Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye

(1714-1755)




Gaultier de La Vérendrye de Boumois, Pierre, (he signed La Vérendrye l'aîné (the elder) after the death in 1736 of his brother Jean-Baptiste Gaultier de La Vérendrye), explorer; born 1 December 1714 at Île aux Vaches on Lac Saint-Pierre (Quebec), second son of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye and Marie-Anne Dandonneau Du Sablé; died 13 September 1755 in Quebec.

          In 1728 Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye joined the colonial regular troops as a cadet and for two years did garrison duty in Montreal.  In 1731, when he was barely 16, he left for the west with his father and spent the winter with him at the post of Kaministiquia (Thunder Bay, Ontario).  In 1732 he accompanied him to Lake of the Woods (Ontario), where they built Fort Saint-Charles.  In the spring of 1734, after his father had left for Montreal, Pierre took command of Fort Saint-Charles.  He was relieved of this command by his cousin, Christophe Dufrost de La Jemeraye, towards the end of the summer and was ordered to build Fort Maurepas on the Red River.  His brother Jean-Baptiste, who had previously been given this task, had, however, returned earlier than foreseen from an expedition into the Sioux country in the region of the upper Mississippi; consequently it was he who went to the Red River.  In February 1737 Pierre accompanied his father to Fort Maurepas, and in June the two men left the west for Montreal and Quebec.

          Upon their return to Fort Saint-Charles in August 1738 the explorer entrusted command of the fort to his son for the period of his voyage into the Mandan country, in present-day North Dakota.  Pierre remained in command until November 1739.  The following summer his father, who was on his way to Montreal, sent him from Michilimackinac the goods necessary for an exploratory voyage into the Mandan and Pawnee country.  Pierre went to Fort La Reine (Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba), on the Assiniboine River, and there he was forced to stay until the spring of 1741.  Accompanied by two Frenchmen, he then continued south "as far as two Spanish forts," probably in present-day Nebraska; for lack of a guide, however, he had to turn back.  He returned from his expedition with two horses and some articles of Spanish make.  Pierre was already at Fort La Reine when his father, returning from the east, reached it in October 1741.  The explorer immediately sent his son to build Fort Dauphin (Winnipegosis, Manitoba), north of Dauphin Lake.  His mission completed, Pierre invited the Crees and Assiniboins to bring their furs from then on to the new fort, then he returned to Fort La Reine where he spent the entire year of 1742.  He remained in the west after his father, who was replaced as commandant of the postes de l'Ouest by Nicolas-Joseph de Noyelles de Fleurimont, had left for good in 1744.

          Pierre went back to Montreal in 1745, but did not stay there long.  He left again that same year for New England, where he fought under the orders of Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre.  In May 1746 he followed Legardeur to Acadia, and in the spring of the following year, still under the same command, he fought against the Mohawks.  He was then "detached to go to run the postes de l'Ouest," and made his preparations accordingly.  The necessities of the war, however, changed his plans and the expedition was not able to set out for Michilimackinac until 10 Aug. 1747.  Upon their arrival at the post the voyageurs were detained by Charles-Joseph de Noyelles de Fleurimont, the acting commandant, who feared what might result from the Indians' illwill.  But Pierre "took it upon himself to go with great difficulty to the posts" and succeeded in winning the Indians over to the French cause again.  In the spring of 1748 Pierre came back to Michilimackinac, then went on to the west, where he rebuilt the Fort Maurepas situated on the Winnipeg River, which had been burned by the Indians, and Fort La Reine, which was falling into ruin.  On 1 May 1749 he received the rank of second ensign; although he was suggested as a lieutenant for service in the West Indies, he preferred to remain in Canada with his lower rank, which he was to keep until his death.  Pierre was at Michilimackinac when he learned in December 1749 of his father's death.  He returned to Montreal at the end of the summer of 1750.

          During 1751 Pierre was occupied with several military operations at Quebec and Montreal.  The following year he was sent to Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, New Brunswick), where he served until its surrender to the British in 1755.  At the beginning of his stay there, in 1752, he had sent Rouillé, the minister of Marine, a report in which he summed up his services and asked for the aid and protection of the court, but he does not seem to have received a reply.  Pierre returned to Canada in the summer of 1755 and died, a bachelor, in the month of September.

          An excellent soldier and a good explorer, Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye seems to have been endowed with the same qualities as his cousin La Jemerais and his brothers Jean-Baptiste and Louis-Joseph, but not with the latter's breadth of vision.  He might perhaps have done significant work if circumstances had furnished him the opportunity for leadership.

—  Antoine Champagne, Professeur à la retraite, Winnipeg, Manitoba




Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye (the original article)
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