Alexis Coquillard

Author: Karmin Meade

Alexis Coquillard

Information from The St. Joseph County Historical records.

Alexis Coquillard established the first American home in St. Joseph County. He is usually regarded as the founder of the city of South Bend. Mr. Coquillard was born in Detroit September 28, 1795. He 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 the fur trade with the Native Americans of northwestern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. In 1824, Alexis Coquillard married Frances Comparet, the daughter of his partner.

In 1842 it was to the home of Mr. Coquillard that Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C. traveled on his way to the future home of the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Coquillard was a friend to Father Sorin, to the Native Americans and to most people living in the town.

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.

Mr. Coquillard's body was laid to rest in a crypt inside Cedar Grove Cemetery's All Souls Chapel.