NPS Logo

Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

Suggested Reading


Explorers and Settlers
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings


Location: Blue Earth County, right bank of Blue Earth River, near its junction with the Le Sueur River, just southwest of Mankato.

Pierre Charles le Sueur established Fort L'Huillier in 1700 as a headquarters for trading and mining. The fort consisted of three or four log cabins surrounded by a palisade. When Le Sueur returned to France the following year he carried with him much geographical data—such as the location of Indian villages and streams—that were incorporated in various maps and travel accounts. He also reportedly had 2 tons of the local blue earth transported to Paris at great expense, only to find that it was merely clay instead of the valuable copper ore he believed it to be. The site of Fort L'Huillier is on a large natural mound, about 60 to 75 feet high, on the top of which are a few acres of fairly level ground. The site is in farmland, and evidence of the fort's structures has been destroyed by cultivation.


Location: Lake of the Woods County, Magnusson Island, on the southern shore of the Northwest Angle Inlet, near Penasse.

In 1732, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Vérendrye, established Fort St. Charles as his westernmost headquarters, and it became the focal point for French fur trade and exploration in a large region. The fort consists of an oblong palisade of posts, about 12 to 15 feet high, within which were located several rough cabins, a missionary's residence, commandant's house, chapel, powder magazine, storehouse, and other structures. Two gates were located opposite each other, and the fort had an observation tower.

In 1736, La Vérendrye sent a relief party from the fort to Michilimackinac Island—1,500 miles away—for supplies. The party of 19 voyageurs and 3 canoes, led by La Vérendrye's son, Jean Baptiste, and Jesuit Father Aulneau, camped on a small island in the Lake of the Woods (now called Massacre Island), where Indians massacred them. The elder La Vérendrye brought the bodies back to the fort and buried them beneath the chapel. In the early 1750's, the fort was abandoned.

In 1908, an archeological expedition under the auspices of the Historical Society of St. Boniface discovered the site. Excavation revealed the ruins of a large fireplace; the locations of the chapel, the priest's house, and the commandant's quarters; remnants of the palisade; and apparently some skeletal remains of the Jean Baptiste de la Vérendrye party. In 1951, the Knights of Columbus placed a granite altar on the spot where the original chapel stood. Today, Fort St. Charles is marked by a conjecturally reconstructed stockade of cedar poles. The foundations of the original huts have been marked, and the chapel reconstructed of concrete "logs." The site is owned by the Minnesota Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus.

Previous Next
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005