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|Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville
[pyer luh mwan' dE ber vEl'] founder of the first permanent European settlement in what is now Mississippi
Pierre Le Moyne was born in what is now Montreal, Canada, on July 16, 1661. He received his early education at a Sulpician seminary in Montreal, and was then sent to France to be entered into the navy.
Returning to Canada sometime around 1686, Le Moyne spent the next ten years raiding English fur-trading stations around Hudson Bay in an effort to win Canada for France. During this period he acquitted himself quite well, and was responsible for some rather remarkable victories. In 1694, for example, he and a small party took Fort Nelson and renamed it Bourbon (in honor of the French monarchial family). He took Fort Pemaquid (Maine) in 1696, and captured all of the English settlements on the coast of Newfoundland in 1697. In 1697 he led an expedition against the English on Hudson Bay, and with but a single ship managed to sink one ship, capture another, and send a third fleeing for its life.
Having gained quite a reputation for himself, Le Moyne was recalled to France in 1697, and was subsequently chosen by the Minister of Marine to lead an expedition to rediscover the mouth of the Mississippi River and colonize Louisiana. He sailed from France with two small frigates and two store-ships on October 24, 1698, and arrived at Santa Rosa Island, off what is now Pensacola, Florida, on January 25, 1699. From there he sailed to Mobile Bay, and then set out westward along the coast with a flotilla of small boats. On March 2, 1699, he came upon the mouth of a great river which he thought might be the Mississippi; he subsequently learned that the river was indeed the Mississippi after being shown a letter that had been left at an Indian village by French explorer Henri de Tonti in 1682. Le Moyne sailed up the river as far as the mouth of the Red River before returning to his main fleet via the Bayou Ascantia and lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. On May 1, 1699, he directed the founding of Old Biloxi (now Ocean Springs) the first permanent settlement in Mississippi, and then set sail back to France.
Le Moyne returned to Old Biloxi on December 8, 1699, and then sailed up the Mississippi River as far as present-day Natchez, Mississippi, where he established a fort. Once again returning to France, he was back in Louisiana by December 18, 1701, and did not leave again until April 27, 1702. During this stay he helped colonize what is now Mobile, Alabama, on January 16, 1702. In 1703 he was named the first Governor of Louisiana.
Having successfully established a French presence on the Gulf of Mexico, Le Moyne next set his sights on the Caribbean. In 1706 he captured the island of Nevis from the British, and then went to Havana (Cuba) to obtain reinforcements from the Spaniards for a planned attack on the Carolinas. He died suddenly there on July 9, 1706, probably from yellow fever.
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This page was last updated on 01/16/2019.