Alexis Coquillard established the first American home in St. Joseph County and is credited with being the co-founder of the city of South Bend. Mr. Coquillard was born in Detroit in September 28, 1795 and served in the American forces during the War of 1812, under the leadership of William Henry Harrison. After the war, he returned to the St. Joseph Valley where he became an employee of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company.
In 1823, Mr. Coquillard built a trading post on the St. Joseph River. Along with a partner, Francis Comparet, who ran an associate trading post in Fort Wayne, the two trading posts became the centers of fur trade with the Native Americans of northwestern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. In 1824, Alexis Coquillard married the daughter of his partner, Frances Comparet.
Alexis Coquillard was the first man to greet Fr. Sorin when he arrived in the area. He sent his nephew, also name Alexis, to show Fr. Sorin and his band of brothers the land on which they were to build the University. The Coquillards went on to be friends and allies of Fr. Sorin and his fledgling University.
“On Monday afternoon, January 8, 1855, Mr. Coquillard was examining the ruins of his flouring mill, which had burned the previous Saturday, and accidentally fell from a beam on which he was walking 16 or 18 feet below, striking with his whole weight on the front part of his skull, crushing it in, so that he lived but about one hour. He did not speak after his fall, or give any evidence of being alive. The funeral procession which followed his remains to the chapel of Notre Dame showed how extensively he was respected when living, and how sincerely all mourned for him in death. During the day of his funeral, places of business in South Bend remained closed.”