The Time of the French in Chicago
While Father Marquette’s party spent the winter of 1674-75 camped on the South Branch of the Chicago River, their residence was little more than a temporary camp. Still, they qualify as the first Europeans known to have lived within the boundaries of the future city.
Following Marquette’s death in 1675, Father Claude Jean Allouez passed through the Chicago Portage on Apr. 10, 1677 on his way to and from the Grand Village of the Illinois to continue Marquette’s mission to the Illinois.
Father Allouez found 80 Illinois warriors camped by the Des Plaines River who escorted him to the Grand Village opposite Starved Rock. He carried on Marquette`s mission work with the Kaskaskia intermittently until 1687.
LaSalle certainly passed through the future city on his expeditions to and from his forts on the Illinois. His knowledge of the local geography indicates he spent some time here as he passed over the Chicago Portage, first in 1679, again in January 1682 with Tonti during his 1681-82 voyage down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Two of La Salle`s letters, written at “Chicagou” and dated June 4 and September 1, 1683, indicate that he spent considerable time in the area that year.
Olivier Morel de la Durantaye was the commandant of the French fort at Michilimackinac from 1683 to 1690. He came to Illinois in 1684 with 60 men to assist Tonti, at Fort St. Louis (Starved Rock), and built a fort at Chicago. The fort was probably small, perhaps no more than a secure place to store supplies and trade goods.