PIERRE MENARD, the
first lieutenant-governor of Illinois, was born at Quebec in 1767. He came from Canada to Vincennes in 1786 and
attached himself to Colonel Vigo in the Indian trade, partly supplying the American troops in the West with food
supplies. In 1790 Pierre and one Du Bois of Vincennes entered into a partnership and established a store in Kaskaskia.
Pierre Menard was a very conspicuous character among the men of his time. He had been well educated in Canada,
but his experiences in the world had greatly developed his judgment and enlarged his outlook on life. He commanded
great respect from the white people who knew him, and the Indians looked to him as their white father. Menard grew
very wealthy and commanded the trade with the Indians and whites from Kaskaskia. He served in the Territorial Legislatures
of both Indiana and Illinois, presiding with great dignity over the council of the Legislature in 1812. When the
state was admitted into the Union in 1818 he was selected lieutenant-governor, which position he held for four
years. He was a patriotic citizen and laid stress upon the value of the civil and political institutions under
which he lived. He lived in great style in an old French mansion on the east side of the Kaskaskia River opposite
the Town of Kaskaskia. Towering above his home were the great bluffs on top of which are the remains of the old
fort called Fort Gage. He raised a large family of sons and daughters whose descendants are to be found in Randolph
County. Pierre Menard died in 1844, aged seventy-seven years.
("ILLINOIS, The Heart of the Nation" by Hon. Edward F.
Dunne, Volume IV, 1933, Transcribed by Kim Torp)
(April 3, 1838 – October 8, 1893)
In 1868, he was the first African American elected to the United
States House of Representatives.
Menard was born in Kaskaskia in Randolph County in southern Illinois, to parents of Louisiana Creole descent from
New Orleans who were free people of color. He may have been related to Michel Branamour Menard, a French-Canadian
fur trader and a founder of Galveston, Texas. Menard attended school in Sparta, Illinois and Ohio Central College,
then Iberia College in Iberia, Ohio.
During the American Civil War, he worked as a clerk in the Department of the Interior under U.S. President Abraham
Lincoln. He was sent to British Honduras in 1863 to investigate a proposed colony for newly freed slaves. After
the war Menard settled in New Orleans.
In an 1868 special election to fill the unexpired term of James Mann, a Democrat who had died in office, Menard,
a Republican, was elected to represent Louisiana's 2nd congressional district. He was denied the seat on the basis
of an election challenge by the apparent loser, Caleb S. Hunt. After hearing the arguments from both candidates,
the House decided to seat neither man, but in the process, Menard became the first African American to address
the chamber from the lectern.
Menard moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1874. That
same year and again in 1877, he was elected as a Duval County justice of the peace.
He was a poet, the author of Lays in Summer Lands (1879). Menard was also the editor of the Florida News and the
Southern Leader from 1882 to 1888.
He died in the District of Columbia. His daughter, Alice Menard, married Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs, the son of
Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs.
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