Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
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Born on November 17, 1685, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye, was a French-Canadian explorer, military officer, and fur trader. He is best known for his exploration that led to the opening up of the area west of Lake Superior. The exploration embarked on with his four sons in the 1730s set the pace for the process that added Western Canada to the original New France in the Saint Lawrence Basin.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye went on four successive explorations, and one of his sons lost his life through an attack by Sioux. Pierre became the first known European to reach North Dakota and upper Missouri River. His two sons also explored to cross the prairie to Wyoming making them the first Europeans to see the Rocky Mountains north of New Mexico.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye was born on November 17, 1685, in Troise-Rivieres, Quebec to Rene Gaultier de Varenner and Marie. Rene arrived in Canada as a soldier and Marie was the daughter of the first Governor of Trois-Rivières, Pierre Boucher. Rene died when Pierre was six year. He had his education at the Jesuit seminary in Quebec. He received cadet commission in the colonial regulars when he was 14 years.
Early Military Career
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye was involved in the Queen Anne’s War and also part of the Raid on Deerfield in 1704 and 1705. The raid was an attack on the inhabitants of a sleeping village through a 300-mile journey in the wilderness. Pierre Gaultier took part in an unsuccessful attack on St. Johns, Newfoundland in 1706.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye was enlisted in the French Army at the age of 22 and was involved in several battles. During the War of the Spanish Succession, Pierre fought in Flanders, getting wounded in the Battle of Malplaquet. Pierre was captured in the process, but after his recovery from his injuries, Pierre gained freedom from being held as a prisoner of war and returned to Canada. Throughout this period, he was involved in farming and fur-trading in St Lawrence to cater for his family.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye trading went on until 1726 when he brother Jacques-René gained appointment as commander of the post du Nord. The post, which was on the north shore of Lake Superior, had three main posts, Fort Kaministiquia, Nipigon River and Wawa, Ontario. With this Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye had the chance to trade there. In 1728, Jacques left to fight the Fox Indians; hence, Pierre took over as the Commandant.
During this period, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye got involved in the quest to find a route to the Pacific aside using the Hudson Bay since it has been handed over to the English during the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. This forbid the French from using any possible passage of the north-west. With some consultation and quizzing some Indian merchants, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye corrected predicted that exploring through Lake Winnipeg was the key. After conceiving this idea , he met with Governor Beauharnois at Quebec in 1730 to strategies. The first plan was therefore to build a post on Lake Winnipeg. The crew including his three sons and 50 engages set for the explorations in 1731.
His son Jean-Baptiste, in that autumn, built Fort St. Pierre on Rainy Lake. They built the Fort St. Charles on Lake of the Wood in 1732. This place served as their headquarters for many years. Jean-Baptiste was able to move closer to Lake Winnipeg in 1733 but due lack of supplies and presence of ice block him from sailing through. He finally sailed through and reached Winnipeg in 1734 and built Fort Maurepas (Canada) near the mouth of the Red River.
Due to lack of supplies, Jean Baptiste and other eighteen Frenchmen decided to go to Lake Superior for supplies in 1736. Unfortunately, they were all killed by the Sioux at the place which became Massacre Island on Lake of the Woods. To safe guide, the fur trade, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye prevented any kind of revenge. A year later he returned to La Verendrye. His next exploration was on the Missouri River in the Mandan country currently North Dakota. By September 1738, he was at Fort Maurepas on Lake Winnipeg and explored further to Assiniboine River and Portage la Prairie to build the Fort la Reine at thesouth of Lake Manitoba in October 1738. After the exploration, he returned to Quebec on business purpose in 1740.
A year after, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye embarked on his last exploration to the west. The start point was from the Fort La Reine where he directed his son Louis-Joseph to explore westward to Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Pierre, on the other hand, explored on the lakes west of Lake Winnipeg to establish Fort Dauphin, Fort Bourbon and Fort Paskoya. Since Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La VÃ©rendrye trade in fur as part of his exploration, Maurepas saw his exploration as ineffective. Upon Pierre’s return to France, there were suggestions that he be replaced 1742.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye instead resigned in 1743 and returned to New France to continue his business. He was re-engaged for his post in 1746 and set to explore the Saskatchewan River. He died on December 5, 1749.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye has been named after several places including, La Verendrye Provincial Park, Ontario, Boulevard de La Vérendrye in Montreal, Quebec, Boulevard La Vérendrye in Gatineau, Quebec, La Vérendrye Hospital in Fort Frances, Ontario, École Secondaire Catholique de LaVérendye, Thunder Bay, Ontario and La Verendrye School, Portage la Prairie, MB among others.