Talon Children (unknown–unknown)

By: Robert S. Weddle

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: November 19, 2013

Lucien and Isabelle (Planteau) Talon, who joined the La Salle expedition in 1684, brought six small children to the Texas shore, where they experienced the wilderness and its natives as few Europeans ever did. Among the Talon children were the only survivors of the massacre at La Salle’s Texas settlement, save one, and another who was in René Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle's company in eastern Texas when he was slain. Not only were they to shed light on the riddle of La Salle's colony but also to provide lucid accounts of life among the Texas Indians. Some of the Talons were to involve themselves in historical events of Texas and the South at least until 1715. Lucien Talon was a native of the bishopric of Beauvais, in Normandy. He and Isabelle Planteau, of St. Méry Parish in Paris, are believed to have married in Quebec, where two sons and two daughters were born: Marie-Elizabeth on September 10, 1672; Marie-Madeleine on November 3, 1673; Pierre on March 20, 1676; and Jean-Baptiste on May 26, 1679. The third son, Lucien, may have been born before the family left Canada for France, where they arrived about the time La Salle began organizing his expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. When the family joined the expedition, Madame Talon was again pregnant; a fourth son, Robert, was born during the voyage. Lucien Talon, père, was a carpenter by trade but seems to have joined the expedition as a soldier. He is said to have been "lost in the woods" before October 1685. The elder daughter, Marie-Elizabeth, contracted a fatal illness, probably in the winter of 1686. When La Salle left the settlement the last time, in January 1687, to seek his post on the Illinois River, he took the oldest son, Pierre, not quite eleven. He intended leaving the lad, and possibly a few others, among the Hasinai (Tejas) Indians of eastern Texas to learn the language. Thus, he might form a link between these friendly natives and the twenty-odd men and women left in the colony on Lavaca Bay. Whatever the plan, it was diverted by tragedy in both the group with La Salle and the one remaining in the settlement. Alonso De León, after returning to Coahuila with Jacques Grollet and Jean L'Archevêque in 1689, gathered up four of the Talon children on his 1690 entrada. He first found Pierre, who with Pierre Meunier had been living among the Hasinais, then took Marie-Madeleine, Lucien, and Robert from the Karankawas on the Gulf Coast. All bore Indian tattoos on their faces and parts of their bodies; the two younger boys had forgotten their native language. Jean-Baptiste Talon and another youth, Eustache Bréman, were rescued from among the Karankawas by the expedition of Domingo Terán de los Ríos in 1691.

Taken to Mexico City, the five Talon children were placed as servants in the household of the viceroy, Gaspar de la Cerda Sandoval Silva y Mendoza, Conde de Galve. Shortly before the ailing count ended his term and returned to Spain (early in 1696), the three older boys were sent to Veracruz to be enrolled as soldiers in the Armada de Barlovento, then commanded by Andrés de Pez y Malzárraga. Pierre was about nineteen at the time, Jean-Baptiste sixteen, and Lucien probably fourteen. They were assigned to Santo Cristo de Maracaibo, the flagship of Admiral Guillermo Morfi. Marie-Madeleine and Robert went to Spain with the retiring viceroy and the countess. About a year later Santo Cristo was captured by a French vessel in the Caribbean Sea. The Talon brothers, less than cooperative in their initial interrogation by French officers, asked to be sent to Spain. They were taken instead to France, where Pierre and Jean were enrolled in naval service. Lucien, being considered too young for French military service, was employed as a servant at Oléron. The marine minister, Louis Pontchartrain, heard of the repatriates about a year later. He ordered their immediate interrogation in the hope that they would provide information useful to Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who was outfitting a new voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. With French officials still confused as to the location of La Salle's colony, the Talons held the distinction of having traveled from the settlement to Mexico City.

The interrogation indeed proved useful, for it revealed that they remembered much of the Indian languages: Jean-Baptiste of the Karankawas, Pierre of the Hasinais. Jean-Baptiste gave the only eye-witness account of La Salle's Texas Settlement massacre, where he and his sister and two small brothers had seen their mother slain. Having lived as an Indian, he gave an account of the Karankawa existence that has long been of interest to anthropologists. Pierre did the same for the Hasinais, and recounted events surrounding La Salle's death—a version somewhat different, if doubtful, from that of Henri Joutel. Although Pontchartrain failed in his effort to get the two lads on the first Iberville voyage to Louisiana, they did join the second—as soldiers in the company of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. They remained in the colony two years, serving at "Fort Biloxi" (Fort Maurepas). But the record is silent on any part they had in explorations by St. Denis and Jean-Baptiste de Bienville up the Red River. The Talon brothers, undoubtedly, were the two soldiers sent home with Iberville in April 1702 on Pontchartrain's special order, that they might "look for their woman"—their sister, who had gone from Mexico to Spain with the Condessa de Galve in 1696. Marie-Madeleine, apparently, had not remained long in Spain but had failed to make contact with her brothers upon her return to France. She married Pierre Simon of Paris in 1699.

Two years later, Pierre and Jean-Baptiste were in a Portuguese prison. Neither the reason for their incarceration nor its duration are known. No more is heard, directly, of Jean-Baptiste. Pierre reappears a decade later on the banks of the Rio Grande with his brother Robert and his old captain, St. Denis. He at last had been called upon to retrace the road linking French territory with New Spain. It was Pierre, still wearing his Indian tattoos, who guided St. Denis through Hasinai country and interpreted for him among both Indians and, after his arrival at San Juan Bautista, Spaniards. The two brothers slipped back across the Rio Grande, while St. Denis was borne off to Mexico City, and returned to Mobile. They carried their captain's brief written message to the French governor Cadillac, which they would supplement orally. Having fulfilled this historic role, the Talons fade into obscurity. One source records that Jean-Baptiste remained in Louisiana and that Pierre died in France. Robert settled in Mobile, where he married Jeanne Prot (or Praux) and fathered children born in 1719 and 1721. Nothing is heard of Lucien, fils, after he went to Oléron in 1698. Marie-Madeleine is said to have returned to her native Canada, where her son, named Pierre like his father, married at Charlesbourg in 1719.

Pierre Margry, ed., Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l'ouest et dans le sud de l'Amérique septentrionale, 1614–1754 (6 vols., Paris: Jouast, 1876–86). Cyprien Tanguay, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu'a nos jours (Montreal: E. Senecal, 1871). 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
  • Founders and Pioneers
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, “Talon Children,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/talon-children.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996
November 19, 2013

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: