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Chief Francis LaFontaine


The family of Francis LaFontaine were French traders who moved from Detroit to what is now the Fort Wayne area in 1776. Francis LaFontaine was born in 1810. He was loyal to the local Miami tribe and by the age of 18 had become chief of his Miami village. That same year, LaFontaine married Catherine, the daughter of Chief Jean Baptiste de RIchardville, who was principal chief of the Miami.

Richardville and LaFontaine worked together on a treaty in 1840 which removed half of the Miami nation to an area west of the Mississippi River. Richardville died in 1841, and LaFontaine, also known as Topeah, or “frost on leaves,” became the new principal chief and moved into Richardville’s house at the Forks of the Wabash, which was also the tribal headquarters.

Part of LaFontaine’s lore says he tried to have the seat of Huntington County located at the Forks of the Wabash by offering to donate both a courthouse and a bridge over the Wabash River, but his plan was not accepted. The town was eventually established two miles to the east in 1848.

In 1846, the Miami tribe was split, and half of the tribe relocated to Kansas. LaFontaine made the trip with that part of the tribe to oversee the relocation. On the return trip in 1847, LaFontaine fell ill and died on April 13 in Lafayette, Indiana.

LaFontaine was originally buried on land where SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church now stands, property LaFontaine had deeded to the church for the cemetery. His body was moved to a cemetery on Church Street. When that cemetery was abandoned, his remains were moved to their current site at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

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