth of the Mississippi in April, 1682, Louisiana became part of the farflung diocese over which the Bishop of Quebec exercised spiritual jurisdiction for, according to the Bull of erection issued in 1674, “the See of Quebec comprehended all the possessions of France in North America... all New France from the Atlantic to the plains of the far West, the valley of the Mississippi and Louisiana, a territory much larger than Europe.” The present state of Minnesota was carved out of the northern portion of Louisiana and thus affiliated by spiritual ties to the primatial See of the continent. No Catholic explorer or missionary set foot within its confines before the middle of the seventeenth century, with one notable exception of which we shall speak at some length after calling attention to a more intimate and recent link between the Church in Minnesota and the Church in Manitoba as an additional pretext for the presentation of this paper.
When the Diocese of St. Paul was erected on July 19, 1850, two of the three priests within its immense area of about 160,000 square miles – Fathers Belcourt and Lacombe of the Diocese of St. Boniface – were stationed at Pembina where, in 1818, Father Dumoulin erected a primitive altar and ministered to the Indians, half-breeds and others who had migrated to that region from Fort Douglas, named St. Boniface by his superior and companion, Father Provencher, who was destined to be the first Vicar Apostolic of Western Canada. At that time Pembina, now in North Dakota, was considered British territory. Father Dumoulin was the first priest to celebrate Mass in what is now the Ecclesiastical Province of St. Paul.
THE MINNESOTA RUNE STONE
And now we hark back nearly six hundred years to a time when this continent was veiled in densest darkness to call attention to an event which occurred long before Minnesota and Manitoba were even dreamed of as political entities. Three hundred years before Quebec was constituted an episcopal see, and more than four hundred and fifty years before Fathers Provencher and Dumoulin reached the scene of their future labors near where we are assembled today, a band of Vikings paddled down the Red River of the North, passing by the site of the future cities of Winnipeg and St. Boniface, and found their way almost to the very heart of what is now Minnesota where they left a record of their journeyings on what is known as the Kensington Rune Stone, a relic of the heroic and tragic wanderings of a group of Catholic explorers from the distant fiords of Scandinavia who, in their hour of trial, invoked the aid of the Mother of God in the first prayer of which we have any extant account in the Western World.
This band of Vikings, among whom there may have been a priest, camped beside a lake in the Minnesota wilderness. The written record of their amazing voyage, unique in the annals of travel, came to light on November 8, 1898, when a Swedish farmer, Olof Ohmann, living about three miles northeast of Kensington in Douglas County, unearthed a stone with peculiar markings on it as he was clearing a wooded knoll for cultivation, a knoll which rises to a height of about fifty feet above a sedgy marsh which surrounds what might have been an island ages ago. That inscribed stone, known as the Kensington Rune Stone, but more fittingly described as the Minnesota Rune Stone, is believed to be the oldest native historical document on the continent, if not in the Western Hemisphere, and gives our state a place in the sun peculiarly its own. The inscription on it is written in what is known as runic characters not uncommon in Scandinavian countries in the Middle Ages.
If it be genuine, and the consensus of competent scholarly opinion points in that direction, it proves beyond reasonable doubt that Christ was in Minnesota more than a century before Columbus, that representatives of the Catholic Church were in the state in Pre-Columbian days, and that the first prayer of record on the continent was borne heavenward from the shore of one of its ten thousand lakes.
Before describing the circumstances under which the stone was discovered and the efforts made to decipher its message we satisfy a legitimate curiosity by giving a translation of the inscription:
“Eight Goths [Swedes] and twenty-two Norwegians upon an exploring journey from Vinland very far west. We have a camp by two skerries [rocks in the water] one day’s journey from this stone. We were out fishing one day. When we returned home we found ten men red with blood and dead. A V M [Ave Maria or Ave Virgo Maria] save us from evil.
“We have ten men by the sea to look after our vessel, fourteen [fortyone ?] days’ journey from this island. Year 1362.”
The stone, now on exibition in the Minnesota Historical Society Museum, St. Paul, is rectanglar, approximately 30 x 16 x 6 inches in size and weighs over two hundred pounds. It is roughly bevelled at one end and, when found, was lying on its inscribed face, held as in a vise by the roots of a poplar tree, about ten inches in diameter, flattened against its top and two sides. An examination of the tree proved it to be not less than fifty years old and, therefore, it must have taken root at a time when no white man lived within a hundred miles of the locality where the stone was found, and when there was no railroad within four hundred miles of the place. In other words, the stone was embedded in the soil at least a generation before the tide of immigration bore the modern Scandinavian into that part of the state.
The stone, evidently rifted from a graywacke boulder common in the locality, is as durable as granite. The inscription consists of nine lines on the smooth surface and three on one edge evidently chiselled to receive them. The lines are evenly spaced, the letters uniform and about an inch in height; the words, sixty-two in number, are separated from one another by double dots, making it one of the longest runic inscriptions in existence. The letters, carved with a sharp instrument, are clear-cut and distinct in outline; the edges and angles are sharp and show no apparent alteration from weathering. It is a simple obituary record of ten men, telling who they and their companions were, where they came from, the provision made for their return, and the circumstances surrounding their tragic death. It omits all unimportant details such as the name of the leader of the group, of the king who authorized the expedition, and makes no mention of the fact that Indians had killed the men though that is implied in the statement that they were “red with blood and dead,” evidently scalped.
For a time after its discovery the Rune Stone was exhibited in Kensington, then sent to Minneapolis for examination by Professor 0. J. Breda of the department of Scandinavian literature of the University of Minnesota, who declared it fraudulent. This opinion silenced all who were interested in it and nothing further was heard about it for a decade of years. It was returned to the owner in March, 1899, and for eight years served as a doorstep for his granary, fortunately with the inscribed face downward. In 1907 Hjalmar R. Holand of Ephraim, Wisconsin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, well versed in Scandinavian history and literature, obtained possession of it and after years of study and comparison with Scandinavian documents of the fourteenth century, during which he took it to twenty-three universities in Europe for study by experts, declared the inscription genuine and thus brought the Rune Stone and its message into the forum for public discussion. It would take too long to summarize the facts and reasoning that led him to that conclusion. Suffice to say that the verdict was concurred in by the committee appointed by the Minnesota Historical Society to study the question from every angle and who, after two years of patient investigation and consultation and “after carefully considering all the opposing arguments,” declared the inscription to be a “true historical record.” The committee consisted of the Rev. E. C. Mitchell, antiquarian ; N. H. Winchell, geologist and state archaeologist; the Rev. F. J. Schaefer, ecclesiastical historian; O. D. Wheeler, attorney; Warren Upham, geologist and secretary of the society. Two of these the writer knew personally and he can vouch for their scholarship and unimpeachable integrity. The others were prominent in the community and competent in their professions. All were recognized scholars, capable of judging the value and force of linguistic arguments and weighing judicially the evidence adduced. In their investigation they had the help of American and European experts in runology and Scandinavian literature. One of them, Dr. Upham, the eminent glacial geologist, wrote in 1910: “The conclusion is inevitable that the inscription must have been carved many hundred years ago.”
However, not all Scandinavian scholars are in agreement regarding the authenticity of the text. Those who assert that the inscription is not genuine base their contention for the most part on the linguistic difficulties it exhibits. But, admitting the fact that there are difficulties, it would seem that they are not so insurmountable as to cast serious doubts on the genuineness of the Rune Stone and the reliability of its message. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., which had the custody of the stone last year, has issued no opinion as to its genuineness due to the fact that no member of its staff is thoroughly versed in runic inscriptions, medieval Scandinavian literature and history, nor could they place an official guarantee of genuineness on the stone in the present state of the evidence.
But this does not militate against the fact that all the internal evidence appears to be in favor of its authenticity; and so far nothing has been adduced to contradict its contents. Hence there would seem to be little, if any, reason to doubt the genuineness of the inscription which declares that Catholic explorers were in Minnesota centuries before colonists came to furrow its prairies, three hundred years after the dragon-prowed ships of Leif Ericson reached the Atlantic seaboard, and one hundred and thirty years before the Admiral of the Santa Maria reported the discovery of land beyond the western horizon of the then known world.
In their hour of peril these Catholic adventurers sought help from heaven by appealing to the Blessed Virgin to save them from evil in an invocation characteristic of Norsemen prior to the Reformation, and evidenced by the carving of her initials on the epitaph of their murdered comrades. In these far-off days Sweden and Norway were as Catholic as all other christian nations and cultivated filial devotion to the Mother of God. This Catholic prayer chipped out on a Minnesota stone was the prototype of many others uttered by voyageur and missionary in subsequent years as they ventured into the unexplored region of the upper Mississippi. These Norsemen, whose subsequent history is unknown, left the earliest Catholic footprints on what is now Minnesota soil.
If the Rune Stone were a forgery of modern times would the Swedish or Norwegian perpetrator of the hoax have added a petition to the Blessed Virgin Mary in whose intercession he did not believe? The “A V M save us from evil” is distinctively Catholic – the first part of the Hail Mary and the last part of the Our Father. On the supposition that the stone is not genuine it is an anachronism that would hardly be introduced by an imposter; nor would he take pains to describe the location of the camp with reference to the stone and the distant sea; nor mention the “skerries” in a near-by lake; or designate as an “island” the place where the stone was found, for it has not been an island for more than a hundred years at least.
On this point the late Father Betten, S. J., of; the department of history of Marquette University, Milwaukee, says: “The spot in which the stone rested when discovered is called an island in the inscription. It is not an island now... This one word (island) makes the assertion that the stone and its inscription is a fraud untenable.” He adds: “The Kensington Stone is the oldest document of American history written on the new continent itself by white men. It is the only runic inscription found in America and it belongs to a period almost devoid of runic literature.”
If the stone were planted to fool succeeding generations the author of the inscription must have been an expert archaeologist, geologist, linguist and historian, who made his way into the Minnesota wilderness a century ago, and of whose existence there is no record. If we accept the Rune Stone as genuine we are confronted with the astounding fact that the Hail Mary was said in Minnesota nearly six hundred years ago by a lost colony of Vikings whose visit conferred baptism on the state by the shedding of Catholic blood.
Whence came these Norsemen to the heart of the continent? It is a historical fact that, in the eleventh century and afterwards, their forbears made frequent visits to the eastern shore of North America which they named Vinland. Some of them may have journeyed as far inland as Minnesota by way of the St. Lawrence, Ottawa and Mattawa rivers, lakes Huron and Superior; but it is more probable that they sailed westward into Hudson Bay from a Norse colony in Greenland, berthed their ship at the mouth of the Nelson river, leaving it in charge of “ten men by the sea,” while the other thirty paddled their canoes down the Nelson river, through Lake Winnipeg, and the Red River of the North to the rapids near Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and thence by way of streams, lakes and portages to the place where they came into contact with the Indians. Under favorable conditions the trip of about nine hundred and fifty miles could be made in the time specified in the record.
FIRST CHAPEL IN MINNESOTA
But enough about these first Catholic visitors to Minnesota! How long before others came to voice a prayer or encounter the roving Indians in their vast huntlands? How long before other white men were to meet the descendants of the Redmen who shed the blood of these Norsemen? Three centuries intervened between the departure of the Vikings and the arrival of voyageurs from New France in search of a passage to the western ocean, who in their quest established trading posts to barter the trinkets of civilization for the pelts gathered by the children of the plains in their hunting expeditions. These French traders, fascinated by the glitter of gold and lured by love of adventure, brought with them or paved the way for the coming of the first missionaries of the gospel in the woodlands and prairies of the upper Mississippi.
The outposts they established on the frontiers of civilization were fortified stockades in which they found protection against the attacks of hostile tribes. They were, likewise, centers of missionary activity, for the traders were usually accompanied by a priest who, in addition to ministering to the spiritual needs of his companions, endeavored to bring the savages under the benign influence of the gospel. Rude chapels were erected within these enclosures and from them the message of christianity was preached to the Indians.
Evidence is not wanting that, as early as the middle of the seventeenth century, the first chapel in Minnesota was built on what was then, or afterwards, called Isle Pelee, Bald Island, now Prairie Island, situated in the Mississippi a few miles below the present town of Hastings. The story of its establishment is not devoid of interest.
Several attempts were made during the seventeenth century to find a water route across the continent to the shores of Cathay. The Great Lakes and their connections offered a natural and inviting avenue for entering this unknown land. They formed the first stage of a journey which, it was fondly hoped, would ultimately lead to the western sea. Along this classic highway explorers paddled their canoes and by portages reached the Mississippi and the present state of Minnesota.
In May, 1655, two voyageurs, Groseilliers and Radisson, brothers-in-law, arrived at Prairie Island after a journey from Three Rivers by way of the St. Lawrence, Ottawa and Mattawa rivers, through Lake Nipissing, Georgian Bay and Green Bay, and across the country to the Mississippi by way of the Fox river and the Wisconsin which empties into it near Prairie du Chien, whence they directed their course northward. On Prairie Island they encountered Huron refugees driven by the Iroquois from their homeland in the vicinity of Georgian Bay. They were the first white men to go beyond the Great Lakes, further than white men had ever gone before, the first to penetrate into what was destined to be the State of Minnesota.
Groseilliers and Radisson remained on the island for more than a year and during that time built a chapel in which they imparted religious instruction to adults and children, held prayer meetings and administered the Sacrament of Baptism to the dying, especially to children, whenever feasible. In other words, they performed the duties of lay missionaries and apostles. The records make no mention of a priest as a member of the party and, consequently, we infer that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was not offered up during their residence on the island. This primitive chapel was the first religious edifice to cast its beneficent shadow on the soil of Minnesota, the pioneer in a series of log chapels which, in later years, yielded to more pretentious structures until they reached the zenith of architectural splendor and magnificence in the granite Cathedral of St. Paul which overlooks the city from its commanding eminence on the brow of St. Anthony hill.
Groseilliers and Radisson were anxious to return to Quebec with their cargo of beaver pelts but the refugees besought them to remain because, otherwise, there would be no one to baptize their children. This appeal bore fruit for a time but eventually the date of departure was decided on and towards the end of June, 1656, fifty canoes laden with peltries, each manned by ten stalwart men, sailed away from the island and arrived in Quebec about the end of August. The leaders went into retirement for a time but the lure of adventure would not permit them to remain inactive indefinitely. With a flotilla of Indian canoes Groseilliers and Radisson set out from Three Rivers in August, 1659, and, following the usual trail, entered Lake Superior, the first Frenchmen to navigate this largest of American lakes. They established headquarters at Chequamogon Bay whence, in the following January, they departed for a rendezvous with the Indians near Knife Lake, about fifteen miles southeast of Mille Lacs in Kanabec County, Minnesota, and later on visited the Prairie Sioux villages in the southwestern part of the state to conclude treaties of peace with the Crees and Sioux for the promotion of trade. Some months afterwards they met the Crees in the vicinity of Two Harbors, east of Duluth, and finally returned to Quebec in the summer of 1660. In all their travels they did what lay apostles could do, as opportunity offered, to aid the Indians spiritually and insure the salvation of dying infants.
They were the second pair of white explorers to repeat the Hail Mary of the Norsemen in Minnesota, the first to confer any of the sacraments. The narrative of Radisson implying that they had baptized the dying children of Huron refugees on Prairie Island is confirmed and supplemented by the Jesuit Relations for 1635-36, stating that “three hundred little children” had been regenerated by them during the first trip to the west. Futhermore, the Relations declare that in a subsequent voyage they baptised “two hundred little children of the Algonkin nation.” According to these historical records, therefore, Groseilliers and Radisson were the first to engage in lay Catholic action in Minnesota.
FATHER LOUIS HENNEPIN
Groseilliers and Radisson were trail-blazers. In their wake others came to the western plains. A quarter of a century later, in 1679-80, Daniel Graysolon, Sieur Du Lhut, following the usual route from the East to the Mississippi and then returning northward, reached the western shore of Lake Superior and traversed the Mille Lacs region and the country around the Twin Cities of the future. In the course of his wanderings he encountered the Franciscan Recollect, Father Louis Hennepin, shortly after the latter discovered and named the Falls of St. Anthony, now within the corporate limits of the City of Minneapolis, and rescued him and his companions, Anthony Augelle and Michael Accault, from the hands of the Sioux who had taken them captive in the early part of the year 1680.
Father Hennepin was born at Ath in the Belgian Province of Hainaut, and baptised on April 7, 1640. He joined the Recollect branch of the Franciscan Order and came to Quebec in September, 1675, with La Salle, the newly appointed Governor of Frontenac, an important outpost in New France, now the site of the city of Kingston, Ontario. He accompanied La Salle on his trip to the West from Niagara over the Great Lakes in the Griffin to Michillimackinac, now St. Ignace, thence along the western shore of Lake Michigan to the Illinois river, where La Salle built Fort Crevecoeur, near the present city of Peoria. When La Salle found it necessary to return to the East he authorized Father Hennepin, Anthony Augelle and Michael Accault to continue the journey towards the West and explore the Mississippi.
On February 29, 1680, they set out in a single birch bark canoe down the Illinois to the Mississippi, into which they entered on March 6, turned northward, and were taken prisoners in Lake Pepin by the Assati Sioux under Chief Cloud Man, on April 12, and brought up the river to Kaposia, an Indian village about fifteen miles below the site of the City of St. Paul, and thence overland through what is now the Twin Cities area to the Sioux encampment on the shore of Mille Lacs, where they lived for a time the wretched life of white men among barbarians. The Indians robbed Father Hennepin of his vestments, thus depriving him of the honor of saying the first Mass in Minnesota. During his sojourn in the locality – set aside as “Father Hennepin State Memorial Wayside Park,” near the village of Isle, by the State Legislature in April, 1941 – he preached the gospel under difficulties to his captors, and baptised at least one dying child whom he named Antoinette in honor of her sponsor, Anthony Augelle, and thus gave Minnesota its first saint of which we have any record. According to the historian Shea, Father Hennepin was “the first (priest) to announce the gospel in the land of the Dakotas.” He went with the Sioux on their annual buffalo hunt down the St. Francis, now the Rum river, and once more reached the Mississippi on whose placid waters he canoed to the falls which he saw for the first time on July 4, 1680, and to which he gave the name of his patron, St. Anthony of Padua. He was permitted to go down the river as far as the Wisconsin in search of supplies to be sent by La Salle, but returned empty-handed. He and his companions were finally rescued from the Sioux by Du Lhut, as already stated, and some months later he returned to France.
In January, 1683, he published, in Paris, an account of his travels and discoveries in his Description of Louisiana wherein he narrated the story of his contacts with and life among the Indians, and described the cataract beside whose leaping waters a great city was destined to rise with its worldwide marts of commerce and its magnificent sanctuaries of Catholic faith. He was the first white man to visit the site of Minneapolis whose main arterial thoroughfare is named after him as well as the county of which it is the metropolis. On a commanding eminence on Hennepin Avenue stands the Basilica of St. Mary dedicated to the memory of this noted Belgian priest-explorer and historian, “the pioneer standard-bearer of the christian faith,” whose statue, erected by the Knights of Columbus of Minnesota in 1930, uplifts the cross of Catholicism under the shadow of its majestic dome, and commemorates the name and principal achievement of this heroic missionary. The time and place of Father Hennepin’s death are unknown with certainty. The last mention of him is in Rome at the Convent of Ara Coeli in 1701. A few years previously, in 1697, he published at Utrecht, his second book entitled, New Discovery of a Vast Country in America in which he claimed to have traced the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, where, according to his account, he erected a large cross to which he attached a letter giving his name, the name of his companions, and the story of the trip down the river – a claim which has been controverted because of the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of fitting it into the itinerary described in his first book.
On the strength of this Utrecht publication Father Hennepin has been accused of misrepresentation to enhance his own reputation as a discoverer by detracting from the glory of La Salle. It is still a matter of controversy. John Gilmary Shea, after a detailed study and scrutiny of this volume, declared that it “is evident, whatever we may think of the remainder of the book, that the ten pages containing the so-called voyage to the lower Mississippi, were an interpolation in the volume after it had been issued from the press.” In that way he tries to save the reputation of Father Hennepin as a trustworthy historian.
At the bi-centenary celebration of the discovery of the Falls of St. Anthony held on July 3, 1880, on the grounds of the State University in Minneapolis, many tributes were paid to the distinguished priest-explorer by men prominent in national and state affairs, among them Senator Cushman K. Davis, Honorable Alexander Ramsay, Secretary of War and first Ter ritorial Governor of Minnesota, General William T. Sherman, and Bishop Ireland. Archbishop Tache of St. Boniface, Bishop La Fleche of Three Rivers, and Bishop Grace of St. Paul, were present on that occasion.
In his address Bishop Ireland paid a glowing tribute to Father Hennepin whose discovery of the Falls of St. Anthony he characterized as “the dawning upon the Northwest of the bright day of civilization.., the registration of the State of Minnesota on the page of history.” In his discourse he sought to vindicate Father Hennepin from the charge of making a false claim to the exploration of the lower Mississippi as far as the Gulf of Mexico by quoting Shea to the effect that the second volume contains all in the Paris edition and about ten pages of insert following page 313, “differing in type and in the spacing of the lines,” but “inserted in the volume under the same paging, with a star after the number of the page (313-), showing plainly that these ten pages were added to the book after it had come from the printer.”
Moreover, continued the Bishop, “Errors occur, blunders of which Hennepin could not be supposed capable; blunders in the wording of things relating to the Catholic Church, which show that the compiler of the second volume could not even have been a Catholic.” These and similar mistakes, he concluded, could not have been made by Hennepin who in the previous volume had shown himself so accurate in statement and description.
But the controversy is far from settled. In a recent work entitled, Louis Hennepin, Explorateur du Mississippi published in Brussels in 1942, the author, Georges H. Dumont, accepts the narrative of Father Hennepin’s voyage to the Gulf of Mexico and return at its face value.
Some years ago the writer asked the late Canon Paul Halflants of Brussels to suggest to a student of Louvain University that he make a critical study of the life, travels and writings of Father Hennepin in a doctoral thesis; but so far nothing has been done along this line. The question of Father Hennepin’s veracity is still a mooted question, a challenge to modern historical research, and his definitive biography awaits a competent and scholary pen. Despite all this he has an unchallengeable right to be considered the first citizen of Minneapolis, if not of Minnesota.
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“The Kensington Rune Stone,” by H. R. Holand, Minnesota History, pp. 166 & seq. St. Paul, Minnesota, June, 1936.
The Story of American Catholicism, by Theodore Maynard, p. 9. New York, 1941.
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Saturday Evening Post, August 21, 1948. Article by Thomas R. Henry.
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FATHER LOUIS HENNEPIN:
“Louis Hennepin,” by John W. Willis, Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. VII, pp. 215 & seq. New York, 1910.
“Hennepin, the Discoverer of the Falls of St. Anthony,” by the Rev. Francis J. Schaefer. Acta et Dicta, Vols. VI, No. 1, pp. 521-585, October, 1933; VI, No. 2, pp. 161-186. October, 1934, St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Discovery of the Mississippi, by John Gilmary Shea. New York, 1850.
A History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, by Thomas O’Gorman. pp. 183-187. Washington, D.C., 1895.
The Catholic Church in Colonial Days, by John Gilmary Shea. New York, 1886.