Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was born in 1643 in Rouen, France. In 1666, at the age of 23, he sailed for Montreal, Canada, casting his lot as a fur trader.
Native American tales of a "Great River" they called "Ohio" intrigued the young man such that after only three years of trading, La Salle sold his land and struck out in search of the river. He tracked the river to the rapids at Louisville.
He next headed north to the western shores of Lake Michigan and the Illinois River Valley. From 1679 to 1972, traveled the Mississippi River to its mouth and claimed the entire Valley for France and named the region Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.
In 1680, La Salle established the first European settlement near the area in Illinois that is now Peoria. The Fort was named "Creve Coeur" (Fort Heartbreak).
Two years later he built Fort St. Louis on a bluff above the river near the town that bears his name, La Salle. The site is now Starved Rock State Park.
He was ambushed and killed in 1687.