The Verendrye Museum in Fort Pierre is a Great Place in South Dakota that highlights and documents the history of the Fort Pierre area from the earliest explorations of Europeans.
It was in 1742, that brothers Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye embarked on their expedition to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. They reached the location of the present-day Fort Pierre and Pierre area 61 years before Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
In March 1743, they buried a lead plate in the area to establish French sovereignty on the upper Missouri, hoping to establish French control of the entire Mississippi drainage system.
It wasn’t until 1913 that children playing along the hillside found the lead plate. State historian Doane Robinson was contacted and saved the plate. Inscription on the front of the plate translates, “In the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Louis XV, the most illustrious Lord, the Lord Marquis of Beauharnios being Viceroy, 1741, Pierre Gaultier De Le Verendrye placed this.” The back reads, “Placed by Chevalier Verendrye, Louis La Londette, and A. Miotte. 30 March 1743.”
The site is now commemorated with a granite marker that stands 4-feet tall and is engraved with the following: “Here on March 30, 1743, the Verendryes buried a lead tablet to claim this region for France. This tablet found on Feb. 16, 1913, is the first written record of the visit of white men to South Dakota.”
Today, the lead plate buried by the Verendrye brothers is displayed at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, which is open daily, call 605-773-3458 for more information. For a travel itinerary in the Pierre/Fort Pierre area click this link.
The Verendrye Museum is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. During the off season, a portion of the museum’s displays are at the Fort Pierre Log Cabin Information Center on the corner of Main and Highway 83 in Fort Pierre. Special arrangements can also be made by calling 605-222-6071.
For more information you can also visit the National Park Service’s page on this topic.