Douay, Anastase (unknown–unknown)

By: Robert S. Weddle

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: January 1, 2013

Anastase Douay, a Recollect friar with the La Salle expedition (1684), is said by Louis Hennepin to have been a native of Quesnoy, in the Hainaut region of northern France. Douay had never been to America until he accompanied La Salle on his voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. He was eyewitness to La Salle's murder, of which he tells in his often biased account of his two journeys from La Salle's Texas Settlement to eastern Texas in 1686 and 1687. Despite its flaws, Douay's narrative is the only account of La Salle's first eastern journey, which lasted from mid-April to late August 1686 and reached the habitations of the "Cenis" (Hasinai, or Tejas) Indians. It therefore is a valuable historical source, even if "not noted for strict adherence to the truth."

As one of the seventeen who set out again from La Salle's Texas Settlement in January 1687 hoping to reach Fort St. Louis of the Illinois, Douay continued his narrative. His account affords an interesting comparison to those of Jean Cavelier and Henri Joutel, who were also on the journey. Douay claimed that his intention was to remain among the East Texas natives to begin a mission; he expected the other Recollects from the settlement on Lavaca Bay, Zénobe Membré and Maxime Le Clercq, to join him there later, with other clerics to be sent from France. The events that followed aborted such plans.

Among the more interesting passages of Douay's account are those telling of La Salle's last hours and of his death. The friar was the leader's only French companion as he started out to look for the long-overdue hunting party, unaware that three of his closest associates already had been slain. La Salle, he says, having confessed his sins before leaving the camp, was seized by a deep melancholy during their long walk. As La Salle lay dying in his arms, Douay gave him absolution, then, so he claims, buried him and erected a cross over the grave, a matter at odds with Joutel's account.

After La Salle's death, Douay and five others, including Jean Cavelier, returned to Canada and thence to France in 1688. Douay is said to have been vicar of the Recollects at Cambray, on the Scheidt River in northern France, in 1697. In September 1698 he sailed again for the New World, as chaplain of the Louisiana founding expedition of Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. He may have hoped to find his fellow Recollects, whom he believed had gone to the Hasinais expecting to join his mission. Douay celebrated Mass upon Iberville's discovery of the Mississippi, March 3, 1699. For Iberville, however, he was a source of aggravation, especially when he lost his journal and breviary and accused the Bayogoula Indians, who were hosts to the French, of having stolen them. When Iberville sailed for France, Douay chose to return to his monastery in Paris. Thus he fades from the record.

Yet he was to make one further contribution. His journals, including one of the Iberville expedition, are listed among the sources for Claude and Guillaume Delisle's 1703 map entitled Carte du Mexique et de la Floride. Douay, it seems, had either found his missing journal or reconstructed it. Unfortunately, it has since been lost again.

John Gilmary Shea, Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley (New York: Redfield, 1852). Robert S. Weddle, The French Thorn: Rival Explorers in the Spanish Sea, 1682–1762 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Robert S. Weddle et al., eds., La Salle, the Mississippi, and the Gulf: Three Primary Documents (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987).


  • Exploration
  • Explorers (French)
  • Peoples
  • French
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
  • Religion
  • Catholic

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert S. Weddle, “Douay, Anastase,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
January 1, 2013

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