The Oregon Jerusalem Historical Society will show off its newest rare artifact at the upcoming Peter Navarre Day—a pistol owned by the legendary War of 1812 scout.
The 1837 pistol is the generous gift of Dale Redd, a former East Toledo and Oregon resident and a direct descendant of Robert Navarre, the French scribe who settled in the Detroit area in 1729.
The pistol was manufactured by A.H. Waters & Company of Millbury, Massachusetts as a flintlock and later converted to a percussion cap. The .54 caliber gun is the Johnson model. Approximately 20,000 were manufactured between 1837 and 1843.
The pistol is in fair shape. It has a walnut grip with a piece split out near the hammer and another chip missing on the opposite side. The ramrod is missing and the iron hammer is jagged and worn away, according to information Redd provided with the gift. Maybe not the “mint” artifact a museum would like to display, but definitely one that has a storied history and was used during the time men like Peter Navarre tamed the Great Black Swamp.
“It’s tremendous. It’s such a great find,” said Larry Michaels, local historian and co-author of the book Peter Navarre: War of 1812 Scout. “It’s such an important part of East Toledo and Oregon Township history.”
Bill Flanagan, a trustee of the historical society, agrees. He accepted the gift from Redd and will formally present it to the society on Sept. 7 at the annual Peter Navarre Day held at Navarre Park in East Toledo. The gun has special meaning for Flanagan. “The area where he (Navarre) lived—the Presque Isle area—is the area where I lived when I moved to Oregon. I might have went across the steps he traveled.”
Peter Navarre may be the most famous person in Northwest Ohio history, Michaels claims in his book. He was a descendent of French kings and Navarre and his family were the first permanent settlers of the East Side. Michaels writes that Navarre “was a genuine war hero at a time when the whole Northwest Territory might have been lost to England, never to become a part of the United States.”
|Bill Flanagan with the pistol that belonged to Peter Navarre. (Press photo by
Navarre’s role in the war was crucial and his story is worth repeating as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie. Navarre knew the roads and footpaths through swamp-infested Northwest Ohio and could speak the Indian languages. He delivered messages for General William Henry Harrison from various forts in the region including Fort Meigs and Fort Seneca. When Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry needed more manpower to confront the British fleet on Lake Erie, Navarre led 70 Kentucky sharpshooters to Perry. It is also believed that, after Perry defeated the British, Navarre led Perry’s chief signal officer to Fort Seneca where he delivered Perry’s famous message to Harrison—“We have met the enemy and he is ours.”
The Navarre pistol has been an heirloom for more than 135 years. Redd gives this account of the provenance: Peter Navarre passed the gun on to his son Lambert who passed it on to his son Abraham. Abe Navarre, not having an heir, gave the gun to Gordon Miller, the son of Abe’s employer Hiram Miller. Redd inherited the gun from his aunt Mary Miller, which was appropriate as Redd has his own ties to the Navarre family tree. He is the fourth great-grand nephew of Peter Navarre. His mother, Hazle Redd, was Josephine Fassett’s niece and her great-great-grandmother was Catherine (Navarre) DeKay, a direct descendent of Robert Navarre from Detroit.
Redd, 92, has no one to pass the gun to and was looking for a permanent home for it. “I wanted the gun to be somewhere where it would be appreciated. They (The Oregon Jerusalem Historical Society members) were happy to have it and I was happy to give it to them.”
Betty Metz, society president, said, “I’m so pleased the family feels good and safe with entrusting it to our keeping realizing we will offer it to the whole community so they can view it and hear its story.”
A ceremony to officially accept the gun will take place Saturday, Sept. 7, Noon to 4 p.m. at Navarre Park. Larry Michaels and Terry Breymaier, re-enactors who portray Peter and Robert Navarre (Peter’s brother and not to be confused with Robert Navarre of Detroit) will be there. Marshall Lloyd will make a family genealogy presentation. There will be Peter Navarre displays from the Brandville Museum and pioneer games for the children.
Robyn Hage, co-author of the Navarre book and coordinator of the program encourages the general public and especially anyone with Navarre family ties to attend.