French colonists meet again after 300 years
Photo of Sieur de Marle’s profile
Photo of Sieur de Marle’s profile

Over 300 years after their deaths, the Sieur de Marle will join his fellow French colonist, the Marquis de Sablonniere, at the Museum of the Coastal Bend.

Thanks to the wonders of modern science and forensic sculpting, the faces of these two individuals can now be seen. The exhibit opens on Saturday, Sept. 19 with a public reception honoring exhibit sponsors, an unveiling of de Marle’s facial reconstruction, and informational presentations about the reconstruction process and de Marle’s story.

Eric Ray, curator of exhibits and collections, and Isabel Van Dyke, curator of education and public programs, will present information about de Marle, La Salle and the French colonists’ last journey out of Texas in a discussion beginning at 11 a.m.

These presentations will be immediately followed by a discussion with Amanda Danning, the forensic sculptor who completed the reconstruction process. She worked with medical modeling experts to print a 3D model of de Marle’s skull from precise measurements. Danning then overlaid the plastic resin skull with clay musculature, connective tissue and finally, skin, to create de Marle’s likeness.

The Sieur de Marle died in Texas in 1687 while on an overland trek initiated by famed explorer Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle. After founding Fort Saint Louis on Garcitas Creek in southern Victoria County in 1684, the French battled the environment, native inhabitants, disease, poor diet and bad treatment for several years, while being driven tirelessly by La Salle on land expeditions in attempts to find the mouth of the Mississippi River. Of the 180 original colonists, only about 40 remained in 1687; 16 men accompanied La Salle on a last trek out of Texas, leaving behind 23 adults and children at the fort.

During this final journey, La Salle was killed when several of his men mutinied near what is now Huntsville, Texas. Shortly after, La Salle’s nephew reported that he saw de Marle drown while bathing in a river; his probable remains were excavated in 1932 during the archaeological investigation of a Caddo village in Bowie County, Texas. Interestingly, he was discovered with evidence of bullet wounds to his torso.

“Today’s museum visitors are very interested in seeing images of historical figures,” stated Sue Prudhomme, VC’s director of cultural affairs and museum director. “We can’t imagine a time without the constant barrage of images that documents our lives. However, Victoria’s French colonists didn’t have this luxury. The facial reconstruction project has given the museum the ability to put a ‘face’ on individuals from the seventeenth century in the absence of photographs or other likenesses.”

The presentations are open to the public. Unveiling activities begin at 10:30 a.m. with a public reception to honor sponsors of the facial reconstruction project.

Sponsors include Christa N. Donoghue, Dennis & Hilary Donoghue-Brandon, Kay & Jim McHaney, John & Aggie Quitta, Doug & Debbie Wuest, Arthur & Shirley Buckert, Sharon Steen & Gary Dunnam, Kerry McCan, Janet S. Miller, Raymond Starr, Bette-jo Buhler, John & Judy Clegg, Marcy & Gary Worsham, Citizens Medical Center, and Liz and David Heiser. The exhibit is also funded in part by hotel occupancy tax funds granted by the City of Victoria.

The Museum of the Coastal Bend is located on the corner of Red River and Ben Jordan streets on Victoria College’s Main Campus in Victoria. Exhibit viewing hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Admission is free for members, VC students, faculty and staff and pay-what-you-want for the general public.

Published: Friday, 11 September 2015

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