John Kinzie (December 3, 1763 – January 6, 1828) was one of Chicago's first permanent European settlers. Kinzie Street (400N) in Chicago is named after him.
Kinzie was born in Quebec City, Canada to John McKenzie and Anne McKenzie. His father died before Kinzie was a year old, and his mother remarried. In 1773, he was apprenticed to George Farnham, a silversmith. Some of the jewelry Kinzie created has been found on archaeological digs in Ohio. By 1777, Kinzie had become a trader in Detroit, working for William Burnett.
In 1785, Kinzie is said to have been involved with the rescue of two sisters who had been kidnapped by the Shawnee from Virginia in 1775. One of the girls, Margaret McKinzie, married Kinzie, the other, Elizabeth McKinzie, married Kinzie's companion, Clark. Margaret lived with Kinzie in Detroit and had three children with him before returning to Virginia with her children. All three of her children eventually moved to Chicago.
In 1789, he lost his business in the Kekionga (modern Fort Wayne, Indiana) and had to move further from the U.S. frontier. As the United States continued to expand, Kinzie moved further west.
Marriage and move to Chicago
Kinzie married his second wife, Eleanor Lytle McKillip in 1800. By the time they moved to Chicago, they already had a son, John H. Kinzie. Once living in Chicago, they had three other children. Ellen Marion Kinzie, who is believed to be the first Caucasian born in Chicago, was born to John and Eleanor in 1805.
Kinzie settled in Chicago in 1804, where he purchased the house and lands of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable near the mouth of the Chicago River. That same year, Governor William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory appointed Kinzie as a justice of the peace.
War of 1812
After Fort Dearborn was built, Kinzie's influence and reputation continued to climb in the area. In June 1812, Kinzie killed Jean La Lime, who worked as an interpreter at Fort Dearborn. He hid in the woods before fleeing to Milwaukee. While in Milwaukee, he met with pro-British Indians who were planning a series of attacks on American settlements, including Chicago. While these meetings were occurring, an inquest at Fort Dearborn under Captain Nathan Heald exonerated Kinzie, deciding the killing was in self-defense. It seems La Lime was informing on corruption within the fort. Although the Indians were concerned that Chicago would be on heightened alert, they still launched an attack on Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812. Kinzie was able to escape unharmed and returned to Detroit with his family. Viewing himself as a British citizen, Kinzie had a strong anti-American streak in him until the massacre. He returned to Chicago in 1816 and remained until his death.
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