Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye, military officer, farmer, fur trader, explorer (b at Trois-Rivières 17 Nov 1685; d at Montréal 5 Dec 1749). The expeditions organized by La Vérendrye and spearheaded by his sons were the first to open the country from Lk Superior to the lower Saskatchewan R and the Missouri R to the French fur trade.

Early in life La Vérendrye had chosen a military career. He saw action during the American phase of the War of the Spanish Succession and, in 1708, was wounded and taken prisoner in France. Released in 1710 he returned to Canada in 1712, married and became a farmer on his wife's land on Île aux Vaches and Île Dupas in Lac St-Pierre. Tiring of this life, he decided to join his brother Jacques-René when he became commandant of the posts along the N shore of Lk Superior in 1726. After succeeding his brother as commandant in 1728, La Vérendrye began to revive the old dream of discovering a route to the hypothetical "western sea," believed by some geographers to be a large gulf in the western interior that opened to the Pacific. With permission from the minister of the marine, Maurepas, but no financial backing, La Vérendrye sought and received a 3-year monopoly on the fur trade of the area in 1731. He formed a partnership with a number of merchants and between 1731 and 1737 he was active building posts from Lk Superior to Lk Winnipeg promoting the fur trade, and gathering native information. These accounts mentioned 2 rivers leading west. La Vérendrye named them Rivière Blanche (Saskatchewan) and Rivière de l'Ouest (Missouri). Dissatisfied with La Vérendrye's progress in exploration (6 years to get to Lk Winnipeg), Maurepas demanded action. Accordingly, La Vérendrye struck SW in 1738 to the Mandan country on the Missouri R. It was the only journey of exploration in which he had not been preceded by one of his sons or his nephew Christophe Dufrost de La Jemerais. Unsure of what he had found, exhausted physically and financially, La Vérendrye returned to Ft La Reine [ Portage la Prairie ] and left further exploration to his sons. In 1742-43 his sons Louis-Joseph and François Gaultier Du Tremblay journeyed SW beyond the Mandan, proving that the sea did not lie in that direction. In the meantime La Vérendrye continued the development of the fur trade in the Manitoba Lks area. Expectations for a major discovery were so high that Maurepas lost patience, blaming La Vérendrye for diverting energies from exploration to trading, and suggested to Governor Beauharnois that he be replaced. In 1743 La Vérendrye resigned but was reappointed in 1746. He planned the exploration of the Saskatchewan R but died before he could undertake it.