The French have a lengthy history on this continent. The French became interested in the New World in 1524 when King Francois I sought wealth for his European domain (Brown 19). Expeditions were underwritten by the crown. It was eager to compete with other European powers in search for riches. Included in the early voyages were trips by Frenchman Jacques Cartier. Cartier discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534 (Brown 21). He made further excursions toward the heartland of the continent, resulting in vast land claims.
Another early visitor to America, Samuel de Champlain, organized colonies on the mouth of the St. Croix River in 1604 and at the present site of Quebec City in 1608 (Brown 78). France quickly spread its influence from Quebec to New Orleans. Though sparsely populated, the land that France claimed was astounding in size. While the English colonies were developing along a strip of the east coast no wider than 210 miles, the French laid claim to much of the territory between the colonies and the Mississippi. Trappers, traders, and explorers during the 17th and 18th centuries, the French were present in the new land.
The intent of French exploration was the search for riches; gold and silver. However, failing to produce such wealth, France settled for revenues from the fur trade. Although the search for riches was the initial goal of the French in the new world, the main intent became to spread the Catholic faith. In 1642, French missionaries contributed to the founding of Montreal (Brown 72). In the following years the missionaries would spread like wildfire. The devout Catholicism is evident in American French communities even today.