The Navarres:
From European kings to Potawatomi chiefs

Fulton County Historian
As Printed In The Rochester Sentinel,
Sept. 17, 1997

12/12/97 Update: Added member submitted pics of South Bend Navarre Cabin

From European kings to Great Lakes fur traders to Potawatomi chiefs, the Navarre name commands respect and conjures images of adventure.

The descendants of Pierre Navarre, first settler in South Bend, were the special honored Potawatomi family at the 22nd annual Trail of Courage Living History Festival in September at the Fulton County Historical Society grounds four miles north of Rochester on U.S. 31.

The Navarres trace their lineage back to the ancient rulers of Navarre, a province in northern Spain. Through the marriage of a Navarre heiress and Anthony de Bourbon, King of France, the family acquired French royal blood. Anthony’s son, Henry of Navarre, was able to become King Henry IV of France only if he would become a Catholic so he did in 1594, remarking, "Paris is worth a mass." His slogan "a chicken in every peasant’s pot every Sunday" made him popular with the common people and has been quoted and misquoted ever since.

Pierre’s grandfather and the first Navarre to arrive in America was Robert, the four times great-grandson of Anthony de Bourbon. He came to Fort Ponchartrain at Detroit in 1739 to represent the French government as Royal Notary. His original land grant now is Grosse Pointe. His service was so important to the growth of Detroit that his statue was placed atop the Book Cadillac Hotel along with those of Gen. Anthony Wayne, Cadillac and Pontiac.

Pierre’s brother, Francis, built the first log cabin in Monroe, Mich., where he was later killed in the Raisin River massacre. His cousin Peter, known as Peter the Scout for his service in the War of 1812, was the first settler in Toledo, Ohio. As does South Bend, Monroe and Toledo still preserve their Navarre cabins.

Pierre was born Feb. 8, 1787, in Detroit. On Sept. 13, 1834, in Pokagon’s village in Berrien County, Michigan, Pierre married Angelique Kechoueckquay, daughter of a Potawatomi chief, some say was Chief Wabaunsee. This marriage was the Catholic ceremony; they had been married years before in an Indian ceremony. They had 10 children: Peter, born 1820; Judith, 1824; Anthony and Joseph (twins), 1825; Monica, John Francoise, Catharine, Isador, Theresa, born 1827; and Frances, born 1832.

Pierre was described as "six feet tall, slightly built, dark complexioned, possessed of a very intelligent countenance. He is represented as being well educated for the times in which he lived."

In Father Benjamin Petit’s baptismal records in the University of Notre Dame library is found: "I have baptized Theresa, daughter of Mr. Pierre Navarre and of Angelique Kichoneckonary his wife, 11 years old. Lake St. Mary, 5th April, 1838." Lake St. Mary is on the Notre Dame campus. Father Stephen Badin’s baptismal records show Francoise, daughter of Pierre and Angelique, baptized 1830, and Antoin, their son, baptized in 1825.

Pierre came to northern Indiana in 1820 as a fur trader for the American Fur Company, the business that made a fortune for its owner, John Jacob Astor. Pierre built his log cabin by the river. Alexis Coquillard came in 1823 and took over Navarre’s fur trading license. Coquillard prospered but Navarre lived like the Indians and did not take more than he needed to live. Today he would be called a conservationist.

Lathrop Taylor opened a second trading post in 1827, and his account books list many purchases of Pierre Navarre, who traded animal pelts for tea, dishes, cloth, shoes, even a woman’s hat for $4 which was rather expensive compared to the other items. Angelique died in 1836. Pierre sent the younger children to live with relatives in Michigan. His older sons, Anthony and Peter, attended Choctaw Academy, an Indian school in Kentucky.

In 1838 the Potawatomi in Marshall and Fulton counties were forced to go to Kansas on what is called the Trail of Death. In 1840 the Indians around South Bend had to go west too. Some accounts state that Pierre accompanied his children west in the 1860s, but he came back to Indiana. His daughter Frances married John DeGroff and lived in Monroe, Mich. Pierre died in Frances’ home in 1864. Two years later Frances and her family moved to Kansas.

Pierre’s old cabin became a cow barn. For many years South Bend nearly forgot its founder. In 1900 the Navarre cabin was given to the Northern Indiana Historical Society, restored and moved to Leeper Park. The cabin fell into disrepair and was restored by the Garden Club in 1953. Every spring it is the site of Cabin Days for school children to learn about pioneer lifeways such as candle-dipping, cooking over a wood fire, weaving, hunting, etc.

Angelique Navarre was given a section of St. Joseph County land in the treaties of 1828 and 1832. The 1832 treaty was at the Tippecanoe River in Fulton County. In the 1833 treaty at Chicago, Pierre Navarre got $100 for claims presented and P.F. Navarre’s child got $100.

Pierre’s son Anthony was a schoolteacher at South Bend. He went west with Brigham Young in 1848, became a Mormon and lived in Utah for 10 years.

Returning to Kansas in 1857, Anthony Navarre at first preached Mormonism and promised that when the Mormons had defeated the U.S. Army, all Indian land would be returned to its original owners. Anthony built toll bridges across the Kansas River and collected substantial payments from the supply wagons of the Union Army during the Civil War.

Anthony became a tribal leader, acted as attorney for the Potawatomi, and traveled to Washington, D.C. on their behalf. As a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi in Kansas, Anthony refused to sign the treaty creating the Citizen Band of Potawatomi in 1861. This treaty was pushed by the railroad as it wanted their land in Kansas and to move the Potawatomi to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Anthony lobbied for and eventually signed an amendatory treaty in 1866, which granted quarter sections of land to all adult Potawatomis, regardless of sex or family headship. This was considered a step forward for women’s rights.

The 1860s was a time of great tumult as the Potawatomi split into two groups, the Prairie Band staying on the reservation in Kansas and the newly-formed Citizen Band moving onto individually-owned farms in Oklahoma. Some families even split, some joining the Citizen Band and others the Prairie Band. Many members of the Citizen Band lost their individually-owned land and became impoverished in the late 1860s as unscrupulous men and the railroads cheated them to get their lands. Anthony exerted considerable influence in tribal affairs in the 1880s. He died in 1893 and was buried in Washington D.C.

Rossville, Kansas, is built on land that belonged to Anthony Navarre. Harrah, Oklahoma, is on land that belonged to Peter’s son, Lewis Navarre. Part of Mishawaka, Ind., is on Peter Navarre’s former land.

Peter’s son, Gregory Navarre, was postmaster at Rossville 1867-71. Gregory’s son, Pete Navarre, was the first graduate of the printing shop in 1901 from Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas. Pete owned and published the Rossville Reporter for 40 years. A new building built in 1972 at Haskell was named Navarre Hall in honor of Pete.

One of the Navarre descendants is Prairie Band member Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Rapid City, South Dakota. He is one of only two bishops in the U.S. of American Indian descent.

The Archbishop was unable to get away from his many duties to attend, but many Navarre cousins csame to the Trail of Courage Living Historical Society Sept 20-21. The Navarres were introduced during the opening ceremonies both days and several family members told about the fascinating Navarre history. They were also honored during the Indian dances from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Trail of Courage Night was Saturday, Sept. 20, at Margaritta’s Restaurant. At 7:30 p.m., Mayor Phil Thompson presented the Navarre family with a key to the city of Rochester.

Among the participants were Bob Smits and wife Mary of Lafayette, CA.

Keith Navarre, El Paso, Texas, invited all interested relatives and provided a family history. Keith, age 74, is retired from 32 years in the Army and 12 years in Federal Drug Enforcement Administration. He was raised in Rossville, Kan., near the Prairie Band Reservation. Keith is the great-great-grandson of Pierre. Keith was unable to attend due to illness.