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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Giacomo Puccini

Henri De Tonti was an Italian-born soldier, explorer, and fur trader in the service of France. Henri de Tonti was probably born near Gaeta, Italy, in either 1649 or 1650. He was the son of Lorenzo de Tonti, who was a financier and former governor of Gaeta. Lorenzo de Tonti was the inventor of the form of life insurance known as the tontine. Alphonse de Tonti, who was one of the founders of what is now Detroit, was his younger brother. Lorenzo was involved in a revolt against the Spanish viceroy in Naples, Italy and was forced to seek political asylum in France around the time of Henri's birth. In 1668, Henri joined the

French Army and later served in the French Navy. During the Sicilian Wars, Henri lost his hand in a grenade explosion and from that time on wore a prosthetic hook covered by a glove thus earning the nickname "Iron Hand". In the summer of 1678, Tonti journeyed with the famous René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle who recognized him as an able associate. La Salle left Tonti to hold Fort Crèvecoeur in Illinois while La Salle returned to Ontario. When La Salle returned to France in 1683, he left Tonti behind to hold Fort Saint Louis on the Illinois River. Three years later he learned that La Salle was returning to ascend the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico and proceeded south on his own to try and meet La Salle on his ascent. He failed to find La Salle and made it to the Gulf of Mexico before turning back. Henri left several men at the mouth of the Arkansas River to establish a trading post which would later become the historical town of Arkansas Post, Arkansas. Tonti experienced several financial difficulties in the 1690s. In early 1700, he commenced a journey down the Mississippi to make contact with Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville who had established the Louisiana colony. Tonti reached Louisiana and joined the colony. In 1702, he was chosen as an ambassador to the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes and conducted several negotiations as well as leading punitive expeditions until 1704. In August of 1704, Tonti contracted yellow fever and died at Old Mobile near present day Mobile, Alabama.
(Courtesy of www.wikipedia.org)

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