The first permanent European settlement and fort within the borders of present Kansas is Fort de Cavagnial. Located near present-day Leavenworth, the fort was named for its founder, Francois-Pierre Rigaud, Baron de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil, the French governor of Louisiana. The fort was occupied by French traders and soldiers and served as a fur trade center for the Kansa tribe as well as other Native Indian tribes.
The French, like the Spanish, were eager to claim lands in the New World to engage in the lucrative trade, particularly for furs, with Native American tribes. The French exchanged European products such as firearms, axes, knives, beads, and cloth for furs.
Fort de Cavagnial was one of the westernmost trading posts established by the French. It was a small but substantial fort that included a commandant’s house, a guardhouse, a powder house, a trader’s house, and a house for the trader’s employees. The buildings were constructed of logs and most were covered with mud.
After its abandonment, the fort was never reoccupied. The stockade and building ruins were seen by Lewis and Clark during their famous 8,000-mile expedition through the West.
Interestingly enough, the exact location of Fort de Cavagnial is presently unknown. It remains as one of the active historical and archeological mysteries in Kansas.