N 29° 58.375’ W 090° 14.813’
Most of the history books and school texts with which we are familiar instruct us that Rene-Robert Cavalier de la Salle left Montreal with Henry de Tonti and other Frenchmen in August of 1679 and canoed down the Mississippi River, looking for the mouth of that great river crossed by the Spaniard, De Soto 130 years prior.
Few sources attempt to tell us exactly the point where La Salle banked his canoes among the Chapitoulas (Tchoupitoulas) Indians on the lower river, erected a cypress cross over a written marker, and claimed the Mississippi watershed for his king and country. The City of Kenner tells us where.
Well, almost. Here we find ourselves in Heritage Park, part of Rivertown, Kenner’s Historic District.
The placard reads:
IN 1682 THE FRENCH EXPLORER, ROBERT CAVALIER DE LA SALLE, LANDED IN AN INDIAN VILLAGE LATER TO BE KNOWN AS THE CITY OF KENNER. PROCLAIMING OWNERSHIP IN THE NAME OF LOUIS XIV, KING OF FRANCE, HE ERECTED A CYPRESS CROSS TO COMMEMORATE THE HISTORIC EVENT.
The placard, and its bronze successor nearby, does not actually state that the explorer planted the stake here, but only that he landed at an Indian Village here. It’s a bit of literary sleight-of-hand, but it works.
Meanwhile, a visitor looking up from the placard will see a wooden carving resembling a Christian scene, topped by what could be the base of an ancient cross, surrounded there in wrought iron. One wonders, is this La Salle’s cross, planted here in Kenner?
Not likely. The mouth of the river is still some 110 nautical miles downstream from the Kenner Landing point. Granted, due to the unrestrained shifting delta, in La Salle’s day, that distance was reduced by as much as 25 miles. See http://www.sochistdisc.org/2004_articles/morris.htm. Furthermore, through further research, the sculpture’s artist’s name is Corrin Beckert, though that information isn’t seen here in Heritage Park.
Most encyclopedia entries attempt to put La Salle’s proclamation event nearer to Venice, Louisiana, citing the journals of the explorer’s official recorder, Henri Joutel.
At any rate, this present site was known as Cannes Brûlée by 1708, by which time French interests along the river ebbed and flooded with their economic exploits. A century later they would sell their New World claim to the newly established United States.
Fast forward to 10 May, 1870. “Kennerville” is the host to the very first World Championship Heavyweight Prize Fight held in the United States, a bare-knuckle bout between Jed Mace and Tom Allen, both Englishmen. Mace took home $2,500. Bronze statues of the men, fists ablaze, stand here memorial to the occasion, 100 yards from La Salle’s River.
Nearest Geocache Listing: GC5CHKP
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