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Louis Hennepin
A painting of Father Louis Hennepin discovering Saint Anthony Falls.

Father Louis Hennepin, O.F.M. baptized Antoine, (12 May 1626 – c. 1705) was a Catholic priest and missionary of the Franciscan Recollect order (French: Récollets) and an explorer of the interior of North America.

Hennepin was born in Ath in the Spanish Netherlands (now in the province of Hainaut, Belgium). In 1659 Béthune, the town where he lived, was captured by the army of Louis XIV of France.

At the request of Louis XIV the Récollets sent four missionaries to New France in May 1675, including Hennepin, accompanied by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. In 1678 Hennepin was ordered by his provincial superior to accompany La Salle on a voyage to explore the western part of New France. Hennepin was 39 when he sailed in 1679 with La Salle from Canada through the Great Lakes aboard Le Griffon to explore the unknown West. Local historians credit the Franciscan Recollect friar with being the first European to step ashore at the site of present-day Hannibal, Missouri.[1]

Two great waterfalls were brought to the world's attention by Louis Hennepin: Niagara Falls, with the most voluminous flow of any in North America, and the Saint Anthony Falls in what is now Minneapolis, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River.

Hennepin never returned to North America and died in Rome.


Named after Hennepin


Most places named after Hennepin are found in the United States:

The few places outside the United States are found in Canada, all in Niagara Falls, Ontario:

  • Father Hennepin Separate School
  • Ontario Historical Plaque at Murray Avenue and Niagara River Parkway
  • Hennepin Room at Sheraton Fallsview

Pop culture references to Hennepin

The final track on the 2006 album 13 by Brian Setzer is entitled "The Hennepin Avenue Bridge." Its lyrics tell a fictitious story of Fr. Hennepin and his leap from the Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Books by Hennepin

Hennepin is the author of

  • Description de la Louisiane (Paris, 1683),
  • Nouvelle découverte d'un très grand pays situé dans l'Amérique entre le Nouveau-Mexique et la mer glaciale (Utrecht, 1697), and
  • Nouveau voyage d'un pars plus grand que l'Europe (Utrecht, 1698).

The truth of much of Hennepin's accounts has been called into question — or flatly denied — notably by the American historian Francis Parkman. In the words of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:

Hennepin has been denounced by many historians and historical critics as an arrant falsifier. Certain writers have sought to repel this charge by claiming that the erroneous statements are in fact interpolations by other persons. The weight of the evidence is however adverse to such a theory.
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913


  1. ^ National Geographic Magazine, July-1956, Vol CX-Number 1, pg 135-136
  2. ^ Valerie Olson van Heest, writer and director. (2007). She Died a Hard Death: The Sinking of the Hennepin . [DVD]. Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates.  

External links



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