Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Verendrye, established Fort St. Charles on Lake of the Woods in 1732. A daring soldier, fir trader, and explorer, La Verendrye had the ambitious dream of finding the fabled "Western Sea" and sought to establish French outposts along the way. On Magnuson's Island (then connected with the mainland) he built a palisaded fort which he named in honor of Charles de Beauharnois, governor of New France.
Fort St. Charles became the western capital of the French empire in the Northwest. From it expeditions were launched and supplies dispatched to newer posts around Lake Winnipeg. Indians brought furs to trade for white men's goods, and these pelts were sent by canoe to Montreal. The scarcity of food and Indian warfare made life precarious. In 1736 La Verendrye's oldest son, Jean-Baptiste, nineteen voyageurs, and Father Jean-Pierre Aulneau, a Jesuit priest, were sent on an expedition to the east for supplies. They were massacred by a Sioux war party on a nearby island.
Abandoned after 1760, the fort was rediscovered and marked by a group of Jesuit fathers in 1908. The site was acquired and the buildings reconstructed by the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus some forty years later.