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Between 1706 and 1719 the French penetration was steady. In 1708 Canadians explored "three hundred to four hundred leagues" of the Missouri River; and during the next decade the French from the Louisiana capital reached out along other tributaries of the Mississippi. In 1719 Charles Claude du Tisne, sent up the Missouri River by the Governor of Louisiana, visited the Osage villages, near the mouth of the Osage River, and crossed the northeast corner of Kansas to the Pawnee region on the Republican River. The Spanish heard that "he planted the French flag in native villages and even traded in Spanish horses." Don Pedro de Villa2ur, assigned "to drive the French out of the land," left Santa Fe in 1720 with a Spanish force of 42 soldiers, 3 settlers, 60 Indians, and a priest. The route was "always to the northeast from Santa Fe." Possibly the caravan passed through part of Kansas, but the account mentions only three rivers, the Napestle (Arkansas), the Jesus Maria (south fork of the Platte), and the San Lorenzo (north fork of the Platte). Villazur and most of the Spaniards were killed in a battle, thought to have been fought near the town of North Platte, Nebraska. This defeat ended Spanish operations and left the French in undisputed possession. 

The French established themselves more securely in the region in 1722, when Etienne Venyard, Sieur de Bourgmont, erected Fort Orleans near the mouth of the Osage River. Two years later Bourgmont worked among Kansas Indians and penetrated even to the Rocky Mountains. He seemed to have established trading relations with many tribes, but Kansa warriors destroyed Fort Orleans in 1725. 

In 1763 French authority, in all America, came to an end. England, victorious in the long French and Indian War, received the Canadian provinces and all French rights to land east of the Mississippi. New Orleans and Louisiana, west of the Mississippi, had already (1762) been ceded by France to Spain. 

Spain showed little interest in the Quivira country thus regained, yet the development of Kansas began under its ownership. Pierre Laclede Luguest, with Auguste and Pierre Chouteau of the French fur trading family, established headquarters at St. Louis in 1764, and sent agents from there to the Indians of Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Kansas. These agents, although few in number, cleared the paths by which Kansas was to emerge from a little-known region into a definite territory. 

In 1801, by the Treaty of Madrid, which confirmed the 1800 Treaty of San Ildefonso, Louisiana west of the Mississippi was retroceded to France, which by then had renewed its ambitions for a colonial empire and thereby alarmed the recently formed United States. France, under Napoleon, was at the height of its power too dominant a neighbor to be viewed placidly. Recognition of this and other considerations led President Thomas Jefferson to propose the purchase by the United States of west Florida and New Orleans. Napoleon's counter proposal, offering the whole of Louisiana, was accepted. On April 30, 1803, Louisiana, including the Kansas region, became the property of the United States. 

Explorations sponsored by the United States began immediately. In January 1803, before the Louisiana Purchase was consummated, President Jefferson called the attention of Congress to the land west of the Mississippi, pointing out the possibilities of trade and suggesting an appropriation of $2,500 for the purpose of exploring the country and furthering commerce. The appropriation was made, and an exploring party organized under command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark. 

In March 1804 the Territory was divided into two parts. Land south of the thirty-third parallel was named the Territory of Orleans; that north of the parallel, including Kansas, became the District of Louisiana, attached for legal purposes to the Territory of Indiana.