GAULTIER DU TREMBLAY, FRANÇOIS (also called Gaultier de La Vérendrye), explorer and soldier; b. 29 Oct. 1715 and baptized on 22 December at Sorel (Que.), third son of Pierre Gaultier* de Varennes et de La Vérendrye and Marie-Anne Dandonneau Du Sablé; d. 30 July 1794 in Montreal (Que.).
François Gaultier Du Tremblay was not yet 16 when he left for the west with his father and his brothers Jean-Baptiste* and Pierre* in 1731. After wintering at Kaministiquia (Thunder Bay, Ont.), he spent the summer of 1732 helping build Fort Saint-Charles on Lake of the Woods. In 1737 he went with his father to Fort Maurepas on the Red River and in the autumn of 1738 to the Mandan country, a region corresponding roughly to present-day North Dakota. When the explorers entered the main Mandan village on 3 Dec. 1738, François was at their head, carrying a flag with the arms of France.
A few years later François returned to this area in the course of along expedition to the southwest organized by his brother Louis-Joseph*, the Chevalier de La Vérendrye. They set out in the spring of 1742, with two Frenchmen and some Indian guides, and went first to the Mandan country. After passing through many Indian villages, they arrived among the Gens de l’Arc – probably a Pawnee tribe – from whom they hoped to obtain information about the western sea. The Chevalier was obliged to take part in a war these Indians were waging, but François remained with the non-combatants to guard the expedition’s belongings. In March 1743 the explorers encountered some Gens de la Petite-Cerise, a Pawnee-Arikara clan, and stayed with them for some time. Near their fort, situated at the juncture of the Bad and Missouri rivers, opposite present-day Pierre in South Dakota, the Chevalier buried a plaque to mark their passage. It bears François’s name, shortened to “tblt” (for Tremblet, a spelling frequently found), as well as those of the Chevalier and the two Frenchmen accompanying them.
After his father’s resignation in 1744 François remained in the west and served under Nicolas-Joseph de Noyelles* de Fleurimont, who replaced La Vérendrye as commandant of the poste de l’Ouest. In 1746 La Vérendrye again became commandant and Pierre went to join François at the post, arriving during the winter of 1747–48. François was still in this region when his father died in December 1749 in Montreal. On 1 Oct. 1750 he was appointed a gentleman cadet in the colonial regular troops by Governor La Jonquière [Taffanel*], and in 1750 or 1751, after more than 19 years’ absence, he returned to the St Lawrence valley.
François was not to remain long in the east. In February 1752 his brother Louis-Joseph entered into partnership with Luc de La Corne to run the trading post at Chagouamigon (Ashland, Wis.), and François signed on to work for them as an interpreter at a salary of 500 livres a year. In 1755 François was back in Montreal with his brother, and on 13 June 1756 he made over to Louis-Joseph all his rights to the family property, including his share in the fief of Du Tremblay, in return for a life annuity of 400 livres per annum. In a laborious and awkward handwriting, he signed this deed “tranblei,” his only extant signature. On Louis-Joseph’s death in 1761 François found himself, against his own wishes, once more in possession of the family heritage; on 29 Nov. 1769 he again surrendered his rights, this time to his brother’s widow, Louise-Antoinette de Mézières de Lépervanche, on condition that she maintain and support him or pay him an annual allowance of 450 livres. In a petition addressed to Governor Haldimand In 1781 she spoke of the burden presented by her brother-in-law, “an old man incapable of providing for his needs.”
François Gaultier Du Tremblay, who was almost completely illiterate, does not seem to have possessed his brothers’ abilities or initiative. He lived modestly and unobtrusively and would probably have remained unnoticed had he not belonged to a great family of discoverers. With his death in 1794 the La Vérendrye family came to an end.
AN, Col., C11A, 100, ff.28, 30, 32; C11E, 16, ff.308–13; D2C, 61, f.125. ANQ-M, Greffe de L.-C. Danré de Blanzy, 13 juin 1756; Greffe d’Antoine Foucher, 18 févr. 1752; Greffe de Pierre Panet, 5 juill. 1764, 29 nov. 1769; Greffe de François Simonnet, 15 juill. 1750. BL, Add. mss 21734, 3 Feb. 1781 (PAC transcript). [Besides the two works of Antoine Champagne, Les La Vérendrye et le paste de l’Ouest (Québec, 1968) and Nouvelles études sur les La Vérendrye et le paste de l’Ouest (Québec, 1971), there are a great many studies and printed source materials that concern the La Vérendrye family. Readers should consult the bibliographies to the articles on Pierre Gaultier* de Varennes et de La Vérendrye and his sons Jean-Baptiste*, Louis-Joseph*, and Pierre* in volumes II and III of the DCB. a.c.]