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European Exploration


An explorer of the Trans-Mississippi region for France, André Fabry de la Bruyère was a French-born naval officer and colonial bureaucrat in Louisiana, a French possession. Born in France in 1708, he arrived in Louisiana in 1733 and worked as secretary to Governor-General Bienville. In 1741–42 Fabry proposed to assemble a small expedition into the region that is present Oklahoma. Preceding him had been Bénard de la Harpe and the Mallet brothers, merchants who had attempted to open trade between colonial Louisiana and Santa Fe, in Spanish New Mexico. Fabry's mission, given by Bienville, was to find a useable river-based route to Santa Fe from the Mississippi River, to map the geography, to observe and record information about the terrain and its resources, and to open or preserve friendly relations with any Native peoples he encountered. The Mallet brothers, who had already been to Santa Fe by a similar route, accompanied the fifteen-member Fabry party.

The expedition left the Mississippi River and went up the Arkansas to Arkansas Post and then to that river's confluence with the Canadian River. They followed the Canadian to an area near the Little River, in present Seminole/Pontotoc counties, made a base camp, and built a small fort, said to have been only the second French fort in present Oklahoma. A party of Osages dissuaded them from trying to boat up the Canadian, said to be dry. Fabry and the Mallet brothers disagreed how next to proceed. In April 1742, hoping to acquire horses for an overland trip to Santa Fe, Fabry returned to Arkansas Post. He never returned to the base camp. In August he abandoned his task and went back to Louisiana, arriving in September. Left in limbo, that summer the Mallets went westward on foot toward New Mexico.

Fabry remained in civil service in Louisiana. In the mid-1740s he profited as a merchant, trading for deerskins harvested by Louisiana tribes. In 1747–49, residing in France, he wrote memoirs recounting his work in the colonial service. He died in 1775. Fabry de la Bruyère's brief sojourn in the Canadian River region helped to solidify French mercantile ambitions in the Trans-Mississippi in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Dianna Everett



Martha Royce Blaine, "French Efforts to Reach Santa Fe: André Fabry de la Bruyère's Voyage Up the Canadian River in 1741–1742," Louisiana History 20 (April 1979).

David H. Usner, Jr., Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

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Dianna Everett, “Fabry de la Bruyère, André,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=FA028.