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and questioned missionaries, officers, voyageurs, and Indians. The results were not satisfactory. The missionaries and the officers had nothing to tell; the voyagers and Indians knew no more than they, but invented confused and contradictory falsehoods to hide their ignorance. Charlevoix made note of everything, and reported to the Comte de Toulouse that the Pacific probably formed the western boundary of the country of the Sioux, and that some Indians told him that they had been to its shores and found white men there different from the French.
Believing that these stories were not without foundation, Charlevoix reported two plans as likely to lead to the coveted discovery. One was to ascend the Missouri, “the source of which is certainly not far from the sea, as all the Indians I have met have unanimously assured me;" and the other was to establish a mission among the Sioux, from whom, after thoroughly learning their language, the missionaries could, as he thinks, gain all the desired information.1
The Regent approved the plan of the mission; but the hostile disposition of the Sioux and the Outagamies prevented its execution for several years. In
1 The valuable journal of Charlevoix's western travels, written in the form of letters, was published in connection with his His. toire de la Nouvelle France. After his visit to the Lakes, he went to New Orleans, intending to return in the spring and continue his inquiries for the Western Sea; but being unable to do this, he went back to France at the end of 1722. The official report of his mis. sion is contained in a letter to the Comte de Toulouse, 20 January
1727 the scheme was revived, and the colonial minister at Versailles ordered the governor of Canada to send two missionaries to the Sioux. But the mission required money, and the King would not give it. Hence the usual expedient was adopted. A company was formed, and invested with a monopoly of the Sioux fur-trade, on condition of building a fort, mission-house, and chapel, and keeping an armed force to guard them. It was specially provided that none but pious and virtuous persons were to be allowed to join the Company, “in order,” says the document, “to attract the benediction of God upon them and their business.”" The prospects of the Company were thought good, and the governor himself was one of the shareholders. While the mission was given the most conspicuous place in the enterprise, its objects were rather secular than spiritual, to attach the Sioux to the French interest by the double ties of religion and trade, and utilize their supposed knowledge to reach the Pacific.” Father Guignas was made the head of the mission, and Boucher de la Perrière the military chief. The party left Montreal in June, and, journeying to the Mississippi by way of Michilimackinac, Green Bay, Fox River, and the Wisconsin, went up the great river to Lake Pepin, where the adventurous Nicolas Perrot had built two trading-posts more than forty years before. Even if his time-worn tenements were still standing, La Perrière had no thought of occupying them. On the north, or rather west, side of the lake his men found a point of land that seemed fit for their purpose, disembarked, cut down trees, and made a square stockade enclosing the necessary buildings. It was near the end of October before they were all well housed. A large band of Sioux presently appeared, and set up their teepees hard by. When the birthday of the governor came, the party celebrated it with a display of fireworks and vociferous shouts of Vive le Roi, Vive Charles de Beauharnois, while the Indians yelped in fright and amazement at the pyrotechnics, or stood pressing their hands upon their mouths in silent amazement. The French called their fort Fort Beauharnois, and invited the aid of Saint Michael the Archangel by naming the mission in his honor. All went well till April, when the water rose with the spring floods and filled fort, chapel, and houses to the depth of nearly three feet, ejecting the whole party, and forcing them to encamp on higher ground till the deluge subsided.” Worse enemies than the floods soon found them out. These were the irrepressible Outagamies, who rose against the intruding French and incited the Sioux to join them. There was no profit for the Company, and no safety for its agents. The stockholders became discouraged, and would not support the enterprise. The fort was abandoned, till in 1731 1 Guignas a Beauharnois, 28 Mai, 1728.
1 Traité de la Compagnie des Siour, 6 Juin, 1727.
* On this scheme, Vaudreuil et Begon au Ministre, 4 Octobre, 1723; Longueuil et Begon au Ministre, 31 Octobre, 1725; Beauharnois at Dupuy au Ministre, 25 Septembre, 1727.
a new arrangement was made, followed by another attempt.For a time a prosperous trade was carried on; but, as commonly happened in such cases, the adventurers seem to have thought more of utilizing their monopoly than of fulfilling the terms on which they had received it. The wild Sioux of the plains, instead of being converted and turned into Frenchmen, proved such dangerous neighbors that, in 1737, Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, who then commanded the post, found himself forced to abandon it. The enterprise had failed in both its aims. The Western Sea was still a mystery, and the Sioux were not friends, but enemies. Legardeur de Saint-Pierre recommended that they should be destroyed, — benevolent advice easy to give, and impossible to execute.8
René Gaultier de Varennes, lieutenant in the regiment of Carignan, married at Three Rivers, in 1667, the daughter of Pierre Boucher, governor of that place; the age of the bride, Demoiselle Marie Boucher, being twelve years, six months, and eighteen days. Varennes succeeded his father-in-law as governor of Three Rivers, with a salary of twelve hundred francs, to which he added the profits of a farm of forty acres; and on these modest resources, reinforced by an illicit trade in furs, he made shift to
· Beauharnois et Hocquart au Ministre, 25 Octobre, 1729; Idem, 12 Octobre, 1731.
Relation du Sieur de Saint-Pierre, 14 Octobre, 1737. : "Cet officier (Saint-Pierre) a ajouté qu'il seroit avantageux do détruire cette nation.” – Mémoire de Beauharnois, 1738.
sustain the dignity of his office. His wife became the mother of numerous offspring, among whom was Pierre, born in 1685, – an active and hardy youth, who, like the rest of the poor but vigorous Canadian noblesse, seemed born for the forest and the fur-trade. When, however, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out, the young man crossed the sea, obtained the commission of lieutenant, and was nearly killed at the battle of Malplaquet, where he was shot through the body, received six sabre-cuts, and was left for dead on the field. He recovered, and returned to Canada, when, finding his services slighted, he again took to the woods. He had assumed the designation of La Vérendrye, and thenceforth his full name was Pierre Gaultier de Varennes de la Vérendrye.” In 1728, he was in command of a small post on Lake Nipigon, north of Lake Superior. Here an Indian chief from the river Kaministiguia told him of a certain great lake which discharged itself by a river flowing westward. The Indian further declared that he had descended this river till he reached water that ebbed and flowed, and, terrified by the strange phenomenon, had turned back, though not till he had heard of a great salt lake, bordered with many villages. Other Indians confirmed and improved the story. “These people,” said La Vérendrye to the
1 M. Benjamin Sulte has traced out the family history of the Varennes in the parish registers of Three Rivers and other trust, worthy sources. See Revue Canadienne, x. 781, 849, 935.