Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Cadillac, Antoine de la Mothe

Antoine Laumet was born in 1658 in southern France. At the age of 25, he arrived in the New World and, as a coastal trader, soon became an expert on the continent’s Atlantic coast. He performed reconnaissance – and perhaps engaged in some privateering – that earned the respect of government ministers back in France. Laumet eventually married Marie Therese Guyon, the niece of his trading partner, and adopted the name la mothe Cadillac.

After commanding the fort at Michilimackinac, he convinced King Louis XIV of the strategic advantages offered by a location to the south, closer to advancing British interests.

On June 5, 1701, two months prior to “The Great Peace of Montreal,” Cadillac’s expedition set out from La Chine, on the St. Lawrence River near Montreal. The expedition followed the northern route along the Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, French River, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and, finally, the Detroit River. The expedition camped on Grosse Ile on July 23rd.

The following day, the expedition rowed upstream and selected a location for the new settlement on a high bluff on the northern shore – from which they could best control the river. Cadillac claimed the new territory for France. The expedition commenced building a fort that the named Pontchartrain, in honor of the French marine minister who approved their trip. In addition, they built the first Ste. Anne’s Church.

Cadillac and his wife had 13 children, several of them born in Detroit. Fewer than half reached adulthood. Upon his return to France, Cadillac retained a local governorship in Castelsarrasin, where he died in 1730.

 


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