Dennis M. Au. "Standing for Two Centuries: the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post." Michigan History. Vol. 23, No. 6. Nov/Dec 1989: 32-36. Transcription: Marshall Davies Lloyd, firstname.lastname@example.org
n 1789, François Marie Navarre erected a fur-trading depot on the River Raisin--near the present-day community of Monroe, Michigan. Two hundred years later, the Monroe County Historical Museum is completing  the restoration and interpretation of the building, which is now known as the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post. One of the oldest houses still standing in Michigan, the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post possesses an intriguing history and a unique architectural style.
François Marie Navarre was born in Detroit in 1759, the son of Robert Navarre, the royal governor's representative in the settlement. François established himself in the Indian fur trade and became known by the sobriquet "Heutrau," a name of apparent Indian origin whose meaning is unknown.
Heutrau and his brother, Robert Jr., became the first white landholders on the River Raisin in 1783 when they negotiated a private treaty with the Potawatomi Indians for a tract of land. Private treaties with the Indians were unlawful under the British, who occupied Michigan at that time, and later under the Americans, who took over in 1796. While the U.S. government would not recognize these treaties, they did allow generous grants of land to any Michigan resident who could provide proof that his land had been occupied by 1796. When the testimony was taken in 1808, Joseph Jobin, the captain of the River Raisin militia, swore that Heutrau had erected his house in 1789.
Family obligations, specifically a contract agreement to care for his widowed mother, prevented Heutrau from bringing his growing family from Detroit to the River Raisin until 1797. When the family finally moved, the depot building was renovated--two more windows were cut in, another door and two room partitions were added and plaster was applied to the walls. For the next five years the Navarres, a family with nine children, resided here in the midst of a fast-growing French- Canadian settlement.
In 1802, Heutrau sold the property. He next appeared in the record in 1807 when he and his family settled at present-day Toledo, Ohio. In later years Heutrau's third eldest son, Pierre, would be credited with being Toledo's first settler--a claim that belongs to his father. François Marie Navarre dit Heutrau died in obscurity some time after 1840.
John Anderson purchased the house from Heutrau in 1802. He owned it until 1804, only to possess it again between 1816 and 1835. During the American Revolution, Anderson and his mother had been taken captive in New York by pro-British Indians and carried to Montreal. In the 1790s he came to the Detroit area and was hired by John Askin to set up a trading post on the Maumee River. When Anderson arrived at the River Raisin in 1802, he went into business for himself. He was among the first English-speaking settlers in the community.
After living in the building for only two years, Anderson built a larger residence next door and sold off the house and a strip of land. He resided in this new house until August 1812 when war with Great Britain forced him to flee the River Raisin. As the War of 1812 worsened, the staunchly pro-American Anderson took his place as the colonel commanding the Second Regiment, Michigan Territorial Militia.
After the stunning surrender of Michigan by Territorial Governor William Hull, the colonel became the victim of vengeful Indians who pillaged his home. The British refused to guarantee his safety so he fled. His wife, Elizabeth Knaggs Anderson, remained at the house and assumed charge of her husband's business. A tenacious woman, Elizabeth put the house and business back together and even stood off hostile Indians when they broke into her house during the massacre of American soldiers that followed the Battle of the River Raisin in January 1813. The battle left the entire community in shambles and Elizabeth soon abandoned the family home. This house, adjacent to the original building, was burned before the Americans liberated the settlement in September 1813.
When the Andersons finally returned to the River Raisin to live in 1816, they brought [sic] back their old house and lived there until a new residence could be built on the ashes of the old one. They kept the old home for many years and rented it out. John Anderson died in Monroe in 1840; Elizabeth died in 1854.
Anderson sold the house to Dr. Joseph Dazet in 1804 and he bought it back again from Dazet in 1816. Dr. Dazet and his wife, Catherine, were refugees from the French Revolution. They first went to the French settlement at Gallipolis in southern Ohio with other exiles. By 1804 they had found their way to the River Raisin.
Dazet was a physician by trade. The first doctor on the River Raisin, he remained a favorite of the French habitants. There is no written record of what happened at the doctor's house during the Battle of the River Raisin, but the bullet holes that riddle all four facades of his house remain as mute testimony of those violent days.
The Dazets stayed in the newly renamed town of Monroe until about 1830 when they moved to Detroit. By 1842, the Dazets were both dead.
After Anderson sold the house in 1835, it passed through several owners until 1857, when Israel Ilgenfritz purchased it and began an eighty-six year family tenure of the property. The Ilgenfritz family became prominent Monroe nurserymen. In 1894 the Ilgenfritz family built a large house.
They then moved it to a back street where it slid into obscurity. In 1943 they sold it to Bud Haddix, who in turn sold it to Roger Russeau and Peter Navarre in 1969. Russeau and Navarre planned to raze the building to expand a parking lot. Concerned about a rumor that the building had historical significance, Russeau and Navarre contacted Matthew C. Switlik, director of the Monroe County Historical Museum. Switlik's investigation revealed the building's architectural and historical heritage.
The Navarre-Anderson Trading Post is an outstanding example of late eighteenth century [eighteenth-century] French-Canadian folk architecture in form and construction. It is perhaps the most important remnant of the first century of southeastern Michigan's history.
The Navarre-Anderson Trading Post speaks of an era and culture with close ties to the St. Lawrence. Similar to buildings that can still be seen in Quebec today, it is a one and one-half-story house with a very steep roof. The front facade is on the longest side and is parallel with the roof ridge. The door is in the center and windows are on each side.
When the building was a fur trade depot in its early years, a simple floor plan was sufficient. A single wall, going from front to back, was the only partition. When Heutrau Navarre brought his family there in 1797, the building was significantly altered. The eastern half of the house was divided into two rooms. The front room was plastered and became the grand chambre (parlor). The back room, the salle à manger (dining room), received special treatment. A window was cut in the back of the room and the walls were plastered. A decorative chair rail was added and a paneled ceiling built. Since this was the most important room, it contained the house's only source of heat--a cast-iron stove. On the western half of the house a small room was sectioned off in a corner. Although just barely large enough to hold an armoire and a bed, this was known as the cabenet (bedroom). The children slept upstairs in the grenier (loft),which was divided into two different rooms.
The French character of the house is also evident in its construction. A close look at the timbers reveals the striking building technique used. None of the logs, except the plate and sill go from corner to corner. Instead the front facade is divided into thirds by two vertical timbers and the side into halves by one vertical timber. These vertical timbers, called coulisse,have deep channels cut into their sides. Each of the horizontal logs, called la pièce, terminate in a tongue that is fitted into the mortice channel. This construction technique, called pièce sur pièce is uniquely French-Canadian and was especially popular west of Montreal in the late eighteenth century.
The construction also reveals that this house was built by skilled hands. Only timber that was cut and hewn and seasoned for at least a year was used. The Roman numerals scratched on each log show that before the building was erected. each section was fitted together and each timber numbered. As was common among Michigan's French pioneers, this house was the product of a carpenter working under a contract. It resembles a modular building--the horizontal logs being standard-length timbers that the carpenter kept in stock.
he Navarre-Anderson Trading Post also offers an important glimpse of what life was like in Michigan two centuries ago. In restoring and interpreting this building, the Monroe County Historical Museum has been careful to respect the building as a unique treasure. Countless hours have been spent researching the history of the house and its occupants, as well as in gaining an understanding of the culture that built it.
The restoration of the structure has been painstakingly slow and costly. Because it had been slated for demolition, the building had to be secured and moved in 1972 before a new location could be purchased and readied. In the actual restoration, every bit of original wood was spared when possible. The necessary reconstruction has been done with great sensitivity to duplicate the carpentry and technology of the late eighteenth century. For example, since the house predates the invention of the circular saw, great care has been taken to remove any of these saw marks from the new wood we have used.
The goal of the restoration effort is to make the house look like a Michigan French homestead in 1799. The new location of the building is also important. The French were a river-oriented people. To follow this tradition and to duplicate its original location on the banks of the River Raisin, an undeveloped parcel of river frontage was purchased four miles west of Monroe.
This site is being developed following the French theme. To replicate a part of the fencing that once surrounded this house in a fort-like manner, puncheon fencing of split cedar has been constructed. Since the French did not place their kitchen in the home, another building has been placed nearby to serve as the cuisine d'ètè (summer kitchen). This small, one-room building was built around 1820 by Heutrau's great-nephew, Samuel Navarre, and it is equipped with a fireplace for cooking,
Because Heutrau Navarre also farmed his land, agricultural features have been incorporated into the site. The authentic varieties of fruit trees that French pioneers valued have been planted in a small orchard. A barn has been designed and built following the eighteenth-century French- Canadian style.
Inside the house, the French theme continues. Because original habitant furnishings from the eighteenth century are practically nonexistent in Michigan, reproduction pieces have been used. We discovered that Parks Canada had duplicated a stove cast in Quebec in the 1790s, and a stove for the building was purchased. Quebec craftsmen, familiar with museum pieces in that province, produced furniture for the salle à manger, and the only pieces of French furniture to survive in Monroe, a set of rush-seated side chairs, were reproduced.
The restoration of the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post is nearly complete. The Post is located off M-50 at the corner of Raisinville and North Custer Roads and is open to public on weekends during the summer.
The former assistant director of the Monroe County Historical Commission, Dennis Au, now lives in Evansville, Indiana.