The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Cultural Heritage Center provides resources to keep the Tribe’s history safe and accessible for generations to come. One key way the Nation does this is through the CHC’s archives and video interviews.
To highlight some of the archive’s holdings, the Hownikan is featuring photographs and family history of every founding Citizen Potawatomi family. If interested in assisting preservation efforts by providing copies of Citizen Potawatomi family photographs, documents and more, and to schedule family interviews, please contact the CHC at 405-878-5830.
The name of LeClair family ancestor Antoine LeClair (1800) appears in a 1906 Wisconsin Historical Society book along with Alexander Lafromboise (1785), Joseph Lafromboise (1802) and Thomas G. Anderson (1803) as one of the fur traders who were often seen in a Potawatomi village near what is now Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Documents in the CHC archives state that Antoine LeClair sold goods to the Potawatomi, Winnebago and Menominee who lived near the village.
Documents also reveal that Antoine was among the 125 inhabitants of an area near present-day Peoria, Illinois, and had frequent contact with the Potawatomi in the area. These villages, near the northern shores of Lake Peoria, were established around 1790.
Antoine LeClaire married Meoqua in about 1803. Their son, Pierre, married a Potawatomi woman named Cecile. Pierre (Perish) LeClair is listed among the Potawatomi who served with the U.S. Army during the Black Hawk War, according to the Illinois State Historical Society publication, The Black Hawk War 1831-1832, Volume I. Some Potawatomi elected to serve under the leadership of Wau-bon-e-see and Shaw-we-nesse during the U.S. Army’s conflict with the Sauk.
Pressed to move west
The U.S. government later began pressuring many Native nations, including the Potawatomi, to leave their homelands in present-day Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. During this period, there were several bands of Potawatomi signing separate treaties. The Potawatomi known as the United Band concluded a treaty in 1833, ceding land to the U.S. government and moved further west to Iowa. According to The Catholic Church in Chicago, Pierre LeClair accompanied his Potawatomi family and relatives to the Council Bluffs and Kaw River reserves. Pierre went to Washington in 1845 to discuss the cession of the Iowa reserve to the government. His name appears on a petition to the government in 1848 in favor of the establishment of Catholic schools in the Potawatomi reserve. He died at the Kaw River reserve March 28, 1849.
Together, Pierre and Cecile’s family included Peter Oliver, who was born in 1837 in Illinois. He married Marie Adeline (Darveau) Darvoe. She was born in 1840. Peter and Marie Adeline had Zoa, Emily, Oliver, Mary, John Moses, Sarah, Monroe, Louise, Salena, David, Oscar, Una and Cordelia. Peter died in 1896 in Kansas. Marie Adeline died in 1909 in Kansas.
Yet again, the Potawatomi and the LeClair family would be uprooted from a place where they had worked very hard to establish homes for their families. Settlers began demanding access to Potawatomi lands for settlement and to build a railroad to the West Coast.
Life in Indian Territory
The LeClairs were among the Potawatomi who decided to take allotments in Oklahoma in 1887. Peter and Marie Adeline’s children would be among the area’s earliest inhabitants and are credited with establishing what would later become Pottawatomie County in Oklahoma.
Zoa LeClair DeChaine was the mother of Ida Louise, Forest P., Myrtle and Oscar DeChaine.
Oliver Peter LeClair married Mary Louise Young. They were the parents of Edna May LeClair Deever, Peter Oliver LeClair, Rena Pearl LeClair Castle and Earl Raymond LeClair.
Louise married Charles Roselius and had a daughter named Bessie.
Salena LeClair Kane was married to James Henry Kane. They had Grace Marie Kane Cummins, Edith Mae Kane, Gladys Marie Kane Coughlin and James William Kane.
Oscar and his wife, Ira, had Rudolph and Ruby Blanch.
Una married Clyde Ford and had twins, Nellie and Stella. Nellie had dark hair and brown eyes while her sister was fair with blue eyes. Their mother passed away when they were age 2, and they briefly stayed with their father’s mother before going to the Indian Mission School in Shawnee, Oklahoma. They remained there until they were 12. They went to live with their father in Odessa, Missouri, after he had remarried.
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has long shared kinship relationships with other nations, such as the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. The LeClair name is also prominent through a kinship with the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma.
Silas Cillaste Selas CeNash LeClair was born in 1838 in Dakota Territory (Nebraska). He was Potawatomi and Ponca. In 1864, he married Zozette Akhnah Mach-Was, a Potawatomi woman. She was born in 1835 near present-day Chicago. She died on Sept. 15, 1898, in White Eagle, Ponca Reservation (Oklahoma). Silas died Sept. 19, 1903.
Together, Silas and Zozette had a son named John CeNah LeClair. John was born on Dec. 7, 1865, in Jackson County, Kansas. John married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Rhodd, a Potawatomi woman, on Jan. 27, 1893. Together, John and Lizzie had Katherine, Zoie, Charles, Damion, Lillie, Frank, Cordelia, Bessie, John, Raymond and Beatrice.
According to probate records in the CHC archives, when Lizzie Rhodd LeClair died on Jan. 26, 1922, her surviving heirs were husband, John C. LeClair; daughters, Zoie J., Cordelia and Beatrice LeClair; and sons, Charles E., Frank E., Alexander and Raymond LeClair.
John and Lizzie’s son, Charles, married Abby Mann (LeClair) (Stigall). Their sons and daughters were Jack J. (John Joseph) LeClair, Jeanne LeClair Flechel, Geraldine L. LeClair Jefferson, Joanne LeClaire Bible, Charles E. LeClair Jr., and James D. LeClair. Charles E. LeClair died Aug. 24, 1935. Abby Mann LeClair Stigall died June 19, 1968.
John and Lizzie’s son, Frank LeClair, married Ida Rhodd. Frank and Ida’s children were born at Sacred Heart in Oklahoma. Established in 1879 by Father Isidore Robot, the Catholic mission educated Potawatomi children and became a hub for the community. Dan “Eddie” was born April 10, 1895, but sadly died as toddler. The surviving children were Francis, Henry, John, Susie, Dave, Angeline, Hellen, Elizabeth and Alfred.
These LeClair family members and many others were instrumental in creating many of the earliest communities in the former Indian Territory. Without their early efforts, some of southern Pottawatomie County’s towns and landmarks, such as Asher, Konawa, Wanette and Macomb, would not exist.
If interested in assisting preservation efforts by providing copies of Citizen Potawatomi family photographs, documents and more, and to schedule family interviews, please contact the CHC at 405-878-5830. Schedule interviews online at portal.potawatomi.org. Learn more about the Family Reunion Festival at cpn.news/festival, and find research resources online at potawatomiheritage.com.