From: Andreas, A.T. History of Chicago from the earliest period to the present time, Vol. I. Chicago: A.T. Andreas, 1884, pgs. 97-99:
At a meeting of the Chicago Historical Society July 1877 Hon. I. N. Arnold President of the Society read the following sketch of the late Colonel John H. Kinzie, eldest son of John and Eleanor Kinzie, which he received from Mrs. Nellie Kinzie Gordon, daughter of John H. Kinzie and which was written by the late Mrs. Juliette A Kinzie, his wife:
John H. Kinzie was born at Sandwich U C on the 7th July 1803. It was not by design that his birthplace was in British Dominions for his mother was patriotic beyond most of her sex; but having crossed the river from Detroit the place of temporary sojourn to pass the day with her sister Mrs. William Forsyth. It so happened that before evening her eldest son drew first breath on a foreign soil. While still an infant he was in an Indian cradle on the shoulders of a French engagl to their home at what is now the town of Bartrand on the St Joseph River in Michigan. At one of their encampments on the journey he made a narrow escape with his life owing to the carelessness of his bearer in placing him against a tree in the immediate proximity of a blazing fire. A spark escaping, lodged in the neck of his dress causing a fearful burn of which he carried the mark ever after. His father having purchased the trading establishment of Mons. LeMai at the mouth of the Chicago River removed with his family to the place on the following year. Some companies of infantry under command of Major John Whistler arrived at the same time 4th of July and commenced the construction of Fort Dearborn. At his home, on the banks of the river, nearly opposite the fort, the childhood of Mr Kinzie was passed until the breaking out of the War of 1812. The frontier at that time afforded no facilities for education. What children contrived to scramble into must be acquired under the paternal roof. Mr Kinzie loved to describe his delight upon one occasion when on the opening of a chest of tea among the stores brought by the annual schooner a spelling book was drawn forth and presented to him. His cousin Robert Forsyth, at that time a member of his father's family, undertook to teach him to read and although there seems to have been but little patience and forbearance on the part of the young pedagogue to sweeten the task of learning the exercises gave to the pupil a pleasant association with the fragrance of green tea, which always kept that spelling book fresh in his mind. A soldier was upon one occasion engaged to take charge of him with the officer's children but the teacher's habits of drunkenness and irregularity caused the school to be discontinued in less three months. His best friend in these days was Washington Whistler, a son of the commanding officer, in after years a distinguished civil engineer in his own country and in the service of Emperor of Russia. At the time of the massacre in 1812, Kinzie was nine years of age. He preserved a distinct recollection of the particulars that came under his own observation. The discipline of these thrilling events doubtless helped to form in him fearlessness as well as that self control which characterized his manly years. The circumstances of the massacre are familiar to all. When the troops left the garrison, some friendly chiefs, knowing what was in contemplation by their young men, who would be restrained, took possession of the boat in which was Mrs. Kinzie and her children, and guarded them safely till the fighting was over.
They were the next day escorted by the Chief "Robinson" and other friends in their boat to the St Joseph River to the home of Mme. Bertrand, a sister of the famous Chief To-pee-nee-bee haw, whence, after a short sojourn, they were carried to Detroit, and delivered as prisoners of war to the British commanding officer Colonel McKee. The family, after the father rejoined them in the following winter, were established in the old family mansion, on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Wayne Street, Detroit. One of the saddest features of the ensuing winter was the spectacle of the suffering of the American prisoners, who were from time to time brought into headquarters by their Indian captors. The tenderness of feeling, which was a distinguishing trait in the subject of this sketch, made him ever foremost in his efforts to bargain with the savages for the ransom of the sufferers, and many were thus rescued, and nursed, and cared for- sometimes to the salvation of their lives, though too often to merely a mitigation of the tortures they had undergone. Mr Kinzie, Sr. had been paroled by General Proctor, but upon a suspicion that he was in correspondence with General Harrison, who was known to be meditating an attempt to recover the city of Detroit, he was seized and sent a prisoner to Canada, leaving his wife and young family to be cared for as they might, until, after the lapse of some months, the capture of the place by General Harrison secured them a fast friend in that noble and excellent man. The father was at length released and restored to his family with one solitary shilling in his pocket. That little coin has always been carefully preserved by his descendants as a memento of those troublous times. It so happened that in Detroit, as upon more remote frontiers, the advantages of education were extremely limited. The war had disarranged everything. During the four years sojourn of the family in this place the children had occasional opportunities of beginning at a school which promised well, but which as a general rule was discontinued at the end of the first quarter. Amid such unpropitious circumstances were the rising generation at that day obliged to acquire what degree of learning they found it possible to attain
In 1816 the Kinzie family returned to their desolated home Chicago. The bones of the murdered soldiers who had fallen years before were still lying unburied where they had fallen. The troops who rebuilt the fort collected and interred these remains. The coffins which contained them were deposited near the bank of the river which then had its outlet about at the foot of Madison Street. The cutting through the sand bar for the harbor caused the lake encroach and wash away the earth, exposing the long range of coffins and their contents, which were afterwards cared for and re-interred by the civil authorities. In the year 1818, when he was in his sixteenth year, Colonel Kinzie was taken by his father to Mackinaw, to be indentured to the American Fur Company and placed under care of Ramsey Crooks, "to learn," as the articles express it, "the art and mystery of merchandising in all its various parts and branches." This engagement was for five years, during which he was never off the island, except upon one occasion, when he was taken by Robert Stewart, who succeeded Mr. Crooks at the head the company, to visit the British officers at Drummond Island. He was never during this period at an evening entertainment; never saw "a show," except one representation by an indifferent company who had strayed up the lakes, of some pantomimes and of sleight of hand. His days were passed from five o clock in morning till tea time in the warehouse or in superintending numerous engagles, making up outfits for the Indian trade, or receiving the packs and commodities which arrived from time to time. In the evening, he read aloud to his kind and excellent friend Mrs. Stewart, who was unwearied in her efforts to supply the deficiencies which his unsettled and eventful life had made inevitable. To explanations and judicious criticisms upon the books he read, and her patience in imparting knowledge from her own well stored mind, he was indebted for the ambition which surmounted early disadvantages, and made him the equal of many whose youthful years have been trained in schools. Mr Stewart was a severe disciplinarian. He believed that the surest way to make of a clerk a systematic and methodical man of business was never to overlook the slightest departure from the prescribed routine of duty. Upon one occasion young Kinzie, out of patience with the slow movements of a party of his employees, who were engaged in hauling wood in sledges across the straits from Bois Blank Island, took the reins from the hands of one, and drove across and returned with his load, to show the men how much more they could have accomplished if they had made the effort. Mr Stewart's commendation was "Ah you have changed your occupation for that of hauling wood have you! Very well, you can continue it; "and, as the young man was too proud to ask to be relieved, he actually drove the sledge and brought wood through the bitter winter till the ice gave way in May. His chief recreations throughout this period were trapping silver gray foxes during any chance leisure hour in the winter, and learning to play on the violin, his instructress being a half breed woman. In 1824, being still in the employ of the Fur Company, he was transferred from Mackinaw to Prairie du Chien. He had made a visit to his parents on attaining his majority, and had returned to Mackinaw in a small boat, coasting the western shore of Lake Michigan. He was the first white man who set foot on shore at Wau kee gan- at least since the days of the explorers. While at Prairie du Chien, Mr Kinzie learned the Winnebago language, and compiled a grammar, as far as such a task was practicable. The Ottawa, Pottawatomie, and Chippewa dialects he had been familiar with from his childhood. He also learned the Sioux language, and partially that of the Sauks and Foxes. About this time, Colonel Kinzie received an invitation from General Cass, then Governor of the Territory of Michigan, to become his private secretary, and in 1826 he escorted a deputation of Winnebagoes to Washington to visit their Great Father the President. He was at the Treaty of "Butte des Morts" in the summer of 1827, and accompanied the Commissioner, Colonel Mc Kenny, to the Portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, to be present at the surrender of the "Red Bird", a Winnebago chief, who, with his comrades had been concerned in the murder of the Gaznier family at Prairie du Chien. Mr. Kinzie took a different view of the actual complicity of Red Bird from what has been given to the public. His journal, kept at the time, is of great interest. He was called from his station, beside the military officer appointed to receive the prisoners, by Kau-vay-man-nee, the principal chief of the nation, to stand beside him, and listen to what was said on both sides at this interview, and tell him whether his speech to the "Big Knives" and their reply to him were rightly interpreted. During the time of his residence with Genera Cass, who was by virtue of his appointment, also superintendent of the Northern Division of the Indian Tribes, he was sent to the vicinity of Sandusky, to learn the language of the Wyandots, or Hurons, their manners and customs, legends, traditions etc. Of this language he also compiled a grammar. The large amount of Indian lore which he collected in these various researches, was, of course, placed in the hands of his chief General Cass; and it is greatly to be regretted that as far as can be ascertained not a trace of it now remains extant. Mr Kinzie received the appointment of Agent for the upper bands of the Winnebagoes in 1829, and fixed his residence at the portage, where Fort Winnebago was in that year constructed. In 1830 he married, and continued to reside among his red children- to whom he was, and is still proclaimed by the oppressed few who remain, a kind judicious and watchful "father." In 1833 the Kinzie family, having established their pre emption to the quarter section upon which the family mansion had stood since 1804, Colonel Kinzie (such was then his title as aid to the Commander in Chief Governor Cass) came with his brother in- law, General Hunter, to Chicago, and together they laid out that part of the town since known as Kinzie's Addition. In 1834 he brought his family to Chicago to reside. He was first President of the village, when a prediction of the present opulence and prosperity of the city would have seemed the wildest chimera. He was appointed Collector of Tolls on the canal immediately on its completion. In 1841 he was made Registrar of Public Lands by General Harrison, but was removed by Tyler when he laid aside the mask under which he gained the nomination for Vice President. In 1849, Genera Taylor conferred upon him the appointment of Receiver of Public Moneys and Depositary. His office of Collector he held until commissioned by President Lincoln as Paymaster in the Army, in 1861. The latter appointment he held until the close of the War. His labors were vast and wearying, for he had the supervision of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois; yet he was too conscientious, in the state of the public finances, to apply for more aid. During the four years he discharged this large amount of duty with the assistance of but a solitary clerk. It was too much for him; his health gave way. When a tardy leave of absence arrived, he set out with his upon a journey, in hopes that mountain air or sea bathing would recruit his exhausted forces. But he was destined to reach hardly the first stage of his journey. While riding in the cars approaching Pittsburgh, and conversing with his ordinary cheerfulness, he remarked a blind man approaching, and perceiving that he was asking alms he characteristically put his hand in his pocket. In the act his head drooped gently and with a peaceful sigh, his spirit departed to its rest.
Colonel Kinzie married in Middletown, Conn., August 9 1830, Miss Juliette A. Magill, daughter of Arthur Magill of that place. He was at that time Indian Agent at Fort Winnebago, and the young couple, after a brief visit in New York, set out for their home in the western wilderness. In the latter part of September they arrived at Detroit, and took passage on the steamer "Henry Clay" for Green Bay via Mackinaw. Arriving there they passed down the Fox River to the Portage and Fort Winnebago. Colonel Kinzie visited Chicago in the fall of 1830 at the time of Dr Wolcott's death, and again in the spring of 1831, the latter time accompanied by his wife. The family came to Chicago to reside in 1834. St. James parish was organized the same year, and on the 12th of October Rev. Isaac W. Hallam arrived in the place to take charge of it. Mr. and Mrs. John H. Kinzie were from the first most influential and devoted members of St. James Church, and with Gurdon S. Hubbard, and Mrs. Margaret Helm, may be considered its founders. The first regular services of the Church were held in a room in a wooden building, standing on the corner of Wolcott now North State and Kinzie Streets, which was fitted up by Mr. Kinzie, and the lots on the southeast corner of Cass and Illinois Streets, where a church edifice of brick was erected in 1836-37, were donated by him. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Kinzie was on the northeast corner of Cass and Michigan Streets, and the generous hospitality of both host and hostess was proverbial. Mr. Kinzie left a widow, one son, and two daughters. His eldest son, born at Fort Winnebago, was killed in an engagement at White River in the summer of 1862, and he had also buried a daughter. Mrs. Juliette A. Kinzie died September 15 1870, at Amagansett L.I. Her death was caused by the fatal mistake of a druggist, who sent her morphine, which she unfortunately swallowed instead of quinine, which she had ordered.