The city name comes from the
(French: le détroit du Lac Érie), meaning the strait of Lake Erie, linking Lake Huron and Lake Erie; in the historical context, the strait included Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. Traveling up the Detroit River on the ship Le Griffon (owned by La Salle), Father Louis Hennepin noted the north bank of the river as an ideal location for a settlement. There, in 1701, the French officer
Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac
, along with fifty-one additional French-Canadians, founded a settlement called
Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit
, naming it after the comte de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine under Louis XIV. France offered free land to attract families to Detroit, which grew to 800 people in 1765, the largest city between Montreal and New Orleans. Francois Marie Picoté, sieur de Belestre (Montreal 1719–1793) was the last French military commander at
(1758–1760), surrendering the fort on November 29, 1760 to British Major Robert Rogers (of Rogers' Rangers fame and sponsor of the Jonathan Carver expedition to St. Anthony Falls). The British gained control of the area in 1760 and were thwarted by an Indian attack three years later during Pontiac's Rebellion. The region's fur trade was an important economic activity. Detroit's city flag reflects this French heritage.