- Southern Reverie
From Fur Trader to Founder of Galveston, Texas: Michel B. Menard and The 1838 Menard House
The Menard House is the oldest surviving structure in Galveston, Texas. Built in 1838 by Michel Branamour Menard, the Greek Revival home was fabricated, shipped from Maine in parts, then reassembled. This was a common and economical practice as both carpenters and cargo space was plentiful at the time.
Menard was a Canadian-born trader and merchant and co-founded Galveston after arranging the purchase of land on Galveston Island from the Republic of Texas in 1836. Born in 1805 near Montreal, Quebec, he spoke French and English and was known for his French accent. His career as a trader started at age fourteen trading furs for the fur trading company of John Jacob Astor. For a time, Menard lived and traded with a band of Shawnee and traveled with them South arriving in Texas in 1829.
Serving as a delegate to the Texas Convention of 1836, Menard signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and in 1840 served Galveston County in the lower house of the legislature of the Republic of Texas. He was married four times, but his first three wives died from illnesses. His fourth and final marriage was to a widow, Rebecca Mary Bass. He adopted her two daughters and the couple also had a son together, his only biological child. Menard died at his home on September 2, 1856 at the age of 51.
Menard lived a full life and shared tales to friends and family of his adventures as an Indian trader, land speculator, politician, and entrepreneur. Hi stories were so grand, it is said no two accounts of his life are the same.
Purchased by Edwin N. Ketchum, Galveston police chief, in 1880, the home survived the 1900 hurricane intact. During the early 1990s the house had deteriorated and was threatened with demolition by the City of Galveston. New owners purchased the house and carefully repaired and restored the home, then gifted it to the Galveston Historical Foundation, representing the largest gift in the foundation's history.
Galveston's first Mardi Gras ball was held at Menard House in 1853. The home is now a house museum and event space.