Palestine (the one in Illinois) and the mystery of Jean LaMotte

Palestine is the name of a village in Illinois, USA. As of the 2020 Cencus, it had a population of 1,233 (~95% white), and the median income per household was $41,700. But why is it named Palestine? Well, according to an archived page from Pioneer City, it looked like Palestine:

It is said that French explorer Jean LaMotte first gazed upon this region in 1678. He gave it the name Palestine, as it reminded him of the biblical land of milk and honey.

But when I tried to look up Jean LaMotte, all I found were references to him naming the Illinois village after the Middle Eastern country. Surely a European explorer who “visited” the US and named some land after a more famous land thousands of miles away would get some recognition?

I tried Google Scholar: nothing. And then opted for JSTOR and found one plausible reference of him in a journal article about a Dutch East India Company expedition in French Indochina in 1643. It’s French but using DeepL, I managed to translate some of it. The article stated that Jean LaMotte commanded one (or two) yachts called Wijdenes and Zandvoort, leaving on 13th January from Formosa (now Taiwan), asked for leave on 20th February (which he took) and went to Batavia (now Jakarta) on 18th April. That’s it.

So he existed but finding any more information about him—online at least—is nigh on impossible.

If anyone else knows more about him, please let me know and help me out of this rabbit hole. In the meantime, I wonder what the residents of Palestine, Illinois think about the genocide of their namesake’s land.

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