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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

French were early fur traders
By Dolores Hislop

This is the last in a series of articles giving a brief history on how people were enticed to come to Minnesota from Europe.P> The French had established themselves in Minnesota as early explorers, fur traders, and missionaries. The names, Jacque Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, and Jean Nicolet are associated with the exploration the areas of Canada and Wisconsin and their discoveries led the way for others to reach Minnesota.

In 1650, two Frenchmen, Pierre Radisson and brother-in-law Sieur des Groseilliers traveled about the same route and came to the Lake Superior region. It was because of their travels that the fur trade was started by the Hudson Bay Company and nearly 300 years of lucrative trade of furs began.

The Jesuit missionaries arrived who were educated men and interested in the new lands discovered. They made careful observations and recorded what they saw, made maps, and were servants of the Society of Jesus. Father Marquette and Father Hennepin were two of the early missionaries in Minnesota.

President Thomas Jefferson, acting through diplomatic channels, bought nearly half the United States from Napoleon of France in 1803. This was called the Louisiana Purchase, which Minnesota was a part and transferred the land to the United States. The portion of Minnesota lying west of the Mississippi was officially made American territory by a ceremonial transfer in St. Louis in 1804, However, Minnesota was still the fur domain of the North West Company.

Joseph Nicollet was a gifted scientific mapmaker and presented a map to the United States Senate in 1843 which is the fundamental map of the west. He explored Minnesota, gave geographic names, details, and also gave a brief story of the area he traveled.

The French voyageurs were extremely skilled in the handling of boats in navigating lakes and streams. They were the fur traders of Minnesota who intermarried with the Indians in the region and established residence in the state. Their occupation, however, was vanishing and fashion designers changed to silk instead of beaver hats, and the South America nutria with fur not unlike that of the beaver became popular.

The religion of the French in early Minnesota was predominately Catholic and Bishop Mathias Loras was instructed to do missionary work among the mixed couples and the Sioux living at Fort Snelling. In 1839, Bishop Lores and Father Pelamaaourgues journied to the settlement and baptized, married, and performed pastoral duties in the community.

The French contributed to the history of milling in Minnesota. The spring wheat the farmers were growing was not compatible to the milling process. The kernel of the wheat was brittle and when run through the close running millstones, the hull crumbled into particles that could not be removed by sifting the flour. It produced a discolored flour and had an unfavorable effect on color, baking quality, and storage life of the flour. A French invention, the middlings purifer, was invented by Edmund and Nicholas La Croix. George H. Christian and George T. Smith helped perfect the machine which transformed spring wheat into the fine flour which was then high grade.

The foods associated with French cuisine are the breads as the long baquettes, crepes suzette (pancakes), and coq au vin (chicken in red wine). French cooking has rich sauces and the use of wines in food preparation.

Early pioneers of Paynesville of French descent were:
William Blasdell who had the Western Hotel. He escorted guests to areas around Paynesville and helped people find suitable places to buy.

Dr. Pilon, the esteemed surgeon of Paynesville, built the Pilon Hospital and was noted for his surgical technique.

G.A. LeMasurier, the owner of the Paynesville Press and his family, have reported the news of Paynesville since 1923.

You are invited to participate in Ethnic Days on Saturday, Aug. 18, and enjoy the contributions of all ethnic groups of Paynesville.

We have a new exhibit at the museum given to us by the Masons and Eastern Star, Lodge 71. It is interesting to note their history in our city of Paynesville and a thank you goes to them for donating the items to the museum.

(The source of material for compiling the articles: History of Stearns County 1915; Minnesota Heritage-Lawrence M. Brings; Minnesota, A History of the State, by Theodore Blegen; Minnesota and It's People, volume one, edited by Joseph Bernquist; The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book, Anna Kaplan, Marjorie Hoover, Willard Moore)