Peter Navarre and the Pioneer Cabin

Peter Navarre Day

Sunday, September 9
noon – 4 pm

Free!

Join us in celebrating the life of Peter Navarre, a skilled & courageous Indian Scout
of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. His cabin will be open from noon – 4 pm!
 – Pioneer life & kids’ activities
 – Pioneer Garden tours
 – Refreshments & snacks
 – Family fun!

Who was Peter Navarre?

There is a rich history attached to the log cabin standing in Toledo Botanical Garden’s Pioneer Garden. Its occupant, Peter Navarre, was a skilled and courageous Indian Scout of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.  Its journey to the Toledo Botanical Garden is a testament to the desire of several groups and individuals over the years to preserve it.

The journey began in September, 1922. The cabin originally was built on the farm of Enos Mominee on Consaul Street in Toledo, Ohio. Historical accounts and a Toledo Blade article dated Saturday, September 9, 1922, report that it stood there “for more than three score years”. The cabin had been moved from Consaul Street to Navarre Park and was presented to the City of Toledo on September 9, 1922 by the Peter Navarre Chapter, United States Daughters of 1812.

The citizens of the East Side were, and are today, understandably proud of Peter Navarre, the first permanent East Side resident. It was their desire to save and preserve the cabin and the Navarre history that prompted the cabin’s first move.

Navarre, along with his family, arrived and settled at the mouth of the Maumee in 1807 shortly after Statehood. He was born in 1790 and was of French-Canadian decent. A fur trapper by trade, Navarre covered an area from Presque Isle through the Maumee Valley to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was exceedingly skilled as a woodsman, knowing the wilderness that was then Ohio intimately.

Although he spoke French in the Canadian manner, he didn’t read or write and had little command of the English language. Navarre did speak several Native American Indian languages flawlessly. When dressed as an Indian, he was able to pass as one without detection by the native tribes. Those skills, and considerable courage as a volunteer loyal to the American forces, led to his role as an Indian Scout and guide. The East Toledo Historical Society, on an Ohio Historical Marker erected in 2007, described his service to the American forces thusly:
“During the War of 1812, Peter Navarre acted as a scout for the American army and provided intelligence about enemy strength and locations. Navarre was responsible for passing communications between Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry at Port Clinton and General William Henry Harrison at Fort Seneca during August and September 1813. On September 9, Navarre was sent to Perry with orders to begin the attack against the British. The Battle of Lake Erie was fought the next day. His skill and resourcefulness to pass through enemy territory aided the United States in retaining this area during the war.”

At the conclusion of the war Navarre returned to the mouth of the Maumee, resumed his fur trapping, farmed and raised a large family. He outlived his three wives. Peter Navarre died on March 20, 1874 at the age of 86.  It is believed that his son, Peter Navarre Jr., built the cabin in the 1860’s for his father’s later days. The cabin remained in Navarre Park until the spring of 1957. During its tenure at Navarre Park it fell into serious disrepair and suffered some vandalism.  The Toledo Blade, the Peter Navarre Memorial Association, The Toledo Zoological Society and the Anthony Wayne Park Board raised funds to restore and move the cabin, this time to the Toledo Zoo at a site near the Zoo amphitheater.  It stood there until 1975.

In September 1975 the cabin made its final move. It was moved from the grounds of the Toledo Zoo to “Crosby Gardens” now Toledo Botanical Garden.  Vernon Wiersma, landscape architect, was planning an “1837 park”.  The Trilby Rotary Club assisted with the move as their bicentennial project. The cabin is typical of its period in construction. Logs were usually cleared from the immediate cabin site and hand hewn. Mud was used to fill in the chinks between the logs. Shingles were hand hewn from local materials for the roof. Crosby Garden members went to considerable effort to furnish the cabin with items typical of the period. Today the last cabin of the famed scout sits in the Pioneer Garden surrounded by a large collection of heirloom vegetable plants, many of which he would have been very familiar with.