It was an age of explor­ation. It was the golden age of disc­overy. Through­out all of Europe brave men were being sent by their countries to claim a part of the vast, un­charted lands that lay across the Atlantic. The Spanish had already laid claim to most of the New World. The Portug­uese had a firm footing in South America and Africa. The English were sending wave upon wave of colonists into North America. The French, although primarily interested in the West Indies, had possession of a large territory that lay between the English colonies and Spanish settlements along the Pacific coast of North America.

However, Louis XIV was preoccupied with the lavish extravagances of his own court and was uninclined to explore France’s territories in the Americas. This left the task of French occupation of the New World in private hands.

Caught up in this glorious spirit of adventure were two men who decided to finance an expedition into the wilds of the French Territory. A renowned winemaker named Estephan-Michele d’Orr and an expatriate Scotsman living in France named John Leane, united their fortunes, aspirations and sons to form one of the first private expeditions into the French Territory of North America.

John Leane built his fortune by importing and selling goods from the English colonies to France. He eventually established a successful mercantile company in France and England. One of the most sought after commodities in England was the wine from the Chateau d’Orr Vineyards. This brought Leane into the regular company of Estephan-Michele d’Orr, the esteemed vintner of the royal court. The relationship that began with mutual economic interests soon blossomed into one of great mutual admiration and common philosophical interests. The two spent much of their free time together discussing the advances of commerce, social order and emerging scientific theories. Over a hearty meal and glass of fine wine they would dream of the future and all that lay in store for their families.

Monsieur d’Orr, famous winemaker,
helped finance the expedition.

Both men were convinced that the North American continent would yield great natural resources for the developing European industries. They also believed that this “New World” might also be a place where people of all nationalities could live together. With these shared convictions, the two named their eldest sons to lead an expedition across the Atlantic, through the Florida straits and Gulf of Mexico into the delta of the mighty Sassagoula River.

The delta as it appeared in 1704 when
d’Orr and Leane first encountered it.

The grand scheme devised by these two modern thinking men would set a sound foundation for a great society. A society that would reveal itself to their two young sons, Pierre d’Orr and Philip Leane, as they first set their eyes upon the rich and fertile delta they would eventually name in their fathers’ honor.

So it was in the summer of 1694 that the d’Orr and Leane expedition set sail for the New World in search of land, riches and adventure. Pierre and Philip took their fathers’ good fortune and advice, and with all the gusto available to two inspired young men, they explored the unchartered lands that led up the Sassagoula River.

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