Exploration and Settlement Before 1675
By 1530, only a decade after Cortez had landed in Mexico, European explorers had coasted the eastern and southern shores of North America and had begun to direct their attention toward the interior. In their persons of the explorers and discoverers, the battle among prominent European powers for the North American Continent was soon joined. Geographical information became as important as economic strengh, weaponry, and Indian alliances. Spaniards in the far Southewest like Cabeza de Vaca, de Soto, Coronado, Onate, and de Sosa contended with Frenchmen for continental knowledge. The French, following inthe footsteps of Champlain, explored west along the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and south through New York and Ohio toward the English long hunters, who were pusing inland from New England, Virginia, and the Carolinas. In 1673, well over a century after de Soto had secretly been buried in its lower reaches, Joliet and Marquette located and sailed halfway down the Mississippi River. For the next hunderd years, this inland empire east of the Mississippi was the object of fierce contention among Europeans and between the Indian and the white man.