DISCOVERY OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
Fernando De Soto, accompanied by a party of seekers sifter adventure, which included the flower of Spanish chivalry, sailed from Spain for the New World, aud landing in Florida, marched across the country, then a wilderness, but now the progressive states of Florida. Georgia. Alabama aud Mississippi. They were a brilliant company in their military trappings, aud must have seemed strangely out of place amid their primitive surroundings. At last, on May 8,1541, guided by Indians. De Soto and his companions stood upon the bank of a mighty river, which poured its vasl flood majestically into the ocean.
This was the lordly Mississippi, so named from the Indian words, Mee-zee(great), and see-bee (river). De Soto and his party were the first Europeans to look upon the waters of this river. The "great river" was destined to be the grave of its discoverer, for, so history tells us, De Soto, after weary wanderings along its shores, and up some of its tributaries, dis couraged by the loss of many of his followers from disease aud other causes, and by his failure to find the fabulous stores of gold and gems which he was seeking, succumbed to an attack of malignant fever. He died May 21, 1542, and at midnight his body was sunk in the dark waters of the Mississippi to conceal the fact of his death from the natives.
He sought gold and fame but found instead a grave. yet his life was not in vain for he had blazed a pathway. His followers, under the leadership of Moseoso. after more than another year of fruitless wandering, escaped down the fateful river in boats which they had built. A small remnant returned to Spain, clad in rags and Indian mats. This was but the beginning. Other expeditions followed. Many were the hardships endured by soldier, missionary and trader, aud many were the battles fought and lives lost along the "great river," before socalled civilization claimed the magnificent val ley for its own. Rock Island county bore its full part in this warfare which practically ended, for this section, with the Black Hawk War.
Picture "Steamboats on the Mississippi
By Ferdinand Reichardt-1857
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois
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