January 1, 2011

The Bechstein House Part I: 1750-1864 -- The Cicotte Farm

The Frederick Bechstein House
1733 Wabash Street, Detroit

This is the house I live in. It was built at the end of the Civil War, and two additions have been built since. I've been learning as much as I can about its history since I moved in, and learning how to find this information as I go. The first several posts in this blog will cover pretty much everything I know about it. This week's post covers the history of the land on which it was built.

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When Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit in 1701, he was permitted to grant land concessions to other settlers in the name of the King of France. After he was relieved of command of the settlement in 1711, it was not clear whether subsequent commandants had the same authority. King Louis XV settled the matter by a decree dated May 19, 1722 which authorized the Governor General and Intendant of New France to make land concessions at Detroit (Farmer 18). The grantees were required to settle and occupy the land within one year, maintain fences and roads, and pay annual fees based on the amount of land granted to them, among other conditions (Campbell 91).

On April 1, 1750, Governor General Jacques-Pierre de la Jonquière and Intendant François Bigot granted a portion of land to Zacharie Cicotte (Farmer 20). Cicotte was a French Canadian merchant who came to Detroit in 1730 at the age of 22. Six years later he married Marie Angelique Godfroy, who was born in Detroit in 1720. The land granted to him was located on the Detroit River west of the settlement and measured three by forty arpents—about 576 feet wide by 1.5 miles long. It was among the narrow ribbon farms established on the river according to French tradition. The east border of the farm is now Wabash Street, and the west border of the farm coincides with the alley between 14th and 15th Streets. Zacharie and Angelique Cicotte settled on the land and would spend the rest of their lives there (Askin 36).

The original outline of the Cicotte Farm.

After Detroit fell to the British during the French and Indian War, Zacharie Cicotte was among the French Canadian settlers who attended a council with Chief Pontiac on July 2, 1763 in a conspiracy to expel the English. Although Cicotte resented the British, he told Pontiac that he and the others at the council were unable to help them on account of their wives and children, but that there were 300 young men without families at the settlement who would probably join him (Moore 656). Pontiac’s siege of Detroit was ultimately unsuccessful. Zacharie died in 1775, and Angelique in 1791. The farm was later inhabited by one of their sons, Jean Baptiste Cicotte, born 1749. He married Angelique Poupart Lavoise in 1770 (Hamlin 286).

Following the Revolutionary War, Britain surrendered Detroit to the United States according to the provisions of the Jay Treaty in 1796. The U. S. Congress opened a land office in Detroit to legally establish private claims in 1804. Angelique Cicotte (widow of Jean Baptiste) applied for a land patent for the Cicotte Farm, which was confirmed on December 24, 1810 (Farmer 986). The land office designated it Private Claim No. 726.

Private Claim 726 Document

Detail from the U. S. government's original survey of Detroit, c. 1818. (Source)
Private Claim No. 726 is indicated by the X.

On November 5, 1819, Joseph Cicotte—a son of Jean Baptiste and Angelique Cicotte—sold the farm to Peter Godfroy (Burton 1371), his second cousin. Marie Angelique Godfroy, the wife of the original land owner Zacharie Cicotte, was the sister of Peter Godfroy’s grandfather, Jacques Godfroy III.

Peter Godfroy, a fur trader, was born in Detroit in 1797 and married Marianne Navarre Marantette in 1824. Before their marriage, legend has it, Godfroy once crossed the Detroit River in a wheelbarrow in order to visit his young fiancée (Hamlin 302). He served for several terms as supervisor of Springwells Township, where his land was located when Detroit only extended as far as Brooklyn Street. Peter Godfroy lived on his farm until his death in 1848.

Marianne Godfroy
Marianne Marantette Godfroy (Hall 27)

On February 5, 1857, Detroit annexed a portion of Springwells, expanding its western border from Brooklyn Street all the way to 25th Street (Burton 344). As the old farms along the river became incorporated into the city, the booming demand for land and high city taxes all but forced their owners to divide the farms into lots and sell them off (Hall 96). Peter Godfroy's widow, Marianne, began to sell the farm in stages around this time. In 1864, the portion between Porter Street and Michigan Avenue was surveyed into lots, blocks, streets and alleys by civil engineer John F. Munro. (Source)



The 133 lots were sold at public auction on April 11, 1864. Lot number 92 was purchased for $190.00 by a German carpenter named Frederick Bechstein.

Next Week:
The Bechstein House Part II: 1865-1875--Frederick Bechstein


Askin, John. The John Askin Papers. Detroit: Detroit Library Commission. 1931. Print.

Burton, Clarence. The City of Detroit Michigan 1701-1922. Volume II. Detroit: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1922. Print.

Campbell, James. Outlines of the Political History of Michigan. Detroit: Schober & Co., 1876. Print.

Farmer, Silas. The History of Detroit and Michigan: Or, The Metropolis Illustrated. Detroit: Silas Farmer & Co., 1884. Print.

Hall, Theodore. Family Records of Theodore Parsons Hall and Alexandrine Louise Godfroy, of "Tonnancour," Grosse Pointe, near Detroit, Michigan. Detroit: Wm. C Heathy Printing Co., 1892. Print.

Hamlin, Marie. Legends of Le Détroit. Second Edition. Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884. Print.

Michigan. Godfroy, Peter Farm, Being Part of P.C. 726 South of Chicago Road, Plat of Subdivision of Part of., 1864. Web. 31 Dec 2010. <http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/platmaps/dt_image.asp?BCC_SUBINDEX=11403>.

Moore, Charles. The Gladwin Manuscripts: With an Introduction and a Sketch of the Conspiracy of Pontiac. Lansing: 
Robert Smith Printing Co., 1897. Print.


  1. I live on a parcel of the Godfroy Farms and have the original documents from Harper (now McGraw) Ave to Riverfront.