LaSalle: Expedition II

(From the liner notes accompanying the LP: "Voices of LaSalle: Expedition II.")



When an Illinois French Teacher named Reid Lewis proposed celebrating the American bicentennial with an authentic re-enactment of LaSalle's 1681-82 journey from Montreal to the Gulf of Mexico, there were a few raised eyebrows.



First, there were those who seemed to think that American history began with George Washington and ended just west of Philadelphia. Lewis' response was an articulate defense of the drama and importance of our French-Canadian heritage: "If the vision of the first European who really grasped the potential greatness of this continent doesn't deserve bicentennial commemoration— nothing does! Over one hundred years before Daniel Boone crossed the Cumberland Gap, LaSalle had already laid claim to all the land between the Alleghenies and the Rockies. That act marked the opening of one of the richest areas on earth-our North American heartland."



Then, there were those who believed that America's youth had lost the spirit of adventure and the physical hardihood necessary to undertake such a journey. Two years of dedicated preparatory work, and the progress of the 8-month, 3,000-mile voyage itself, whittled away at that notion. As the 17 students and 7 adults in the crew overcame first one challenge, then another, they weathered, like the 17th Century clothing, canoes, and equipment that saw them through their ordeal. Their skin turned to rawhide; their determination, to flint and steel.


At the journey's end, they had survived the worst Midwestern winter in recorded history. They had dragged their gear over 527 miles of frozen river and prairie. They had paddled against formidable currents on the St. Lawrence;




over mountainous waves on Lake Ontario;


through the rock-strewn wilderness of Georgian Bay.


They had encountered ice-floes on Lake Michigan,








blizzards on the Illinois,







and sandstorms on the Mississippi.

They had slept beneath their canoes each night, like their 17th Century predecessors. while temperatures plummeted to minus 27 degrees!
They had endured a portage through the concrete heart of Toronto, wearing moccasins;


capsized in a November storm off Death's Door, Wisconsin; seen four of their number struck down by a runaway truck in Indiana; and encountered tow-boat wakes so violent they literally threw the canoes out of the lower Mississippi.



Through it all. they not only survived, they found time to carry their message of historic and natural preservation to nearly 200 communities along their route. They sang their songs and shared their adventures with children in hundreds of classrooms.


They brought the living presence of our history into town-meetings, civic celebrations, hospitals, and nursing homes. They developed the 19 research projects that would serve as the permanent educational legacy of the expedition.

All this is not to say they did it alone, They had the devotion of the five people who traveled alongside them all through that bitter winter, coordinating the crew's movements with the community celebrations, They had the encouragement of relatives and friends, They had the material support of the people, governments, businesses, and civic organizations along their way, They had the enthusiasm of the communities they passed through, who took the flame of historic awareness kindled by the expedition and made it blaze, Without these, nothing could have been accomplished.


Still, when it comes right down to it, the whole expedition rested on those 24 fragile wooden paddles that finally parted the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico, one brilliant spring morning in the April of 1977.



The real measure of the expedition's success is the pride that can be heard in the voices of the 24 men who wielded those paddles. These are the voices of La Salle: Expedition II.

Crewmembers of the re-enactment expedition
(August 11, 1976-April 9, 1977)
  Their counterparts on the original expedition
(August 11, 1681-April 9, 1682)

Reid Lewis
Father Loran Fuchs, O.F.M.
Marc Lieberman
Keith Gorse
Clif Wilson
Sid Bardwell
John Fialko
George Lesieutre
Richard Stillwagon
Gary Braun
Charles Campbell
Terry Cox
John Di Fulvio
Randy Foster
Mark Fredenburg
Jorge Garcia
Rich Gross
Sam Hess
Ron Hobart
Bob Kulick
Ken Lewis
Steve Marr
Doug Sohn
Bill Watts

René Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle
pere Zenobe Membre
Henri de Tonty
Le Sieur de Boisrondet
Jacques Bourdon Sieur d' Autray
Le Castor Blanc (Indian Guide )
Pierre Prudhomme(Armourer)
Jacques de La Metairie (Notary)
Jean Michel (Surgeon)
Jean du Lignon
Andre Henault
Andre Baboeuf
La Violette de Lyon
Jean Pignabel
Pierre You
Nicholas de La Salle
Pierre Buret
Gabriel Barbier
Louis Baron
Colin Crevel
Antoine Brossard
Jacques Cauchois
Pierre Mignoret
Jean Masse
The Liaison Team    

Jan Lewis
Marlena Scavuzzo
Sharon Baumgartner
Cathi Palmer
Barton Dean


Assistant Director
Community Relations
Crew Support
Photographer PhotoJournalist

RECORDED AT WBEZ Studios, Chicago


  Reid Lewis
Ron Hobart (Expedition Music Project Director)
Ken Lewis (Expedition Audio Project Director)
Ron Hobart
Ken Lewis

Mac Frampton (Music Project Advisor)
Judy Staab and Howard Platt
(Expedition Drama Project Advisors)
written, played, and sung by Howard Platt
(c1977 by La Salle. Expedition II)
Swanson, Pearson, Haugaard; Chicago
John Fialko (Expedition Art Project Director)
Mr. and Mrs. Perry Lewis, Joe DiFranco, Bill Myers, John Miller, Mike Alft, Wayne Schimpff, Gail Campbell, and to photographers Marc Lieberman, Doug Sohn, Bart Dean (Expedition Photo Project Team); Al Gruber, Tom Thomas, and A. Craig Benson of the Wisconsin State Journal

Link to map created using 17th-century methods.

Link to proclamation signed at end of voyage.