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-->Jean Baptiste Trotochaud (about 1800-1873) and his wife Sophie Anaquet Trotochaud (about 1800-about 1872) bought ten acres of land on the south shore of Little Traverse Bay for $5 from an Indian named Amewee, deed dated 24 September 1851. (1) The deed mentions that Jean and Sophie were already living locally. The 1850 U.S. Census shows a John B. Trotochaud, age 46, born in Canada, working as a fisherman, and illiterate, living in Mackinac County. (2) The 1820 and 1830 U.S. Census records of northern Michigan also show one man with a very similar name and background. No evidence has been found of anyone else with a similar name living in the Michigan area.

The land purchased by the Trotochauds was defined as lying in Section 6, Township 34 North, Range 5 West. Then the land was part of Charlevoix county. In the next few decades the area was also variously known as Bear River, Bear Creek, Agaming, and finally the city of Petoskey, Emmet County, Michigan.

Jean Trotochaud and Sophie Anaquet were married 9 June 1836 at St. Anne's Catholic Church on Mackinac Island. (3) One of their children, Theresa Trotochaud, was born at Mackinac on about 11 August 1840 and baptized at St. Anne's 16 August 1840. (4) Theresa spent the rest of her days at Bear Creek/Petoskey and died 5 June 1908. (5) Other Trotochaud children were born in Bear Creek/Petoskey: Jean Baptiste Jr., Louis or Lewis, Angeline, and Lucy. I have not found their birth or baptismal certificates, but their marriage records indicate their place of birth.

Andrew Porter, Presbyterian missionary, arrived at the mouth of Bear River, now the heart of Petoskey, on 1 June 1852. Porter's mother and sister accompanied him. The Presbyterians had been granted 80 acres of land on high ground in Bear Creek Township, about a half mile southwest and uphill from the shore, for the purpose of establishing a mission and school for the local Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Some of the financial support for the new mission came from the U.S. government in partial fulfillment of treaty obligations to the Michigan Indian tribes after the tribes ceded their claim to most of the lower peninsula of Michigan prior to Michigan statehood. Later an additional 80 acres was granted for enlargement of the mission farm. Pre-cut lumber was waiting on the shore for the Porters when they arrived, but the land had to be cleared, and the lumber dragged uphill. (6)

The diary of the catholic Bishop Baraga (7) mentions that in 1858 Trotochaud was working for Baraga as a carpenter. On 8 June 1858 Baraga wrote that Trotochaud donated "an acre of land on which I shall build a small church, -- 30 by 20 and 12 feet high". The deed is recorded at the Emmet County Register of Deeds office, Liber A, p. 377 and 378. The church was completed and dedicated by Baraga in June 1860.

There was some conflict between the Presbyterian Andrew Porter and the Catholic Jean Trotochaud regarding this newly planned church, to be named for St. Francis Solanus, a Franciscan missionary. On 14 June 1859 Porter wrote a complaint to Andrew Fitch, Indian agent at Mackinac. Porter: "you are aware also of the sneaking course pursued by Baraga in aiding Trotochaud to build a dwelling house designed, & since used as a church. The bishop has been here again, and has obtained a lot in our village from this same ignorant Frenchman, upon which he designs raising a church at once... The case on the part of the bishop is mean and arbitrary, since he knows that his party is a small minority..." (8) Porter indicates Baraga helped Trotochaud during his original settlement in Bear Creek, although Porter had not yet arrived when Trotochaud purchased his land in 1851. Relations between the two seemed to have improved, since Porter, acting as justice of the peace, later performed the marriages of several of the Trotochaud children.

By 1871 government financial support for the mission ended, and the mission school closed. In 1875 Porter returned home to Pennsylvania. Later he returned to Petoskey, moved in with his dentist son Reuben, and died there in 1899. (9)

On 9 April 1873 Jean Baptiste Trotochaud died at about age 75 in Bear Creek Township. (10) I have not found a record of Sophie after 1870, and her death and burial go unrecorded. Since the couple apparently ended their days where they spent their lives, they are most likely buried in the churchyard of St. Francis Solanus on W. Lake St. All old grave markers were removed after about 1960. I have searched for written records of burials at St. Francis Solanus, but have found none so far.

R.M. and Wm. Little moved to Bear Creek in the summer of 1873 just before the railroad made its connection to the settlement.

Kilborn's History states "The Andrew Porters were indeed, Petoskey's first white family." Another history of Emmet County (11) states Hazen Ingalls was the "first white settler who came to Bear Creek for the purpose of making a home", but he arrived in 1866! The same history also states that "At the time the village of Petoskey was started in 1873, Messrs. Ingalls and Porter were the only white people in this vicinity." However, by 1873, Jean Baptiste Trotochaud had already been living in the area for about 22 years, along with his Indian wife and children.

Kilborn's statement is true in detail, but Jean Baptiste and his wife had purchased land close by a year before, and all available evidence indicates the white / Indian couple spent the rest of their days where W. Lake St. is now, in a cabin next to the St. Francis Solanus Church. The family they raised grew and multiplied in the Petoskey area, and some of their direct descendants continue to live in Emmet County. I believe Jean Baptiste Trotochaud deserves the credit of being the first permanent white settler in Petoskey, unless and until evidence of a prior claim is found.

What became of the church Jean B. Trotochaud built?

The state of Michigan on its website of state historical sites states: "Saint Francis Solanus Church remains the oldest public building in northern Michigan south of the Straits of Mackinaw." This statement was found on the Internet at http://michsite.state.mi.us/detlsite.cfm?ObjectID=10789 .

The building still stands on the shore of Little Traverse Bay, and may be found in the 400 block of W. Lake St. in Petoskey. The badly weathered metal sign identifying the church was stolen during the summer of 2002. The crosspiece of the steeple's cross vanished years ago. There is no identification marking this church for what it is. As I mentioned before, no written records of burials in the churchyard have been found, and the markers have been removed.

This is a preliminary report. Eventually I hope to further edit and publish it in a more widely available form. I'm sure there are significant mistakes and omissions, and I invite comments.

Email: adembinski@hotmail.com

A. Dembinski great-great grandson of Jean and Sophie Trotochaud



1. Deed, Liber I, p. 279, Emmet County Register of Deeds, Emmet County Courthouse, Petoskey, Michigan.

2. Family History Library Film 0443573, MI, 1850 U.S. Census: Macomb, Marquette, Mason, Mackinac.

3. "Die Nona Junii, anno 1836, dispensatione duorum bannorum publicationis concepta, matrimonio juncti fuerunt ab infra Scripto Joannes Trotochaud, filius Ludovici Trotochaud et Margarittae Lionin, et Sophia Anakoite, filia d'Anakoite et de Nejiothekouoitaoue. Testes fuerunt David Magolpin et Franciscus Archambaut. [signed] F. J. Bonduel." From the CDROM of the parish records of St. Anne's Mackinac Island, file "Page 13.tif"

My translation of the original Latin parish record starts after the date (9 June 1836) and explanation of the dispensation of publication of banns: "Jean Trotochaud, son of Louis Trotochaud and Margaritte Lionin, and Sophia Anaquet, daughter of Anaquet and Nezhwatekuwatay, were joined in matrimony by the undersigned. Witnesses were David Magolpin and Francois Archambault. [signed] F. J. Bonduel." I used the "Anaquet" and "Nezhwatekuwatay" spelling of the Indian names rendered as "Anakoite" and "Nejiothekouoitaoue" in French to better reflect the current Odawa pronunciation and modern alphabet spelling. Assistance in re-formatting the Odawa names was provided by Mr. Wesley Andrews. An essentially identical record is recorded and held in the form of a marriage certificate at the Mackinac County Register of Deeds office at the county courthouse in St. Ignace, Michigan.

4. CD-ROM of St. Anne's Parish records. The date of birth is difficult to make out exactly, but the date of baptism is clear.

5. Emmet County Marriage Records, p. 25 #31, shows on 3 January 1861, Ignatius Abatakamig, of Middle Village, age 25, married Theresa Trotasha, of Bear Creek, age 20, marriage performed by Ignatius Petosegwey, Justice of the Peace, Witnesses Andrew Porter and A. Porter. Records viewed on Family History Center Microfilm 0966507, Locale: U.S.A., Michigan, Title: Marriages 1856-1931, Vital Records, Emmet County, Michigan. Also, on 3 October 1878 the Petoskey Record mentions the "Pashaba-Shatkah" marriage on 24 September 1878, at the M.E. parsonage, by Rev. W.L. Tilden, Albert Pashaba and Tevase Shatkah, both of Mackinac, this citation found on the Internet at http://members.tripod.com/~deemafred/news1878.html . The Petoskey Evening News, on 6 June 1908, p. 3, has "---Mrs. Theresa Peshabay, an old and respected Indian woman, passed away Friday afternoon [5 June 1908] at her home in Bear Creek Township. She was the widow of Albert Pershabay, who was an honored veteran of the Civil war. The funeral will be held Sunday at 1:30 at St. Francis church, with interment in Greenwood." Microfilm copy of article viewed at Petoskey Public Library. A sworn statement signed by "Theresa Peshaba" of Emmet County identifies herself as one of the heirs of "John B. Trotasho deceased, late of Emmet County" on a Warranty Deed, dated 10 November 1880, filed at the Emmet County Register of Deeds, p. 445. Jean B., his daughter Theresa, and son-in-law Albert being most likely illiterate, the spelling of their names varies widely from one document to another. I have relied on multiple documents, many of them sworn statements, which link and identify the individuals named in this report.

6. History of Petoskey, Harriet Kilborn, 1960. Quote found on Internet at http://members.tripod.com/~deemafred/emhist.html

7. The Diary of Bishop Frederic Baraga: First Bishop of Marquette, Michigan / edited and annotated by Regis M. Walling and N. Daniel Rupp; translated by Joseph Gregorich and Rev. Paul Prud'homme, S.J., Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990.

8. The book of the diary mentions that the letter from Porter is held by the National Archives, records of the Office of Indian Affairs.

9. History of Petoskey

10. Death record, Liber 1, p. 12, #221, Emmet County clerk's office, Petoskey, Michigan.

11. The History of Emmet County, published 1884, transcription of pp. 129-132 found at http://members.tripod.com/~deemafred/tr129-132.html