Unique Fiber Art

Pierre Menard Home
White House Christmas Ornament
by Mary L. Hackett
Photographed by Leigh Bedokis

The Pierre Menard Home was built circa 1802 by the man who became the first Lieutenant Governor of the State of Illinois.

Born near Montreal, Canada, in 1766, Antoine Pierre Menard was the second son of Marie Francois Ciree and Jean-Baptist Menard dit Brindamour. The elder Menard had been a French soldier, and when the American Revolutionary War broke out he organized a company of volunteers and joined forces with the Americans, ultimately becoming a prisoner of war in Montreal.

At the age of fifteen Pierre went to the capital of the Northwest Territory (now Vincennes, Indiana), to clerk for Francois Vigo. This was common at that time, and records as early as 1781 show young Menard was negotiating business deals in his own name. Two years later he accompanied Vigo to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to confer with President George Washington about the defense of the frontier.

On March 5, 1790, Menard moved to Kaskaskia, a community on a point of land between the Mississippi and Kaskaskia Rivers. He traded furs and sold supplies to frontiersmen, and began developing strong relations with the Indians. He married Theresa Godin dit Tourangeau and had four children.

In October, 1795, Pierre Menard was commissioned a Major of Militia for Randolph County by General Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Northwest Territory, with whom he had come from Vincennes. He became very successful in his various business enterprises, in spite of the confusion caused by war and shifting political boundaries. Therese Godin Menard died in 1804, and in 1806 Menard married Angelique Saucier, thus becoming a brother-in-law of Pierre Chouteau of St. Louis. They had six children, and she died in 1839.

Essentially a domestic man, storekeeper and trader, Menard played a leading role in the succeeding stages of government leading to Illinois statehood. He became a judge of the court of common pleas, territorial commissioner, captain of the militia, delegate to the territorial legislature, and presided at the first elective legislature of Illinois Territory. It was in his honor that a provision of the new State's constitution allowed the lieutenant governor to be a naturalized American citizen for a minimum of two years, as opposed to thirty years required for a governor. As a citizen naturalized in 1816, Menard was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1818 and withdrew from active politics after serving through 1822.
Menard's affinity for the Indians, for whom he was a sub-agent, protector and benefactor for twenty years, was legendary. Also a devoted and engaged father, Menard gave his children the best available education, raised a daughter of the chief of the Iroquois with his own daughters, entrusted his sons with the handling of their own expenses and the running of the Menard businesses, protected and paid for the education of a number of his grandchildren and the children of friends, and left a host of productive, famous descendants. His nephew, Michel Menard, founded the City of Galveston, Texas. Antoine Pierre Menard remained the active head of his family until he closed his eyes on June 13, 1844.

Mary L. Hackett

Airtimes for HG-TV "White House Christmas 2001"
Making of a White House Christmas ornament
See more of Hackett's work

All material © 2001 by Mary L. Hackett. All rights reserved.